Look After Your Best Friend

Caring for your puppy is not just a matter of disease prevention or calling in the vet when issues develop. Good and responsible care means understanding your dog’s physiological needs and at the same time integrating your canine’s needs into your everyday life. It means knowing the most common health issues, how to recognize them and when it is time to ask for professional help.

Vaccination

Vaccination is a highly effective way of preventing many serious diseases. The effectiveness of vaccines varies – some give lifelong immunity, while others only provide partial protection against a particular disease. This is because some viruses can modify their form, rendering the vaccine ineffective. For example, canine parvovirus changes but not very dramatically.

What vaccinations your dog needs and how often they need to be administered depends mainly on where you live and which diseases are common in your area. Talk to your vet and make a schedule.

Dog eating out of bowl outside

Nutrition

The key to good health is well-balanced diet. Therefore understanding your dog’s nutritional needs is imperative. The perfect diet is supposed to be a balance of the six major nutrient groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fats & oils, vitamins, minerals and water.

To choose the right dog food, you need to know the nutritional needs of your dog. You also need to know that those needs depend on several factors such as age, breed, body composition, sex (plus whether they are neutered/spayed), temperament, activity level and taste preferences. If you’re not sure what type of diet your dog needs, do not hesitate to talk to your trusted vet.

Dogs with certain medical issues need individually tailored diets. However these diets must be discussed and approved by a veterinarian or dog nutritionist. Addressing health concerns with corresponding diets not only extends your dog’s life, it also improves their quality of life.

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Puppy at the vet

Worms

When it comes to dogs, the most common internal parasites are worms. Worms can cause severe diseases if they constantly use up the dog’s essential nutrients, block the intestinal tract or damage its walls.

To prevent worms in your dog, you need to:

  • Have your dog tested for intestinal parasites and parasitic infections at least once a year. Do not forget to bring a fresh poop sample to the visit.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about parasite infection risks in your area and your options for effective year-round prevention. Deworming medicines are available in the form of tablets, granules and liquids.

It should be noted that some of these worms are potential health hazards for humans, too.

Dog scratching himself

Fleas

The most common external parasites affecting dogs are fleas. These ubiquitous little creatures are without doubt the single most common cause of medical skin conditions in dogs. Canine skin problems account for more visits to the vet than any other single condition.

For achieving ongoing flea control, anti-flea products (protectors) need to be applied monthly. It is advised to begin treatment well before flea season and continue the treatment through the year.

Depending on the area where you live, you may need to use protection year round. If you notice fleas on your dog shortly after applying the protector, it is most likely that the fleas came from the dog’s environment and will soon be killed by the protector.

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Dog sneezing

Allergies

Allergy symptoms in dogs differ, depending on the place where the allergic reaction occurs:

  • The dog’s skin: localized or generalized itchiness and skin inflammation or irritation
  • The lining of the airways: coughing, sneezing, wheezing and discharge from the nose and eyes.
  • The lining of the gastrointestinal tract: vomiting and diarrhea.

Because of their complexity, allergies require multimodal approach:

  • Identifying the allergen
  • Eliminating or minimizing the exposure to that specific allergen
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: antihistamines and corticosteroids
  • Shampoos: to soothe the irritated skin and rinse out the allergens from the coat
  • Hyposensitization: to reprogram the dog’s immune system

Dog holding first aid kit in mouth

Dog Safety

Good veterinary care is usually within easy reach for most dog owners. However, there are occasions when emergencies happen and your dog depends on you for help. By planning ahead and practicing how to restrain your dog, examine it and perform basic first aid you will be prepared for most eventualities.

In any emergency, your responsibility is to quickly assess the situation, restrain and administer first aid. In serious emergencies, your goal is to prevent further damage to any injuries your dog might have sustained, reduce its pain and sustain life. When it is safe and practical to do so, you can contact your vet and arrange professional help.

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Puppy on a leash sitting and looking up at owner.

Training

At first, it may sound good to let our dogs do whatever they want to do. That way we give them the ultimate freedom to act out their natural inclinations. We let them behave freely and without limitations. Not to mention that those behaviors are often hilarious. However, in the long run, this is not a wise decision.

Additionally, we often tend to confuse the words love and training and think that if we discipline our pets they may believe we do not love them enough. That is not true. Pets are intelligent creatures capable of understanding both their limits and your love for them.

In a nutshell, your pet needs to learn its boundaries, starting from an early age. Knowing strict boundaries and acceptable behaviors will make your relationship easier.

Dog with cone on head lying down

Spay/Neuter

Unless you want your dog to have its own offspring when it grows up, it is advisable to have it spayed/neutered. By spaying and neutering you not only prolong your dog’s life, you decrease its risks of developing certain medical conditions.

Common medical conditions in female dogs include pyometra (accumulation of pus in the uterus), false pregnancy and benign tumors of the mammary glands. Common medical conditions in male dogs include testicular and prostate cancers. If these conditions occur, spaying/neutering will be inevitable and mandatory.

Additionally, dogs in heat are extraordinary escape artists and can show undesirable sexual behavior (more common in males) such as urine marking, aggression and humping. Dogs kept outdoors and dogs that manage to escape tend to get in fights and risk severe injuries.

Another major problem is the constantly rising population of stray dogs. By spaying or neutering your dog, you help solve this issue. It is recommended that the spaying/neutering procedure gets done while the dog is still young (preferably less than one year).

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Dog at the groomer

Grooming

No matter how much dogs clean themselves, they still smell funky. The reason dogs smell like dogs is that they do not sweat the same way we do. Additionally when the dog’s normal skin microorganisms, like bacteria and yeasts, are influenced by some external factors, many volatile odoriferous compounds are released.

Therefore, dogs need regular grooming. How often depends on the breed. The grooming session includes brushing, bathing, clipping the hair and nails and taking care of other sources of bad smell, such as ears, anal sacs and teeth.

Young puppies are a whole different story. Bathing young puppies is not advisable because their immune systems are underdeveloped and therefore they are very prone to getting cold. Instead of regular baths, you can use dog wipes and baby wipes or dry shampoos and powders.

Dog chewing on a shoe

Physical and Mental Stimulation

Dogs are intelligent animals, originally bred to complete certain tasks. The fact that nowadays they are kept as companions rather than workers is messing with their mojo and leaves them unmotivated.

According to experts, the most important stimuli for dogs include: exposure to interesting places and things; new, exciting experiences; frequent opportunities to learn things, solve problems and investigate and interact with objects and the environment around them. If your dog spends its time sitting in the house all day without any of the above mentioned stimuli, he is very likely to get bored.

A bored dog’s only limitation is its imagination. If you do not give him something to do, he will come up with ideas on his own. Therefore, keeping your dog mentally and physically stimulated and out of troublesome activities is your responsibility.

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