October is National Pet Wellness Month. It's a good reminder to animal lovers everywhere that we're responsible for our pets' health. In the spirit of wellness, here are 7 things to think about this month for your dog's health.
1) Schedule an exam. Has your dog had a complete physical this year? If not, now's a good time to go in. Even healthy dogs need a wellness check to make sure everything is as good as it looks and to identify any early symptoms that may get past an untrained eye. If you have a senior dog, talk to your vet about what you should look out for. Ideally, dogs get twice-yearly exams - remember, they age faster than we do and therefore need check-ups more often.
2) Don't forget immunizations. There are the standards, like rabies, distemper, and parvo, but each area and dog has specific needs. Does your dog spend time in boarding, doggie daycare, or at the dog park? Bordatella is a good idea. Live near a wooded area? Your vet may recommend the Lyme disease vaccine. Don't be afraid to ask your vet about any vaccines you're not familiar with. If you're unsure about annual vaccines, talk to your vet about titers, which test your dog for antibodies to determine if he has enough protection or needs a booster.
3) Learn how to brush dogs teeth. Doggie dental problems often lead to other health issues, such as heart, kidney, and joint problems. Those are very serious conditions, so it's worth taking the time to brush your dog's teeth. It prevents a lot more than just bad breath.
4) Have your dog spayed or neutered. If your dog isn't already, you're missing out on major health benefits. According to the ASPCA, unspayed females have a much higher chance of getting uterine infections and breast cancer, which causes death in about 50% of the dogs it affects. The ASPCA also recommends neutering males before they reach 6 months old for protection against testicular cancer.
5) Get prepared. Put together an emergency plan to keep your dog safe in case of an emergency, like an evacuation or natural disaster. Include a safe dog-friendly place to go, a list of any items you need for your dog including medications, and emergency numbers like the vet. Get a dog first aid kit so that you're prepared for a canine medical emergency as well.
6) Examine your dog's food label. Wellness starts with what you put in your body, so take a critical look at what you're putting in your dog's body. Not all dog foods are created equal. If you see protein "meal" (like chicken meal), corn, or by-products, rethink your dog's food. Those are cheap fillers that don't provide your dog any nutrition.
7) Start supplements. Supplements provide additional nutrition to your dog, either to supplement the diet or to really focus on a specific condition. My dog Nala gets fish oil, for example, as an anti-inflammatory and aid for her allergies, as well as to support joint health. Talk to your vet about what your dog needs, if any, and proper dosages.
Your dog needs you to watch his health all year long, not just when he's sick. Recognizing National Pet Wellness Month this October is a good reminder to be a good advocate for your dog's health. Which of these 7 ideas will you be using?
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Photo credit: Richard Taylor