9 Tips for a Healthy Dog
Healthy dogs make happy owners. On average, dogs live upsettingly short lives compared to humans. Follow these 9 tips on how to keep your pooch healthy.
Having a pet dog is about more than just potty training struggles and puppy breath. Dogs are fully-functional animals that need to be appropriately cared for and guided, like toddlers. But with four feet instead of two.
One of the first tasks as a new dog owner is to take your pup to the veterinarian for a routine check-up. Veterinary care isn’t a one-and-done type of situation. Your dog will need annual exams, the same as you do. Almost as expensive, too.
Here are 9 tips you can practice at home to keep your dog healthy to keep costly vet visits to a minimum, though still required:
1. Brush Your Dog’s Fur Regularly
Depending on your dog’s breed, they will be single coated or double-coated. Double-coated breeds include furry dogs such as St. Bernards, Siberian Huskies, and even smaller breeds such as Pomeranians.
A double coat is like the name implies – a short, coarse inner coat close to the belly and a longer, smoother outer coat. The inner coat is to protect your dog from extreme temperatures while the outer coat repels dirt and grim.
You might be surprised to know that double-coated dogs should not be shaved in the hotter months. It may seem like a great way to cool down a double-coated dog, but it does more harm overall than good. For one, it removes the skin’s protection from the hot sun. For another, the two coats don’t grow back at the same rate, so your pup won’t be insulated for the colder months.
There is one thing you probably already know about dogs – they shed. A lot. Even dogs with shorter fur shed. Even the dogs commonly referred to as “hypoallergenic” shed a little. Brushing your dog’s fur every week can help you contain the unwanted hair before it takes up residence on your favorite black shirt or your furniture.
Dogs typically shed their fur twice a year – in the spring and fall when the weather starts to change. If your dog is shedding excessively, you can try a dog food to prevent shedding. Out-of-season hair loss can be caused by nutritional deficiencies.
Brushing your dog regularly not only strengthens your bond with your furry friend, but it also gives you the chance to check for skin issues, fleas, or lumps that may need to be checked out by your vet. Some dog breeds, such as Weimaraners, are prone to “fatty tumors” that are often harmless but have the potential to be a sign of a more serious problem.
2. Feed Healthy Foods
You may have seen a recent social media post cautioning against grain-free dog food. While the situation is still under investigation by the FDA, the best thing you can do is to continue to feed your pup healthy, nutritious dog food.
For some people, that means making Fido’s food at home, often with chicken and rice as the main components. Others choose to continue feeding grain-free dog food because their dog has grain allergies or because their dog has become healthier on a grain-free diet. All you can do is make the best-informed decisions you can for your dog’s health. There’s no perfect, one-size-feeds all brand of dog food.
Another thing to consider when feeding your dog is how much food do they need? Larger breeds obviously need more food than smaller breeds, but all dogs should be closely monitored for portion control. Most bags of dog food include a recommended serving on the side of the bag, or you can ask your vet’s opinion.
Some breeds with larger chest cavities are at extreme risk of developing bloat if they eat or drink too fast. Bloat is caused by the stomach filling with air and twisting into itself. It can be a deadly medical crisis if not treated by a veterinarian immediately.
To help prevent bloat, you can purchase a slow feeder, such as Outward Hound’s Fun Feeder, to slow down your dog’s pace. The product is available in multiple colors or a mini version for puppies and small dog breeds.
Dogs need more than just-food. They need fresh, clean water daily. Most dog owners prefer automatic water bowls that refill the water dish as needed. However, stainless steel water and food bowls are much better for dogs than plastic dishes, which can collect bacteria. Water and food bowls should be washed with soap and water at least once a week to prevent build-up. If your pup has acne on its chin, that’s a good indication that their bowls need to be cleaned.
3. No Table Scraps – Foods Dogs Shouldn’t Eat
Picture this: you sit down to dinner and feel something staring at you. From under the table, you catch a glimpse of puppy dog eyes, quietly begging for just one taste of your human food.
As a dog owner, you may be tempted to offer your pup “a little bit,” but that bite could be dangerous for your dog on many levels. Human food is high in fats that dogs can’t properly digest.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that chocolate is deadly for dogs, but that’s not the only food you should avoid giving to your pup. What might be good or healthy for you could be toxic for your dog? Raisins, grapes, onions, and nuts are just a few of the foods that can be deadly for dogs.
Many “organic” and “natural” foods are made with a sugar substitute known as xylitol. Some brands of peanut butter and sugar-free gum are two foods that you keep seeing on the news as lethal for dogs.
Pet obesity is a growing epidemic. Being overweight can cause drastic health problems or shorten your pet’s life span. Arthritis, heart disease, and depression are just a few of the health problems you are exposing your dog to by feeding them table scraps or overfeeding them.
If your dog is already overweight, your vet can suggest the right food for your dog, but exercise is what really helps dogs stay lean.
4. Exercise Daily
Exercise does not mean a brisk walk around the block. Many dogs require at least an hour of exercise per day to stay happy and healthy. Destructive behavior, such as chewing up rugs or showing aggression, is often caused by a lack of exercise.
How much exercise your dog needs will depend on the breed, age, and overall health. Your playtime doesn’t always have to be on land; many dogs love water and swimming. But to keep your pet safe in the water, they should always wear a dog life vest, even if they seem to be strong swimmers.
Your pup doesn’t have to have the word “retriever” in its breed to enjoy a rousing game of fetch.
Remember this mantra: a tired dog is a good dog.
5. Dogs Need Their Teeth Brushed, too
Grooming your dog entails more than just brushing. Dog’s need their teeth, eyes, ears routinely cleaned, and their nails trimmed. Dogs can suffer from dental diseases, plaque, and other dental problems, just like humans can. Except they can’t tell you when they have a toothache.
Your vet may recommend teeth-cleaning chews, but regularly brushing your canine’s canines. However, human toothpaste should not be used for brushing your dog’s teeth. A toothpaste specially designed for dogs is available at any pet supply store and even the pet section of your local supermarket. Dental diseases can cause a dog’s heart problems. Bad dog breath is a sign of untreated dental problems.
How do you know when it’s time to clip your toenails? They look unsightly and make it uncomfortable to walk on. Dog’s toenails also need to be clipped, or your dog can have difficulty walking or rip a toenail.
The difference between dog nails and human nails is that dog nails have a “quick” in their nail that will bleed if cut too short. Many dogs have black nails, which makes it difficult to see the quick. For that reason, many people prefer to pay a groomer or vet to trim their dog’s nails.
Nail length isn’t the only issue your dog might develop on its paws. The soft pads on the bottom are tougher than human skin, but can still be burned on hot pavement or frozen in icy conditions. In fact, those little salt particles you toss on your driveway in the winter can burn your pup’s paws. Use a pet-friendly salt available at your local pet store or have your pup wear dog booties.
6. Spay or Neuter Your Pup
Unless you’re a reputable breeder, there is no reason not to spay or neuter your dog. Female dogs, especially smaller breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier, are prone to developing breast cancer. Spaying them prevents breast and uterus cancer, but it also helps reduce the overpopulation of unwanted dogs in shelters.
Male dogs aren’t immune to cancer, either. Neutering your male pup can prevent testicular or prostate cancer and often reduces aggressive behavior.
Many areas have programs that offer vouchers for a discount on the cost of spaying and neutering. Of course, if you choose to adopt from a shelter, your pup will most likely already be fixed.
7. Use Preventatives Against Outdoor Pests — and Intestinal Ones
Fleas and ticks are common problems with dogs or cats that have access to the outdoors. Fleas can invade a home and wreak havoc on both your skin and your dog’s skin. Fleas can easily be prevented by the monthly application of topical flea control or newer oral medications.
Generally, fleas aren’t deadly, but ticks can be. Both dogs and humans can develop Lyme disease or even a rare bacterial infection after a tick bite. Preventive flea medicine doesn’t always have an effect on ticks. Consult your vet for the best way to keep your dog safe from outdoor pests.
Unfortunately, insects that burrow into your pup’s fur aren’t the only danger. Heartworm and other intestinal parasites can be fatal to dogs and require expensive medications without guaranteed results. Heartworm prevention can save not only your dog’s life, but save your bank account, too.
Check out this informative article on how to protect your pets from the dangers of mosquitoes.
8. Stay Up-to-Date On Vaccines
Most cities and towns require dogs to have dog licenses. Instead of passing a test for their license, they need to be up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. The chances of your dog coming in contact with a rabid animal are very small, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Groomers, obedience classes, and even dog parks are now requiring proof of rabies vaccination. Boarding facilities often require even more vaccines, such as bordetella (kennel cough) and the parvo vaccine, DDHP.
Veterinarians can give you more information on which vaccines your dog needs and which ones are optional. Many pet stores have low-cost vaccine clinics because if you take your pup to the vet, you’ll be charged the cost of the vaccine plus the routine cost of an office visit.
9. Be Aware of In-Home Dangers
You may think your dog is happier to roam free in your neighborhood, but that puts your dog in a lot of danger. They can get hit by cars, contact diseases, or even be picked up by animal control and adopted by another family.
Even in your home, your dog can be in danger if left to have an unsupervised reign of the entire house. A potato chip or bread bags can pose choking hazards, as can some dog toys. If you have more than one pet, they can get in a tussle and injury each other.If you do decide to crate your dog when you aren’t home, even that can pose a risk to your dog if they try to escape with their collar on. If you do crate or leave your dog unsupervised in your home, removing their collar while you’re gone can prevent you from coming home to a terrible accident.
Like doctors, vets are an expensive but essential part of life. However, keeping your dog healthy isn’t the only part of dog ownership. Training your dog to obey your commands will make both of your lives much easier. Read these 10 Puppy Training Secrets for A Well Behaved Dog and enjoy a long, happy life with your new best friend.
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