Giving your pet a health check at home

We know how important it is to keep our pets healthy and happy, but how do you know if something is wrong? Some pets are very good at hiding problems, but luckily there are some easy at-home checks you can do to make sure your pet is in tip-top shape.

At PDSA, our friendly veterinary teams often travel around the country in our PetWise vehicles giving free pet MOTs. Sadly, we can’t come to every area, so we’ve put together our tips on doing your very own at home MOT to make sure your pet is healthy.

Remember to make your pet’s check a happy, positive experience. Give them lots of fuss and attention and a fun game afterwards.


How to give your pet an MOT

We’d recommend giving your pet a nose-to-tail check to make sure you’ve got everything covered! If you’re noticing anything on our list of what you shouldn’t see, it’s best to go to the vet for a check-up.


Your pet’s nose should be:

  • Moist and soft
  • Free from any snot or discharge
  • Clear and your pet should be able to breathe freely.

Go to the vet if it:

  • Is dry
  • Is cracked
  • Has any snot or discharge
  • Sounds congested.
Staffie poking his nose over blanket


Your pet’s eyes should be:

  • Bright, clear and comfortable open
  • Free from any tears or discharge and there shouldn’t be a lot of tear staining
  • The fleshy area around the eyeball (conjunctiva) should be salmon pink.

Go to the vet if they are:

  • Red
  • Sore
  • Weepy
  • Holding them closed/squinting.
Cat looking at camera


Your pet’s ears should be:

  • A fleshy pink colour inside
  • Free of any nasty smells
  • Have no build-up of wax or excessive hair
  • The ear flap should be flat.

Go to the vet if they are:

  • Smelly
  • Uncomfortable
  • Waxy or have any discharge
  • Swollen
  • Holding their ear down or tilting their head to one side
  • Scratching or shaking their head a lot.
Greyhound with ears upright


Your pet’s teeth should be:

  • Clean and white
  • Free of cracks or breaks
  • Free of staining
  • Remember to check for any missing teeth.

Go to the vet if they are:

  • Broken
  • Missing teeth
  • Stained (a plaque or tartar build-up will look like dark staining around their teeth).
Cat yawning showing teeth


Only check your pet’s mouth if they are comfortable for you to do so. Visit your vet if they’re not used to having their teeth checked.

Your pet’s gums should be:

  • A fleshy pink colour (although some pets will have darker pigments in their mouths, making their gums look darker. It’s best to check what’s normal for them)
  • Moist
  • Free of any lumps and bumps around their teeth.

Go to the vet if they are:

  • Swollen around the teeth
  • Pale or dry (this could indicate an urgent problem so call the vet straight away).
Two collies showing their teeth and gums


Your pet’s coat should be:

  • Free of knots
  • Free of any ticks, fleas, flea dirt or other parasites
  • Free of dandruff.

Go to the vet if their coat has any parasites or if you are concerned.

Fluffy cat outside


Your pet’s skin should be:

  • Free of any rashes
  • Free of lumps and bumps
  • Free of bald patches
  • Have no bad smells
  • Have no wounds, discharge or infections.

Visit your vet if their skin is:

  • Sore
  • Itchy
  • Dry
  • Moist/wet in areas.

If you do notice any lumps and bumps, take your pet to the vet straight away so they can make sure they aren’t harmful tumours.

Staffie puppy asleep on sofa


Your pet’s legs should be:

  • Free from wounds
  • Able to comfortably support your pet getting up and sitting down
  • Free of lumps and bumps
  • Their nails should be strong, not too long and at no risk of growing into their pads.

Visit your vet if they are:

  • Struggling to get up and down
  • Can’t support their own weight
  • Limping
  • If they seem stiff
  • If any claws are broken or too long.
Collie giving high five to camera


Your pet’s tail should be:

  • In a normal position for your pet
  • Able to move freely
  • Clean and free of any poop underneath
  • Have no sores on or around it.

Visit your vet if it is:

  • Hanging limp and not moving as it normally does
  • If there’s a build-up of poop underneath
  • If your pet is scooting their bottom
  • If your pet is chewing at their back or tail.
Black cat sat facing away from camera with long tail

Visit your vet if you notice anything unusual about your pet or they are showing signs of being unwell. You can check a lot of the symptoms described above on our free PetWise Pet Health Hub:

Remember to be positive while you’re checking your pet and give them a nice reward at the end!

Your dog

We have lots of free tips and advice about taking the very best care of your dog, from training tips to what to do if they have a bad stomach.

Our advice

Your cat

Check out our free advice pages for lots of information from our vets about how to take the very best care of your cat.

Our advice

Something special

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