6 Habits for a Happier, Healthier Dog
Healthy habits and preventive care go far in enhancing the quality of your dog’s life today and, most certainly, as he ages. Follow these simple guidelines to get and keep your dog on the path to wellness.
Veterinary care sets the groundwork for your dog’s overall health. Whether you choose a vet who practices traditional medicine or alternative therapies – or both – make an appointment for a check-up to establish a baseline for your dog’s current state of health. Then keep track of routine preventive medications, vaccination schedules and prescription medications. Ideally, dogs should have wellness exams twice a year. Puppies, older dogs and dogs with chronic conditions should be seen more frequently. Visit Petfinder for tips on choosing a vet.
Another pillar of health is quality nutrition. A high-quality dog food helps your dog’s weight, skin and coat, gastrointestinal function, and energy level. Visit the Whole Dog Journal for help in choosing the right food for your dog. Once you’ve selected a food, see how your dog responds over the next 6-8 weeks. Any negative changes in coat or weight might mean your dog isn’t tolerating one or more of the ingredients, and you should try a new food. Make sure to gradually introduce new foods to minimize gastrointestinal upset. Always consult your vet if you’re unsure about your dog’s health.
Lack of consistent physical exercise and mental stimulation are at the root of most behavior problems in our pet dogs. A sedentary lifestyle can also cause obesity in our dogs, which leads to many health problems. Most healthy adult dogs need between 30 minutes and 2 hours of exercise a day to stay balanced. Depending on age, breed and size, this could be anything from a leisurely walk to a nice jog and a rigorous round of fetch. Talk to a dog behavior specialist at The Local Bark if you’re unsure about your dog’s exercise needs.
Don’t wait to think about your dog’s dental health until she has already developed gum disease or infection. Prevention is key. Brush your dog’s teeth, feed dental treats, use oral rinses…just do something. Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to tooth decay, so talk to your vet about professional cleanings.
Your dog’s breed will determine how often and what type of grooming is ideal, but all dogs need some basic general maintenance. A nail clip, ear cleaning and occasional bath is usually suitable for short-haired dogs. Long-haired dogs require daily brushing, and dogs with hair that grows continuously may need trims every couple of weeks. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire someone, you’ll want to determine a grooming schedule and stick to it.
Watch for changes in your dog’s energy level, weight, and temperament. Not all signs are cause for alarm, but err on the side of caution since dogs instinctively try to hide serious illness. PetMd features a Dog Symptom Checker that can provide information about potential health problems your dog might be having. Always contact your vet if your dog is displaying signs of illness before it becomes out of control.