When you first get a dog, it is important to develop a plan of action to keep your pet in tip-top health. There is nothing worse than finding out years down the track that something very simple could have saved you time and heartache.
When you first get your dog, visit your Vet for a chat about preventative health care. Your Vet will give your new dog a thorough health examination and you can ask what problems to look out for and whether there are any existing health concerns. Make sure you take in any worming, flea or tick medication, as this is a chance to ensure you have everything covered. Write down your questions and don’t forget Vets can help with behavioral issues too. Dogs age much quicker than humans and cannot communicate their health concerns, so make sure you take your pet to the Vet every 6 months for a health check, even if you don’t notice any obvious problems.
If you have a large deep chested dog, you need to be aware of bloat and volvulus and avoiding large meals before exercise. If you have a flat-nosed dog, your dog will be prone to developing heat stress. Certain breeds are more likely to develop hip dysplasia, particularly if fed incorrectly as pups. If you know what to look out for, you can be proactive and you will know when to worry.
Puppies need to be vaccinated at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, then 14-16 weeks, then annually or every 3 years depending on the risks to your dog and under discussion with your Veterinarian. Even though some of the diseases we vaccinate for are getting less common, occasionally disastrous outbreaks occur. During your annual vaccination your Vet will also check your dog’s health and bring any concerns to your attention.
Worming should be started at 2 weeks of age and should be done fortnightly until 12 weeks, then monthly until 6 months, then every 3 months for intestinal worming or monthly for heartworm. You can also do an annual injection for heartworm if you are prone to forgetting your monthly preventatives, but you will still need to do the intestinal worming every 3 months. One incredibly easy option is to use Interceptor once monthly. If you combine this with Nexgard for ticks and fleas you have everything sorted.
Fleas usually need monthly treatments, even if you don’t see obvious fleas. A female flea can lay 50 eggs per day and you can easily bring flea eggs into your home on your shoes. It is much easier to prevent a flea infestation than tackle one once it is established.
Brushing your pet’s teeth daily with a pet toothpaste and a soft brush can help prevent periodontal disease that leads to pain, infection and damage to the heart and kidneys. Dental disease once established requires general anaesthesia to clean all surfaces of the teeth safely, so prevention is much better than cure. If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth, chewing raw meaty bones, dental diets and water additives can help.
You are what you eat is certainly true for dogs. While they are often very adventurous with what they will try and eat, they should be fed a good quality, balanced diet. Whether you home-cook or buy pre-prepared foods, use good quality proteins, rather than cheap cereals such as soy and corn. Consider what effect the diet is having on your pet’s teeth and focus on feeding healthy treats that are not full of artificial ingredients. Some dogs will require a prescription diet to treat illnesses beyond what is available over-the-counter dog food.
If you home-cook, seek nutritional advice from your Vet or a nutritionist to ensure you have everything covered and never feed your dog fatty foods, rich human foods or foods that are not fit for consumption. If you feed bones, make sure they are raw and if they are hard bones such as beef, lamb or pork bones, your pet should be eating the meat off the bone, rather than chewing the bone and risking tooth fractures.
If your dog has a long coat, frequent brushing or grooming is necessary to prevent matts that can lead to pain and skin irritation. If your dog has a continuously growing coat, a trip to the groomer every 6-8 weeks will be necessary to keep their coat healthy. Unless recommended by your vet, you should not bathe your dog more than weekly. Some pets just need a good brush and may not even need a bath, but if you do bathe your pet, use a gentle pet shampoo.
When you take on a pet, you also have responsibility for their health and medical concerns. Once your pet reaches 7 years of age, they are considered geriatric, as they age much more quickly than we do. Pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you can always afford the best treatment available for your pet. Even a basic dental clean will cost around $500, so claiming that would almost immediately make your pet insurance worth having. If you decide not to use pet insurance, perhaps put some money aside in a bank account or leave some room on your credit card just in case your pet needs emergency care.