Your Dogs Health
Your Dogs Health
In this section you will find help and advice about your dogs health
Below are some hints and tips for the first time dog owner or click on dog health problems
These few notes are intended for anyone who hasn't owned a dog before and will hopefully point you in the right direction. Most of what you'll need to know can be found in one of the good reference books such as "The RSPCA Complete Dog Care Manual" by Dr Bruce Fogle. It offers straightforward and reliable advice on all aspects of care and should be available from most public libraries.
When your new dog arrives it's usually best to continue with the same food it's become familiar with at the kennels or previous home. Sudden changes of diet can cause upsets so it is worth asking for as much detail as possible. If you want to change to another type of food do this gradually over several days or weeks.
Dogs are not true carnivores so as well as the protein provided by meat they require carbohydrates from dog-meal or similar for energy. Most will thrive on a good-quality commercial dog-food containing a proper balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins.
The main choice in commercial foods is between tinned, dry, or semi-moist foods. Tinned food is either 'supplementary', which needs to be balanced by the addition of dog-meal, or 'complete', which does not. Dry "kibbled" food has the advantage of helping to keep teeth clean and is always sold as 'complete' but may need the addition of water. Fresh water should always be available with all foods.
Whichever you use you should read the packaging for instructions and several manufacturers offer a free-phone advice line if you're unsure. Cat-food is not formulated for dogs and isn't suitable for them.
Many owners choose to feed their own specially-prepared fresh food and while this doesn't need to be expensive it does require more time and care to maintain a proper balance. Meat such as heart and liver should only be fed in moderate quantities. Pasta or rice is a useful source of carbohydrates.
All meat, especially chicken and offal produced using 'factory farming' methods, needs to be cooked sufficiently to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites. Although wild animals naturally eat meat raw, they will frequently suffer from disease and live shorter lives than we can expect for our pets.
If your dog requires a special diet for health reasons you should carefully follow your vet's instructions. Chicken or fish with rice, although easily digested and ideal for dogs recovering from illness, are not suitable for most dogs over a prolonged period without supplements.
Whatever a dog eats, it needs to be in the right quantities because the most widespread health problem in dogs is obesity. Keeping a dog's weight down by giving the right amount of good food and sufficient exercise will maximise its chances for a long, healthy life.
Grooming and parasites
As well as keeping them healthy and clean, regular grooming helps to build an important bond with our animals and at least a small amount needs to be done every day. After a run your dog needs to be checked all over especially feet, ears and eyes. Check too for grass-seeds in the ears which can lead to serious injury. Many dogs are susceptible to ear infections and a healthy ear should be clean without redness and sweet-smelling.
As well as keeping the coat free of tangles pay attention to claws, particularly 'dew' claws, and remove excessive fur from beneath the feet which can otherwise lead to lameness.
All dogs pick up parasites from time to time and fleas find our warm, centrally-heated homes extremely comfortable. The secret to controlling fleas is regular inspection and early treatment. Flea droppings, tiny black specks often found around the neck that turn red when dropped onto wet tissue, are a sure sign of fleas.
Flea-sprays are available from vets and pet-shops but all should be used with great care according to the instructions. If the infestation is severe you will need another more powerful insecticide for carpets and bedding but this shouldn't be sprayed directly onto your dog. If your dog is hugged by small children then 'Program', which is given by mouth, or 'Frontline', a spray, are thought to be the safest but in the UK are still only available from vets.
Any dog that is exercised where there has been wildlife, sheep or deer is likely to pick up ticks from time to time. Dogs with heavy coats are most often affected and the ticks most difficult to find.
Before attaching themselves, ticks look rather like tiny spiders but once engorged with blood are a pinkish-grey colour with bodies the size of a small pea. Although harmless in themselves, ticks in some parts of the UK now carry the very serious Lyme Disease and should be removed as quickly as possible.
Due to the risk of this disease the old advice of allowing ticks to drop off by themselves no longer applies. If you inspect your dog carefully after walks you may spot ticks moving in the coat before they attach themselves.
Removing the tick while still alive is the preferred way as a dying tick may regurgitate fluids and increase the risk of transferring Lyme Disease. Be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick for the same reason. To remove them, grip below the body as close to your dog's skin as possible using long finger-nails or tweezers then pull and twist to release. The strong mouth parts of the tick can make this difficult and can be made easier with special tick removers available from petshops. Try to ensure the head of the tick is removed as well as the body. Dab with a mild antiseptic and wash hands afterwards.
'Fox mange' is a serious condition caused by the sarcoptic mange mite. The mite burrows under the skin and so is extremely difficult to eradicate except with the powerful insecticides available from vets. If your dog develops reddened or flaking skin you should consult your vet as quickly as possible.
Every dog needs regular treatment for roundworm, toxocara canis. Tablets that control both roundworm and tapeworm are available from vets, pet-shops and chemists. If you have young children the recommendation is to worm your dog every three months. As a further precaution, all mess should be removed immediately from the garden or anywhere that children play.
Keeping our dogs healthy makes them safe for everyone that handles them.
Back To Home Page