Essential Tips for Keeping Your Dog Healthy
Your dog depends on you for good health, and as a loving dog owner, you want to give your pet the best care possible. You can ensure your dog's well-being by taking care of the most important categories of physical and mental health.
A healthy diet provides dogs with the right balance of the nutrients they need:
- Vitamins and minerals
Your dog's dietary requirements will change with age. Dog food manufacturers offer various choices that range from puppy food to dog food made for seniors and every stage in between. A glance down the dog food shelf at the store reveals different kinds of food for various medical conditions, such as allergies, sensitive stomachs and weight problems.
With so many choices, it can be hard to know what kind to buy. Properly fed dogs will have the right energy level for their age and breed. Their coat and skin will be healthy and their stools will be firm and brown. If you're concerned about your dog's nutrition, check your dog food and talk to your veterinarian to see if a change in diet is helpful.
Just like their human best friends, dogs need to get plenty of exercise. Daily walks, playing fetch, tug-of-war, running around the yard with their owners, hiking through the woods or taking a dip in the pool are all great ways for dogs to enjoy physical activity.
Exercise isn't just good for dogs' physical health. It's also a great way to stimulate their minds and sharpen their focus. A walk around the neighborhood lets them explore various sights and smells (especially those shrubs and telephone poles that other dogs have left their mark on). Hiding treats around the house or yard provides an engaging scavenger hunt. Athletic dogs will enjoy learning the ins and outs of an agility course. The bonus to all this activity with your dog is that you get exercise, too.
Regular wellness exams with your dog's veterinarian are essential for a few reasons. First, it's a chance for your dog to get yearly vaccinations and a weight check, along with an opportunity for you to speak with the vet about any questions or concerns you have. Second, the doctor will check your dog's eyes, ears and mouth for signs of infection or disease. Third, pets are very good at covering up illness. They instinctively hide their pain, and their owners often don't know about problems until they have advanced. Your vet knows how to look for signs of disease. Early detection gives you the chance to treat a condition in its early stages.
Like small children, some dogs are eager to explore and might find themselves getting into hazards. Dog owners need to be aware of dangers around the house. It's important to keep toxic substances out of your dog's reach. Medications and herbal supplements should be stored in containers with tight-fitting lids. Cleaning supplies, insect poison and antifreeze are dangerous for dogs, as well as craft supplies like paint and glue. Many foods are toxic for dogs, such as chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, alcohol, garlic and food containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener.
Curious canines may also tend to escape from the house or wander off. Protect your pet by watching closely while your dog plays outside. If you have a fence, check for gaps that could function as escape hatches. It's a good idea to put a tag on the collar stamped with your name and number in case your dog wanders away. You can also consider microchipping, allowing vets to scan a lost pet and pull up the owner's contact information.
Dogs are social creatures. In the wild, canines live in packs and their domestic cousins bond with humans. Belly rubs, cuddling, and brushing are all good ways to show your dog affection and strengthen your relationship.
Early socialization is important for puppies, as they develop positive social skills in the formative years. Lots of love and attention, exposure to family members and friends, and playdates with other dogs are all good ways to help your puppy develop social skills that last a lifetime.
All dogs need regular grooming, but their needs are different depending on their breed and type of coat. Ask your veterinarian what is best for your dog. Routine (but not too frequent) bathing, brushing, teeth cleaning and nail trimming are part of an optimal grooming regimen.
If you take care of your dog's mental and physical health, you will be rewarded with many happy and healthy years of companionship.