By: James Theiss
Like people, dogs need to be healthy to enjoy life. Dogs are our friends, companions and often our guardians, but since they are also totally dependent on us for their well-being, it is our responsibility to look after them properly.
One of the most prevalent ‘diseases’ in dogs these days is one that also affects humans; Obesity. A fat dog is an unhealthy dog and is likely to suffer from arthritis and heart failure. Remember, in the wild, dogs eat fresh meat they have killed themselves. They also eat certain types of grass and may eat wild fruits like berries if these grow in their natural habitat.
Milk, custard and cake are the worst things you can give your grown dog and, though a puppy may benefit from the calcium in milk, there are commercial milk products available that are especially formulated for a puppy’s needs.
Dry dog food, or kibble as it is sometimes called, is said to have all the nutrients that your dog will need for health, but the dearer brands are often better. Dogs fed on cheaper brands may constantly chew grass to supplement whatever is missing from their diet. Tinned food can be given as a treat.
A healthy dog should have a smooth, shining coat, clear eyes and a moist nose. Its breath should not smell foul. It should be slender, though not thin enough to see its ribs sticking out. If your dog’s breath is disgusting, it could be due to the tartar on its teeth. Chewing on a big bone will help to clean your dog’s teeth. In addition, dog dental care products are available through online retailers.
Regular worming will also help to keep your pet in top condition. Shots for distemper, heartworm, parvovirus and kennel cough are a must. Kennel cough is not likely to be a problem unless the dog is kept on cement. Your vet will need to administer the shots, but you can worm the dog yourself. The tablets should be pushed down the side of the dog’s mouth until he swallows. If this is too difficult, crush the tablet into some tinned dog food and offer when the dog is hungry. Watch to make sure he eats it all.
Parvovirus breaks down the digestive system and eventually affects the heart. It tends to come in outbreaks when people forget to have their animals inoculated. Symptoms include bloody stool and the animal is quickly unable to move and in obvious pain. It is almost always fatal. Luckily, it is not transmitted to humans.
Symptoms of distemper include runny eyes and a dry nose. It is rather like flu in humans.
A dog with worms may have a poor appetite, and will often – though not always – look to be in poor health with a dry coat that is harsh to the touch. If your dog drags itself along the ground in a sitting position, suspect worms immediately. Worms can sometimes be seen hanging from the anal passage. The problem needs to be addressed as soon as possible, because worms are easily transmitted to humans.
Fleas, which will happily jump from dogs to humans, can be another problem. These bloodsuckers can actually kill a tiny puppy, simply through blood loss. Puppies too young to wear a flea collar may be washed in a suitable preparation from the vet. Pat it dry afterwards, or keep it in a warm place so it doesn’t get cold. Always be sure to keep kennels and yard clean to reduce the flea problem. If they get out of hand, you may need to spray all bedding and surrounding areas to kill the fleas and their eggs.
If you live in a tick prone area, be sure to keep a tick collar on your dog at all times. Mark the renewal date on the calendar so you don’t forget to renew it. Your pet’s life may depend on it! Grass ticks cause itchy lumps that can become infected when scratched. If not removed quickly, the paralysis tick can cause death in three to five days.
If your dog seems to suddenly have weak back legs and falls over often, inspect it immediately for a tick and get it to the vet as soon as possible. Luckily, the tick vaccine works well and quickly and can save a dog that looks like it is gasping its last breath.
With attention to these few details, your pet should live a long and happy life, rewarding you with years of fun and companionship.
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