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Dog Care Tips

The Importance of an Annual Physical Examination in Dogs

It's that time of year again. Time to take your dog to the veterinarian for his annual examination. But maybe you're thinking that you might skip it this year. After all, he isn't sick. Maybe you will just put it off until next year - what could it hurt?

Actually, delaying an annual physical exam can hurt. Annual physical exams are an important part of providing optimal health care and the best longevity for your beloved companion. Dogs age quickly and they are unable to tell us if they are feeling a little off. Remember, it may be one year in your life but that can be about 5-10 comparative years in your pet's life. A lot can change in that much time.

Your veterinarian has special training and experience in detecting subtle illness in pets. Listening to the heart can detect murmurs. Increased lung sounds may indicate early illness. Abdominal palpation may reveal pain in certain areas, abnormal size and shape of various organs or even tumors. Checking out the eyes can detect early signs of cataract or other ocular problems. Ears may be in need of cleaning or medication. Dental disease may be detected as well as signs of allergies or skin problems. It's easier for someone who doesn't see your pet every day to detects lumps and bumps that you may not have noticed. Comparing annual weights, too, can determine if your dog is heading down the path to obesity or is slowly losing weight.

As a dog reaches middle to old age, annual physical exams become even more important. Certain problems that you may simply attribute to "old age," and just something you will have to live with, may be signs of underling disease and may be very treatable. Annual physical exams also give you an opportunity to ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about your dog's health. Your veterinarian may recommend certain additional tests to determine overall health based on physical exam findings or may have suggestions for improving the quality of your dog's life. Remember, the primary goal for your veterinarian is to keep your dog healthy and provide the best care available.

A physical examination is not just a chance for your vet to see how cute your dog is; a thorough exam can pick up on a variety of illnesses and prevent potential catastrophic disease. By finding, diagnosing and treating these problems early, your pet will live a much healthier and longer life.

The Importance of a Recheck Examination in Dogs

A recheck examination is an appointment that allows your veterinarian to assess the progress and follow-up on your dog's disease or problem. Maybe you are thinking you can skip it because your dog is doing better? Even if your dog physically looks and feels better, he or she may not be completely back to normal. Some diseases can progress undetected. Let your Veterinarian be the best judge of when, and how many recheck visits are required for your pet.

It is often more difficult to treat diseases or conditions that have been going on for a long time or are not thoroughly treated the first time. Consider the possibility that recheck exams may actually save you time and money in the long run. Some chronic diseases can spiral out of control if not closely monitored for subtle changes. This could ultimately lead to more lengthy procedures, hospitalizations, trips back and forth to your veterinarian, and significantly higher veterinary bills.

The recheck visits to your veterinarian will depend on the medical condition your dog has. If the condition is chronic, they may require life long-term treatment as well as regular rechecks.

Recheck exams are a worthwhile investment in your dog's overall health. By taking your dog in for a "re-check" you are providing your dog the best possible care by allowing his progress to be professionally monitored. By finding, diagnosing and treating these problems early and thoroughly, your dog will live a much healthier and longer life.

Exercising Your Dog

Exercise is as important for your dog as it is for you. Young dogs and healthy adults alike need lots of it, and even senior pets need a regular daily workout to maintain their health. The type of exercise you choose depends on the age and fitness of your dog and your own lifestyle. Dogs are adaptable and are happy to play Frisbee in the park or take long walks in the neighborhood.

Exercise is one of the best ways to spend time with your pet. It's especially important for large breed, working, and active breed types. Dogs are wonderful athletes and most adapt to even strenuous exercise, provided they have had adequate opportunity to "train" and the environmental conditions are not too extreme.

Recommendations:

Daily exercise is recommended unless the weather is especially dangerous or a medical problem limits your dog's activity. If there is a medical problem, consult your veterinarian about exercise limitations. Keep in mind that obese dogs and those with heart and lung diseases may have a problem, and be sure to consult your vet before starting a new regime.

Be certain your dog has plenty of water available at all times, and provide a place to cool down out of the sun. When the temperature drops below freezing, exercise should be limited, unless your dog is really used to this weather. This will often vary with the breed and hair coat. If you live in an area that gets cold and icy, remember that road salt can burn your dog's feet. Don't forget: even in cold weather, an exercising dog needs plenty of water. It's better to exercise in the early morning or evening when the heat is and the humidity is less.

Grooming

Although it's often overlooked, grooming is an important part of your dog's health program. Routine brushing and combing removes dead hair and dirt and prevents matting. Because it stimulates the blood supply to the skin, grooming also gives your pet a healthier and shinier coat. Start regular grooming when you first bring your dog home and make it a part of his routine. Purchase a good-quality brush and comb and get your dog used to being handled. Praise your dog when he holds still and soon he will come to enjoy the extra attention. Some breeds have special grooming needs, so ask your vet or a professional groomer for advice on particular equipment necessary for your pet.

The need for bathing depends on the breed of dog, his skin type and hair coat, owner preference and just how dirty your pet gets. Bathing your dog every month or two isn't unreasonable, but some dogs will need more frequent cleanings . A good rule of thumb is to bathe your pet only when his coat gets dirty or begins to smell "doggy." When bathing your dog, make sure to rinse all the soap out of his coat. If he has persistent problems with scratching or flaky skin, he may need a special medicated shampoo or have a skin problem that your veterinarian should examine.

Ears may also require cleaning, especially in dogs with oily skin or allergies. This is a delicate task and is probably best left to your vet. However, if your dog is easy to handle, you can learn to do this chore yourself. To remove excessive wax and debris from the ears, consider an ear cleaning every two to four weeks. Ask your veterinarian about products you can use at home, and be sure to ask for a demonstration of proper ear cleaning techniques.

While clipping nails is a painless and simple process, it takes practice and patience to master the skill. Ask your vet to show you the correct technique, then get started by getting your pet used to having his paws handled. Once you start using the clippers, go slowly: Try clipping just a few nails in one sitting. Maintain a regular schedule and be persistent. Your pet will eventually develop patience and learn to cooperate

Canine Vaccine Recommendations

Before the days of effective vaccines, dogs routinely died from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and complications of upper respiratory infections. Current vaccination programs protect our dogs from these and the threat of rabies. Despite the well-known benefits of vaccination, the practice of annual vaccination of mature dogs is a matter of healthy debate. Some veterinarians believe that annual revaccination is an important and critical part of preventative health care. Others suggest that there is little scientific information to suggest that annual revaccination of older dogs is necessary for some diseases. There is insufficient information regarding the duration of immunity beyond a year.

Certainly routine vaccinations are essential for prevention of infectious diseases in puppies. Puppies receive immunity against infectious disease in their mother's milk; however, this protection begins to disappear between 6 and 20 weeks of age.

To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: a series of vaccines is given every 3-4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a "combination" that protects against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series. Rabies vaccines are given between 16 and 26 weeks of age in most states (governed by law). All vaccines require booster immunizations ("shots") that are given one year later.

The protective effect of vaccinations for bacterial infections (e.g. bordetella and leptospirosis) typically does not persist for more than a year making yearly (and occasionally more frequent) booster vaccines advisable. If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to the vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) discuss the risk of annual revaccination with your veterinarian.

Puppy Vaccine Recommendations

Puppies 4 to 20 weeks of age: In puppies, a series of vaccines is recommended. These should begin between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Typically the last vaccination is given between 14 and 16 weeks of age. The vaccine should protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza and canine parvovirus. If the risk of kennel cough is great, a vaccine against Bordetella is recommended. Rabies vaccine should be given in accordance with individual state laws usually between 16 and 26 weeks of age. Other vaccinations that are sometimes given by your veterinarian include Coronavirus, Lyme and Giardia. These are not routinely given to every animal, and their use should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Specific vaccine requirements for individual dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian. The most appropriate vaccination program for your pet should be followed. Here is a guide to the diseases for which your pup will need vaccines:

Distemper Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous system of dogs. Distemper does not cause "bad temper." It is a serious illness that is almost always fatal.

Hepatitis Hepatitis is a viral infectious disease that affects the liver and eyes and may cause reproductive problems. Hepatitis is not contagious to people.

Leptospirosis Leptospirosis is a bacterial infectious disease that causes severe liver and kidney damage and may also affect humans.

Parainfluenza Parainfluenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that may spread quickly from dog to dog.

Bordetella Bordetella is one of the bacterial causes of "kennel cough." Signs like a honking cough during the night can be stressful for the dog as well as the owner.

Parvovirus One of the most serious contagious diseases for puppies, parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea while suppressing the immune system and may be fatal even if treated. After the initial vaccination series, a blood test can be done to ensure adequate protection. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and Pitbulls seem to be more susceptible than other breeds.

Rabies Rabies is a serious public health concern because the virus is carried by mammals including raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs and cats and can be transmitted to humans. The virus is spread through wounds, via the saliva of a rabid animal, and causes symptoms such as: overly vicious or timid behavior, lack of coordination and difficulty swallowing. Once these symptoms appear, the disease is fatal. While there is an effective post-exposure treatment for humans, there is none for animals.

How to Control and Prevent Fleas

The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and siphon blood.

When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching.

Remember that the flea spends the majority of its life in the environment, not on your pet, so it may be difficult to find. In fact, your dog may continue to scratch without you ever seeing a flea on him. Check your dog carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. When moistened, flea dirt turns a reddish brown because it contains blood. If one dog in the household has fleas, assume that all pets in the household have fleas. A single flea found on your pet means that there are probably hundreds of fleas, larva, pupa and eggs in your house. If you see tapeworm segments in your dog's stool, he may have had fleas at one time or may still have them.

Current flea control efforts center on oral and topical systemic treatments. These products not only treat existing flea problems, they also are very useful for prevention. In fact, prevention is the most effective and easiest method of flea control.It is best to consult your veterinarian as to the best flea control and prevention for your pet. The choice of flea control should depend on your pet's life-style and potential for exposure. Through faithful use of these systemic monthly flea products, the total flea burden on your pet and in the immediate environment can be dramatically reduced. Keeping your pet on monthly flea treatments especially in areas of high flea risk is an excellent preventive method of flea control.

Gastrointestinal Parasites in Dogs

Most people are aware that their pets have worms, but just what are these worms, where do they get them and how do you get rid of them? When pet owners talk about worms, they are really talking about all gastrointestinal parasites. And there are several gastrointestinal parasites that commonly affect our dogs and cats, some of them in low numbers - so they can cause stress on the pets body without us seeing them in their stools.

Roundworms are visible in your puppy's stool or vomit. They are long and thin, similar to thin spaghetti.Whipworms are another type of gastrointestinal parasite that affects dogs. It is a significant cause of large bowel diarrhea. The whipworm eggs are quite resistant and can live in the environment for up to five years. Giardia are pear-shaped, one-celled organisms that infect the small intestine of dogs and cats. Most cases of Giardia in young animals cause explosive, watery diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss and an unkempt appearance. Adult animals are capable of harboring the infection without showing clinical signs. Most domestic animals contract Giardia from drinking contaminated pond or stream water. Coccidia are intestinal protozoa that invade and infect the lining cells of the small intestine. There are many species of coccidia and almost all domestic animals can become infected.

Other common Gastrointestinal parasites of dogs are the Tapeworms and Hookworms

Puppy Care

Congratulations on acquiring your new puppy! While puppies come in all sizes and breeds, all breeds have many things in common, such as basic care, health precautions, and training. The following are tips our veterinarians have compiled on the most common topics that new owners ask about:

Exercise

All puppies need exercise. Puppies do well if they can run freely in a safe, enclosed yard. Walking and gentle jogging on leash are also good exercise, as is swimming. Playing "fetch" in a fenced area or on a long leash is one way to exercise a dog without having to do much exercise yourself. It is fine to let your dog play, in a supervised and safe environment, with other dogs that are close to its same size.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is important to keep your puppy away from public parks or areas of grass and dirt where other unknown dogs may have defecated due to the risk of parvovirus. Parvovirus is a terrible virus causing vomiting and diarrhea and possibly death. The virus can live in the environment for years; however fully vaccinated dogs are immune to it.

Training

All puppies need to be trained. The most effective time to begin training your puppy is NOW. Training is best accomplished by attending a class with your puppy. Early socialization is CRITICAL. This means socialization with humans, dogs, and other animals. Look for training clubs, schools, and private trainers for your puppy. To know more about Dog training, go to barkbuster.ca

Deworming

It is usually necessary and not harmful to routinely deworm puppies. Because most puppies will get roundworms from their mothers during nursing or across the placenta during development, they should all be dewormed twice, approximately 3 weeks apart. Broad spectrum dewormers are used for routine deworming in puppies as well as adult dogs to prevent the stress of worms on their body.

Spaying and Neutering

It is highly recommended to spay and neuter all animals that are not intended for breeding. In female dogs, spaying prevents heat cycles from occurring approximately every 5 months, and if performed before the first or second heat cycle, lowers the chance of mammary cancer. Spaying also prevents pyometra (a life-threatening uterine infection) and, most importantly, pregnancy and unwanted or poorly bred puppies. We recommend spaying females at about 5-6 months of age. Males should be neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to lower the likelihood of prostate problems. Further, neutering inhibits the urge to run away in search of females and helps you avoid some behavioral issues, such as aggression and/or dominance.

Flea Control

This is a time of great advances in the area of flea and tick control products. There are a wide variety of products available at this time. Some of the products are safe to use on puppies. Ask your veterinarian which of the products may suit your needs.

Feeding

Your puppy will do well on two feedings a day (feeding three times a day is not necessary, but is OK if the puppy is under 16 weeks of age). Occasionally, some of the toy breeds need to be fed numerous small meals throughout the day, due to a low blood sugar condition. Your veterinarian will advise you if your puppy needs to eat more frequently. Adult dog food contains all the nutrients that puppies and adult dogs need. You may feed your small breed puppy either adult or puppy dry food, if you wish.

Large breed puppies should eat large breed puppy food or adult food to help avoid developmental bone diseases. You may feed the food dry or you can dampen it with warm water. A very young puppy may need its kibble softened, but older pups can eat crunchy food. Your puppy should eat quickly and act slightly hungry when it is finished. A puppy should take no longer than 10 minutes to finish a meal. Most will finish the meal in a minute or so. If your puppy takes longer, or if it walks away while there is still food in the bowl, then you are probably feeding too much food.