The Snout to Tail Assessment: An Overview of Pet Health

by Apr 5, 2020Cats, Dogs, Pet Health0 comments

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true for many different scenarios, including your pet’s health. Did you know you can assess your pet’s general health in 5 minutes or less? The “Snout to Tail” assessment will take you, quite literally, from your pet’s nose to the tip of their tail looking for abnormalities and changes.

The best part? This can be done anywhere, anytime and can be a fantastic bonding experience for you and your furry love. Grab some treats and get ready to spend some quality time with your pet as you run your hands through their fur, give them pets, scratches and lots of love. We have created this “roadmap” of what to look for below!


General Appearance

Take a step back and look at your pet. Look for bright eyes and a shiny coat. Has their energy level been normal? Their appetite? Have you noticed they are drinking more or less than usual? Lethargy, changes in appetite or water intake, a dull coat and other changes in your pet’s overall personality and appearance may be a sign that something is changing.



Your pet’s nose should be moist and free from cuts in scrapes. It is important to note, however, that a dry nose does not necessarily mean they are ill. A dry nose can be from a variety of different causes, including just a nice, long nap! Warning sings that you may need to call your vet include excessive dripping, bleeding, mucus discharge or excessive sneezing.

If your dog’s nose is cracked from consistent dryness it is important to rule out possible health problems with your vet, such as sinusitis. We love using nose butter to provide some relief!



Your pet’s eyes should bright and clear. Their pupils should look evenly dilated and naturally respond to changes in light. Eye abnormalities are usually obvious but can include excessive discharge, a cloudy or hazy appearance, excessive redness, or injury.



Your pet’s ears should be pink, clean and without a foul odor. If you can see wax or other debris, you can carefully clean each ear and wipe with a soft damn cloth. A foul smell, large amounts of wax, redness or black specs are abnormal and may be a sign it’s time to call the vet. Head shaking, consistent scratching at one or both ears and crying out while itching are also red flags that something is wrong.



In an ideal world, every pet’s teeth would be white with no aroma. Take a look for extreme tartar buildup, redness, loose or missing teeth. If your pet’s dental care is not up to date, consider these tips to get their pearly whites up to snuff.

Your dogs or cat’s gums can be a huge indicator of their overall health. Check their capillary refill time for an easy way test circulatory health. Be sure to take a look at the color of their gums. It should be their usual pigment (typically bubble gum pink but some breeds may have spots of black pigmentation). Abnormal colors such as dark brown, blue or very pale gums can indicate shock and the need for immediate veterinary intervention.


Skin and Coat

Your pet’s coat should be shiny. Run your hands over them to check for bumps and lumps that may have appeared since their last Snout to Tail Assessment. The skin beneath the fur should be healthy pink unless otherwise pigmented.  New lumps, open sores or scabs that won’t heal, bald spots, fur left discolored due to excessive licking and parasites can all be warning signs that your pet may need to see their vet.

Keep an eye on their shedding pattern. While it will change throughout the year and will depend on your pet’s breathe, the absence of shedding or extreme shedding may indicate or a more serious condition.


Legs and Paws

Watch your pet move around. Their gait should be smooth and comfortable without favoring a particular leg. Watch them sit or lie down to look for signs of discomfort or pain.

Take a look at their paws. There should be no excessive dryness or cuts on their pads. Nails should be kept trimmed and watched for splitting or breaking. Be sure to look between their toes for hidden foreign bodies or injuries. In the winter, be sure to monitor for irritation from ice and salt products. In the summer, be sure to monitor frequently for injury from walking on hot pavement.

Minor paws wounds or muscle soreness will often respond to first aid treatment and rest. Your veterinarian should be called if you notice more serious ailments such as limping, suspected bone breaks, soft tissue strains or tears and large wounds.


Chest and Abdomen

Typically, a pet’s ideal weight is when their ribs can be felt but not seen. Their tummy tucked should be tucked higher than the chest from a side view and a slight waist line should be visible when viewing from above. Breathing should look and sound smooth. Like the other areas of the body, tenderness, lumps, spots that won’t heal may all require vet attention.



It sounds funny but be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s “private areas.” They should be clean, normal size and performing their normal bodily functions without straining or pain. Pets can normally take care of these areas themselves but if they can’t reach (such as elderly pets), you can clean them daily with a damp cloth.

Redness, unusual discharge or swelling, lack of urination/defecating, butt scooting, visible worms, and swollen anal glands are all reasons to call your veterinarian for a check up.



The fur on your pet’s tail should be shiny with no lumps or wounds. First aid can be applied to small wounds (such as those caused by happy tail syndrome. Severe bleeding, non-healing sores, limp tails, and persistent bumps and lumps all require veterinary attention.


How to Use the Snout to Tail Assessment

The Snout to Tail assessment is a simple tool that will keep you in constant touch with your pet’s health. This can be done as frequently as you’d like. We recommend once a week at a minimum but as you practice you’ll find yourself automatically checking these things as you socialize with your pet daily!

As an added bonus, we have created a record sheet for you to print and keep track of your findings. Prefer paper? Keep a notebook you can refer back to over time. Your phone’s Note app will work just fine, too!

To learn how RCO Pet Care Care can enrich your pets’ health and lives, check out our servicescontact us or call us at (203) 641-2428. We’ve got your tail.

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