The 10 Best Dog Health Tips
We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Dogs are man’s best friend, and they provide limitless love and entertainment. It’s only natural that you want your dog to be as healthy as possible. Here are the 10 best dog health tips to help your pooch have a long, happy life by your side.
1. Get Your Dog Vaccinated
The core vaccines your vet should give your dog include shots for parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus and rabies. And in California, the leptospirosis vaccine is also on the list.
Depending on where you live and your dog’s potential exposure to illness, there are also optional vaccines, such as shots for rattlesnake bites, bordetella and influenza. Ask your vet how to get your dog up to date on her shots.
2. Feed a Healthy Diet
Considering your dog’s age, breed, health status and overall activity level, choose the most appropriate pet food that fits your budget. Do some research on how much food your pup needs every day.
If your dog turns into a vacuum cleaner around mealtime — Labrador Retriever owners are likely familiar with this — and eats so fast that she chokes or gets an upset stomach, use a slow feeding method to help her pace herself.
There are bowls with a complex maze pattern designed to let your dog pick out only a few pieces of kibble at a time. You can also freeze her food in a block of ice, stuff it in a hollow chew toy or scatter it across the floor so she has to slow down and savor her lunch.
3. Exercise Together
Exercising is a great bonding activity that keeps your dog healthy, and there are so many fun ways to enjoy it together. Depending on your pup’s breed and age, she might need a lot or a little physical activity. Some ideas include playing fetch or tug-of-war, chasing each other around the backyard, going for a hike in a dog-friendly natural area or swimming.
Certain breeds enjoy combining exercise with a game or a job of some sort. For very active dogs, try lure coursing, agility sports, search-and-rescue training or backpacking. Some dogs love to carry a pack!
4. Watch Your Dog’s Weight
When your dog is at a normal weight, she’ll be happier and healthier overall. Letting your pets become obese is just as irresponsible as letting them become underweight, because it can negatively impact their joints, metabolism and ability to breathe. Feeding your dog a good diet and giving her plenty of exercise will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy body condition.
5. Keep Your Dog Cozy
In the winter, make sure your dog is warm. Different breeds vary significantly in how well they tolerate cold weather. Your Samoyed may love frolicking in the snow, while your Greyhound starts shivering in the slightest breeze.
Some ways to keep your pooch warm include bringing them inside, providing a heated doghouse or dressing them in a coat — and, yes, this has the added benefit of making them look adorable.
6. Keep Your Dog Cool
In the summer, you might need to actively cool your dog down. Again, this has a lot to do with what type of dog you have and where you live. A Saint Bernard can rapidly overheat in the sun, but you might have to bribe a Pharaoh Hound or Chihuahua to come indoors on a hot day.
To keep your dog cool, you can bring them inside, give them plenty of cool water to drink, make sure they have shade or provide a sprinkler or kiddie pool to play in. Walk them during the cool parts of the day, such as early morning or evening, to beat the heat and avoid walking on dangerously hot asphalt.
7. Spay or Neuter
Do you want one dog, or 11? One of the best dog health tips is to spay or neuter your pet. Having your dog fixed prevents her from reproducing, which can make her healthier overall.
Consult with your veterinarian about when to spay or neuter your dog. Certain dogs, such as those in the large breed category, might need to be fixed later than others to lower the risk of joint problems. Still, with so many pets in shelters, it’s a good idea not to let your dog have puppies.
8. Prevent Parasites
Heartworms, fleas and ticks are easy to fend off with preventative medication. Ask your vet what type is right for your dog and how often to administer it. Usually, this involves pills given every few weeks to months.
For dogs who act like you’re trying to poison them when giving them a pill — and somehow manage to swallow a whole ball of cheese while spitting out the medicine tucked inside — one trick is to establish a treat routine. Ring a bell, set an alarm or call your dog into the room at the same time every day, then give her a special treat like a small piece of chicken. Make sure to roll it into a ball just like you would if you were hiding a pill inside.
Some dogs get suspicious if you only give them a treat when trying to medicate them, and will eat it slowly and methodically to parse out any foreign objects. If your pup gets used to eating a treat at the same time every day, she won’t be as suspicious if you slip a heartworm pill in there once every few months.
9. Take Your Dog for Checkups
The best time to see a vet is before anything is wrong. A veterinarian might notice subtle changes in your dog that indicate a problem, and you can resolve the issue before it ever has a chance to escalate. Plus, regularly taking your dog to the vet gets her used to visiting the clinic.
You can give her treats and lots of praise every time she goes to the vet, turning a neutral or scary experience into something positive. She can make friends with the veterinarian so that she’s more likely to stay calm if she ever needs treatment. After all, most dogs would rather be taken care of by a friend rather than a stranger.
10. Perform Regular Grooming
Does your dog seem to shed half her bodyweight in hair every day? It might be wise to start a regular brushing ritual. First thing in the morning, if the weather is nice, take your dog outside and brush or pick off all the loose hair you can. Some dogs really enjoy these grooming sessions, and willingly stand still while you work them over.
Others balk at the brush or try to grab it from your hands. If this is the case, start small. Only groom your dog for a few minutes, and give her lots of praise and petting. Then, before your dog has a chance to run off or act impatient, end the grooming session and pick up where you left off tomorrow.
You can do the same thing with clipping your dog’s nails or brushing her teeth. If she’s terrified of the clippers, only do one nail at a time, and praise your pup for enduring such an undignified process. Pretty soon, grooming will be a cinch.
The Best Dog Health Tips
To keep your four-legged friend happy, give her a good diet and an appropriate amount of exercise, regular grooming and vet checkups, and keep her up to date on shots and other preventative medications. By following these tips, your dog could live a healthier life.