Get to Know Your Pet from Snout-to-Tail

4 min read
Jan 24, 2022

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.

Finding something ‘not quite right’ can be a life-saver!  Keep a record of your observations to share with your veterinarian.  

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.

  • 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. 

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!  

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance. Our dog insurance policies can help you provide your furry friends with the coverage and care they deserve.  Get your free quote today

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.