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You love your dog more than anything, which is why you want to keep your pet as healthy as possible. However, when caring for something like a dog, you have to be sure that you’re taking care of all of its needs, from the outside in.
With that in mind, we want to take a deep dive into all aspects of dog health and wellness, from making sure that your pup is clean to watching out and preventing various diseases.
Whether you’re a veteran dog owner or you’re still new to the wonders of having a pet, this guide should help you keep Fido in fighting shape for years to come.
Grooming and Hygiene
You wouldn’t go days without washing your hair or cleaning yourself, right?
Well, it’s the same thing with your dog. While cats are excellent about self-care, dogs are notoriously bad at keeping themselves in good condition.
That’s why grooming is so vital. Not only will it help your dog feel better, but it can have a lot of additional benefits as well.
Let’s break down the top reasons to pay close attention to your dog’s skin and fur routine.
The more you brush, the less you have to worry about fur and skin cells getting all over your carpet and furniture.
If you’re tired of having to vacuum or dust daily to keep your home from becoming a fur-covered nightmare, you should be brushing your dog once or twice a week.
Long-hair breeds need it more often than short-hairs, so keep that in mind.
One issue that happens with long-hair breeds is matting.
This is when the fur clumps together, which can make it much harder to brush.
If you want to avoid matting, brushing more often will help reduce the chances of it happening. Also, a shedding blade is much more effective at removing mats than a standard brush.
While you could send your dog to a groomer to get its hair trimmed and brushed, you should be doing it yourself more often.
Not only will this help you save money in the long run, but it will enhance the bond between you and your pet.
Spending quality time together has a lot of psychological benefits for both of you, so why not make the most of it?
Tips for Brushing and Washing Your Dog’s Fur
While most dogs are okay with a brush (as long as it’s not uncomfortable), washing your dog is another story.
Some pups do well with water, while others will treat it like the plague. If your puppy is one of the latter, then here are some tips to deal with its nervousness and anxiety.
Start Slow – never try to get your dog into a shower or tub all at once.
Make sure that your pet is comfortable with a little bit of water before moving on.
Use Dog Shampoo – if you’re trying to use your Head and Shoulders on your pup, it won’t have the same effect. Dog shampoos are formulated for your dog’s fur and skin, so it will be much better at getting Fido clean.
Use Treats if Necessary – don’t be afraid to reward your dog for good behavior. If it’s having a hard time with bathing, then treats and positive reinforcement can turn it into a much better experience.
Be Patient – depending on how much your dog is averse to bathing, it can be more than a little frustrating. However, be patient and don’t get angry. Over time, the experience will get better and smoother, so don’t think that this is how it’s going to be forever.
When it comes to bathing, once or twice per month should be okay, unless your dog is getting dirty more often. The reason you don’t want to bathe your pup too often is that you can dry out your pet’s skin and cause itching and flaking.
Trimming Your Dog’s Nails
While brushing and bathing are crucial for your pup’s health, chances are that its nails will have to be clipped and trimmed from time to time.
Assuming that you don’t want to get scratched every time you shake paws, as well as avoid scuffing your floors, you should be trimming your dog’s nails once or twice a month.
Here are some things to keep in mind with this process.
Don’t Cut Too Close – think of it like cutting the tips of your fingers every time you clip your nails. Cutting too deeply can cause pain for your dog, so stick to the outer edges as much as possible.
Over time, you’ll get better at judging where the sweet spot is.
Use a File When Necessary – in many cases, a clipper isn’t needed. Instead, you can simply file the nails down and avoid any pain or discomfort.
Use Treats – most dogs don’t want their paws to be manhandled, but if you reward your pooch during the process, it will make it flow smoother.
Grooming Your Dog’s Ears
One thing that many dog owners forget is that their pet’s ears need cleaning and attention just as much as the rest of the body.
Whether your dog has floppy or straight ears, they are susceptible to infection and other problems, which is why you want to clean them regularly as well.
For the most part, cleaning your dog’s ears once or twice a month (more often for dogs with floppy ears) is sufficient. What you’re trying to do is prevent infections and remove any excess wax. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions out there that can do both.
When cleaning the ear, make sure to remove any clumps of hair and any dirt around the area. If there’s a lot of hair inside the ear, you’ll have to get a professional to trim it so that you don’t risk hurting your pup.
Using a solution is ideal because it will break up the wax and clean the ear canal.
Just put a few drops in, massage the base of the ear, and let your dog shake out the excess.
One tip is to make sure that the solution is warm so that it’s not as jarring when you drop it in. Afterward, you may want to wipe the surrounding area with cotton.
Fortunately, dogs don’t need as much oral hygiene as people do, so don’t assume that you have to brush and floss your pet’s mouth on a daily basis.
That being said, many pet owners rarely brush their dog’s teeth at all, so you want to avoid that as well.
For most breeds, a weekly brushing should suffice, although some varieties may benefit from twice a week, so you may want to check with your veterinarian.
Here are some tips to make the process easier for both you and your pup.
Use a Dog Toothbrush – paste isn’t usually necessary, although there are dog toothpastes on the market. Typically, though, they are merely designed to improve bad breath.
Practice With a Finger First – many dogs don’t like the feeling of something brushing against their teeth, so if your pup is resistant, start with a finger, and use treats to reward the behavior.
Once your dog gets used to that, it should be easier to brush.
Be Gentle – while you may see a little blood, a lot of it is worrisome. Either you’re brushing too hard, or your dog may have gum disease.
Another thing to keep in mind is that chewing on tough materials like rawhide or dog-approved bones can help immensely with dental health.
Also, some of these products are designed to clean the teeth and improve breath so that you can get two benefits in one. That being said, don’t use these items in place of regular brushing.
Fleas and Ticks
One of the most crucial elements of your dog’s health is watching for fleas and other parasites.
Unfortunately, your pup’s fur is a magnet for these insects, which means that you have to be vigilant and proactive if you want to avoid letting a full-blown infestation take over.
Here are some things to know and consider when talking about flea treatment and prevention.
Talk to Your Vet About Brands and Options
There are many different flea treatments out there, with some being topical (goes onto the skin and fur) and others being oral (chewed and digested). Some dogs respond better to one than the other, so be aware that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” decision to make.
Be sure to talk with your veterinarian to make sure that your pup is getting the right treatment and that it won’t cause an allergic reaction. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch medications or brands to find one that works better.
Also, with that in mind, make sure that you’re following the instructions and administering the treatment like clockwork. Missing a dose can cause lots of problems, so be diligent as much as possible.
Keep Your Home Clean One of the most frustrating things about fleas is that they have to come into contact with your dog to get killed by the treatments. Unfortunately, that means that some of them may get tracked into your house, despite your best efforts.
Thus, one of the best ways to keep fleas from infesting your home and your pooch is to keep everything clean and tidy at all times. Vacuum regularly, and wash linens more often than average.
Living in a cold environment helps, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about fleas. They can get in during the warmer part of the year and live comfortably in your home for the rest of the season.
Wash Your Pet With Flea Shampoo Only When Necessary It may be tempting to bathe your dog more often with flea-killing shampoo, but the fact is that it may be overkill. Not only do you risk drying out your pet’s skin with too much bathing, but adding it on top of current flea treatments is unnecessary.
Instead, save that kind of thing for when you have an infestation that won’t go away. Flea-killing shampoo is much better in small doses – prevention is a far superior strategy.
Inspect Your Dog Regularly Although fleas are small, you can still see them if you’re looking closely enough. If you notice that your pooch is scratching or biting more often, be sure to inspect its coat to see what’s going on. In some cases, it may be an allergic reaction to something, but it could also be that fleas are setting up shop in your dog’s fur.
Inspections are also good for spotting and removing ticks. Some parts of the country are more tick-prone than others, but you should always be on the lookout for these bloodsuckers, especially because they can be harbingers of disease.
One issue that most people ignore with their pets is obesity.
Unfortunately, it’s a growing problem in the US, as more and more of our dogs are getting soggy around the midsection. Thankfully, it’s something that can be corrected much easier in canines than in humans, so all it takes is some perseverance, training, and a healthy dose of physical activity.
Here’s what you should know about keeping your dog physically fit.
Walk Your Dog Often
Not only does taking Fido out help him release energy and stimulate his senses, but it also helps with other things like agility, as well as bone and muscle health. Not only that but if you walk your dog regularly, you can also benefit from the exercise since you’re both out and about.
Usually, the one reason why some may not walk their dogs is not having enough time in the day, but now you can order a dog walker from your phone, so that shouldn’t be an excuse.
Ideally, you’ll be the one walking your pet, but if duty calls, you should get someone else to do it.
Active Play Helps
Like kids, dogs are always ready to play.
Fortunately, when it comes to physical fitness, you can make it much more entertaining for both of you by incorporating more activity into playtime. Usually, fetch is a perfect way to get your dog more active, although you can try other things like swimming and hide and seek.
Overall, the more active playtime is, the better off your dog will be.
While you want your dog to be active and playful, the fact is that going hard can lead to a lot of injuries.
Usually, pups that do more strenuous activity will be susceptible to injury, but the point is that any dog can get hurt, so you have to watch out for potential dangers. Here are some things to consider to prevent injuries in your pup.
Sprains and Tears
Usually, sprains and tears happen when a dog lives a sedentary lifestyle and then tries to be active. Thus, the more that you walk and play with your dog, the less chance of these problems happening.
You’ll notice if your dog has sprained something because it will start to limp around or move less.
Cuts and Scrapes
Whether it’s rough playing with another dog or your pooch simply scrapes against something by accident, cuts and lacerations can happen.
While they can be jarring, especially when there’s blood, they can be treated easily.
You’ll want to talk to your vet if the wound is deep, but usually, you can wrap it with a bandage and treat it with something like Neosporin to facilitate the healing process.
Fortunately, dogs heal much faster than people, so most cuts should fade after a couple of days if that.
When putting a bandage on, keep in mind that your dog may chew on it. If that happens, a cone may be an ideal solution until the wound is fully healed.
Just like us, dogs can hurt themselves in a variety of ways.
They can hit themselves on various objects, leading to bruises and sprains, or they can experience more severe injuries, like in the eyes or the ears.
For the most part, you want to take your pet to the vet whenever it gets hurt. In some cases, you may need medicine or antibiotics to prevent infection, or you may have to get the wound bandaged properly so that it can heal.
Overall, getting advice from your vet is always a smart move, since you may not know the full scope of the injury. For example, you may think your dog has a sprain, but it could be something more serious, like a broken bone.
Whether it’s getting neutered or recovering from a substantial injury, there will be times when your dog is in recovery.
Surgery and other treatments that can necessitate rehabilitation can occur at any time, so it’s imperative that you understand what it will take to get your dog back to 100%.
Here’s what you should keep in mind.
Follow Medicinal Instructions If your dog has to take antibiotics or some other medication during recovery, you want to be diligent with it. Follow your vet’s instructions and communicate with your vet if there are any problems.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated and Fed While in recovery, your pet needs to maintain its strength. While your dog may not have much of an appetite, it’s vital that you still find ways to get it to eat and drink whenever possible. In some cases, you may want to switch to wet food so that it’s more palatable. Also, wet food has more water in it, so hydration is easier.
Ease Back Into Activity One thing you want to avoid is complications during recovery, so don’t overexert your pup. Again, follow your vet’s instructions, particularly when it comes to things like physical activity or walking. While dogs can heal much faster than us, that doesn’t mean that your pup will be back to normal in no time.
Also, depending on the injury, you may have to keep your dog from certain activities. For example, if your pup has broken bones, you may need to have it avoid walking or running for a while.
We’ve done a deep dive on dog nutrition in another article, so we won’t break it down too much here.
However, what your dog eats is just as important as anything else related to its health and wellness, so be sure that you’re well aware of these nutritional guidelines.
When in Doubt, Only Feed Your Pet Dog Food
It’s tempting to give your dog treats, but because dogs have such different digestive systems than humans, many foods that are fine for us are toxic for them. Overall, you want to avoid feeding your pooch any human food, but it helps to read up on particularly nasty foods that can be extra dangerous, just so that you know what to watch out for the most.
Avoid Grains and Filler Ingredients
When your dog eats healthy, it yields a ton of benefits. Your pup doesn’t poop as much (or as frequently), it has more energy, and it helps with a shiny and lustrous coat. When comparing dog foods, avoid any brands that use grains or corn as primary ingredients. Dogs do best with a mix of proteins and vegetables.
Dry Food is Usually Better
While your dog may often prefer wet food, there are more benefits to using kibble instead. With dry food, your dog gets to chew more (remember dental health), it’s more cost-effective, and it won’t spoil. However, if you want to give your pup a treat every now and again, try mixing wet food with the dry.
Don’t Overfeed Your Dog
With canines, it’s all about portion control. Feeding your dog too much can lead to obesity, so you want to avoid that as much as possible. Fortunately, you control when and what your dog eats, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If your pup is getting a little overweight, cut back on the portions until it balances out.
Bottom Line - Take Care of Your Dog!
Overall, you have to remember that your pet is a living creature.
All too often, dog owners do the bare minimum for their pet’s health, which usually leads to problems. Your dog doesn’t exist at your convenience, so you have to take a more proactive approach to maintain its health and wellness.
That being said, the more effort you put in, the more rewarding it will be. Also, your dog will love you even more for it.