Being a good dog guardian means doing what you can to take care of your best friend and help him live a long, healthy life. Below are key health care tips that every dog caregiver should know.
Your dog’s teeth should be white and shiny. The gums should be pink and moist to the touch. Bad breath, bleeding gums and brownish teeth could all be signs of painful gum disease.
Brush your dog’s teeth every day. Vet clinics and pet supply stores sell toothbrushes and special pet toothpaste (human toothpaste contains ingredients not meant for dogs). Your vet can demonstrate the best brushing method.
Chew toys can also help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Look for nylon or rubber toys recommended by vets. Hard plastic toys or bones or antlers, could actually break their teeth.
Even with regular brushing, dogs may still develop gum disease. Take them to the vet at least once a year to have their mouth checked as part of an overall health exam. Your vet may recommend teeth cleaning under general anaesthetic or suggest a special teeth-cleaning diet.
Is your dog scratching their skin and chewing at their fur? It could be fleas. Less noticeable to your dog, ticks can also be a health problem. Your dog can pick up these pesky parasites when out for walks or by interacting with other animals. Fleas can be treated with medication (see your vet) but ticks should be removed as soon as possible to reduce the chance of disease transmission. Removing ticks can be tricky, so have a vet pull them out to prevent complications. Learn more about how to check for ticks and fleas.
Dogs can carry worms that live, feed and reproduce inside them. Common types include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Worms can cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Luckily, medication for worms is easy to get from your vet.
Vaccines help protect dogs against diseases that can make them very sick. Dogs are usually vaccinated three times as puppies, then once every one to three years as adults. Your vet can recommend what vaccines your dog needs.
Your dog’s ears should be pale pink, clean and odourless. Beware ears that are red and swollen, smelly, itchy, painful or filled with dark, waxy buildup! Take your dog to the vet to have them checked for infection.
Ear infections may be caused by fungal or bacterial infections, or ear mites. Ear mites are tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a dog’s ear canal. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose and provide treatment for these infections.
Dogs have sensitive ears. Ask the vet to show you the best way to keep your dog’s ears clean. Done improperly, cleaning can actually make ear problems worse.
Your dog’s nails should be trimmed regularly. Letting them grow too long causes discomfort. It is important to note however, cutting them too short can be painful and cause them to bleed. Have a veterinary professional demonstrate the correct way to trim your pet’s nails. If you are not comfortable, have them trimmed by a professional.
Some pets can be very fearful of nail trims. Slow desensitization to the process and providing distracting treats is recommended. For very fearful dogs, your vet may be able to provide oral sedatives to help prevent excessive stress and worsening fear of the nail trimming process.
Brush your dog to help remove tangles and loose hair. Short-haired dogs can be brushed a few times a week. Brush longhaired dogs daily to help prevent mats. Regular haircuts can make long hair easier to manage. You can bathe your dog every few months using a pet-safe shampoo. You may also choose to have a professional groomer care for your dog’s coat.
If your pet already has large mats, using clippers to remove these is usually the most humane choice. Using scissors can be dangerous, as it can be hard to tell where the mat ends and the skin begins and sudden movements can result in injury.
Eye spy a problem
Normally, dogs have bright, clear eyes. If you see redness, swelling or goopy discharge, your dog could have an eye issue. Issues such as eye infections require treatment with medication from the vet. Keep your dog’s eyes clean by gently wiping them with a damp, soft cloth. If your dog is squinting their eye, this can be a sign of pain and signals a need for an immediate vet visit.
Don’t wait until it’s too late! One in three pets go missing at some point during their lifetime. As a safety measure, your dog needs at least two forms of identification: a tag on their collar and an ear tattoo or microchip, in case they get lost. The law also requires that you license your dog. Learn more at bcpetregistry.ca.
Fix before six!
Have your dog spayed or neutered before six months of age. A smart and healthy preventive measure for your pet, spaying and neutering prevents unwanted litters, keeps dogs from roaming, prevents certain cancers and infections and makes dogs less aggressive.
Resources for dog guardians
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