20 STEPS TO A HEALTHY DOG
Puppy-proof your house, garage and yard. Puppies explore their homes just like infants do; they get into every nook and cranny, cupboard and container, exposing themselves to a variety of hazards. Move potentially toxic plants to high shelves. Note which plants in your backyard are poisonous, and keep your pup away from them. Two of the worst household toxins for dogs and puppies are rat poison and antifreeze; a small quantity can kill your pet. Other less common poisons include canine or human medications, cleaning supplies, insecticides and toxic foods, such as chocolate and raisins. Puppies that like to chew and swallow things risk intestinal obstruction, especially if they get hold of socks, rugs, garbage or bathroom trash. Some will chew on electrical cords. Never leave your young puppy unsupervised in the house, garage or yard. After you have puppy proofed and as she gets older, allow her short periods of time in the house or yard unsupervised.
Get your puppy de-wormed. Puppies are often born with worms or get them soon after birth. Your veterinarian will recommend a course of treatment.
Learn canine CPR and first aid. Take a class in canine first aid and CPR. You’ll learn how to care for an injury and what to do if your pup eats a poisonous plant or household cleaner. And should she stop breathing, you’ll know what to do until you can get her to an emergency clinic.
Vaccinate to prevent disease. Vaccinations prevent a number of diseases, several of which are life-threatening. Most veterinarians agree that all puppies should have an initial series of vaccinations followed by a booster at 1 year of age. Although vaccinations provide a high level of protection against infectious diseases, they are not foolproof. Keep your puppy away from sick dogs and areas where unknown dogs congregate.
Choose a nutritious food. Puppies require a high quality diet specifically labeled for dogs less than 6 months of age. Most high quality diets have adequate vitamins and minerals. Do not provide supplements or vitamins unless your veterinarian orders them. Keep your pup lean from the day you take her home for a longer, healthier life.
Spay or neuter early. Neuter or spay your puppy at an early age. The current research in veterinary medicine supports the idea that male and female puppies should be neutered or spayed between 16 to 24 weeks of age. Spaying also protects female dogs from mammary, ovarian and uterine cancer. Neutering of male dogs prevents testicular cancer and decreases tendencies toward marking and wandering as they get older.
Walk and exercise your puppy daily. Dogs need scheduled exercise. Leaving them out in the yard for extended periods of time does not provide adequate or meaningful exercise. Walking helps expend some of a puppy’s excess energy and helps to refine and improve obedience. Consider taking your puppy to a reputable day care for additional playing and socialization. Regular exercise not only helps keep your pup healthier, it often prevents behavior problems.
Create a canine first aid kit. Some puppies tend to get into accidents. It makes sense to have some basic supplies on hand to deal with the more common problems. A first aid kit allows you to care for your injured dog until you can get her to the veterinarian or emergency clinic.
Find the right veterinarian for your dog----and you. Choose a veterinarian in the same way you choose a doctor. Select the one whose clinic, experience and personality make you feel comfortable and confident that your dog will get excellent care. Use recommendations from friends to get started, or simply try your neighborhood veterinarian.
Schedule a first exam and consultation. Take your puppy for her initial physical examination when she is about 8 weeks old. Your veterinarian will look for any problems and start her on a series of vaccinations.
Provide daily dental care. Create a good habit early by brushing your young dog’s teeth. After an initial learning period for both puppy and owner, this routine will help postpone the need for dental cleaning under general anesthesia later in life. Start with some gauze wrapped around our finger and some water. When your puppy accepts this method, add some dog toothpaste, then move up to a toothbrush. There are a variety of dental chew bones to supplement your daily brushings.
Crate that pup. Teach your puppy to sleep in a crate at night and to stay there contentedly when you can’t supervise her. Because a puppy will rarely soil her den, a crate also helps housetrain your puppy. Buy either an expandable crate or plan to get a bigger one as she grows to her full size. Provide a favorite toy to make the crate more appealing. Never put your puppy in her crate as a punishment, otherwise she won’t want to sleep in it.
Prevent fleas, ticks and heartworms. You can now keep your puppy parasite free with an effective combination medication that treats and prevents infestations of fleas, ticks and heartworms. Some also keep mosquitoes from biting your puppy, a concern in areas affected by West Nile Virus.
Stick to the diet. Overweight dogs have medical problems just like overweight humans. An overweight puppy may develop diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, heart disease or pancreatitis as she gets older. As in humans, individual metabolisms vary and so will feeding plans among dogs. Work with your veterinarian to establish a measured scheduled feeding program.
Trim your dog’s nails. Overly long nails cause discomfort when your puppy walks and can eventually lead to lameness. Regular trimming prevents nails from becoming overgrown as do walks on concrete. Many dogs resent nail trimming or even having their feet touched. Frequently handle your puppy’s feet and provide positive reinforcement-treats or praise. Avoid over-trimming your puppy’s nails. In light-nailed dogs, you can see the vein, known as the quick, through the nail. For black-nailed dogs, trim more conservatively to avoid cutting the quick. Treat and praise afterward to end on a positive note.
Keep control at all times. Never allow your puppy off leash outside a fenced area. Many dogs that will come when not distracted, will take off at full speed if a squirrel, rabbit or bird appears. Make your fenced yard completely secure and free of loose wire, broken glass and sharp edges. Never leave a young puppy in the yard unsupervised. Don’t use a tether unless you can watch your puppy. To transport your puppy in a vehicle, put her in a carrier or crate until she can wear a canine restraint harness. Know what your pup is doing at all times. If you can’t watch her, confine her.
Enroll in obedience class. At 4 to 6 months of age, your puppy can take an obedience class. This will provide you with the skills to train your puppy at home. Include all family members who will help in training your pup. Poor behavior often leads to abandonment at a shelter. If you train your young dog, she will likely be with you all her life.
Brush for coat health. Brushing your puppy’s coat has long-term benefits. Removing mats and dirt keeps the coat healthy and shiny. Regular brushing helps remove burrs and seed heads that can get into your puppy’s skin and ears, leading to infection. Brushing also offers a good training interaction, in which you create a routine that your puppy learns to accept and welcome with your positive reinforcement.
Use an ID tag or microchip. Buy your puppy a secure collar with an engraved ID tag that includes your telephone number. Fit the collar carefully, and adjust or replace it as your puppy grows so that she can’t easily slip out of it, but you can get one to two fingers under it. Ask your veterinarian about implanting a microchip so that your dog can be identified if she does get away from you. Implanted just under the skin, the chip identifies your dog permanently. Keep your contact information updated on the ID tag and with the chip supplier.
Learn the warning signs. When do you need to take your puppy to the emergency clinic? Learn some of the warning signs of a true emergency, and call your veterinarian or the emergency clinic when in doubt. Some absolute warning signs of an emergency include collapse, difficulty breathing, suspected overheating, seizures, pale or purple gums, insect or poisonous snakebites and persistent bleeding. Your veterinarian will see your dog just once or twice a year. In between, keep your eyes open for signs of a health problem.
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