Keep Your Dog Healthy

By: Larissa Levise

Caring for a pet involves more than proper feeding and the odd flea bath. To really care for your pet you need to provide the best health care, and that means being able to spot the warning signs for illness and disease.

Educating yourself on proper canine care should always be done before you bring home your new pet. Be aware of the signs of potential health concerns, and know how to provide preventative care.

The key to good health is preventative medicine. It's essential that puppies, like children, see a health care specialist regularly. Puppies must begin a series of four DHLPP/CCV vaccinations at about six weeks of age. These essential shots are given at intervals of three to four weeks. Make sure that your puppy is de-wormed often, and receives heartworm prevention medication at four months of age. A dog can acquire heartworm at any age, so it's important to continue providing this treatment throughout his or her lifetime.

After the initial puppy care, your dog should visit the veterinarian once a year. The annual checkup will involve an examination of your pet's teeth and stool, administration of vaccinations, and a general examination to rule out any obvious maladies.

By keeping up on preventative medicine needs, you will be helping to ensure your dog's health. But it's also essential that you are able to watch for signs of potential health troubles.

Skin problems are common, and dogs may present these conditions in different ways. Many pets suffer with skin allergies indicated by "hot spots" and hair loss. Hot spots are painful, oozing sores appearing on the skin's surface. Your pet may deal with the discomfort by licking constantly at the area, which in turn makes the problem more difficult to treat.

Pet owners are often quick to misdiagnose a skin allergy as a flea infestation, so it's important to know the difference in symptoms. Dogs who tend to scratch their heads, necks and front legs typically have skin allergies. Those that chew on the top of the rump will likely have a flea infestation. Know the difference so that you may administer proper treatment.

Your pet's stool may hold clues to health problems. Discolored, runny stool can be a sign of trouble and warrants a trip to the vet. While this can be caused by something as simple as improper diet, it can also be indicative of parasites. Both causes are easily treatable and the condition can be quickly reversed. If your dog has parasites, these are easily remedied with proper medication. Another condition, called gastric dilatation volvulus is rare but quite serious. Large, deep chested breeds of dogs may suffer with gastric dilatation volvulus, which occurs with physical exertion following the consumption of large amounts of water.

Every member of your family, including your dog, deserves to have access to the very best health benefits. Caring for your pet's health can require an investment of your time and money, but it's not necessarily a difficult task. Make sure that your dog receives an annual checkup, and know the symptoms and warning signs of potential illnesses. Cover all of the health care bases, and your dog will enjoy the long, happy life that he or she deserves.

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Contributor Larissa Levise loves writing for numerous online magazines, on family matter and family life subjects.
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