Do you remember the first time you brought your furry bundle of puppiness home? Dogs are always visibly happy to have a new home, and will constantly show their appreciation for their entire lives. Like any pet, they need to be cared for not just be emotionally (they love you no matter what) but physically as well.
There are certain features you will notice about your dog, and each part of them requires attention – some parts more than others. A healthy dog will be a happier dog, and you play a very important role in keeping them that way.
The first thing you will notice about your dog is they have four legs. This is obvious, but everything the dog does and everywhere it goes depends on its legs. That means making sure their legs and paws stay healthy is of paramount importance.
Unlike you, dogs have four feet to worry about. Do not make the mistake of thinking if the dog seems happy there is nothing wrong. Dogs can silently endure a lot of pain, and many paw injuries go unnoticed by the owners.
Depending on where you live, there are some things you have to pay more attention to than others. For example, dog owners in Florida will not have to deal with salt used to melt snow, which can cut the paws of dogs who live in the Northeast. Dog owners in hot climates such as the Southwest have to pay more attention to blisters on their dog’s paws.
Regardless of where you live, there are basic steps for caring for their paws:
- Moisturize – Think about your own feet and how dry they would become if you walked around barefoot all day, every day. Your dog does not really have a choice in the matter, making it very important to apply moisturizer to their paws on a regular basis. This will keep them from cracking. The type of moisturizer you use should be recommended by your veterinarian. Using human moisturizers can make the paws too soft, increasing the possibility of their paws being injured.
- Regulate Exercise – Dogs are loyal creatures and will go almost anywhere you do (except maybe the tub but we will get to that later). Puppies who are not used to the rigor of exercise will keep up with you and ignore any problems with their paws. Terrain is another important consideration, as walking on a paved street is generally less hazardous than a hiking trail or through the wilderness.
- Check Those Paws – Do this even if they have been confined to the house for a few days, but especially after they have been outside. The pads on their paws have spaces between them, like the space between sofa cushions. Debris can get caught in there and be the start of a larger problem. Also check between the toes for the same problems. Anything that gets caught in those areas can be removed with a pair of tweezers. Bigger problems require a visit to the vet.
- Keep Their Nails Trimmed – Grooming a dog’s nails is not for dog shows. It is an important part of your dog’s paw health. Nails that are too long can affect their gait and cause paw problems. Some owners are hesitant to cut their dog’s nails. There are several alternatives, including taking them to the vet. For most new owners, all it takes is the right set of nail clippers and some practice to be completely comfortable with trimming their nails. There are several types including Guillotine style, Millers Forge plier style, large dog clippers and as an alternative you could try a Dremel style grooming tool. The proper length is for their nails to barely touch the ground when they walk.
Remember that your dog walks, runs, jumps, plays, gets their exercise, and even eats with a lot of help from their legs and paws. Keeping them in the best condition possible will keep your dog happy and extend their life.
Depending on the type of dog you have, sooner or later you will notice their fur gets into places you could not have imagined. For the pooch, their fur keeps them both warm and cool, so it is essential you take good care of it. You will have a clean smelling dog that does not attract insects that are potentially harmful to your pet.
Not all dogs are fond of getting wet, let alone being bathed. It can be similar to wrestling with your 5 year old child getting them into the bathtub. There are a number of recommendations on how to coax them into the sink or tub, but all follow the same basic pattern.
- Talk to them to keep them calm
- Then take hold of them, you may want to keep their lead on to maintain control
- Give them a good brushing to remove excess fur and matted areas.
- Use lukewarm or cool water and a quality dog shampoo. Remember that fur is not hair
- Rinse it and make sure all the soap is out
- Allow the fur to air dry – do not use a hair dryer as the heat can irritate the dog’s skin
- Reward them with a treat
This last part – rewarding them – can make your life a lot easier if the dog buys into the idea that their favorite treat awaits them for going along with the bathing. You also may want to provide a soft blanket for them to rub their snout into, as some dogs will do everything to get dry as quickly as possible.
Brushing you dog is a far easier task, and one that almost every dog appreciates at any time. Besides giving the dog a neat appearance, brushing removes loose fur and any insects that may have attached themselves. Fleas and ticks are a different sort of problem, but regular brushing will show you if the dog has a flea or tick problem. Products such as Frontline have a history of success in keeping your pet safe from insects, and needs to be applied only 3 or 4 times a year.
Shedding is natural for most dogs, and brushing will keep you on top of having to vacuum every day during shedding season.
Eyes and Ears
These are two parts of your dog that are often ignored by pet owners. Unless there is clearly damage to your dog’s eyes, only a veterinarian can know if your dog has developed some type of eye disease, such as a cataract.
As for the ears, there are a number of signs that will tell you there is a problem with their ears:
- Constant scratching the inside of their ear. This often occurs when an insect or debris gets deep down into the ear
- Shaking their head
Unlike the eyes, you can take a number of precautionary steps to minimize the problem with your dog’s ears. If they appear to be dirty you can use a cotton ball and mineral oil to clean them out. But never insert anything such as a cotton swab into the dog’s ears. If an insect or debris is in the ear, take them to the vet. And do not clean their ear’s too much as the constant use of mineral oil can irritate the inner ear.
Once upon a time, brushing your dog’s teeth was an uncommon practice for most dog owners. Today, dog owners have learned the advantages of keeping their pet’ teeth clean as it reduces tartar build up and eliminates doggie bad breath. Admittedly, not every dog owner is a big fan of brushing their dog’s teeth so you have to weigh out the pros and cons for yourself.
Despite the folklore, a dog’s mouth is not cleaner than a human’s mouth. Tartar and plaque can build up in your dog, though more slowly than in humans. Brushing is a great preventive way to ensure your dog’s teeth stay clean and odor free. Use a toothpaste specifically created for dogs and do not try to force the dog into having their teeth brushed. Like bathing, though bathing is more essential, not all dogs are fond of your attempts to keep their breath minty fresh. If the dog becomes agitated – stop.
But if your dog doesn’t mind the tooth brushing, then be sure to brush their teeth with a circular motion and pay attention to their gums as well. As with bathing, reward them with their favorite treat to reinforce the acceptable behavior pattern.
If your best attempts to brush their teeth fail, you can help keep their teeth healthy by giving them dry food instead of wet, as dry food is less likely to stick to their teeth or build up between their teeth. Chew bones and veterinarian approved dog biscuits can help keep their teeth healthy as well. However you choose to maintain the health of your dog’s teeth and gums, if there is a noticeable problem with their chewing or general dental health, call your veterinarian right away.
Arriving At The End
That covers the areas of your dog that are most noticeable and that you can take care of in one way or another. The nose, as important as it is to the dog, basically is either cold or warm, wet or dry. Cold and wet is the normal state. Anything else may indicate your pooch is not feeling well. The tail is there to let you know his mood. Learn about the different signs and don’t ignore the dog’s mood.
A healthy and cared for dog will bring you a lifetime of happiness. They can be high maintenance pets, but if taken care of properly they will actually not be much trouble at all. The rewards you get will outweigh the time spent on keeping your furry friend clean and groomed.