1).SCHEDULE ROUTINE PHYSICALS, FECAL EXAMS, HEARTWORM CHECKS, AND VACCINATIONS. A good preventative medicine schedule should include an exam and vaccinations for distemper, parvo virus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza (DHP-P) every three weeks from the time your puppy is six to eight weeks old, until he is at least sixteen weeks of age. At sixteen weeks he will also be vaccinated for rabies. Following this “puppy series”, your dog should then receive a thorough annual physical, including fecal exam for internal parasites, heartworm exam, and yearly booster vaccines for DHLP-P as well as yearly Bordetella (kennel cough) if your dog is exposed to other dogs (at the groomer, obedience school, boarding kennel, or park, for example). Rabies vaccine is repeated after a year and then given every three years. In addition, all dogs should be kept on a heartworm preventative from at least March or April to early December.
2).SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR PET AT SIX MONTHS OF AGE. By performing an ovariohysterectomy, or spay operation, not only are you relieved of the problem of messy heat cycles and unwanted pups, but you can eliminate the chance of pyometra (uterine infection) and ovarian cancer. Also, spaying before the dog goes through her second heat cycle will reduce her chances of later developing a malignant breast tumor by 98%. Neutering your male dog will decrease the possibility of prostate problems as he grows older, as well as cutting down on marking and aggressive behavior. He also will have much less tendency to roam, which in itself may prolong his life considerably since he will be less likely to be hit by a car, shot or poisoned by an irate neighbor, injured in a dog fight, or simply lost.
3).FEED A HIGH QUALITY DIET APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR DOG’S AGE AND ACTIVITY LEVEL. Did you know there is actually a disease known as generic dog food syndrome? Feeding cheap, low quality food can actually cost you quite a bit in veterinary bills down the road. And don’t let yourself be fooled by the labels on the bag- they were designed by ad execs who make a business out of convincing people to buy their products. The guaranteed analysis may be almost identical on that generic bag as on the premium brand, but think of it this way- you can get a McRib at McDonald’s or ribs at Montgomery Inn for a significant difference in price. It’s ribs either way, but there’s definitely a difference, right? Same thing for dog food (and we’re talking about more than just case). In general we recommend Eukanuba food- start puppies on the puppy diet formulated for the appropriate size (small, medium, or large). The cost is a little more, but you are feeding a high quality, highly digestible diet so your dog will eat less if fed correctly. The cost difference usually ends up being pennies a day, which is more than offset by the beautiful coat, decreased stool volume, and general good health. AVOID TABLESCRAPS! I do not recommend bones of any kind as they may splinter and penetrate the GI tract, cause obstructions, and fracture teeth. Also high on the “to be avoided” list are pork products, sausage, and candy, especially chocolate (did you know that chocolate can be toxic to dogs?) If your dog must have “people food”, try hot air or microwave popcorn without butter or salt- you can keep some on hand already popped; it’s low calorie and dogs love it!
4).PROVIDE YOUR DOG WITH ROUTINE DENTAL CARE. Along with the increase in quality of commercial diets available, probably advances in dental care are responsible in large part for the fact that pets are living longer today than ever before. Start the day you bring your new pup home- accustom him to having his mouth opened and a soft toothbrush or washcloth used on his teeth. A good way to start is to put a little juice from canned dog food on the brush so he will like the taste. Dental cleaning solutions specially formulated for pets are available from your veterinarian. Can you imagine what your mouth would look, smell, and feel like if you hadn’t brushed your teeth or seen a dentist in ten years? Look at a ten year old dog who has never had dental care and you can get a pretty good idea. Aside from the obvious fact that no one wants to be around a dog whose breath can knock you over, dental condition can have a serious impact on the dog’s overall health. Improperly cared for teeth result in abscesses and loss of the teeth, which not only can be very painful but can also interfere with your pet’s ability to eat a proper diet. Perhaps even more importantly, periodontal disease can develop, giving bacteria a direct entry into the blood stream and resulting in endocarditis, pulmonary disease, kidney failure and a wide range of other problems. Your dog’s annual physical should include a dental exam. If needed, your veterinarian may recommend a dental prophy in which special equipment is used to remove tartar and dental calculus from the teeth. If you begin the preventative cleaning at home, we can often avoid or postpone these procedures. Most dogs will tolerate the cleaning fairly well, and even if he won’t allow you to brush simply squirting some of the solution along the gums will be beneficial. And even if you find the time to do it only once or twice a week or so, you will still notice some of the benefits!
5).CHOOSE A PET APPROPRIATE TO YOUR LIFESTYLE AND EXPECTATIONS, AND THEN FIND A GOOD OBEDIENCE TRAINER TO HELP NIP BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS IN THE BUD. For every animal that is euthanized for a medical reason, there is probably at least one that is put to sleep because of a behavioral problem. Children must be taught manners and so much puppies! Find a good trainer, preferably one who has a puppy kindergarten available. These informal sessions usually start at three months of age, involve the whole family, and can prevent a lot of bad habits before they start. Don’t be afraid to go to the library, find a good book, and start training the day you get your puppy! Keep the sessions short and happy. We recommend Dr. Ian Dunbar’s videotape, Sirius Puppy Training, and the accompanying training book called How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks. We have had trouble finding these locally but they may be ordered by calling 1-800-776-2665 (the Dog and Cat Book Catalog- also on the web at www.dogandcatbooks.com ). This catalog carries many other good training books. Another favorite that is available at Kenton County Library is Mother Knows Best, by Carol Lea Benjamin. If you can’t find fifteen to twenty minutes three to five times a week to work with your dog, then you need to re-evaluate the practicality of choosing a dog for a pet. You are probably too busy to care for the dog properly. (My favorite training time is in bits and pieces during TV commercials- time otherwise wasted anyway!). A few hours early in a pup’s life spent working on the basics can give you a pet you will appreciate for years.
Please feel free to give our office a call if you have any questions or would like more information on recommended books, or a referral to a local trainer!