Ensuring that your dog lives a long and happy life means not only feeding, sheltering, and exercising your dog, but also providing preventative and ongoing healthcare. This starts when you bring your pup home for the first time and continues through adulthood. Learning to observe certain behavior, monitor vital signs, and follow a vaccination program will keep both you and your dog happy and healthy.

It’s vital as a pet owner that you know what to do in an emergency situation. This can mean the difference between life and death. Have on hand first aid kits and emergency 24 hour veterinarian phone numbers and facility information if the need arises.

Before bringing your new dog home for the first time, it is essential that you make a visit to your vet for a physical examination, administration of worm medication, and vaccinations. After your first visit, set up a schedule with your vet for semi-annual exams and ongoing vaccinations.

There are common diseases that can affect your dog’s health and wellbeing. Many of these can be prevented through regular vaccines. Puppies especially are susceptible to several life threatening, contagious diseases.

Vaccination programs should begin at age 6-8 weeks and continue every few weeks until your pup is 12-14 weeks old. Booster vaccinations are given then at one year and then on a set schedule depending upon the vaccine.

Types of Vaccinations:
• Distemper which includes hardpad. Boosted every other year following first year shot.
• Leptospirosis, a liver and kidney disease.
• Parainfluzenza
• Hepatitis, caused by a liver virus.
• Parvorirus, an intestinal viral disease
• Kennel Cough, an infection of the larynx and trachea. Vaccine usually given as a nasal spray.
• Rabies

Heartworm disease can potentially be fatal if not treated. Thus prevention action is preferable in the first place. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.

Prior to starting a prevention plan, your vet will administer a blood test to make sure you dog is not already infected. The drug is given on a monthly basis to your dog for prevention. Some formulas also help control parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Check with you vet or local pet supply location for options.

Home Health Checks to Do on your Dog
Unfortunately our dog can’t talk and tell us when they are feeling bad. As a preventative measure you can routinely check you dog for problems before they become serious. The best way is to do the simple “once over” every week. It will only take 5-10 minutes and your dog will thank you for it.

Below are some areas to check and what “healthy” ranges are. Never hesitate to visit the vet if you think you need it.

• Lungs-Healthy breathing should be 20-30 breaths per minute. One breath is an “up and down” of the chest.

• Heart- Normal heart rate is 60-150 beats per minute. Larger dogs have slower heart rates. Find the pulse on the inside of a hind leg. If its weak, erratic, or fast consult your vet.

• Fluid levels-To check for dehydration, take some skin over your dog’s shoulder, then gently pinch and release. If your dog is maintaining proper fluid levels, the skin will snap back into position in a second or two. If it doesn’t, offer water and have her checked by your vet.

• Circulation-A healthy circulatory system ensures that you dog’s heart is pumping properly. Lift up his lip and press firmly on the gum over the canine tooth. When you stop pressing, there should be a pale spot that becomes pink within two seconds. If it remains pale after applying pressure, seek vet assistance.

• Temperature-A dog’s normal temp should be in the range of 99.5 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. A rectal thermometer and some patience on both your sides are needed. Anything over 104, you need to seek medical attention right away.

• Anus- Anus should be clean, dry and lump free

• Nose- Should be cool and moist.

• Eyes- Should be clear and bright

• Ribs- Should not be prominent

• Abdomen- A pot belly is normal if your dog is overweight. Not normal if your dog is thin

• Ears-Should be pink, smooth, glossy, and odorless, may have a slight oily feel

• Teeth- White and free of tarter. No broken or missing teeth.

• Feet-No mats or sores on toes or pads. Nails should be trimmed.

Warning Signs of When to Seek Medical Attention for Your Dog:
Always consult your vet if something in you home health exam doesn’t seem right. If you notice any of the following signs, you should consult you vet:
• Loss of appetite for more than a day
• Difficulty eating or mouth pain
• Sudden weight gain or loss
• Prolonged, gradual weight loss
• Fever
• Pain or indication of pain when you go to pet
• Vomiting more than three times in a day
• Change in bowel habits or stool for more than a day
• Coughing or labored breathing
• Sneezing or more than a day
• Excessive thirst for more than a day
• Lack of urination or control
• Excessive salivation
• Sluggishness or unwilling to do favorite activities for more than a day
• Excessive itching or scratching
• Lameness that does not improve in a day
• Seizures
• Convulsions
• Eye discharge that is not normal

Common Health Problems
Your dog depends upon you for its health and well being. All dogs at certain points in their life will encounter various health issues. It’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to seek appropriate medical attention.

• Aging-Contact your vet if you notice loss of appetite or energy, increased thirst or urination, sores that won’t heal, weight changes, abnormal odors, lumps, coughing or sneezing.

Other problems to look for as your dog ages:

• Arthritis-Degenerative joint disease is common in many breeds as they age. New medications and treatments are available to ease the disease.

• Kidney Failure-Older dogs are susceptible to kidney failure and may have accidents. Low protein diet and adequate care can ease symptoms.

• Dental Disease-Bacteria from gum and tooth decay can lead to internal organ problems. Ensure that you have a regiment for dental care from an early age.

• Diabetes-Age related diabetes can not be cured. Treatment is available for you dog through regular insulin doses.

• Eye Disease-Older dogs can have cataract or progressive retinal atrophy. Contact you vet if you see changes in your dog’s eyes.

• Coughing and Sneezing-If you dog has a persistent cough that won’t go away, check with your vet. He may have respiratory problems, heartworm infection, heart failure or number of other problems.

• Ears-Your dog ears are sensitive and intricate organs. They aid your dog in his balance and if problems exist, can lead to deafness. Watch for mites, infections, hematomas, and ear flap injuries.

• Eyes-Common eye problems can cause discharge, tearing, squinting or hold the eyes close. Common eyes problems are conjunctivitis, dry eye, glaucoma, cataracts, retinal disease, eyelid abnormalities, and corneal injuries.

• Gastrointestinal-By maintaining a steady diet and plenty of water should ward off problems. However, may dogs experience diarrhea, vomiting, bloat, and flatulence at times in their lives. If symptoms persist, consult your vet.

• Fleas and Tapeworms-Fleas are the most common skin problems your dog can encounter. Tapeworms can happen when your dog has an infestation of fleas and ingests them. Consult your vet or local supply store for products to curb fleas.

• Dental Disease- 80% of our dogs has some form of periodontal disease by age four. It’s important to have a regular regimen for brushing your dog’s teeth.

• Orthopedics- About 20% of adult dogs will develop degenerative joint disease. Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Signs are that you dog may seem stiff, sore, lame, and has difficulty getting up. Medication and therapy are available to ease the discomfort.

• Skin Conditions-Allergies, ringworm, mange, and dandruff are the most common skin infections you may encounter. Consult your vet for products or treatment options to rid the problems.

• Urinary Tract Problems-Cystitis, bladder stones, prostrate problems, incontinence are the usual conditions that you may encounter. Don’t let these problems persist since they can lead to further serious problems with the kidney or diabetes.

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