We all want our dogs to live long and happy lives, but it’s not always easy to know how to do this. Keeping your dog healthy isn’t as difficult as it may sound; it’s all about daily care, small changes to their lifestyle and getting into good habits. Find out the top 10 ways to keep your dog healthy, including tips to help you get organised and ways to make the little changes that can make all the difference.
Feed them well
A healthy diet reduces your dog’s risk of a wide range of chronic diseases, helping to keep them fit and strong. In general, their food should be high in protein and fibre, but the type and amount of food they eat depends on their age, size and how active they are.
With dog obesity on the rise, more dogs are now at risk of living shorter lives, heart disease, breathing problems, hormonal disease and joint issues. A well-balanced diet is more than what you put in their bowl; it also includes how much you give them too. Regularly giving them extra treats throughout the day can be damaging to their health and can make them less happy in the long run.
- To make sure you’re not overfeeding your dog, divide their total calorie intake for the day between each meal
- If you like to give your dog treats, make sure that you set aside a certain amount of their daily calories for them
- Don’t guesstimate how much food you give them. Measure out their food using a cup or, more accurately, weigh it out
- Keep a check on your dog’s size by weighing them regularly or use a body condition scoring system
Keep them fit
Letting your dog become overweight can affect their quality of life, shorten their lifespan and can cause the same health problems that overweight humans get, including heart disease and diabetes. Carrying extra weight can also put a strain on your dog’s joints and back, which can be painful and may even lead to arthritis.
- Make sure your dog gets an adequate amount of exercise each day
- Exercise doesn’t need to be limited to walking your dog. You could play fetch, teach them scent work, take them swimming, teach them tricks or start doing other dog activities like agility or flyball
- Exercise that involves high impact may be harmful to a puppy’s joints, so try to avoid anything that involves jumping
- Never exercise your dog on a full stomach as it can cause life-threatening bloat
Brush their teeth
- It might be strange for a dog to have their teeth brushed for the first time. Some dogs may need to gradually get used to this new activity, so ask your vet to show you how it’s done
- If possible, introduce teeth brushing as a puppy; that way they grow up thinking it's quite normal
- Feed good quality dog food, 'dental diets', or special foods that prevent plaque from hardening. If in doubt, ask your vet about what diet is best for your dog, and ask them to suggest tooth-friendly toys and treats
Clean their ears
- Don’t push anything into your dog’s ear canal in case it damages the ear, pushes particles deeper inside the ear or triggers an infection
- It’s best to get into a routine of cleaning your dog’s ears. Choose one day a week when you can take a few minutes to do a quick check and clean
- Dogs with very hairy ears should have them trimmed often. This can prevent heat and moisture from getting trapped in the ear, which could cause further problems
- If your dog regularly goes swimming, ensure that you dry your dog’s ears afterwards
Keep them safe
Make sure that you’ve dog-proofed your house and garden to prevent them from injuring themselves or eating things that could be harmful. Make sure that your garden is secure and that there are no holes in fences, hedges or gates that could allow them to escape. Keep any dangerous foods, cleaning products, pesticides and medicines high up or in cupboards that they can’t access. Make sure you don’t leave any human foods lying around after you’ve finished eating. Some human foods can be dangerous to dogs.
Get them vaccinated
- Mark the date of your dog’s vaccination in your calendar. Remember to put it in your calendar for next year, or set a reminder to book an appointment on your online calendar or smartphone.
- Dogs that are travelling abroad may need to have extra vaccinations. If you’re visiting other countries with your dog, check online or speak to your vet about what you need to do.
Prevent and treat parasites
Even clean and otherwise healthy dogs can pick up ticks, fleas and worms. All of these parasites can make your dog very unwell. It’s important that you regularly give your dog worming treatments and use products to treat and prevent fleas and ticks.
- After walks in nature, always check your dog over for signs of ticks
- Regularly groom your dog and check for signs of fleas
- When you pick up your dog’s poo, watch out for signs of worms
Think about neutering
As well as making your dog infertile, neutering can also have certain health benefits too. Neutered females are unable to develop a life-threatening womb infection, known as pyometra, while neutered males may be less likely to develop problems with their prostate. Having your dog neutered, like all operations, needs to be thought about carefully. Although there may be certain health benefits to having your dog neutered, it can cause some issues too, such as an increased risk of urinary incontinence, weight gain and some health problems.
- Choosing whether to have your dog neutered is a big decision. Make sure to speak to your vet and your breeder about whether neutering is right for you and your dog
Groom them regularly
It’s not just show dogs that need to be regularly groomed. All dogs’ coats should be kept well-groomed and in good condition. Different types of dogs have different grooming needs. Short-haired dogs may need considerably less brushing than the daily grooming that some longer-haired dogs require. As well as giving you some bonding time with your dog, regularly grooming them gives you the opportunity to check for signs of illness, injury and parasites.
Visit your vet
Make sure you visit your vet at least once a year so that they can spot anything concerning, talk to you about your dog’s health and make sure that they’re fit and healthy. It’s also important to speak to your vet if you’re concerned about your dog’s health, especially if they’re unwell, they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t, if they’re injured or if you find a concerning lump or bump.
- Make sure you have pet insurance to provide cover for unexpected health issues
- Keep your vet’s phone number to hand, either programmed into your phone or kept somewhere easy to find, such as by the phone or stuck to the fridge
- Check if your vet is available out of hours, just in case you have an emergency in the night or at the weekend
- If you have a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you can now access free 24/7 vet video support via the Agria Vet Guide! Simply download the Agria Vet Guide App onto your smartphone via your device’s app store, and you can have expert pet advice, whenever you need it, from the comfort of your home!
Content provided by Agria Pet Insurance.
With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you have up to £15,000 of cover available every year towards the cost of vet fees, taking the worry away from getting your dog back to the best health.
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We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information