Get to Know Your Pet from Snout-to-Tail | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Get to Know Your Pet from Snout-to-Tail

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
2 months ago

Pets often hide injuries and choose not to let us know when something is wrong, so responsible pet parents must regularly examine their dogs and cats at home to find anything that might not be quite right. 

By getting to know your pet from snout-to-tail, basically familiarizing yourself with what is normal for your cat or dog, you can more readily detect a problem early and intervene.  It also makes your pet a much better patient at the vet and grooming shop when you get him used to the human touch.

Sid Shapiro of Long Beach, California, shares, “When doing our weekly head-to-tail check, my boyfriend and I discovered a lump on our 10-year old Dachshund.  When we got to the vet’s, Dreyfuss was a champ when the doctor poked around his little body since he was so used to us checking him from snout-to-tail.  Two surgeries and three hospital stays later, our doxie is healthy and cancer-free, but it may not have been possible if we hadn’t discovered that lump months before he was due for his annual exam.”

Finding something ‘not quite right’ can be a life-saver!  Keep a record of your observations to share with your veterinarian.  Pulse is best palpated by feeling the Femoral Artery (think: groin).  Medium to large dogs should have a pulse of 60-90, while small dogs range between 90-160, and cats as high as 200 beats per minute.

Getting Started

Teach dogs and cats to ‘give their paws’ as soon as they become part of your life.  Start slowly and gently, but work diligently so that toes, paws and all body parts can be examined, and nails easily clipped. 

Get your pets accustomed to your fingers in their mouth, so that you can brush teeth, remove unwanted items, and check gums, which are an important indicator of health.

It’s never too soon to start checking your pet from snout-to-tail, but…only do it when you are calm and in a good place yourself.  Pets are receptive to our energy, so make it an enjoyable bonding time for you both.

What to Look For

  • Check ears for foul odor or redness.
  • Make sure eyes look clear, pupils are equally dilated, and that there’s no excessive tearing.
  • The nose should not be so dry that it is cracked, or so wet that it constantly drips.
  • Doggy or kitty breath should not be offensive; smelling sweet or like nail polish remover could signal kidney problems.
  • Feel for lumps and bumps – catching a tumor early could save a life.
  • If your pet’s skin is flaky or his coat is dull, bathe, brush, and add Omega 3s to his diet.
  • Remove parasites, burrs or foxtails.
  • Check paw pads for cracks and make sure nails are trimmed short.
  • Keep private areas clean. If your pet has arthritis or is overweight, you may need to get out a warm, damp washcloth to clean him nightly.
  • Long or short, fluffy or hairless, your pet’s tail should also be examined for lumps and sore spots, remembering that the base of the tail often harbors parasites. (Quick Tip: If you don’t notice fleas but find dirt, clean your flea comb onto a damp paper towel.  If the towel turns pink, that’s dried blood from the pet, so fleas are present.)

Also, pay attention to any changes in your pet’s behavior or routine. If you need to perform these tasks more or less frequently, your dog or cat may need a check-up:

  • Refilling water bowls
  • Amount of food being consumed
  • Frequency of answering ‘nature’s call’
  • How often litter needs to be changed
  • Soiled spots in the house

Increased thirst and urination could be signs of kidney disease, so don’t delay in getting your pet seen by a medical professional at the onset of these changes.

Really familiarize yourself with what your pet looks like when he sits, stands, and walks. A “yes” response to any of these questions means it’s time for a visit to your veterinarian:

  • Is my dog or cat’s posture unusual?
  • Is it more difficult for my pet to get up or lie down or does he moan when doing so?
  • Is he leaning to one side or favoring a limb?      
  • Is my best pal less active?


At the Tail End

Once you’ve concluded your snout-to-tail exam, engage your pet in a game of ball, belly rubs or a healthy treat. 

Be in the moment with your dog or cat like they are with you. Days go by so quickly that we need to remind ourselves to be present with those we love.

Helping your pet practice oral exams and all over body checks with you can make veterinary visits much less stressful for your pet.  Performing home exams also help you become a team player with your veterinarian for the sake of your pet’s health.

Also, know the shortest route to your Animal Emergency Hospital.  Illness and injury don’t always happen during business hours, so never get caught unprepared when your fur kid needs you most. 

Become well-versed in what your pet insurance policy covers. You do carry health insurance for your furry family members, right?  It may be the reason you are able to help your pet live a longer, healthier life by your side!

Finally, get down on all fours frequently to keep dangers out of paws and claws reach.  If you share your life with feline friends, you also need to keep countertops and shelving safe from hazards. 

By preparing for the worst, you just may prevent the worst from happening, so keep your pet first aid kit up-to-date and refresh pet first aid skills frequently so that you are ready to react even before you can get to veterinary care!

Here at PetFirst, we know accidents and illnesses happen to all pets. PetFirst is here for every canine and cat! From a small cold to big health problems alike. Pet insurance can help cover unexpected vet visits.

Pet insurance provides peace of mind that if your pet gets sick or injured you don’t have to think twice about the financial aspect and you can just focus on your pet’s care.

Get your free pet insurance quote for your pet in less than two minutes.


Denise Fleck is the Pet Safety Crusader™ having personally taught 20,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better.  Her mission is to help YOU make a difference in the life of an animal through Pet First-Aid, Senior Pet Care and Disaster Preparedness classes and books.  You can find her sharing her pet care expertise at www.crazyrichpets.com  

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