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How to Give Your Pet a Quick Checkup
by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. and Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Your animal might be in poor health without your realizing it. Perform this brief exam to get a much better idea of your pet's actual state. If any of the exam symptoms are apparent, then resolve any concerns that arise by consulting your vet.

  1. Does the hair coat feel greasy? Is the skin color a normal gray-white or is it pink or red with inflammation? Do you see dandruff-like scales of dead skin among the hairs?
  2. Use your fingers to brush the hair against the grain. Do you see numerous little black specks? These are the excreta of fleas.
  3. Now smell your fingers. If the odor they picked up is rancid, rank, or fishy, it's a sign of poor health.
  4. As you examine the eyes, check for matter in the corners. Pull down the lower eyelids so you can see the underside. Are the lids red inside or irritated on the edges?
  5. Look into the ear holes. Do you see a lot of wax? Do the insides look oily? Sniff to check for an offensive odor.
  6. Inspect the gums for a red line along the roots of the teeth. To check the back teeth for that red line, raise the upper lip and push back the corners of the lips at the same time (it is not necessary to open the mouth).
  7. Now check the teeth themselves, including the back ones. Are they gleaming white or coated with a brown deposit? Does the breath smell okay or are you overcome by it?
  8. Last, feel the backbone in the middle of the back and run your fingers back and forth (sideways) over it. Do you feel definite bones there? Is there a prominent ridge sticking up in the middle? If your answers to these questions are yes, your animal is much too thin.

Reprinted with permission from: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M, Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn (September 2005; 1-57954-973-X) Copyright 2005 Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at

Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M, Ph.D., opened the Animal Natural Health Center, a clinic offering only holistic animal care, in 1985. Recently retired from practice, he teaches post-graduate courses in homeopathic medicine to veterinarians.

Susan Hubble Pitcairn was a major contributor to the first two editions of this book. As the third edition goes to press, she is splitting her time between artistic pursuits and the support of positive social change.

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