It has been a rough couple of months with dogs that I know passing away prematurely. Two of my client's wonderful dogs died of cancer at a very young age. I hear more and more stories about this happening and it is difficult to know if it is happening more frequently or I hear about it more because I know thousands of dogs.
It made me hug my three dogs more than I usually do (which is a lot) and to think about health issues in dogs. I fully realize that a dog guardian can make all the right health decisions for their dog and still have a terrible health issue occur with their dog. I know for a fact my clients treated their dogs with supreme care and fed them the healthiest of foods. Sometimes health issues just happen.
But, what are some topics for all of us to think about for the care of our dogs? In my experience here are some ways you can try and help your dog live a long, healthy life.
Vaccinations. Don't just assume you need to always get all the yearly vaccinations. Talk to your vet about options and do your own research. There is a lot of research that contributes to the philosophy that dogs have been getting too many vaccinations. This can potentially lead to health issues. Here are some books that talk about overall health, nutrition and vaccinations.
Dangerous Items. If your dog roams the house when you are not home, be very careful of objects in your home that might cause harm including food items, garbage, plants and cleaning supplies. About 6 years ago, I heard of a dog that died because he put his head inside of a potato chip bag and suffocated when it got caught. Terribly tragedy that could have been avoided if the bag was thrown away.
Nutrition. Consider the raw diet, or at a minimum, feed the best food that you can afford. I started feeding my dogs the raw diet many years ago when I met a woman at the beach that had six border collies. They were all in remarkable shape and I asked her how old they were. I expected her to tell me they were all under three years old. She proceeded to tell me, "This one is 12 years old, he is 10, she is 13, these two are 8 and she is 5". They were bouncing around like puppies and I asked her what her secret was. She instantly said, "Two words. Raw diet."
Since then I have attended conferences, read books, and even emailed Ian Billinghurst himself in Australia to ask him questions. I have decided that it is a good decision for my dogs. But, I still find vets that are against the raw diet. The point is, you need to do the research and make the best decision you can for your lovable pooch. You can research nutrition at many locations, including this section at DogWise. If you need a good resource for premium foods, this site has many fantastic options.
Poisons. Be careful of potential poisons and harmful ingredients that your dog can ingest. Most people know about chocolate, but do you have poisonous plants in your home? Did you know that macadamia nuts are harmtul to dogs? See the ASPCA website for a list of toxins for dogs.
Stress. Alleviate stress in your dog's life. I firmly believe that stress kills both people and dogs. Think about the stress on your dog's body every day if she barks and is anxous around dogs or other objects in her daily life. Visit the Forums section and ask questions if you don't know how to do this for your dog.
Boredom. Train your dog to provide mental stimulation. Boredom is terrible for dogs and can often lead to foraging for food or destruction which can lead to ingesting something dangerous. Provide your dog with daily training to keep her more content.
Exercise. Provide physical exercise to help muscles, prevent boredom and help keep your dog slim.
Proper Weight. Don't overfeed your dog. There is information that shows that it is healthier to have your dog thinner rather than heavier. Being overweight affects the heart, joints and other organs in the body.
Hygiene. Brush your dog's teeth. Bacteria in the mouth can lead to kidney and other problems.