Keeping a Canine Health Record

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            Canine allergies are a very real problem, a fact that was made very apparent in a recent webinar I attended. Forty percent of dogs are hypersensitive to fleabites, many suffer from seasonal allergies, and up to 10% of the population suffer from food allergies. Just like an allergic response in our human bodies, the release of histamines creates a reaction in our dogs. For us, it often causes itchy, watery eyes and a sniffly nose; for canines, the number one allergic response is itching. To complicate matters further, of those dogs with seasonal allergies, 80% will also show hypersensitivity to fleabites, and those with food allergies can also display gastrointestinal issues such as cramping, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.

These stats only begin to cover the complexities of allergies in canines, so caregivers and veterinarians are left in a quandary… without more testing and detective work to determine root causes (and so attempt to eliminate those negative reactors from the canine’s life), treating the symptoms as they arise may seem like the only option.

So question: What if there was an easy step that we, as caregivers, could take that would allow us to track their health, follow changes in their daily lives, and even act as an early warning system and help us determine patterning? There’s a surprisingly simple answer: Keep a canine health record!

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            Taking notes about your dog’s life may sound laborious and, frankly, overkill. Before you discount the idea, you might be surprised to discover just how much habitual information you already keep track of on a daily basis. Most caregivers can, off the top of the head, tell you in great detail about the day their dog just had: the number of times they went for a walk, their quality of playtime at dog park, their, ahem, regularity of bowel movements (yes, you know it’s true!). Even being able to “interpret” particular behaviours as being part of the norm, or being unique and even strange for that day, engaged canine caregivers are more aware of their dog’s daily life than they might initially think.

Your canine health record doesn’t need to be fancy – it could a simple as a ruled notebook, or a blank 12-month calendar. Not every detail needs to be recorded. As I just mentioned, we have an amazing ability to recall normal day-to-day activities. What is important is to record the changes and variations to these activities. No difference is too small either, so these changes could be things like:

  • Being woken up in the middle of the night because your pup is itching frantically.
  • Finding a hotspot during your daily dermal inspection.
  • Coming home from work to a little present in the form of their undigested breakfast sitting on the floor.
  • Noticing your dog’s paws are red and inflamed after playing at the local park.

As you build up a record, you will be able to see trends in behaviours and health. Using the red, inflamed paws as a health-related example, if you noted this occurring more frequently during a particular month, or time of year, then you can begin to get a greater understanding of the potential impacts. Behavioural anomalies can be recorded in the same way. Canines are not one dimensional, and lead very dynamic lives. Maybe you find that there is one particular dog in the neighborhood that doesn’t get along with your canine. Recording these events will allow you to reveal a pattern, if any, and can contribute to identifying the root cause versus just “treating the symptoms” through avoidance or physical aids.

A large part of the educational experience offered at Canines By Design is learning the nuances of the dog world and canine language, and applying that understanding to you and your dog’s particular situation.  By arming yourself with a detailed record of events, you can take an active, informed role in your dog’s core mental and physical wellness. Think of it like an insurance policy: the information you have gathered can act as an early warning system for potential swings and major changes in health and mood, and will help you and your canine set up for success.