Preventative wellness tips for your dog

Preventative wellness tips for your dog - dog lying on floor

Preventive care and early disease intervention can improve your dog’s health and may even help head off life-threatening illnesses before they progress. Following an effective preventive care routine improves your dog’s quality of life. There are many aspects of preventive care, such as routine wellness exams, maintaining the correct vaccination schedule for your pet’s lifestyle, and ongoing parasite prevention. Read on to learn preventive care wellness tips to keep your dog healthy, including:

  • Why preventive care is important
  • How to provide wellness for your canine
  • How to create a safe environment for your dog

You can significantly improve your dog’s physical and mental state in many ways, which helps keep them healthy and happy for many years. In addition to periodic vet wellness checks and maintaining their vaccine schedule, consistently meeting their nutritional needs and providing an adequate amount of exercise helps avoid some times of health issues as your dog ages. Here are some tips to help you prevent severe illness and stay proactive in managing your pet’s long term health and well being.

Why is preventative care important?

Preventive care is crucial because it helps reduce the likelihood of some chronic illnesses developing and it provides the opportunity to avoid some forms of infectious disease. Staying vigilant and proactive about your dog’s health may even reduce the total number of veterinary visits your dog needs over the entire course of life. It’s not always easy to tell when your pup isn’t feeling well or in pain, but catching any illnesses early usually makes the situation easier to treat. Wellness exams and screening tests allow you to give your dog the healthiest life possible.

"Everyone knows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This applies to our pets as well.  Check-ups, vaccinations, parasite control, and screening tests like senior blood profiles are valuable tools for both preventing illness and catching them early," says Dr. Jo Myers, a veterinarian at Vetster.

Your veterinarian is a great source of information about what you can expect for your pet depending on their age, lifestyle, weight, and genetics. In addition, your vet has the tools to detect diseases before they become a serious problem. So what does pursuing preventive pet care actually mean for you and your dog? Here are some tips to help you get a jump on your pooch’s proactive health journey.

What is wellness care for dogs?

There are many ways to provide wellness care for your dog, beginning with the basics. At a minimum, preventive wellness starts with following your vet’s recommendations for regular wellness exams and vaccinations. Preventative wellness also includes dental care, parasite control, and providing daily exercise and appropriate nutrition. You can also prevent some cancers and other diseases by spaying or neutering your dog. Microchipping is another tool in the preventive health toolkit, as it can help bring your dog home safely if you get separated.

Schedule regular wellness exams with a vet

These preventative care services are crucial to your canine’s health. Healthy adult dogs should have annual wellness exams. Puppies and senior animals should see the vet more frequently. Wellness exams are an opportunity for the veterinarian to check everything from their lungs and heart to stance, gait, and weight. During a complete physical exam, the veterinarian covers every inch of your pet, looking, listening, and feeling for abnormalities. For example, your canine’s eyes will be checked for signs of excessive tearing, discharge, redness, cloudiness, or eyelid issues. They will check your dog’s coat and skin for overall condition, abnormal hair loss, or dandruff. All of these symptoms, as well as any information you provide about  weight loss or excessive thirst or urination, will help the veterinarian identify any illnesses, or if further testing is recommended to ensure early detection of any developing conditions.

Maintain a vaccination schedule for your dog

Vaccines are critical in preventing illness and infectious diseases. Vaccinations trigger a protective immune response so your dog’s body can fight future infections. Keeping your canine up to date on vaccinations is one of the best ways to avoid preventable, life-threatening illnesses. The core vaccines for dogs are rabies and the distemper combination, also known as DAP or DHPP, which includes distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and may also include parainfluenza.

Vaccine protocols are not a one-size-fits-all proposal; your vet will tell you what’s best for your dog or puppy. The vaccine protocol for rabies is dictated by your area’s local statutes. With this in mind, typically, vaccination for rabies requires two rounds of shots, one year apart, followed by a booster every three years. The distemper combination vaccine is recommended for use as early as six to eight weeks of age, with boosters every three to four weeks until the puppy has received at least two or three shots after three months. The DHPP booster is given one year after the initial series, then boosted every three years after that.

Rules and recommendations regarding vaccinations change over time, so follow your veterinarian’s advice. Widespread use of vaccinations keeps pet populations healthier. In many jurisdictions, the law requires pet owners to give rabies vaccinations to their animals. Vaccination is also a cost effective way of approaching preventive health care. When it comes to treating the infectious diseases vaccines prevent, the cost of the vaccine is much less expensive than treating a dog once they have been infected, if treatment is possible at all.

Provide preventative dental care

Like humans, a dog’s dental hygiene is critical to their well-being. Take good care of their teeth at home and with routine veterinary care. Good oral health isn’t just cosmetic, it’s also vital to healthy internal organs such as the kidneys. Keeping up with your dog's teeth and gums helps fight periodontal disease and may help your dog live longer.

Veterinarians recommend caring for your pet's teeth with a daily tooth-cleaning regime. You can use either a dog toothbrush, a finger toothbrush, or even a damp piece of cloth wrapped around your finger to brush your dog’s teeth. Other products in the pet market include dog dental chews and chew toys, but these products are not a replacement for brushing. If you notice plaque, tartar, or other issues with your dog’s teeth, it’s best to consult a veterinarian. They may recommend professional dental cleaning. These practices and dental exams will help to prevent dental disease and keep your dog healthy, happy, and smiling.

Stay on top of parasite control

There are multiple ways you can provide parasite control for your canine. Maintain good hygiene and clean up your pet's feces daily because eggs or larvae in their stool may transmit intestinal parasites to other animals. Regular deworming and stool sample checks are common parts of a canine wellness exam that help keep intestinal parasites like roundworms at bay. Heartworm prevention is also important for your dog. Consult your veterinarian about annual heartworm testing and prevention. To prevent other parasites in your dog, such as fleas and ticks, administer or apply vet-recommended parasite control products following the schedule and dosage prescribed for your dog.

Provide a nutritionally complete diet

Healthy dogs need a balanced diet containing vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, served in appropriate portions for their age, size, and lifestyle. When purchasing dog food, check for a nutritional adequacy statement on the label to confirm your dog food is complete and balanced for your dog’s life stage. This label, also known as an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement, indicates whether the product contains all the essential nutrients a pet needs and the age or life stage  for which the diet is appropriate.

When it comes to your dog's diet, a common misconception is that providing your canine with lots of food is a good way to show them you love them. Although it may feel that way in the moment, overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is associated with a number of serious chronic conditions, including diabetes. Another practice to avoid is feeding your dog table scraps, as many “people foods” are unsafe for your dog. When thinking about proactive ways to manage your dog’s diet, consider whether you might be over using treats in day to day life. Treats are helpful training tools, but they should not be the primary way to show your dog you love them or used as a substitute for play or activity. Dog treats should only be 10%-15% of your dog's daily food intake or calorie budget. If you are in a phase where you are putting your dog through a lot of training each day, consider adjusting the size of their meals to compensate for treats used during training sessions. Alternatively, you might want to try substituting some of their regular food for use as training motivation and keep track of the total fed during training against their daily portion size.

Give your canine an adequate amount of exercise and environmental enrichment

At every stage of a dog's life, be consistent about keeping them active and healthy with daily exercise. Exercise is great for a pup’s mental stimulation. The amount of exercise they need depends on their genetic background. A conversation with a veterinarian and some simple research will help you determine what kind and how much physical activity they need.

Dogs are happiest when running and playing, as they are naturally energetic animals. Exercise can help prolong their life and reduce the risk of obesity. Regular exercise alone acts as disease prevention and helps fight off some medical conditions, such as diseases of the heart and lungs, so make sure your dog has daily opportunities to do what they're hardwired to do.

Spay or neuter when the time is right

Spaying or neutering your dog is a personal decision. However, there are medical benefits to spaying and neutering. Spaying female dogs prevents uterine infections and decreases the chances of mammary tumors. 50 percent of mammary tumors in female dogs are malignant or cancerous. Neutering male dogs can eliminate the risk of testicular cancer. Another benefit of sexual alteration of dogs is it helps reduce unwanted or difficult to manage behavior. Spayed female dogs will not go into heat. Male dogs are less likely to roam away from home and get into fights after being neutered.

The overall cost of spaying or neutering is less expensive than raising an entire litter. Talk to a veterinarian to see what option is right for you and to determine the best age at which to have your dog spayed or neutered.

Microchip your animals

If your dog ventures away from home, microchips are an excellent way to facilitate their return. If your lost dog is found, veterinarians or animal shelters will scan the microchip and use the unique ID code to access the contact information you’ve provided to the registry. This technology is easily accessible, affordable, and safe.

How do I create a safe environment for my dog?

Pets need a safe place to call home. Whether it’s providing a safe environment outdoors or puppy proofing your home, take steps to keep potentially harmful items out of reach and prevent unsupervised roaming. By securing an area where they can run and play freely without getting hurt, keeping them on a leash while out on a walk, storing poisons and other hazardous products out of reach among other proactive safety measures, you can take many actions to keep your dog out of harm’s way. Here are a few ideas:

  • Utilize fencing: Letting dogs play in a secure backyard area will help ensure their safety. Underground fencing and invisible electric fencing can be effective, but keep in mind, neither will keep outside animals, such as neighborhood dogs or wildlife, away.
  • Choose a safe dog leash: Retractable leashes may seem convenient, but most veterinary and training professionals do not recommend using them due to the many accidents and fatalities associated with them. Even small dogs can break a retractable leash or pull it easily out of their handler’s grip if they bolt after a squirrel or other dog while out on a walk. In addition, these long leashes allow pets to wander around and get out of sight, so make sure to have a robust and non-retractable leash to keep your dog safe and others around you unbothered.
  • Keep poisons out of reach: Many products are unsafe for your dog, including medications, house cleaning products, antifreeze, toxic plants in the yard and house, rodent poisons, and lawn care products. Be sure these household items and other harmful products are up on a high shelf or locked away where your dog can’t get into them.
  • Take precautions for extreme weather: Conditions to consider are frostbite in the winter and heat exhaustion in the summer. Continuously provide clean, fresh water and shelter especially when weather conditions are extreme.
  • Respect your dog's natural behavior: It is always essential to react to animal behavior respectfully. If your dog seems irritated or agitated, step back and assess the reason why. If necessary, safely and calmly remove them from the situation. Don’t expect your dog to respond to you the way a human child might to correction or instruction. It’s also important to give dogs physical space when they need it. Try to avoid putting behavior expectations on your dog that are inconsistent with their breeding and temperament.
  • Always supervise interactions with strange people or other pets: Like humans, dogs do not always get along with other dogs. Try not to force unwanted social interaction, whether with other pets or with people.

Maximizing your pup's life expectancy

Keep your furry family happy and healthy by following these tips to provide for their physical, intellectual, and emotional needs. Pet parents can provide routine care with a healthy diet, exercise, and lots of love and affection. Follow your veterinarian’s wellness recommendations for regular check-ups, vaccinations, parasite control, blood tests, and dental cleanings. If you have any questions about preventative wellness tips for your dog, book an online virtual care appointment with Vetster to understand the best way to keep your dog’s health in check.

FAQ - Preventative wellness tips for your dog

How long do dogs usually live?

In general, the average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years, but this can vary depending on your dog’s breed and size. Small dog breeds, such as chihuahuas, can live around 16 years. Medium-sized dogs like heelers and spaniels have a shorter life expectancy and typically reach 12-14 years of age.  Large dogs such as golden retrievers typically live 10-12 years. Giant dogs, such as Saint Bernards, are doing well if they make it to 8-10 years. In addition, some dog breeds are more inclined to certain diseases, such as arthritis, which can impact their lifespan.

What are the conditions to look out for in older dogs?

As your dog ages, they are more at risk of some diseases and conditions. Here are some common illnesses your senior dog may develop in advancing years:

If you see any unusual symptoms in your senior dog, it is important to visit your veterinarian right away. Early diagnosis usually simplifies treatment and improves the odds of a good outcome. Don’t delay medical care and ensure your dog has the best quality of life for as long as possible.

How can you tell you have a happy dog?

Dogs have undeniable physical signs that they are content and happy. Look for a soft gaze, relaxed body, happy barks, and facial expressions to know your dog is truly enjoying life. Happy dogs are also well-adjusted and capable of calming themselves down and coping with a variety of environmental circumstances. By staying proactive and engaged with your pet’s care and health, you can be assured you’re doing all you can to help your dog be content in your care.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.
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