Preventive care for man's best friend is essential to ensure a happy, healthy life. Yearly checkups, vaccinations, dental care and spaying or neutering can extend the life of your dog and save you money and, most importantly, worry.
A Yearly Trip to the Vet
Like his owner, dogs should get annual checkups. The veterinarian will make sure Spot is up-to-date on his shots and will conduct a thorough exam. These exams include checking that all internal organs are properly functioning, healthy weight, the condition of his eyes and ears and body temperature. Puppies will also be tested for internal parasites, fleas and heartworm disease. For middle-aged or older dogs, annual physicals are important because it allows veterinarians to catch problems quickly.
Protection Against Diseases
If you adopt a dog as a puppy, he's likely to arrive protected by the antibodies from his mother's milk. However, like human infants, age diminishes this protection. Vaccinations should usually be given starting at 6 to 16 weeks of age to boost your dog's immune system. These shots should be repeated every four to six weeks until the puppy is 4 months old. After that, yearly shots are required. These vaccinations will help prevent rabies, parvovirus, distemper, viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, coronavirus and kennel cough.
A Healthy Diet
Healthy diets help prevent disease. So no feeding Spot the high-calorie meals from the kitchen table. Throughout a dog's life his nutritional needs change. A puppy needs a diet with appropriate level of calories, protein, calcium and phosphate to grow healthy bones and muscles. Check with your vet for the right level of calories since each dog's dietary needs vary. Older dogs may need controlled diets with lower calories, calcium and phosphate for weight management.
Spaying and Neutering
Having your furry friends spayed or neutered does more than just keep them from reproducing -- it saves lives. According to the American Human Society of the United States, 4 million cats and dogs are put to sleep in shelters each year. But there are medical benefits as well. Not only does spaying or neutering positively effect behavior, it reduces the risk of mammary tumors and eliminates the possibility of uterine infections or testicular cancer.
Crystal Owens is the managing editor at a Northern Virginia newspaper with more than 10 years experience in journalism. She has worked as a reporter in Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Georgia, covering various topics from crime to politics to health care. She studied communications at the University of North Florida.