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Your Dog's Health

All good dog owners want to keep their dogs healthy. You love your dog, and you want her to be healthy and happy. Help keep your dog on the path to wellness with these dog health guidelines.

Your Vet

High-quality veterinary care sets the foundation for your dog's overall health. Find a veterinarian you can trust and visit regularly. Find a vet that understands about over vaccination and unnecessary procedures. The only vaccine that is required by law in the US is rabies and even then, some counties allow titer results as proof of immunity.

Routine visits allow your vet to closely monitor changes before your dog's health gets out of control. Learn how to effectively communicate with your vet and you can expect the same in return. If you can develop a good connection with your vet, it can lead to long-term benefit for you and your dog.

The Food You Feed Your Dog

Proper nutrition is a fundamental for keeping all animals (and humans) healthy. Diet directly affects your dog from day to day and even behavior issues can be linked to improper diet. Choose a high-quality dog food made by a reputable company, or learn about homemade diets. Contrary to what most will tell you, I feed my dogs a variety of foods, just like I feed myself and my family a variety of foods. It has been my experience that in order to grow and maintain the intestinal bacteria necessary for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, feeding a variety is the only way to ensure this. Sticking to one food source does not provide the necessary nutrition to maintain gut health.

There are over 10 quadrillion (that's 10,000,000,000,000,000) little critters living in your intestines and probably more in a dog since they can eat food that has been decomposing or has been buried for weeks. These bacteria have a profound influence on your dog's physiology, immune system, nutrition, and are crucial for life. The health of your dog's body and mind is largely tied to the health of his gut. And out of balance bacterial system can cause

  • Paranoia
  • Hostility
  • Altered visceral perception of the immediate environment
  • Aggressive behavior

Routine Exercise

In general, dogs need between 1 and 2 hours of exercise a day. That doesn't mean you have to walk your dog for 2 hours and in fact, most times that walk is not all it's been made out to be by TV trainers. Humans rarely walk as fast as a dog needs to move in order to actually get some benefit. A dog's natural inclination is to start and stop, check out scents and explore dark places. This is part of the hunting instincts and will help exercise your dog far beyond what a walk can do.

Most of us also don't have 2 hours in a day to spend just exercising our dogs. However, there are things you can do to ensure your dog is getting the physical and mental challenges that they need. You can scatter their meals in the backyard giving them the chance to be a dog and "hunt" their food. This also ensures they will use their noses as intended. The 15 to 20 minutes that your dog searches for his breakfast is equivalent to a 45 minute walk and you can be doing something else.

There are many other ways to exercise your dog that have been developed for those who can't go for a walk, who live in apartments and can't drive to a park, are confined to a wheelchair or have a dog that is reactive to the outside environment and other dogs. Invest in a Creative Exercise class and maximize your efforts while minimizing the time you need to spend.

Dental Care

It can be all too easy to forget about your dog's teeth until you get a whiff of bad breath. Plaque and tartar build-up can lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until dental disease is present - start focusing on preventive dental care right now, if you have not already. You can brush your dog's teeth, use oral rinses, feed dental treats, or all of the above - just do something. And don't forget to talk to your vet about your dog's teeth. Professional cleanings may be necessary from time to time.

Regular Grooming

Grooming is not just for long haired dogs or the poodle breeds that have hair that continually grows like ours does. All dogs need some degree of basic physical upkeep. In general, your dog's grooming needs will be based on her breed. However, your dog may have special needs due to health conditions such as allergies. The average short-haired dog will benefit from a monthly nail trim, bath, and brushing. Long-haired dogs should be brushed out daily. Dogs with continuously growing hair may need a haircut every week or two. Once you determine your dog's grooming needs, decide if you will be doing it yourself, or if you need to hire a professional.

Behavior Issues

Dogs, and other animals, do not show pain the way most humans do. I learned this the hard way with parrots. They will hang onto their perches and stay upright to prevent the other birds in the flock from knowing they are ill and driving them away. Dogs will do similar things and you need to be vigilant for behavior changes that indicate and underlying illness or injury. In most cases, mild illness will disapear in a few days or less.

Unlike humans who require vitamin C to sustain life, animals other then primates possess the natural ability to make their own. But due to nutritional issues, they may not have the building blocks and so could be laid low by an illness that under normal circumstances would barely affect them. But still you would see very little evidence of illness.

The easiest way to tell if your dog is ill or injured is by his behavior. Watch for prolonged naps, refusal to eat, needing more petting or other attention then usual, licking constantly at a certain spot, aggressive responses to touch or unexpected movement.

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