Maintaining healthy habits is the best way to keep your dog from becoming ill. Using the below tips and doing your best to prevent and avoid the most common health issues in dogs could save your pet's life in the long run.
Table of Contents
- 1 Stay on the ball with any behavior changes
- 2 Regular grooming means better health
- 3 Keep parasites in-check
- 4 Protect your dog from fleas, ticks and ear mites
- 5 Get your dog spayed or neutered
- 6 Don't let your dog get dehydrated
- 7 Keep your dog’s mind active
- 8 Reduce stress by getting regular exercise
- 9 Stretching isn’t just for people
- 10 Don’t let your dog get overweight
- 11 Know when to see a professional
- 12 Be prepared for injuries
- 13 Keep your First-Aid Kit stocked
- 14 Know the signs of heart disease in dogs
- 15 Signs of vestibular disease and strokes in dogs
The health epidemic only seems to be getting worse, and the U.S. economy is not getting any better either. To prolong your dog's life and avoid hefty vet bills, it may be the time to break the cycle and work on preventing the most common health issues in dogs. You'd be pleased to know there are plenty of cheap ways to improve on your dog's current habits.
1 Stay on the ball with any behavior changes
Be aware of how much your dog eats and his regular activity and behavior patterns. This way you'll know when something's different. Don’t wait for problems to become serious before going to a veterinarian to get help.
You can get an idea of how well your dog is seeing and hearing while you’re playing games with him (and there are tons of games to play with your dog) or train your dog.
Monitor how much and when he typically eats, and also try to keep track of his bathroom habits. If his daily routine or behavior changes drastically in a very short period of time, it's time to make an appointment with the vet.
2 Regular grooming means better health
Regular dog grooming of your pet's fur and skin will connect you to anything going on with his body, like fleas, injuries or lumps. So spend some time brushing your Fido.
The same applies to brushing your dog's teeth. Contrary to what many dog owners think, we all should be brushing our pets' teeth at least once a day. Not only can you prevent gum disease and dental problems with daily tooth brushing, but the risks of heart problems in dogs are also reduced.
Finally, cleaning your dog’s ears prevents infections, and keeping dog's nails trimmed maintains a healthy posture and joint health. Even the simple act of remembering to clean your dog’s paws after he's been outside will reduce parasites and his exposure to the pesticides and other chemicals used to get rid of these pests.
Many pet parents avoid doing a lot of these dog grooming tasks for a very simple reason – they don't know how and thereby are afraid to do something wrong. This, of course, can only make things worse.
3 Keep parasites in-check
Dogs are prone to parasites like heartworm, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms. They can be passed to their owners too. Clean up after your dog, so parasite eggs won’t have a chance to spread.
Make sure your dog gets regular and effective heartworm and the deworming medication. Look for signs of parasites in the fur around his anus, in his feces, and where he sleeps. Also, keep an eye out for:
- dramatic weight loss
- changes in appetite
- swollen stomach
- bloody diarrhea
- coughing, bloody coughs or difficulty breathing
Need help with fleas on your dog? Fleas on dogs can be difficult to get rid of. If you're unsure of how to remove these pests from your dog and your home, watch a video and read this guide on the subject.
4 Protect your dog from fleas, ticks and ear mites
Fleas and other parasites are actually more than just a minor, itchy inconvenience, because insects and external parasites transmit some of the most common health issues in dogs. Some of these conditions can be quite serious, like Lyme disease.
Damage to the skin can also open the door to secondary, bacterial infections. Always check your dog's fur for ticks if he's been outside and remove them with tweezers and then use antiseptic dog wipes to remove all bacteria and fungi, and prevent further infection.
Keep the grass in your yard cut short, as ticks live in tall grass.
Shampoos, rinses, sprays and mists can help keep fleas and ticks away. Your veterinarian will be able to walk you through all of the options available. There’s even chewable tablets to prevent fleas and ticks from living on your pet, but currently, the most popular way to prevent them are dog flea collars which have been shown in studies as most effective.
Be sure to look for:
- insects in the fur
- dark specks
- swelling of joints or lymph nodes
- pale gums
- unexplained bleeding
Remember to watch the video above and read through the linked guide. We've included a lot of very well-researched and extensive details on removing fleas and battling them in the house as well as how to prevent any future encounters with these nasty parasites.
5 Get your dog spayed or neutered
According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s state pet health report, getting your dog fixed not only prevents unwanted pregnancy, but your pet will live longer too.
The research shows that on average, fixing your dog extends their life by 18 percent for males and 23 percent for females. So learn about the pros and cons of neutering and spaying dogs, and then decide if you should proceed with this ASAP.
6 Don't let your dog get dehydrated
Dogs tend to drink less as they get older, and making sure they always get enough to drink is essential in hot, summer weather.
Put out more than one water dish in convenient places and watch the water level to make sure your dog is getting enough to drink, especially if feeding a lot of dry dog food.
If you're a big outdoorsman or outdoorswoman and love to hike or camp with your dog, then make sure you have all the necessary supplies, and that includes special dog water bottles that make it convenient and encouraging for your Fido to drink out of.
7 Keep your dog’s mind active
Health doesn’t just concern the body. Your dog’s mind needs regular activity too, especially to avoid dementia as he gets older. Boredom encourages destructive and obsessive behavior in dogs too.
Playing games like hide-and-seek or find-the-treat will keep your dog engaged. Of course, they’re a lot of fun too (for both of you)! There are even special puzzle dog toys like the popular Tether Tug Dog Toy where the dog has to figure out how to get the food.
8 Reduce stress by getting regular exercise
Stress and anxiety are as harmful for dogs as they are for humans. Both big and small changes to routine can be difficult and need to be planned for with your pet in mind. So don't be lazy to play games with your pooch or do some sports activity with the dog, like running.
Making sure your pet gets enough exercise will keep him healthier and prevent a host of other common health issues in dogs. Signs to look for include:
- extra panting
- changes in appetite
- excessive barking
- aggressive, obsessive and/or destructive behavior,
- new house-training issues
9 Stretching isn’t just for people
We’ve all heard how important it is to stretch before and after exercise. It can also help prevent some of the most common health issues in dogs. Stretching helps with building and maintaining your dog's flexibility, warming up his muscles, and getting his circulation going.
There’s a reason one of the most common poses in yoga is called downward dog. You can teach your pooch to do it by training him to keep his hind-end up while putting his head down, and stretching his front legs.
10 Don’t let your dog get overweight
To help avoid heart disease and diabetes, know how much fat and protein your dog needs for his size, breed and activity level. Canine diabetes is a serious issue that can even be fatal.
If your dog already has diabetes, you need to talk to a veterinarian and get him onto one of the dog food brands that are designed specifically for dogs with canine diabetes. These foods will help to cure the disease before it's too late.
Start by getting your dog onto a proper diet with healthy dog food and healthy dog treats. You also need to find out how many calories he needs, and measure how many he's getting in his regular food and favorite treats and how many calories he'll be burning.
11 Know when to see a professional
Depending on expert's advice is essential. It can be for any reason, so go see a veterinarian, a professional dog groomer or dog trainer if need be.
Annual medical and dental checkups aren’t optional if you want to prevent the most common health issues in dogs. Early diagnosis and vaccinations can also save you money by catching issues before they cause permanent health problems.
Professional pet groomers can help with regular body maintenance, and dog training keeps your pet more engaged and active. Find out how much dog training in your local area costs, or what are the local dog grooming prices and see if you can save long-term.
12 Be prepared for injuries
Accidents happen to everyone. Minor injuries and wounds can be quickly dealt with at home when you have the right supplies and basic first-aid knowledge. If it’s more serious, you’ll obviously need a vet, but you still have to get your dog there.
It’s better to keep everything you might need together, so you'll know where everything is. This way you can take it with you at a moment's notice in an emergency. If you travel with your dog a lot, you should add a few pet-specific items to your car kit too.
13 Keep your First-Aid Kit stocked
Every dog owner should have a pet first aid kit for dogs in their bathroom cabinet. Some things you should keep in this kit include, according to the linked article are:
- gauze pads and\or menstrual pads for absorbing blood
- adhesive tape
- hydrogen peroxide
- sterile saline solution
- non-prescription antibiotic ointment
- petroleum jelly
- foil emergency blanket
- cotton balls or swabs
- disposable gloves
- blunt ended scissors
- pocket knife
- needle-nosed pliers
Other dog specific items that you should have on the ready include:
- medical records
- dog carrier or crate
- temporary identification tag
- cling bandage that won’t stick to fur
- rectal thermometer
- dog nail clippers
14 Know the signs of heart disease in dogs
Heart problems in dogs is unfortunately fairly common. Certain breeds and older dogs can suffer from chronic or acute heart issues, and early diagnosis and treatments are crucial.
Sometimes, it can be hard to separate heart problems from natural aging, but it’s just another area where regular checkups with a veterinarian can help. Pet owners should be looking for:
- coughing that lasts more than a few days
- breathing problems
- behavior changes
- appetite changes
- weight changes
- weakness or sleepiness
15 Signs of vestibular disease and strokes in dogs
According to the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, strokes are much more common in dogs than we thought. They can be triggered by a variety of other common health issues in dogs, which is why all dog owners should know the signs to look for.
Dogs more than seven years old should have their blood tested to look for diseases that can cause strokes. Just like people, adding antioxidants to the diet can help keep your pup healthier as he gets older.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- stumbling or leaning
- falling or difficulty getting up
- repetitive eye movement, blindness or a problem with just one eye
- facial nerve paralysis
- drooling changes
- stiffness or a twisted neck
- weakness or partial paralysis
Healthy, active people are more likely to have healthy pets. If you care about nutrition and exercise and look after your body, you’re more likely to do the same thing for your dog, who can’t do it all on his own.