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Health

How to Keep Your Dog Hale and Hearty

At A Glance

Having a pet is a commitment of a lifetime and as responsible pet parents, you must ensure your dog is always in good health. Investing in a pet insurance can allow you the freedom to give your dog the best possible medical care under any circumstances. That said,

  • Dogs require a balanced mix of nutrition, healthcare, exercise and socialization to live happy and long lives.
  • You also need to identify what’s normal and what’s not to be able to tell if your Fido is not doing well.

It’s not surprising, really.

After all, who doesn’t want their canine companion to live a long and happy life?

But taking good care of your dog’s health takes time and effort. If you want your pet to live a long, happy, and healthy life, here is the ultimate pet health guide for you.

dog eating

Proper and Adequate Nutrition

One of the most basic, yet vital requirements for your dog is nutritious food that fits its dietary requirement.

Any can of dog food won’t do. You need to spend some time in fact checking if the food really is fulfilling your pet’s nutritional needs.

Not all commercially available dog food is trustworthy.

The global pet food market was valued at approximately $95 billion in 2021, and is expected to keep growing exponentially. But there has been a significant shift in the ingredients list, as demand is increasingly focusing on natural and sustainable foods.

For good reason.

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, many commercial pet foods are a product of easily (and cheaply) available ingredients rather than nutrient-rich edibles. Rather than providing adequate nutrition, these foods can actually harm your pet.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow when choosing commercial food brands:

  • Read pet food labels carefully
  • Meat and vegetables should be high up on the list
  • Avoid foods with fillers such as corn syrups, Ethoxyquin and any animal by-products
  • Go for grain-free food

Be Careful Giving Them Food You Eat

Contrary to popular opinion, table scraps are not good for your pet!

Dogs do not metabolize food like humans, and certain foods we consume easily may be downright dangerous for your dog.

Think of something as tiny and as innocuous as chewing gum. Apart from being a choking hazard, the xylitol present in it can irritate your dog’s stomach lining and make it throw up.

Raisins, chocolate, garlic, onions, avocados, grapes, macadamia nuts and any other caffeine- rich foods can also poison your pet. You certainly cannot overlook the danger of obesity either.

Even if you’re making your own dog food, do consult an animal nutritionist or a vet first. Ensure you feed your pet the right, nutritionally balanced diet.

Give Healthy Treats

Dogs love being rewarded with an occasional treat.

But moderation is key when it comes to treats.

Try and keep treats healthy. You can opt to make them at home. Low calorie treats like baby carrots, slices of apple, cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, dehydrated chicken or fruits, and unsweetened yogurt are some great healthy alternatives your dog will enjoy.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

While eating a nutritious diet tops the list in dog health and wellness checklist, it is equally important to provide the right amount of food.

Your dog is most certainly overweight if it is 10-20% heavier than its ideal weight. Anything more than this and your dog is considered obese.

Just like in humans, dog obesity also brings in risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and weakened joints. Obesity can also shorten your beloved pet’s life.

Talk to your vet about your pet’s ideal weight and read food labels for weight-based feeding guidelines.

Provide Fresh Water

Hydration is an important part of any pet health and wellness routine.

Your dog needs enough water to help digest its food and keep cool on hot days.

Change the water in your dog’s bowl at least twice a day and clean the bowl regularly to ensure the water is always fresh and drinkable.

dog and owner

Give Your Pet Regular Exercise

Studies by the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention show that at least half of the pet population in America is overweight or obese. If that was not worrisome enough, imagine the fact that most pet owners do not know or realize that their dog is sporting an unhealthy weight.

Overwhelmed with the sheer amount of pet food choices and conflicting dietary advice? Here’s an easy mantra to follow: regular exercise.

You know how a run in the park instantly lifts your mood and fills you with energy?

Well, ditto for dogs.

A good bout of exercise not only keeps your pet happy, it also keeps their weight in check.

Depending on the breed of your pet, it could need anything from a quick 15 minute walk to an hour long playtime in the park. The key is to make exercise a regular feature in your pet’s daily routine.

Invest Time in Dog Agility Training

Dog agility is a sport that mentally and physically stimulates your canine friend. It involves navigating an obstacle course, jumping hurdles, tunnel dashes and many such activities which give a good mental and physical workout to your dog.

Dog agility has become one of the fastest growing canine sports not just in America, but globally as well. It’s exciting, fun, and a great way of ensuring your dog remains fit as a fiddle.

AKC Executive Field Representative, Arlene Spooner, expressed it beautifully when she said that, for the dogs, it’s an all in one activity- there’s the exercise, the social aspect, and the feeling of having a job, a purpose.

And working with their person (rather than just fetching a thrown ball) builds teamwork, trust, a deeper level of communication, as well as a stronger bond with their owners.

dog in vet clinic

Plan Regular Check-ups

How do you keep your pets healthy all year round? Take them to the vet at regular intervals. These regular check ups will help you stay on top of your dog’s health.

Your vet will also get the chance to be familiar with your dog’s medical history and behaviors – allowing anything wrong to be easily and quickly prognosed.

According to the Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital, routine exams give your vet the opportunity to help your animal. Add this to plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and help your pet live a long and healthy life.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an important aspect of pet health. For example, the rabies vaccination, which has to be administered at around 12 weeks is compulsory in many states.

Dr. Michael Stone of the Internal Medicine Service at Foster Hospital for Small Animals, cannot stress the importance of the rabies vaccination enough. Although Rabies is preventable through vaccination, it is untreatable once symptoms appear, he shares.

Lyme disease is another ailment your dog should be vaccinated for. This tick-borne disease can cause joint pain, swelling and kidney failures.

Preventive Care

Apart from regular check-ups, your dog also requires some preventive care.

Your puppy should be taken to the vet at around 6-weeks, to have its heart, lungs, eyes and ears checked as well as be given deworming shots.

Fleas are another ectoparasite that you need to watch out for. Prevent fleas by monthly skin treatments or a flea collar.

In addition, you need to get your dog checked for heartworm infestation annually. This disease is spread by mosquito bites and your pet will require monthly tablets or a shot every six months to prevent the infection from spreading.

Now, we know that you cannot put a price tag to pet healthcare and wellness, but the costs can definitely add up, especially with regular vet visits. If this is something you are worried about as a pet owner, we recommend investing in wellness pet insurance plans.

dog having a bath

Grooming for Health

Grooming your dog involves brushing its coat, giving it regular baths and trimming its nails. Brushing your pet’s coat improves blood circulation, distributes the natural oils, and makes it shine with health.

It’s also a good time to check for any skin issues such as itchiness, red patches, dry skin, or any lumps.

If you’re unsure about how to clip your dog’s nails, take it to a professional pet grooming salon or to the vet.

However, grooming your dog by yourself can be great for both of you, according to Denise Breton Gendreau, an assistant obedience trainer from New Hampshire.

Denise dedicates one Sunday every month to bathing, drying and clipping her dogs. “It was just too expensive to have them professionally groomed. It was a bonding experience with them”, Denise shares.

Oral Care

Dogs also require regular brushing to maintain good oral hygiene and to remove any plaque and bacterial build up in their teeth. Brushing their teeth also gives you the chance to regularly check for any loose or damaged teeth.

Remember to use dog specific toothpaste as fluoride based human toothpastes can be poisonous for dogs.

owner hugging her dog

Give Tons of Love and Affection

Dogs crave love, affection and emotional interactions as much as we do. Showing your dogs that you love them will strengthen the bond between both of you, as well as foster good behavior from your pet.

Indulge your pet with chest rubs, belly tickles, gentle pats, cuddles, or talk to them in soothing tones.

The great thing about affection is that it works for the well being of both pet and pet owner!

How do pets improve the well -being of their owners?

Well, studies have shown that loving interactions with your pet can help lessen your anxiety and increase the release of happy hormones (endorphins). Forming a strong attachment with your dog also gives humans a sense of security.

All this simply means that giving your dog love and affection will increase their sense of well being, as well as yours! Win, win!

dogs in a park

Let Your Pet Socialize

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, early socialization in dogs can help decrease the odds of aggressive and antisocial behavior as an adult.

So make sure your pet interacts with other humans and animals, not just in the formative years, but throughout their lives.

Taking a walk in the park or the neighborhood, riding in the car, or an afternoon in doggy day care are all great socializing ideas. Or as Peter Berghold from Ayden, NC, puts it, ‘simply taking the dog out and letting it meet other dogs and people is socialization.’

Consider Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

According to a University of Georgia study, neutering or spaying your dog can increase its life expectancy.

The study, based on the medical records of some 70,000 animal patients, found that neutered male dogs lived approximately 13.8% longer while spayed female dogs lived 26.3% percent longer. The average age of altered dogs was 1.5 years more than their non-altered counterparts.

Apart from the obvious longevity of life benefit, spaying and neutering has other health and wellness benefits for your pet:

  • Reduces the chances of several kinds of cancer
  • Reduces uterine infections
  • Reduces aggressive and territorial behavior

Consult your vet for understanding when spaying and neutering would be beneficial for your dog.

dog and owner

Learn to Identify What’s Normal

Despite the fact that we treat them such, dogs are in fact not like humans.

Understanding this simple fact will help you in identifying what’s normal behavior for a dog and what should raise some red flags.

Correcting behavioral issues needs an understanding of why they occur in the first place. So if your pet is aggressive, eating less or scratching more than usual, try to identify possible underlying factors causing the symptoms.

Communicating better with your dog also means interpreting its body language and understanding its needs. This strengthens the bond between you two.

microchipping the dog

Keep Your Dog Safe

Keeping your dog safe might be an obvious health and wellness tip, but it’s surprising how even experienced pet parents can overlook small things.

What’s negligible to us could be potentially life-threatening for our pets.

Top amongst these is microchipping your dog, so that it can be found easily if it ever gets lost.

As Lorinda Harrelson from Lynchburg, VA, summarizes it, “Keep their litter clean , feed at the same time as best you can, give treats regularly. Brush them regularly, bath them if necessary. Keep their sleeping area away from where people step, provide some play time, let them see outdoors if they’re kept indoors.”

Lorrinda got it perfect, in our opinion.

happy and healthy dog

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Dogs Really Need Vaccines Every Year?

While primary vaccinations are necessary for your dog, it does not require annual booster shots. Studies have shown that immunity can sometimes last more than a year.

Discuss your pet’s vaccination needs with your vet, as every individual animal’s needs will be different.

Why is it Important to Keep Your Pet Healthy?

A healthy dog is a happy dog. Good health translates into better behavior, more love, and lots of affection.

You also get to spend more years with your pooch.

What is the Healthiest Food for Pets?

Dogs need high quality animal protein along with carbs and nutrients as a part of their regular diet.

Dogs require different kinds of nutrients at different ages, so check out this comprehensive guide to dog nutrition.

What are the Benefits of Pets for Human Health?

Pets help manage loneliness, depression and other mental health issues, allowing us to experience true joy and companionship.

Owning a dog increases your physical activity, as you get the opportunity to go out and exercise with your dog everyday. Walking your dog also allows you to socialize with other pet owners.

dog in a beach

Why is it Important to Keep Your Pet Healthy?

The answer to that is simple.

Because like any doting parent, you want your dog to live as long as possible and as happily and pain-free as possible. A healthy pet means you are rewarded with joy, companionship and affection for a longer time.

There are other benefits of having pets too – your sense of well being and mental health improves, as does your physical health. Nothing like a run in the park to make both pet and owner happy!

In fact, our ultimate pet health guide gives both you and your pet ways to improve health and well being.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.