10 Tips to Care for Your Dog’s Health
Our pooches are important members of the family and we all just want to keep them happy, healthy and active for as long as possible. And so, as responsible dog owners, we should be striving to make sure their needs are catered for and do all we can to prevent any ill-health. To help, we’ve put together what we think are the ten essential dog health care tips to help give your furry four-legged friend a long and happy life.
Look After Their Nutrition and Hydration
One of the best ways to optimum dog health is through their stomach, and so what you feed your dog daily can make all the difference. Whether they are still only a pup, a young adult or a more senior dog, their diet needs to give them all the nutrients and nourishment they need at every stage of their life.
A high-quality diet will certainly show in your pooch and will be physically reflected in their coat and skin as well as their eyes and overall body condition. The right nutrients in their meals will also support a strong immune system, help maintain heart, digestive and cognitive and muscle health as well as all-round health, energy and vitality. But the diet needs to be balanced and portions appropriate to the size and breed of your dog to avoid weight issues, both now and as they get older. When choosing a dog food for your hound, look for a good balance of protein, carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as added supplements, such as omega fatty acids and glucosamine for muscle, bone and joint health.
When feeding your dog, always ensure the food is fresh and in date, and unless otherwise advised, two meals per day will keep them satisfied, ensuring your pet also has constant access to plenty of fresh water to keep him happy and hydrated.
Regular and Varied Exercise
Regular exercise not only keeps your dog physically active and fit, but also stimulated, confident and socialized as well as bonded with you as his human through the shared activity of outdoor exercise and play. Different breeds have different exercise requirements, but all dogs need at least a daily walk or some form of focused exercise to keep them moving, fit and healthy. Not only does regular exercise help to maintain a healthy weight and heart, it also helps to build and strengthen muscles and keeps joints mobile and smooth-moving, which is particularly important as your precious pooch starts to age. Variety is also the spice of walking life for your dog, so ensure you vary the route, routine and activity to prevent boredom and throw in some outdoor games to help to work his grey matter too.
And activity for your pup shouldn’t stop once you are back home and his leash has been taken off. Engaging and playing with your dog in the comfort of your own home really does add to his overall health and wellbeing and gives you both some quality time where you can bond and positively reward good behavior as you play.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Obesity can be a real problem for dogs and puts them at risk of a host of health problems, both now and in later life, such as joint issues, heart disease and diabetes. While it may be tempting to use food as a reward, or you may struggle to resist those puppy dog eyes as they beg for a treat, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to your dog’s meal times. Feeding them nutritious, high quality dog food that is in a portion appropriate to their build, breed and energy needs is vital to maintaining a healthy body weight in your dog. And keep those treats to a minimum to avoid your dog’s expectation that they are part of their daily feeding routine. As with humans, ensure you balance calorie intake with daily exercise to maintain a constant healthy weight in your pet. If you are concerned your dog is overweight, chat to your vet for dietary guidance. But to help shift a little ‘puppy fat’ in your pooch, a general guide is to reduce his daily feed by 10% for around two weeks and gradually increase his exercise until he is at his ideal and healthy weight.
Get Them Spayed or Neutered
Not only will getting your dog spayed or neutered help to prevent an accidental or unwanted pregnancy, it can also help protect your pet from a host of potential health and behavioral problems. Sterilizing – or spaying – a female dog will stop her going into heat and can work as a protection against breast cancer and infections of the uterus. Neutering a male dog can help to calm aggressive behavior and any desire to roam as well as help prevent health conditions such as testicular cancer, hernias and prostate issues.
Dogs should be sterilized as soon as they are mature enough, which is generally from around six months old, or before your pet has the chance to breed. But it does depend on the breed, size and health of your pet so if you are in any doubt about spaying or neutering and whether you should do it, discuss it with your veterinary professional.
Take Care of Their Oral Health
Poor canine oral hygiene not only smells unpleasant, but it can also lead to other health problems, some of them serious if not caught in time. A build-up of food, saliva and bacteria on the teeth and gums can lead to bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss and potentially infection which if not treated can move into the bloodstream and ultimately affect your dog’s health, including their heart, lungs and kidneys. As part of your ongoing health plan for your pet, regularly cleaning their teeth is essential. You can use a soft toothbrush to sweep away the debris on their teeth a couple of times a week. Dental treats, chew toys and a healthy diet can also contribute to your dog’s oral health – especially if your pooch is averse to a toothbrush or manual cleaning – keeping their breath smelling sweet and reduce the risk of periodontal disease.
Keep Their Vaccinations Up to Date
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to how to keep a dog healthy and so, as a dog owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your pet is up to date with all the necessary vaccinations they need, at every stage of their life. Your dog can be quickly and easily protected against a host of diseases that could potentially cause them serious harm. Speak to your vet and ensure you get with the vacc program right from the beginning as it could well save your precious pet’s life. Puppies need to be vaccinated around the age of three months for the main infectious diseases, including distemper, leptospirosis, rabies and parvovirus. Your pooch will then need an annual booster to keep them protected as well as a consistent worming program. Other vaccinations include protection against kennel cough, heart and lung worms so speak to your vet to ensure your dog is getting the vaccinations they need to keep healthy and protected throughout their life.
Protect Them Against Fleas
Fleas are not only a nuisance for both you and your dog, they can also have a serious impact on their health if left unchecked. Once fleas get hold, they can cause skin allergies and also anemia due to blood loss and can put your pet at risk of tapeworms as they can carry the worm eggs onto your dog’s skin. Fleas are also unpleasant for your pooch, causing relentless itching and eventually impacting on your pet’s overall health and wellbeing.
However, fleas can easily be prevented if you include a regular anti-flea treatment in your pet’s health care routine and there are plenty of flea control options on the market, including oral as well as topical solutions which can be administered monthly. Coupled with an effective worming program and you can keep your pooch flea, worm and itch free, and so healthy and happy.
Don’t Neglect Their Grooming
Regularly grooming your dog is so much more than just cosmetic, it will keep their coat and skin in optimum health, ensure they are clean and comfortable and also enable you to check their overall condition and observe any signs such as lumps or weight loss that can indicate that all may not be well. Professional grooming and clipping are also an option, especially during the summer months and if your pet has a thick or longhaired coat.
The frequency and nature of grooming will be dependent on the breed; a shorthaired terrier will require less grooming than a longhaired breed such as a red setter. Regular grooming will remove surface dirt and prevent the coat from matting, supported by bathing when needed for a deeper clean and all-round conditioning. Grooming your pet should also include gently cleaning their ears and eyes and clipping nails if they are getting too long. Plus, you also get an additional benefit from regular grooming and that is some quality bonding time with your pet which can help to keep your dog feeling secure, loved and happy.
Maintain Optimum Joint Health
Mobility in your pet, especially as they move into their more senior years, is key to their good health and wellbeing so as a caring dog owner, it is important to keep their joints healthy and on the move. Regular exercise can really help to keep their bones and joints in tip top condition and help to protect against or reduce the impact of age-related diseases such as arthritis. Some breeds are also susceptible to health conditions that affect their joints, such as hip dysplasia so a good knowledge of your dog’s breed, background and parental history is important in their long-term health care. Diet will also play an important part in joint health and overall mobility in your dog, so manage their weight and ensure you feed them a high-quality food and add in supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids as required.
Regular Check Ups
Our final top tip to keep your dog fit and healthy is to do your own health check, ideally on a weekly basis. A good idea is to add your check up to your pet’s weekly grooming routine, meaning you will never forget. By spending a few minutes reviewing your pooch and checking their basic health can help you spot any issues and nip potential health problems in the bud. And a home health check on your pet is not difficult to do. Starting with their coat and skin, check for any signs of swelling, irritation, allergies, broken skin or scabs. Now check their eyes and inside their ears for any redness or discharge before moving on to their teeth, looking for signs of plaque, bleeding or gum disease. You also need to check your dog’s overall physical condition, especially if they have lost or put on weight or if their joints feel stiff or are causing them any pain. If can also help to observe them eating and drinking, to see if they are off their food, are struggling to eat or if there are any changes in their usual mealtime habits. If there is anything that really concerns you, the old adage ‘better safe than sorry’ applies, so there’s no harm in booking an appointment with your vet for a check-up.
And, when it comes to the professional health care of your dog, an annual health check with your veterinary professional is a must. Not only does this give the vet the chance to give your pooch a full review but also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and forward plan your pet’s health care at home, hopefully saving you time and money in the long run.
And a happy, well-cared for pooch will be much more resilient and healthier, well into their old age.