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10 Ways to Care For Your Dog

  • 6 min read

Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM (Author)

Dogs are more than just pets, they're family. We want them to be happy, healthy, and live long lives. So, what can you do to help your furry loved ones stay healthy and live their best lives? Here are 10 of the best ways to keep your dog healthy.

1. Good Nutrition

Just like humans, dogs need a well-balanced diet and plenty of water to stay healthy. It is important to provide them with a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements. Feed your dog a high-quality food brand, and avoid foods that contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. A diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals will help your dog maintain a healthy weight and provide them with the energy they need to stay active. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water. If you have questions about your dog’s nutritional requirements always speak with your veterinarian to determine which diet is best for your dog before changing diets.


2. Regular exercise 

Exercise is essential for dogs, just as it is for humans. Regular exercise can help prevent obesity, promote healthy joints, and reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise helps your pet burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. It also provides dogs with mental stimulation, which is important for their overall well-being. Activities such as playing fetch or going for a walk can help keep dogs mentally engaged and prevent boredom. Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs by releasing endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals. This can help dogs feel more relaxed and calmer. In contrast, dogs that don't get enough exercise can become bored and restless, which can lead to behavior problems such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, and aggression. Walking your dog isn’t just good for them, it’s great for pet parents too!

3. Routine vet visits 

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are an essential part of keeping your dog healthy. Routine examinations can help detect any health problems early and ensure that your dog is up to date on vaccinations and preventative medications. Your dog can’t tell you when something is wrong. So never skip a check-up because your dog looks healthy. Just like us, dogs can develop diseases like kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, dental disease, cardiac disease and cancer. During a routine visit, your veterinarian will examine your pet from head to tail. Veterinarians have the tools and training to detect subtle signs of diseases. Remember the goal of annual examinations is to not only prevent disease, but also to catch any illnesses early. The earlier diseases are discovered the better the odds are that your dog can be treated successfully. So, remember whether your pet appears healthy or not, all pets should see their veterinarian at least once a year. If they are older than 7 years they should have routine check-ups twice a year.

4. Dental care 

Dental health is important in pets and must not be overlooked. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 75% of dogs over the age of four have dental disease. In fact, dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions we see in dogs. This should come as no surprise. Most people do not brush their dog’s teeth, and we all know that our dogs are not brushing their own teeth. Dental disease doesn’t just lead to bad doggy breath, it can lead to tooth loss, painful tooth root abscesses, difficulty eating, and other serious health problems. Pets should have their mouth examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. This typically takes place during your pet’s annual physical exam. During these check-ups your veterinarian will do an oral exam and be able to detect if your dog has any dental disease. In between these visits you should ideally be checking your dog’s mouth regularly as well. The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Ideally you want to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they are young so that they become used to the routine. Young dogs also have clean healthy teeth and will get used to brushing if you start when they are young, just like nail trims. Dogs should have their teeth brushed daily or at the very least a few times a week. It is important to use a dog-safe toothpaste and not toothpaste intended for people. Dog-safe toothpaste does not bubble or foam and does not require your dog to rinse their mouth out. Routine oral exams and regular tooth brushing is the best way to prevent dental problems in your pets.

5. Flea and tick prevention

Fleas and ticks aren’t just annoying, they can carry diseases that can be harmful to your dog's health. Not only do fleas annoy their hosts relentlessly, some animals are sensitive to fleas and can develop a skin reaction called “flea dermatitis,” which can then lead to bacterial skin infections (pyoderma) also known as hotspots. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms, an intestinal parasite that can cause malnutrition. Young animals with severe flea infestations are at risk for developing anemia. 

Ticks are more than a nuisance; they are an important disease vector that can pose a threat to your pets and family. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease as well as other tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, Tularemia and Babesiosis. 

Tick-borne illnesses are a significant cause of morbidity in people and pets. To protect your family and your dog, it is important to utilize year-round tick prevention. 

Luckily there are many safe and effective medications available to protect your dog from fleas and ticks. Utilizing one of these products year-round is the best way to keep ticks and fleas at bay and your pets healthy. Your veterinarian can help you decide which medication is best for your particular pet.

6. Heartworm prevention

Mosquitoes can carry the heartworm parasite, a dangerous and common parasite that can affect your dog's heart and other organs. Left untreated heartworm disease is fatal. Unfortunately, the current treatment options for heartworm infections have high risk of mortality and complications. The best way to treat heartworm is to prevent it. There are several safe and effective medications available to prevent heartworm. Many are also effective against other parasites.

7. Regular grooming 

Grooming is important for your dog's physical and mental health. Regular brushing helps remove loose hair, dirt, and debris, which can cause skin irritation if left unattended. Additionally, grooming your dog gives you an excellent opportunity to inspect your dog's skin for lumps, cuts, and other injuries. Most dogs also enjoy being groomed. Regular grooming can help prevent skin problems, promote healthy coat growth, and provide a bonding experience for you and your dog.

8. Socialization 

From wagging tails to joyful barks, dogs are undeniably social animals that thrive on interaction and connection. Dogs are pack animals by nature. In a household setting, they consider their human family as part of their pack. This is why dogs thrive in environments where they have the opportunity to interact and engage with their human and canine counterparts. Dogs are social animals and need socialization to thrive. Expose your dog to various people, animals, and environments from a young age. This helps them build confidence, adaptability, and strong social skills and can prevent behavioral problems in the future.

9. Prevent Accidents

Dogs are curious creatures and may get into things they shouldn't. Keep toxic substances such as cleaning products, human and pet medication, and poisonous foods like chocolate, grapes and food containing xylitol safely out of reach. Also be aware of plants that may be poisonous to pets and keep these out of your house and yard. And never give your pet any medication without first checking with your veterinarian. If your pet gets into anything DO NOT wait for symptoms, call your vet or local veterinary ER right away. Time is of the essence with poisonings.

10. Plenty of love and attention 

Dogs thrive on attention and love.  Take your pet for long walks, take them with you to the pet store or other pet-friendly outings, and give them extra snuggles. Our furry loved ones give us unconditional love and companionship year-round and deserve a show of affection. Research has shown that oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," is released in both dogs and humans during interactions, strengthening the emotional connection between them. This chemical reaction is responsible for the warm and fuzzy feeling we experience when cuddling with our furry friends. There is also evidence that petting your dog lowers their blood pressure as well as yours. Spending time with your dog, playing, and showing affection can help keep them happy and healthy.

In conclusion, there are many things you can do to help keep your dog healthy. Providing a balanced diet, regular exercise, routine vet visits, dental care, flea and tick prevention, heartworm preventatives, clean water, regular grooming, plenty of love and attention, socialization, and avoiding toxic substances are all important ways to keep your dog healthy and happy. By incorporating these habits into your daily routine, you can help your furry friend live a long, healthy life.

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