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As a dog owner, you may adore your pooch as if it were your own flesh and blood. And just like your children, you want to ensure you provide the best care possible so your dog can live a happy and healthy life.
If you’re striving to be an excellent pet parent, here are some dog care tips to help you along the way.
Meet Your Dog’s Basic Needs
As a dog owner, it’s essential to understand and meet your pet’s basic needs. Whether you’re a novice pet parent or an expert, you’ll need to set the stage for your new pup. Your dog’s basic needs will consist of nutritious food, water, treats, toys and bedding to make the pup feel right at home.
When you bring a new dog into your home, it’s best to make a trip to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet can help you pinpoint the right type and the amount of food and other important things you need to know about caring for your new friend.
Monitor food consumption
More than one-third (34%) of dogs were diagnosed as obese, according to the most recent data from Banfield Pet Hospital, which has more than 1,000 veterinary hospitals in 42 states. That’s a 108% increase from 2011 to 2020.
Unfortunately, overweight canines are susceptible to many health risks such as metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease or poor immune systems. While you may want to spoil your pet, avoid spoiling them with food.
Provide sufficient water throughout the day
All dogs need to have clean and fresh water available at all times of the day. Make sure to replenish the water and wash all food and water dishes so they don’t hold bacteria.
Regularly groom your dog
Regularly grooming your pet ensures they are clean and pest-free. While some dogs only need a bath every few months, others need regular grooming. If your dog sheds, you’ll want to brush it often.
Nail trimming is also a must. Neglecting to trim your dog’s nails can cause health problems such as injured tendons and deformed feet.
Maintain Your Dog’s Health with Routine Care
Proactively tending to your pet’s well-being and health care ensures it lives the very best and healthiest life possible.
If you have pet insurance, you can usually offset the cost of routine care by adding a wellness package to your plan. For example, the average cost of a vet office visit is about $61, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of veterinarian costs, while the average cost for a series of vaccinations (bivalent influenza, bordetella, DAPP, leptospirosis, Lyme disease and rabies) costs about $202.
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Schedule annual check-ups with your vet
One of the best ways to keep your pet healthy is to visit the vet regularly so they can examine your dog for any health concerns.
Look for solutions for flea, tick and heartworm prevention
Fleas and ticks put you and your pet’s health at risk since they can transmit diseases like Lyme disease, plague and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Heartworms can cause damage to your dog’s arteries, heart and lungs.
Talk to your veterinarian about preventative measures, such as topical and oral medications.
Maintain proper vaccinations
Vaccinations help protect your dog’s body from invasive diseases. Standard canine vaccines usually include parvovirus, distemper, rabies and canine hepatitis.
If you groom or board your pooch, you may also need a vaccine against Bordetella bronchiseptica, which can cause kennel cough. Your vet can help pinpoint the vaccines appropriate for your hound.
Consider spaying or neutering your pet
Spaying and neutering pets isn’t just about population control—it can help protect your canine companion from certain diseases.
For example, spaying your female dog can decrease her chances of uterus infections and breast tumors. Neutering male dogs can protect them from testicular cancer and prostate concerns.
Brush your dog’s teeth
While often overlooked, dental care is also essential for maintaining your pet’s health. Regularly brushing your pup’s teeth can help prevent dental illnesses that can end up affecting your dog’s kidney and liver function.
Dental cleaning might also be recommended, but it can cost a few hundred dollars to $1,000, depending on your location. Some pet insurance companies, such as Lemonade pet insurance, sell add-ons to help offset the cost of dental care, including routine dental cleanings.
Related: Pet dental insurance explained
Stimulate Your Dog’s Brain and Body
A balance of physical and mental stimulation plays a significant role in your dog’s health. It can also encourage good behavior while discouraging harmful behaviors that can wreak havoc on your patience and home.
As the saying goes: A tired dog is a good dog.
Exercise your dog every day
Regular exercise promotes bone, joint, muscle and organ health. Walking can also eliminate boredom and provide mental stimulation. You can also create an exercise routine with your pet, such as climbing stairs, going for a hike or running around the backyard.
While different sizes and breeds of dogs require varying levels of exercise, creating an exercise routine with your four-legged friend is essential.
Challenge your dog’s brain
Man’s best friend benefits from mental stimulation. Teach your dog new tricks, play new games and create puzzles. Since dogs have a heightened sense of smell, they love using their nose to explore. Try scattering a few treats around the home for your dog to find.
Create a slow-pace mealtime
Some dogs love gobbling up their food in one gulp. But eating too quickly may create digestive issues or result in vomiting.
Slow down your dog’s eating habits. Consider a puzzle feeder at mealtime or place a tennis ball in their food bowl so they have to eat around it.
Keep Your Pet Safe
Dangers are lurking inside and outside of your home that could cause harm to your pooch. Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe and out of trouble.
Register your pup
State and local pet laws often require dog owners to register their pets. Check your local municipalities so you can ensure your dog is properly licensed. You’ll want to attach the license to its collar to prove your dog is registered if it gets lost.
Consider a microchip
If your dog becomes lost, a microchip can help you locate your pet. Microchips are painless to implant and contain your contact information. They can usually be scanned at animal shelters and veterinary offices. Some pet insurance plans cover the cost of microchipping.
Secure trash, chemicals and toxins around your home
Dogs are curious creatures, but sometimes their curiosity can put them at risk of injury or illness—especially when exploring your home. To keep your dog out of harm’s way, secure your trash, toxins and other chemicals found around the house.
Create a safe space for your dog
Dogs can feel anxious or stressed under certain situations, like the sound of thunder or noisy houseguests. Creating a safe space for your pet can provide comfort and security when it needs to retreat. Have a place in your home with some creature comforts such as a bed, blanket, toys and fresh water.
Clean your dog’s stuff
Washing your dog’s toys, blankets and bedding removes germs, dirt, pollen and other things that can irritate your pet. Some dogs suffer from seasonal allergies, so make sure you wash your dog’s bedding on a regular basis.
Keep food out of your dog’s reach
Food items such as avocados, chocolate and onions are toxic to dogs. Keeping these items out of their reach can help avoid some serious health consequences.
Generally, you shouldn’t give your pup “people food” like your leftovers. But some “people food” items such as plain chicken, plain rice and canned pumpkin might be recommended by your vet for specific problems, like digestive issues.
Use a leash while in public
By always using a leash in public places, you can help your pet avoid accidents and injuries. For example, if your dog spots a squirrel and bolts after it, your dog could be at risk of getting hit by a car.
Train and Bond with Your Dog to Strengthen Your Relationship
Bonding and training your dog go hand-in-hand. By doing both, you are building a relationship of respect, communication and companionship.
Prioritize one-on-one time with your pup
Dogs flourish on love and affection from their owners. Prioritizing daily interactions with your pet strengthens your bond. You can do so by petting, playing and giving your dog treats.
Practice patience and consistency
Training a dog takes a lot of patience and consistency. Dogs can sense negative energy, so if they feel as though you’re angry or agitated, they may not perform as well. If you’re struggling to train your dog, consult with a professional or ask your vet for guidance. Remember, training your pup won’t happen overnight, so stick with it—the results are worth it.
Consider positive reinforcement training
Practicing positive reinforcement training means you reward your pet for good behaviors and ignore the bad. This training method builds your dog’s confidence, encourages cooperation and increases tolerance. On top of that, it can bolster your bond with your canine.
Seasonal Care Tips
Varying temperatures and weather conditions can impact how to care for your furry confidant. Here are some tips to keep in mind whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall.
Monitor your pet’s time outside
In the winter, frigid temperatures can cause frostbite on your dog’s ears, paws and tail. In the summer months, heat can dehydrate your pup and cause heat stroke. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather and limit your dog’s time outside in extreme weather.
Pay close attention to your dog’s paws
In the winter months, salt and ice can contribute to cracks in the pads of your pet’s feet. While in the summer months, hot asphalt or concrete can create burns and cause pain. Consider using booties to protect your dog’s paws, or try walking in the grass.
Steer clear of toxic algae
When hiking, walking or simply venturing around your property, a run-in with water containing toxic algae can make your dog very sick. Check your local Parks and Recreation department to identify bodies of water that could contain harmful bacteria or toxins that may cause harm to your dog.
Avoid leaving your pet in a hot car
Never leave your dog unsupervised in the car. Even if you think the weather outside is comfortable, temperatures can quickly reach dangerous levels, putting your dog at risk for serious illness or death. The temperature inside your car can increase by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Plan for Unexpected Vet Bills with Pet Insurance
Even with the best planning and preventive measures, unexpected accidents and illnesses can still happen, which can result in major vet bills. For example, your dog might tear its cruciate ligament while chasing a ball or it might get sick with a serious illness such as cancer.
A good way to help offset vet bills is with pet insurance. And it may be more affordable than you think. The average cost of pet insurance for a dog is $35 per month, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of pet insurance rates. That includes $5,000 of annual coverage, a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level.
If you’re not sure if pet insurance is worth it, here’s a scenario to consider: Your dog tears its ACL and needs surgery. The vet bills are $4,000. If you had pet insurance with a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level, your out-of-pocket costs would be $375 ($250 deductible + 10% of $3,750 = $375).
You can find a good price by comparing pet insurance quotes online or by speaking with an independent insurance agent.
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