No one likes a surprise vet visit, especially a preventable one. With a whirlwind year like 2020, you’re probably looking for all the answers on how to keep your family members healthy — fur-babies included. We’ve rounded up the top 10 health tips to keep your dog healthy in the coming year.
Immunizations may seem like a given, but some pet parents don’t realize just how necessary they really are. Even dogs who rarely leave the house should receive regular vaccinations. Parvo, for instance, can be contracted simply by walking on dirt contaminated with the virus. Honestly, would you rather pay $20 for a vaccine or an $800 vet bill for parvo treatment?
So when and how often should you vaccinate your dog? Puppies should receive a rabies shot at 14 weeks, one year, and every year or every 3 years after that. Parvo and distemper shots are recommended at 6, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Kennel cough vaccines aren’t mandatory but are highly recommended for dogs that go to daycare, dog parks, or grooming facilities — basically anywhere where they’ll come in contact with a lot of dogs.
Heartworm preventatives are crucial since mosquitoes transmit the eggs. There’s no telling if your dog has been bitten by an infected bug until the worms develop and your dog begins showing symptoms.
The good news is heartworms are curable, though this condition is costly to treat. Heartworm preventatives will keep your pet from contracting these nasty buggers and make sure their heart stays happy and healthy. Most vets require dogs older than 6 months have a negative heartworm test before starting heartworm preventatives.
Fleas are a pain in the fur for everyone, but did you know they can cause serious illnesses too? Along with transmitting yucky tapeworms, fleas can cause anemia in young puppies and immunocompromised canines. Tick bites are another can of worms, causing a slew of human and canine conditions from Rocky Mountain spotted fever to Lyme disease. Stay one step ahead of these nasty buggers with a good flea and tick preventative medication.
Intestinal worms are quite common — nearly all dogs contract them at some point. Before scooping, check your pup’s stool for visible signs of worms. Not all intestinal worms are visible, so you can’t rely on sight alone.
Ask your vet for a fecal test when you first get your puppy and have it repeated yearly just to make sure they’re still in the clear. If your pup does test positive for worms, ask your vet for a prescription or over-the-counter worm medicine to clear them up.
Just like humans, pups can get cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease, which is why it’s important to brush their teeth regularly. Keep those pearly whites shining with dog-specific paste and toothbrushes.
Some dog treats claim to reduce plaque. While these are a great tool, they are not a replacement for regular brushing. You’ll also need to schedule your pup a professional dental cleaning every year after 6 months old.
Besides preventing knots and mats, grooming your dog regularly can help you identify skin problems early on. As you brush, assess the condition of your pet’s skin. Let your vet know if you find painful areas, lumps, or bumps for early treatment. Brushing is also great for bonding with your pet and gaining their trust.
Vitamins and minerals are essential to your pup’s health, but a great quality kibble or wet food should take care of their nutritional needs. So how do you determine if your kibble is actually good for your dog? Peep the ingredients list to see if the first ingredient is meat — and not meat byproducts. Check the protein and mineral content to ensure the kibble has what your woofer needs and none of what they don’t (like soy and corn fillers). If you’re still unsure, ask your vet for recommendations.
Avoid giving your pet table scraps since these can cause obesity, diabetes, and even pancreatitis in doggos. As fellow pet parents, we know it's hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes. If your pup insists on eating human food, give them fresh veggies, brown rice, and boiled or baked meats without seasoning.
You may be surprised to learn that spaying and neutering can prevent illness and keep your dog healthy. These procedures eliminate reproductive issues and minimize risks for certain cancers and infections in both males and females. Spaying/neutering can also prevent your dog from running away if they tend to roam while in heat.
Regular exercise and socialization are essential to keep your dog happy and healthy. Take frequent walks, go to the dog park, and encourage people to pet your dog from an early age. Socialization is crucial for a quality life for dogs since it reduces stress for pups and their family.
Pet parents want their pups to be happy and healthy all the time, but the truth is, all dogs will get sick at some point. These tips may help your pet avoid preventable illnesses and identify other conditions early on. For more dog health tips, check out our other wellness guides.