Here are some tips for keeping your best friend healthy & happy. We will discuss diet, exercise, veterinary visits, vaccinations, teeth cleaning and grooming.
What is the best diet for your dog?
Nutritional requirements for dogs vary by breed, size, age, and health. A good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits. Ask your vet to recommend the best diet but as a dog owner you can also keep a few general guidelines in mind:
- When purchasing packaged foods, check for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) indicating the food is complete and balanced. “Complete” means it has the proper nutrients and “Balanced” means they are in the correct ratios.
- If the packaging says the food contains a single ingredient, it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient not including water.
- A guaranteed analysis lists the minimum percentage of protein and fat and the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture.
- Look for a statement that indicates how the nutrition claims were substantiated. Foods that have undergone feeding trials are preferred. This means the food has been fed to living dogs to make sure that the dogs not only were willing to eat the food but remained healthy while eating it.
- Avoid common fillers like corn, corn syrup and animal by-products. Also, never feed your dog chocolate, onions, garlic, raisins, or grapes.
- Dogs get used to eating the same food every day. Thus, switching foods too fast can be problematic.
- Raw Foods may not necessarily be all they are cracked up to be. Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, is not a fan of this highly promoted idea. The raw food approach says that raw food is closer to what a dog would eat in the wild. But Milan says there is a flaw in this logic because dogs in the wild do not live very long. He also points out that there is no solid scientific evidence that raw meat is beneficial.
- Also be aware of food allergies that cause itchy skin. Chicken, beef, lamb, corn, soy, wheat, egg, and dairy products can induce these allergies. So, pick a food without these ingredients. Also, make sure the manufacturer has preserved it with vitamins and has preferably supplemented it with fatty acids (fish oils).
How much exercise does a dog need?
Exercise may be a hated word and concept to humans but dogs absolutely adore it and love a variety of physical and mental stimulation. Some dogs like to fetch. Others play tug-of-war. And of course, walking your dog frequently is very easy and important.
Again citing, Cesar Millan, he feels you should aim for a walk several times per day. However, there may be times when going outdoors isn’t feasible so there are indoor activities for you and your best friend. For example, you can run her up and down stairs. You could also build an obstacle course. Or, you can play indoor fetch. We even heard that Home Depot lets you walk your dog in their stores! Maybe other large warehouse stores will do the same.
How often should I take my dog to the vet?
You should take your best friend on regular check ups just as you would do for yourself or any family member. The frequency depends on your pet’s life stage. For your puppy there will be frequent visits for vaccinations. An adult dog 1 – 7 or 10 years will need yearly checkups. And just like in humans, a senior dog 7 to 10 years or older will need to go more frequently.
But there are also warning signs that will warrant a visit to your doggie doctor: A change in her eating habits. Breathing difficulty. Seizures. Excessive thirst. Rough or dry coat. Sluggishness and tiredness. Frequent vomiting. Unusual stool. Sudden weight loss. Cloudy or red eyes. Rear scooting or dragging. Whining and shaking. Hard and swollen abdomen. So, you should keep a close eye for these kinds of changes.
Do dogs really need vaccinations?
Vaccines help prepare your dog’s immune system to fight disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens which look like the disease to the immune system but don’t actually cause the disease. The vaccine mildly stimulates the immune system so when your dog is exposed to a disease, her immune system is prepared to recognize it and fight it off.
A puppy up to 16 weeks old needs vaccines every 3 or 4 weeks. Dogs need vaccinations for rabies, distemper-parvo, and other diseases and possibly kennel cough, influenza, and Lyme disease.
How do I clean my dog’s teeth?
Teeth cleaning for a dog is essential. Without cleaning there is a buildup of bacteria which leads to a buildup of tartar. An unhealthy mouth can lead to a variety of problems, not the least of which is tooth loss. Like humans, these dental problems can lead to life-threatening afflictions such as heart, liver, and kidney disease.
So, how do your clean your dog’s teeth considering that most dogs and just about any other animal are likely to be adverse to someone, even their best friend, poking around in their mouth? You can brush your dogs teeth but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s difficult and you need patience. Of course, it will all depend on the temperament of your dog.
Here some other methods you might consider to help your best friend’s dental health:
- Switching to dry food.
- Chew bones.
- Chew toys.
- Dental hygiene chews such as those offered by Oravet.
Brushing your dog: This depends on hair type. Long-haired dogs may need brushing daily to get the knots and tangles out. Obviously, a short haired dog needs less brushing but it is still a good idea as she may enjoy it and it promotes bonding.
Nail Trimming: It’s probably time to get out the nail trimmer when your little friend’s toes start clickety-clacking on the floor and her nails get stuck in the carpet. But hopefully, you’ll nip it in the bud before this happens. As a rule, dogs do not like nail clipping or even getting their feet handled at all but you can overcome this with a sweet soothing voice and a treat at the end.
Bathing: Some dogs like water and some don’t. Some obviously need more bathing than others and this likely depends on whether they are long-haired or short-haired. Bathing at home is certainly an option but I would recommend going to the dog washer where they will do it for you. You can also go to do-it-yourself dog washers where they have washing platforms with water and shampoos. These are actually pretty fun and your dog might even enjoy it!
Haircuts: There are many options for this. Many chain stores and even your local pet store will have one or more doggie stylists.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about these tips for keeping your best friend healthy & happy! The information here is very general in nature and I have designed it to make you aware of your dogs health needs. There are a number of online sources that can provide more detail. I would recommend Cesar Millan’s official website at cesarsway.com