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Keeping your dog healthy for a long and happy life seems like it would be easy. But if you listened to your dog, it would be a lot like listening to your kids. You would be providing McDonald's, candy store, ice cream, not much school, no particular bed time, video games and TV all the time, etc. Doesn't sound very healthy or productive. I think the kids would figure out, eventually, that they don't feel very good. Spoiling your dog will end up the same way. They will end up suffering as a result of the spoiling. We see this all them time. Dogs that are old before their time, can hardly walk because of obesity, shot because they like to "run free" and hit by a car chasing a girl dog because they "want to experience what comes natural". To make it easy, here is what is recommended to keep your dog as healthy as possible, for a long and active life.|
1. Regular visits to your veterinarian. Twice a year is what is recommended. That is the equivalent to a human visiting their doctor every 3-4 years! Not really enough, but it will do for a start. Observant owners are very important in between exams. Puppies will need to go more often. Start the first DAY you have your pet (OK, Sunday doesn't count). Then every 3 weeks until your puppy is 4 months old. This allows time for disease to show themselves, for parasites to become mature and easily diagnosed and helps to trouble-shoot behavior problems as they crop up. Also vaccines are given at approximately these intervals.
And agree to the age appropriate laboratory tests and services needed for your pet. We understand budgets, but if you can no longer do the bare minimum for your dog, maybe you could find him a new home? Before he gets heartworms?
2. Keep your dog confined! A loose dog is a dead dog. This means a sturdy fence, leash walking or an overhead runner for short periods of time. Do not chain your dog to an object. This can lead to serious leg injuries and heat stroke. Hopefully, you expect your pet to be a pet and allow at least some time indoors. In bad weather (heat wave, cold weather, lots of rain) an indoor laundry room would be nice. A dog house is just not enough. If you think it is, go sit in it during a rain storm, during a cold wintry night, in the middle of a 100 degee humid day and see what you think.
3. Good food doesn't mean a food that was cheap and you can't remember the name. Good quality food costs money. We will give you minimum recommendations and will also tell you what the best food is for your pet. There is actually little difference in price since you can feed less of the best food. As a bonus there is less feces to clean up in the yard also.
Our favorite foods are Hill's Science Diet, Science Diet Naturals, Eukanuba, and Purina's Pro Plan.
4. Appropriate snack foods are very important. They are often used as training treats. These would include raw vegetables that have bright colors. Examples are baby carrots, strips of red and orange bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. They are sweet, crunchy and dogs like them if that is all you provide. They are low in calories, high in antioxidants and water-soluble vitamins and don't unbalance the diet. Most dog treats can not say this. Many dog treats have been shown to be dangerous-pig ears with salmonella, jerky treats causing kidney problems, etc.
5. Maintain appropriate weight throughout life. Most of our patients are overweight or obese. The owners control the amount of food the pet gets. The thinner pets have been shown to live longer and healthier lives and have delayed arthritis by several YEARS. So the extra years are healthy years. A healthy weight pet does not look like a sausage, they will look like an hourglass. You should be able to instantly find the ribs just by touching the ribcage. The shape of the backbone should be barely visible. Even a little thinner that that is still OK. It is better to be a little on the thin side than a little on the thick side. But be prepared for all the people who think all pets should look like a sausage.
6. Parasite control and prevention will go a long way to keeping your pet healthy and preventing certain parasites in the human population too. Treating for fleas will prevent anemia, tapeworms and some skin diseases. This needs to be done without using environmental insecticides which pollute our waterways. Do not use flea shampoo, flea dip, or treat your yard or house with flea products. These products expose humans and the environment to high doses of pesticides. There are now multi-purpose monthly topical products that are applied directly to the pet and bind to the fat layer and skin cells which minimizes the collateral damage to the environment. Heartworms are passed between animals by mosquito bites. Just one mosquito can give your pet up to 10 heartworms. Each heartworms grows to be about a foot long and lives inside the heart, blocking blood flow and eventually causing heart failure and death. Giving a monthly heartworm prevention kills the immature heartworm before it ever reaches the heart. There are four main kinds of intestinal worms of dogs. Roundworms can cause blindness in people. Hookworms can cause skin lesions and intestinal infections in people. Whipworms cause chronic blood loss and irritation in the cecum, similar to the appendix. Tapeworms are caused by accidentally eating infected fleas and can affect people also. Because of these risks, all dogs need to be routinely dewormed and checked for parasites by having routine fecal examinations done. All puppies need to have routine deworming done since almost all of them have some worms. They can also have other parasites that can show up on the fecal exam and need additional medication. Using combination products starting at 6-8 weeks of age and throughout life is done to prevent heartworms, intestinal worms, mange mites and fleas. Currently, our favorite combination product for dogs and cats is Advantage MULTI. For ferrets it is Revolution.
For more information see www.capc.org
7. Spaying and neutering are essential for the health of the individual dog and hopefully to eventually end the euthanasia of so many unwanted but adoptable pets at pounds and shelters in our area. Un-spayed females get cancers and infections of the mammary glands, uterus and ovaries, venereal tumors and wander in search of males. They can also have complications because of pregnancy and some of them eat their own babies. Un-neutered males get cancer of the testicles, venereal tumors, perineal hernias and prostate enlargement and often wander and fight other males due to their hormones. They also tend to urinate on items in their territory as well as everywhere else. They also tend to get shot and get hit by cars. Unaltered dogs have a shorter life span because of all these issues. To stop the euthanasia of thousands of local dogs and cats at shelters and pounds, the first step is to spay and neuter so there are no longer any surplus animals that must be killed due to lack of homes.
For more information, see www.petpopulation.org
8. Keeping up with vaccinations are extremely important for puppies in our area because of the threat of parvovirus and distemper. If the mother was up to date on all vaccinations, then the puppies may be protected for about 8-10 weeks. Unfortunately, we usually don't know the mother's vaccination history. Also, the puppy's protection also works against the vaccination's effectiveness. This makes it a little tough to give 100 percent protection guarantees. However, our vaccination does offer that guarantee if the puppy comes in for the vaccines as scheduled. We have never had a failure. The schedule we have set up as at least every 3 weeks. If a puppy gets parvo anyway, the company will pay for treament. We have been using this vaccine for years and have never had a puppy get parvo, so it works very well. Vaccines need to be done from 6-7 weeks of age every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Other vaccines are also given including distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza, bordatella, and four kinds of leptospirosis. It is important to give a leptospirosis vaccine that covers at least 4 different strains of lepto, since there are multiple strains that can affect dogs. Many of them come from wildlife (rats, squirrels, raccoons), some come from livestock and some can be transmitted to people. A single lepto strain in a vaccine is not very helpful.
After the puppy vaccines are completed, the next time vaccines are due is a year later when all the vaccines are repeated one time. Then most of the vaccines are only given once every 3 years. Bordatella and the four way leptospirosis are always given yearly. Rabies vaccine schedule depends on where you live.
9. Dental care is not an option, it is a necessity. It is just as important as it is for people. Poor dental care kills people like it kills animals. Bacteria escapes from the infected mouth and ends up in the heart, liver, even the brain. When we need to schedule a dental procedure for your pet, we aren't concerned about how white his teeth will look in his next portrait, we are concerned about infection advancing during the next six to twelve months. If you want to save money, then brush your dog's teeth! Now! We have dental kits available. The toothbrush has much softer and longer bristles and the toothpaste (that is OK to be swallowed) has odd flavors (like chicken and salmon). We will explain how to do it. It is best to brush every day, but even once a week (during your favorite show) is better than nothing. We now have a dental bacteria vaccine that can help prevent the severe kind of dental infection that leads to bone and tooth loss. This is especially common in small breed dogs. The vaccine is given with the yearly vaccines.
10. Exercise is an absolute necessity. Of course, you will have to go too. I'm afraid you won't get off the hook by saying "He has a big back yard. He chases the squirrels." Good try though. Exercise has to be the sustained output of energy for a period of time. You can both work up to it. For a big dog, aim for three miles. For a small dog with short legs (dachshund) one mile should be enough. This should be done 5 days a week. Around here it would be the 5 days a week that it's not raining, if that ever happens. All dogs need this exercise for 3 reasons. Weight control, cardiovascular fitness, and arthritis prevention. Without exercise, you will be decreasing their lifespan and quality of life. I think they say the same thing about humans.
11. Behavior problems are one of the main reasons people turn in their dogs to shelters and pounds. However, most behavior problems can be solved with behavioral training and possibly medication. If your veterinarian can not help you with behavior issues, Texas A&M Veterinary School has a Behavior Service for dogs and cats. Also Dr. Haug in Sugarland is a veterinarian that is certified in behavior problems. The two most common problems that lead to giving up a dog are biting and housetraining problems.
Biting problems can be prevented in many cases by not playing rough with puppies, not using physical punishment, socializing your puppies by exposing them to different people on walks and at parks and visiting, using food as rewards, practicing basic obedience training and spaying and neutering your dog early. Other aggression problems are best dealt with by a certified behaviorist, especially if there are children in the family.
Housetraining needs to be done correctly from the beginning. Do not use physical punishment but use a reward system instead. The puppy should never be allowed loose in the house. It should either be in your lap, outside in the grass or in the crate. You will need to take the puppy outside to eliminate every 30-45 minutes all day long. Also, puppies usually have to poop after eating. Puppies should eat 3-6 times a day depending on how young they are. When this every 30-45 minute potty break schedule can not be maintained, then the puppy needs to be in the crate. Puppies will generally will not pee or poop where they are sleeping. They should not have food or water in their crate unless you will be gone longer than 8 hours or it is a puppy that is prone to low blood sugar. These long hours make it difficult to housetrain since young puppies cannot hold their urine longer than about an hour. An alternative would be to paper train. With this method, the puppy is allowed a larger area. The bedding, food and water are concentrated in one small area and the entire remainder of the floor is covered in newspaper. So when the puppy needs to pee or poop, the only place to do it is on newspaper. The puppy becomes accustomed to eliminating on newspaper and usually picks one area of the floor to go to. The newspaper is gradually only put in one area and the puppy will aim for the paper. As the puppy gets older and can hold his urine longer, you can slowly move the newspaper to the back door and eventually train the puppy that the newspaper is outside the door.
If older dogs are having housetraining problems, there could be underlying medical problems that will need to be solved first. If there are no medical problems, then confining to a crate is very helpful, and when the dog is not confined, keep him on a short leash that is attached to your wrist. This does not allow your dog to go off and make mistakes, but you will pick up the clues that show he needs to go. Just like a puppy, your dog should never be allowed loose in the house. After several weeks to months, you can try allowing your dog some freedom in the house while you are home, but it is best to crate them while you are gone and at night.