5 Most Important Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Dog

Although the duties of being a diligent dog owner are many, below are five of the most important areas to focus on. Great home care, combined with annual visits to the veterinarian, will help to ensure a wonderful life with you and your canine friend.

1) The Right Nutrition

Japanese Chine
Dr. Paul Sedlacek with Japanese Chin

Good nutrition is the foundation for good health, so you should take care to purchase a high quality, species-appropriate dog food that contains whole food ingredients. Look for animal proteins and fiber-rich grains  as well as added fruits, vegetables, and supplements that will fill in any nutritional gaps. This will ensure your dog receives adequate protein for maintaining strong muscles and tissues, as well as plenty of fat for energy. In general, extra carbohydrates should only be provided to active dogs, as these can lead to weight gain in dogs who are not burning off the carbohydrates and calories from grain-based foods. We sometimes are asked about a raw diet for dogs, which we do not advocate.

 

By providing optimal nutrition from puppyhood, you can help to keep his body strong against illness and potentially prevent future problems. Working under the guidance of your veterinarian, you can determine what diet would be best for your dog, as well as what diet would be most appropriate if your dog is currently overweight or suffering with a chronic condition. Your veterinarian will also be able to offer guidance with regards to portion control in order to maintain a healthy weight.

2) Plenty of Exercise and Playtime

In addition to feeding your dog the best nutrition possible, whether you choose to go with dry food or wet food, you also need to be sure your dog gets plenty of activity every day to stay strong and fit. Playing and exercising with your dog will get him moving and help ward off excess weight gain and other health problems that can result from inactivity and excess weight.

3) Mental Stimulation

Labrador Puppies
Labrador Puppies

On top of the toys that you purchase for exercise and playtime, you should also look for canine-specific, mentally stimulating toys that are available at your local pet store. Puzzle games and games that stimulate your dog’s problem solving abilities are great ways of keeping your dog healthy in both body and mind. Starting at a young age will ensure your dog’s cognitive strength and development.

Training your dog will also stimulate his mind while ensuring that he listens to your commands and understands that you are the one in charge. Once again, starting at a young age will create a well-adjusted dog who is happy to perform tricks and listen to his owner.

4) Grooming

Some breeds require minimal grooming, while others require more frequent bathing and grooming sessions. Regardless of breed, you should brush and bathe your dog on a regular basis in order to maintain the health of his skin and coat while freeing him of  excess dirt from outside play. Keeping the claws trimmed is also important, especially since overgrown claws can become painful and make it difficult to walk and play.

5) Dental Care  

Pet Dental
Pet Dental is very important for Pet Health

Many pet owners do not realize how important it is to brush their dog’s teeth every day. In the same way that you brush your teeth twice daily, it’s important to factor in dog teeth-brushing time every day.  Always use a canine-specific toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste that does not contain fluoride and is designed for canine oral hygiene. This will maintain the health of your pet’s teeth and gums while preventing dangerous infections that can spread throughout the body.  And in addition to brushing your dog’s teeth, you can provide dental treats that will stimulate the gums and help eliminate excess plaque before it becomes hardened tartar.  Finally, remember to take your dog to a vet once a year for professional dental cleaning.

Dr. Paul Sedlacek, of Animal Clinic of Morris Plains sums up prudent dog maintenance as follows, “Good diet & exercise & mental stimulation are the most important aspect for maintaining a healthy dog.  Grooming is also important.”  By taking these steps every day to maintain the overall health of your canine companion, you’ll likely extend the quality and length of human-dog interaction.