Dog Care

YOUR DOG’S HEALTH BASICS

Keeping your dog healthy is a key priority for every serious dog parent. Obviously dog health is a big topic and cannot be covered in one article, but here we would like to bring to you a summarized version to make you knowledgeable enough on the basics of your dogs health and be ready to address most of the health challenges your dog might face.

Table of Contents

    1.Signs of health problems in Dogs.

    A very important aspect of taking care of our beloved dogs is being able to understand the signs and symptoms of health problems when our dogs exhibit any of them.

    A perfect illustration for this would be if you observe your dog continuously discharging mucus from the nose, it is probably an indication that the nasal cavity is blocked, and if the mucus is very thick, then it is likely that your dog is suffering from a cold or has pneumonia.

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    A dog that vomits once or twice is a clear sign of failing health, more so if the vomiting is continuous then you are probably looking at a more serious problem. Likely an emergency.

    Another sign is when a dog continuously itches. If you notice that your dog is itching continuously, the best thing for you to do would be to call your vet doctor and schedule a visit. This is because itching continuously is a clear sign of an allergic reaction or worse still an infection.

    Your vet doctor would then take time to examine your dog’s skin more closely. Cases like this are more likely linked to lice and ticks on their skin or it may be more serious than that.

    Another sign is a dog passing urine constantly and incessantly, this is usually linked to a renal or bowel disorder. Normally, by giving them some medication and a proper diet, he or she should get better. But if the situation continues without any sign of stopping for days, then the dog would need a proper checkup to find out what exactly is the problem.

    A dog that is limping probably has foot lesions and an elderly dog that vomits regularly and has problems walking about may have an acute renal disorder.

    If a dog’s eye is white, the dog is likely to be anemic, this simply means he or she does not have enough blood cells in his system or it may be an indication of another eye disease.

    Dogs that start behaving differently from how they used to behave and start acting more aggressively towards their owners should be checked for rabies.

    From the small examples above, you can see our dogs give a lot of signs if they are experiencing a health problem, but nothing beats your personal observation of your dog and your intuition.

    If you have observed him or her properly when they are healthy, then it would be easy for you to spot changes in their behavior no matter how small when he or she has any health issues.

    For those that have a strong bond or connection with their dogs, the dog normally ends up telling them in their own way. Now isn’t that what we all want?

    2.Parasites and dogs

    You can eliminate parasitic incidences in your dogs e.g. hookworms, heartworms, whipworms, roundworms, fleas, lice, ticks, etc. by strictly following the appropriate medications set down by professional veterinary doctors for them.

    The market abounds with many commercial pharmaceutical products touting that they can deal with these parasites, but as with all things medical, self-medication is not advisable.

    All animals that have fleas attached to them exhibit some hypersensitive reaction, so you notice that when a dog has fleas, he or she ends up scratching themselves excessively.

    This scratching can be so severe and intense that the dog’s skin becomes hyperemic and dermatitis develops in the affected area.

    The constant bite from the fleas will keep the dog in a state of discomfort, so much so that the dog would not be able to rest for a while not to even talk of sleeping.

    So in addition to always being tired and sleepy, the dog would have patched skin and a rough hair look, this will make the dog look like an animal infected with a severe skin disease.

    If this flea problem is not quickly treated, a secondary problem would crop up, bacteria will start to attack these exposed skin surfaces making the dog start smelling bad.

    A very close observation of the dog’s skin would very necessary here to rule out flea occurrences, if you don’t want to rush him off to the vet (because of financial issues), you may need to do some home grooming first.

    Giving your dog a good bath, shampooing them, and taking good care of your dogs’ hair (by brushing them with a dog comb) are steps you can take to try and rule out the flea attack in the early stages.

    At the same time, you should be checking for ticks and lice while bathing, shampooing, and taking good care of your dogs’ hair. (Check our grooming article for the proper combs and tools to do this).

    After doing the above, if the dog is still continuously itching, then a more thorough medical intervention is required.

    In some cases, the dog may be anemic due to hookworms feeding off the dog’s blood in addition to the itching. This simply means that the dog’s blood protozoa need to be checked to verify whether there is also a hookworm problem or not.

    Signs of anemia can range from loose motion in the dog to the development of a pot belly in the dog. At this stage, a full medical checkup would be required. This examination would include blood examination, fecal examination, and hematological examinations.

    Like we said earlier, many commercial products in the market can be used to treat these health challenges easily. One of these products is Ivermectin. It can be given in injection form or taken orally and easily resolves the issue in one go.

    But medicating your dog without advice from your vet doctor can be a very dangerous thing to do. Side effects of the medication can easily be developed just because there was no proper diagnosis before the administration of the drugs.

    3.Prevent Heartworm infection in your dog

    It is important to know that heartworm’s parasitic infection begins with mosquito bites so the first step to protecting your dog from heartworm infection is to provide him with a mosquito-proof environment.

    The second thing to note is that there already exists tablets and solutions which can be administered orally to prevent the incident of heartworms like Beef flavored tablets and Beef flavored chunks.

    Thirdly, you need to plan when to administer these preventive measures. This planning of course should be done with your vet doctor. This may be done throughout the year or in some particular months of the year.

    For example, there are places where you have the prevalence of mosquito breeding higher in some months than in others (during periods of heavy rainfall, the mosquitos can find breeding spots).

    If you find yourself in such places, it is paramount that you and your vet doctor plan to administer the preventive measures during these periods.

    In other places, this may not be the case, they might have other strain of mosquitos that have adapted to their clime, so the administration might be throughout the year.

    In these places, the preventive measures are usually for both hookworm and heartworm, and most time they are administered orally.

    As with every medication, there is the need to observe your dog properly so as he or she will not develop an adverse reaction to the medication.

    If you notice any adverse reaction, then you need to report it to your vet doctor for immediate proper action.

    The pet health market is full of many medications that can easily be used to prevent heartworms.

    Before giving your dog any heartworm medication, make sure that they are properly tested and have a proper consultation with your vet doctor on which heartworm medication should be best for them.

    4.Facts about heartworm and dogs

    You should know that dogs are not the only animals affected by heartworms. Cats, horses, foxes, wolves, and many more animals are affected by heartworms.

    All instances of heartworm can be treated. The main known drug that is used for preventing heartworm infection is ivermectin.

    Dogs that have already been affected by heartworm show different symptoms or signs like panting, constant coughing, and dullness.

    The sizes of heartworm vary for the male and female species. For the male species, they are approximately seventeen centimeters in length while the female species are approximately twenty-seven centimeters in length.

    Mosquito is the main known vector through which heartworms are transferred. The mosquito transfers this parasite at the larvae stage from which later they develop fully, of course by feeding on their host.

    The main drugs for treatment are a combination of ivermectin and milbemycin oxime. These can be injected or given to the dog orally.

    5.More on Parasites and dogs

    Parasite incidences are always a thing of concern for all dog parents. The most common of all parasitic incidences in dogs is fleas.

    Fleas bite and attach themselves to the dog’s skin which in turn leads to some form of allergic reactions on the area that is bitten. This affected area with time becomes hairless due to excessive scratching by the dog.

    Fleas cause what is called severe dermatitis when the flea infections are high. This is a very allergic reaction that causes severe discomfort to dogs and can lead to them becoming a very smelly dog.

    Oral medications, injections, ointments, and medicated collars are readily commercially available to be applied whichever you find suitable. These measures (both preventive and treatment measures) work not just for fleas but ticks as well.

    There are other parasites that are harmful to the health of our dogs. As we mentioned earlier roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are among the most common ones.

    Hookworm depends heavily on the blood of their host, this caused most dogs that are infected by hookworms to be anemic. The higher the hookworm infection the more anemic the dog becomes.

    Some of the signs that a dog has been infected by hookworms are dermatitis on the dog’s skin and feet region, Skin rashes, and loose stool mixed with blood.

    Let’s talk about roundworms. Unlike other types of parasites, roundworms attach themselves to the intestinal areas and stomach walls of a dog. The most visible sign of a dog that has been infected by roundworms is its potbelly condition.

    Due to the external nature of this condition, it is easily identified by most observant dog parents.

    With piperazine salts, you can treat roundworm infections. These are usually taken orally by the infected dog. There are other drugs like pamoate and fenbendazole which can be used to treat this condition.

    There are many choices of drugs that can be used to treat the parasitic condition in the pet health market. The most popular one being ivermectin.

    As we always instruct, liaise with your vet doctor before placing your dog on any medication.

    6.Can Parasite infections cause dogs to scoot?

    The short answer is yes. The long answer is there are many other reasons why our dogs may scoot.

    Back to parasitic infections One of the reasons why our dogs may scoot around is an infection called anal sac disease.

    Basically, scooting by a dog is the process where the dog drags his anus with its hinds legs for a long period.

    Parasites that have affected the anal region of a dog can cause him or her to behave as described above.

    Flea bites around the anal area of the dog can also cause irritation which will make the dog scoot.

    Scooting in dogs can also be caused by tapeworm infection (This is called cestodiasis).

    What happens here is that the tapeworms while being passed in the dog’s stool tries to reattach themselves to the anal region of the dog. This ends up creating a crawling effect and causing irritation in this area, this, in turn, causes the dog to scoot.

    The tapeworm segments being passed out are squeezed together with packets of tapeworm eggs, this process causes the breakage of these eggs and another cycle of tapeworm development begins again, hence even though the tapeworm has been expelled, more offspring will be growing in the host.

    When observing tapeworm segments under a microscope they look like rice pieces, they are usually white in color while in their host but turn yellow when outside their host.

    Fully developed tapeworms in infected dogs can be seen wriggling out of their anus when being discharged.

    Whatever the case is, it can be resolved easily by giving your dog the correct medication. Be sure to consult your vet doctor before placing your dog on any type of medication.

    7.How to Prevent dental disease in dogs.

    This is one of those things that every dog owner should be very concerned about. The reason is that dental diseases in dogs if left unchecked have a far more damaging effect on them.

    When dogs are diagnosed with dental disease, the first thing to do should be to give them some antibiotics. The reason is that, if the disease is left unchecked, it can easily spread into the throat and then the lungs of the dog.

    Avoid very acidic and very alkaline food when your dog has dental problems. This is because those types of food can only cause more damage to the dogs’ teeth.

    At their young age, when the puppies are teething, it is in everyone’s interest to give them food containing bony material. The simple reason to do this is that it will help prevent dental diseases in the future.

    For dogs that are already bleeding in the mouth, they would need more dental examination to check if there are dental abnormalities.

    The reason for the dental examination would be to verify whether the dog has injuries hidden in the teeth area or that the bacterial infection has spread far more than was diagnosed.

    Hunting dogs need more dental care than most other dogs. We have toothbrushes specifically made for this. In all these, you need to make out time to brush and take care of your dog’s teeth.

    Also, make sure to take your dog to the vet for an oral examination. This has to be done from time to time to address any dental challenges ahead of time.

    8.Taking care of your dog teeth at home

    Nowadays, many pet parents have taken up the mantle of caring for their dog’s dental hygiene in their household. The reason for this being that recently there have been more occurrences of dental issues in dogs than at any time in the past.

    Now even though you have taken up the mantle of caring for your dog’s dental health in your household if you suspect any dental disease please refer immediately to your vet doctor for proper treatment.

    You can improve your dog’s dental health by providing them with bone materials without sharp points. Chewing and swallowing this material by our dogs will help them naturally develop strong teeth structures and your dog will love you for this.

    No matter how careful you are about your dog’s dental health, you should always bear in mind that every dog is naturally prone to have some form of dental health issues.

    The responsibility falls on you to find out what type of dental health issues your dog breed is prone to.

    You can use recreational raw beef bones to prevent the formation of plaques on your dog’s teeth and maintain their teeth structure.

    Plaques have always been the number one culprits when it comes to building up harmful bacterial organisms in a dog’s teeth.

    We can reduce the accumulation of plaques by using toothpaste and brushes for dogs. These are specially designed and formulated toothbrushes and toothpaste (in that order) for dogs.

    You can always liaise with your vet doctor to get the best brushes and pastes for your dog breed.

    There are also specially prepared food materials available commercially that can help to remove plaque materials from our dog’s teeth. We also have dental wipes, dry dog food, and dog toys that are made specifically to strengthen your dog’s teeth.

    Removing the plaques in your dog’s teeth periodically is a very basic aspect of taking care of your dog’s teeth in your household. Doing this together with regular dental appointments with your vet doctor keeps your dog on the right path to maintaining strong and healthy teeth.

    9.Basics of physical examination for dogs.

    Coming to grips with the concept of basic physical examination for our dog is so important. Having the capability to identify or pinpoint simple disorders in our dogs before calling on our vet doctor will help reduce the stress of taking your dog to the pet clinic every time you suspect something is wrong.

    Find below some basic concepts you can use to determine some common problems your dog may be facing.

    For a dog that starts scratching a part of his body more often, just part the hair around the scratched region to see the problem. Do not be surprised if there is a wound hidden below the hair.

    Other causes of severe scratching can be lice infestation or tick problems.

    Acute renal disorders can also be identified in dogs by examining the area near the kidney, due to the filled bladder region, touching the kidney area would be painful to the dog.

    You can also check for abnormal heart rate in your dog by checking the left and right side of your dog’s heart rate. If you have two of them beating at a different speed, then the dog’s heart is having a problem pumping blood. This heart problem can also extend to the lung region, so dogs facing this challenge need a more careful analysis of the problem.

    If you notice that a dog is developing a bloated stomach, the cause can be due to malnutrition or parasitic infestation (tapeworm).

    10.Why do regular check-ups for your dog?

    Regular check-ups are part of the routine activities every dog parent should be doing. Failure to do this can lead to your dog developing major health problems. Apart from developing major health challenges, the time wasted and cost of treating these major diseases can be nerve-wracking.

    If your dog is showing any sign of health problems, you don’t need to wait for a check-up appointment. Go straight to your pet’s hospital or clinic and get him or her treated.

    Check-ups need to be done regularly to help identify problems before they get serious.

    A common indicator that may be deceiving is pot bellies or an over-bloated stomach in dogs. Sometimes, this can just be a sign of an overfed dog, On the flip side, it may be a sign of a developing parasitic condition.

    Also, during regular check-ups, our dogs get to be vaccinated against common health diseases and infections. Some of them are hepatitis virus, rabies, canine distemper, etc.

    These vaccinations boost the immunity of your dog’s system and make them more resistant to these parasites. These vaccinations are mainly given through injections.

    You can also get your dog de-wormed during these check-ups, most of the time they are done after examining the dog’s stool condition.

    Fenbendazole and albendazole are common drugs used to de-worm our dogs. There are many other options in the market.

    11.Things that happen when you take your dog for an examination?

    The first thing that the vet doctor does when beginning to do a dog examination is to calm the dog down psychologically. Some dogs need a leash to be able to achieve this. Actually, all the vet doctor is trying to do at this stage is to place the dog on top of the examination table, this can be achieved on some dogs with basic commands.

    If your dog tries to avoid the examination at this stage, don’t fret. For most dogs in a new environment and experiencing such activity for the first time, this reaction is normal. All you have to do at this stage is to keep them distracted. Scratch behind his or her ears, pat them, and talk to them gently, keeping his or her attention on you while the vet doctor goes about the examination systematically.

    If your dog is such that goes through the procedure calmly without much problem, reward him or her accordingly. Praising them, giving them treats, and patting them on the back are all in good order.

    In the same way, some dogs can go through the process without any issue, other dogs can get very violent and even dangerously try to bite during these examinations process. Muzzles may be required for such dogs. Being observant with your dog is important here as it will help you to find out more about what can make him or her violent.

    Some dogs are just restless, (not violent or dangerous). You find them scratching their ears or wriggling their body in excitement and patting them will not work in most cases. There are electronic pieces of equipment that make sound audible only to dogs. This sound will keep them engaged and curious while the examination is ongoing.

    Basically, properly restraining your dog for a thorough physical examination is important to check all aspects of his being.

    12.How often should our dogs go for check-up schedules?

    Before we delve into this, it’s important to note that whatever schedule you decide on for your dog, it is always ok to take your dog straight to the pet hospital or clinic if there is something wrong with him.

    Having said that, most people have a routine schedule of two months or three months intervals.

    Every new puppy or dog should have its first check-up on adoption.

    The next time to go for a check-up is the 5th to 6th week of age. Most vaccinations are given to them at this age. From their 1st year to the next 16th week. Your dog should be going for check-ups regularly.

    Pregnant dogs should avoid visiting vet hospitals or clinics constantly. Consulting your vet doctor on phone would suffice in their situation. The only time an emergency visit to the vet doctor would be required is in cases of accidents to the dog.

    To round up, there are many situations where a dog can fall ill, but there is no physical sign or manifestation to justify the illness. For this reason, regularly scheduled routine check-ups are important for your dog. At the end of it all, we just want a dog that is happy and healthy.

    13.Administering dog medication.

    Most dog medicines are made in such a way that they are administered together with the dog’s food.

    The problem here is that some dogs are perceptive enough to detect the presence of the medicine in the food.

    This leaves us in situations where we may need to force our dog to eat the food together with the medicine.

    However, with some little thought and planning, you can easily administer your dog’s medicine with less stress.

    Simply start by delaying the normal feeding time for your dog. This would put him or her in a state of more desire for the food as they will be hungrier now.

    Feed the first bit, just a little without the medicine in the food, this gets the dog to put down their guard, but the dog would still be hungry and ready to be feed with the second batch, now mix the second batch with appropriate medicine.

    The method above works for most dogs for the simple reason that they are very hungry at this stage to challenge the presence of the medicine.

    For the dogs with stronger wills, you just need to coax them a bit. The hunger they feel will do the rest.

    In the process of helping your dog to take the medicine orally, be careful not to force it into the respiratory organs.

    Doing this can lead to complications, some common complications experienced here would be panting, severe nasal discharge, and pneumonia to name a few.

    Administering oral medication to puppies is a bit easier, just a dap on their upper lips and they would lick it up themselves.

    For liquid medicine, you can easily use a syringe to administer them. Just fill the syringe up with the required liquid medication and drop it continuously on your dog’s lip. This process will make your dog want to swallow the liquid. Another way to increase your dog’s desire to take liquid drugs is by delaying their drinking water time.

    14.Taking care of a sick dog.

    Taking care of a sick dog is one of those key things that dog owners need to understand well. It is natural for a dog to need more care and attention when they are sick. Any slight change both in personality and physical attributes should be taken seriously at this stage.

    Like we said above, a sick dog needs more care and attention. Let’s look at this example together. A dog having a high fever should be fed with light food. Small pieces of bread should be enough for them at this stage. Also, Light vegetable items are recommended for the duration of this period, after feeding the dog, you should try to keep the dog calm. If possible, keep your dog in a less noisy place and if you have time on your hand, pet your dog more during this period.

    Now when giving your dog medicine orally, do not raise their head up, doing this can cause the drugs to go directly into their lungs.

    Dog safety is top on the priority list while nursing a dog back to health.

    Let’s take another example. When a dog has severe diarrhea, they will start to show signs of dehydration. To take care of a dog in such a condition you would give them small doses of salt and glucose mixed in water.

    If the dog is vomiting, you may need to feed him a little with egg whites and ice cubes. Doing this helps to smoothen the digestive process and prevents inducing more vomiting by the dog.

    A good place to start for dogs that are feeling cold is to provide them with warm blankets.

    There are a host of things that you can do for your dog to ease their pain during their sick period. But the most important thing of all is to make the dog understand that you will always be there for them.

    When a dog gets to understand that he or she is loved and not alone, bearing the sickness becomes a whole lot easier for them.

    15.Vaccinating your dog.

    From time to time vaccinating your dog would be a primary activity for you as a dog parent. Doing so at the right time improves your dog’s resistance to many bacterial infections and diseases.

    During the puppy stage of your dog, their immune system is not well developed to fight diseases that can affect them. Things can even get worse for the puppies, if they are separated or lose their mum at such an early stage, they will lack access to the natural nutrients their bodies need to stand against diseases and would need to start receiving protection from diseases earlier.

    Vaccinations are started from the 5th to the 6th week of their life. It is also advisable to deworm your puppies before starting the vaccination project.

    A common example of a vaccination that is done at this stage is the parvovirus vaccination.

    The next phase would be to vaccinate your dog against rabies infection. The Rabies vaccine is given from the 13th to the 15th week of age. It is then repeated in 15 months depending on the type of vaccine used.

    Dogs that live in high-risk areas are to be given the measles virus vaccine at five weeks of age followed with leptospira serovar vaccine at the 6th to 8th week and again at the 10th to 12th week of age and then finally at the 13th to 16th week of age.

    16.Basic facts about dog vaccinations

    Puppies cannot receive any type of vaccination till they are five weeks of age.

    Bordetella vaccines and lime disease vaccines are optional and should only be administered after consultation with your vet doctor.

    Dogs that are being prepared for pregnancy can be vaccinated at two to three weeks before pregnancy activities. The antibodies the vaccines help to produce in their body will make the young puppies be more resistant to diseases at birth.

    Between the 13th to 15th week of age give the anti-rabies vaccine to the dogs

    This will be repeated in 15 months’ time and then once in three years.

    You can also vaccinate your dog against leptospirosis at the 6th to 8th week, next 10th to 12th week, and finally 13th to 16th week.

    17.Spaying and neutering your dog

    If you are one who does not want your dog to have offsprings at home, then you should spay and neuter them.

    The spaying and neutering of your dog or dogs have to be carried out by a qualified specialist in a properly controlled environment.

    Not to mince words, spaying, and neutering in dogs is the equivalent sterilization (Ovary removal in female or vasectomy in the male).

    The procedure is not reversible.

    On the other side, spaying and neutering help to reduce unwanted pregnancies, it prevents pyometra a common reproductive disorder in dogs and it prevents the occurrence of prostate enlargement in dogs.

    Spaying and neutering brings down the male desire to search for female dogs in heat. In other words, there is a huge lack of sexual desire in male dogs that are spayed and neutered. These male dog becomes calmer and shows less territorial tendencies.

    It is advisable to spay your female dog (if you want to do so) before their first heat period. Doing so would help avoid the development of breast cancer in them.

    Like we just said above spaying a female dog during her first heat period increases the possibility of her developing breast cancer.

    Spaying and neutering your dog should be done at a younger age to avoid unforeseen complications.

    Generally, veterinary experts agree that the correct age for doing the above is between the 5th and 6th year of the dog.

    Although it can be done earlier than that age, if done earlier, the dog would require more time to recover during the recovery period.

    18.Pet health insurance

    Due to the high cost of maintaining our dog’s health in recent times, having pet health insurance has become a very big necessity today.

    Pet owners are finding themselves in situations where they need pet insurance firms that can settle claims for their pet health immediately without much official protocol.

    The old “modus operandi” of pet health insurance firms before was to settle dues after long procedural verification of the claims, now things have changed and there are so many pet owners who want fast and decisive health actions for their pets.

    As most people find out very late. The cost of pet health care can add up really fast

    So where and how do you start? The easiest way to begin your search is to make a list of all local animal care hospitals and clinics, especially the ones close to you.

    The second thing to do is to try and make a list of veterinary experts close to you, especially those that specialize in dog health care and disease management.

    Start by asking these people the best health insurance you can get for your dog. Believe me, you are likely to be overwhelmed with a list of choices to choose from but don’t just dive in yet.

    Most local pet hospitals and clinics take care of basic costs like radiographic examinations, treatment of some specific conditions, some types of surgeries, various laboratory examinations, etc.

    Try and get samples of different pet health insurance policies from different firms and compare them to the service you would have received from the pet clinic of your choice.

    After making a decision on which one you think meets your need, reach out to them and apply for your policy immediately.

    Most pet health insurance firms have a waiting period when you send in your application for a pet health insurance policy (or any policy for that matter) where the insurance firm takes a closer look at your application and decides whether they want to do business with you.

    So, it is advisable to start early.

    You can always cancel your policy with the insurance if you don’t like their service even after you have been approved, you can cancel the policy and move on to a new insurance firm.

    As you were compiling your list of licensed vet doctors, hospitals, and clinics. Some of them would likely have shared with you their list of trusted pet insurance firm.

    There are many options available for paying your premiums so don’t bother much about how to make your payments to them.

    Most insurance firms would reach out to you and confirm with you the best way of doing this before giving you the policy.

    Something important to bear in mind is that it’s always better to enroll your dogs into these policies while they are still puppies, this is because it gives them a clean slate, most of the health reports that come in here are clean with little to no complications recorded.

    Doing this would put you in a better position to bargain for better insurance deals for your dog

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