All good dog owners want to keep their dogs healthy. You love your dog, and you want her to be healthy and happy. Help keep your dog on the path to wellness with these dog health guidelines.
Expert Veterinary Care
High-quality veterinary care sets the foundation for your dog’s overall health. Find a veterinarian you can trust and visit regularly. Ideally, routine wellness examinations should be performed by your vet twice a year.
Puppies and senior dogs should be seen even more frequently. Talk to your vet about appropriate vaccinations. If your dog has special needs, a chronic health condition or other illness, comply with your vet’s recommendations. Because your dog ages at a faster rate than you, many subtle changes can develop over a six to twelve month period. Routine visits allow your vet to closely monitor changes before your dog’s health gets out of control. Learn how to effectively communicate with your vet and you can expect the same in return. If you can develop a good connection with your vet, it can lead to long-term benefit for you and your dog.
Proper nutrition is fundamental for keeping all dogs healthy. Diet directly affects your dog’s skin and coat, weight, energy level, and gastrointestinal function. If a problem occurs in one of these areas, it may be linked to improper diet. Choose a high-quality dog food made by a reputable company, or learn about homemade diets.
Once you find the right food for your dog, use that food consistently. Watch your dog’s response to the diet over 4-8 weeks. How does her coat look? It should be shiny and free of flakes, but not greasy. Have you noticed a change in her energy level? A decrease in energy could indicate a problem. Has she lost or gained weight?
Obesity in dogs is a very common problem which can often be reversed with proper diet and exercise. Excess weight loss may occur if your dog does not find the food palatable. If her response to the diet is poor, it may be time to look into other foods. A sudden change in dog foods can cause diarrhea or even vomiting, so switch over gradually unless otherwise directed by your vet.
Many dog owners underestimate their dogs’ exercise needs in relation to keeping their dog healthy. Destructive behavior may lead to a diagnosis of separation anxiety or other behavioral problems. While these conditions truly exist, in many cases the behavior is actually the result of an energy surplus. If you feed your dog a healthy diet, it should give her plenty of energy. However, if your dog can’t release that energy with exercise, it may be released on your furniture, carpet, doorways, or even your prized collection of rare books. Before you blame your dog for the damage, ask yourself if she’s getting enough exercise.
In general, dogs need at least 1-2 hours of exercise per day, but this varies by breed, size, and age. Over time, determine the ideal exercise regimen for your dog and establish a routine. You might even notice an improvement in your own health in the meantime.
It can be all too easy to forget about your dog's teeth until you get a whiff of bad breath. Plaque and tartar build-up can lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until dental disease is present - start focusing on preventive dental care right now, if you have not already. You can brush your dog's teeth, use oral rinses, feed dental treats, or all of the above - just do something. And don't forget to talk to your vet about your dog's teeth. Professional cleanings may be necessary from time to time.
Grooming is not just for “fancy” dogs. All dogs need some degree of basic physical upkeep. In general, your dog’s grooming needs will be based on her breed. However, your dog may have special needs due to health conditions such as allergies. The average short-haired dog will benefit from a monthly nail trim, bath, and brushing. Long-haired dogs should be brushed out daily. Dogs with continuously growing hair may need a haircut every week or two. Once you determine your dog’s grooming needs, decide if you will be doing it yourself, or if you need to hire a professional. Either way, schedule grooming sessions for your dog on a regular basis.
Watch for Warning Signs
Because our dogs cannot speak in words, we must rely on the signs they give us when it comes to analyzing our dog's health. Your dog may exhibit a variety of signs that indicate a health problem. Just like you, your dog can develop a mild illness that resolves on its own, so not all signs are reasons for alarm. However, many dogs will instinctively try to conceal signs of serious illness. Learn what to watch for and how to act appropriately before the illness becomes out of control. If your dog is displaying signs of illness, contact your vet right away.