Forming The Habit

A short checklist, coupled with simple powers of observation and a well-considered schedule can quickly turn a neglected task into an effective, worthwhile habit. Every trained pilot knows about the checklist. Doctors have checklists, as do professionals of all kinds.
Our dogs depend on us to insure their wellbeing. A health checklist helps us do exactly that – to take a nip-it-in-the-bud, proactive approach to our canine’s health.
The girl a magnifier a hat

Getting a Reminder

A number of years ago when I took Beauty, the family dog, for her annual examination she checked out well except for some plaque buildup on the front teeth. The vet’s observation alerted me to the need for more vigilance. To Beauty’s delight we dialed up the frequency of her rawhide bones; and, less to her liking, increased the brushing of her teeth. In addition I picked up a scaling tool – the type dental hygienists use – for scraping away the buildup.

The incident was a timely reminder that one of the best safeguards for our dogs’ health is for you and me, as owners, to form the habit of vigilance. This means being acquainted with basic health indicators on our dogs, then checking them with regularity.


To help you monitor your dog’s health at home we prepared a simple checklist. I’m sharing this with you today, along with the suggestion that you choose a regular weekly time; for example, before lunch on Saturday, to cover the checklist with your German Shepherd:
• Mouth. Check for any sores, cuts or swellings. Your dog’s breath should smell fresh. Brush his teeth (brushing several times a week is recommended)
• Eyes. Make sure the eyes are clear and bright, with no excessive discharge
• Ears. There should not be any strong odor. Check for redness or discharge
• Nose. Look for thick or colored discharge. The nose may be dry or wet; either is fine.
• Skin. Look for parasites, using a close-toothed metal comb. See that there are no bumps, crusts, red spots or hair loss.
• Feet. Look for cuts, split nails or misaligned toes.
• Anal region. There should be no discharge, swellings, sores or redness.


In addition, check for any lameness, changes in weight, and any lumps or swellings. Notice if there are discharges from the vulva or penis. Look for changes in appetite or water consumption. Anything out of the ordinary should be observed, such as coughing, lack of energy or breathing trouble.

Handy Resources

Healthcare: The above checklist was adapted from our article, Healthcare for Your German Shepherd
Teeth & Gums: For more on the subject of teeth and gums, see the article, Your German Shepherd’s Teeth & Gums
Grooming: Grooming Your German Shepherd
Feeding: Feeding Your German Shepherd




  1. We rescued a 4-5 year old female GDS last year. She is well trained and a delight to be around. Recently we have noticed some heavy breathing when laying down near us. We see no reason for such but it is there. We also noticed what seems to be a lot of water being consumed. Hard to tell as a lot of water is slobbered on the floor! In searching the net, something called “Cushings disease” comes up.
    Has anyone had any experience with these issues?

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