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Your Dog's Health
Besides balanced nutrition, all dogs need exercise. Having the run of a house, no matter the size, is not enough. Your dog needs at least half an hour of aerobic exercise every day. If he can't get this in your fenced back yard (and just putting him out doesn't count unless he's really running the whole time) you must take him for a walk. This is for his health, of course, but also for your sanity: a tired dog is a good dog! Remember, though, that your dog will do anything to please you, and won't necessarily let you know when he is tired or thirsty if he sees that you are focused on walking or running. It is especially important with puppies, smaller dogs, and older dogs to maintain a slower pace.
Be aware of how your dog is feeling. Changes in activity levels, temperament, appetite, thirst, and appearance are usually the first indications of a health problem. Many dogs acquire troublesome skin conditions, which show up as red or balding patches, often worsened by excessive scratching or biting. Runny noses or eyes are also a clue that something is wrong. A drastic change in appetite or thirst can signal that your dog has eaten something he shouldn't have, that he is not getting the nutrition he needs, or even a more serious problem like glandular imbalance or diabetes.
One of the most common contributors to dog health problems is obesity. This can compound all sorts of physical issues, like joint damage and pain, puts unnecessary stress on heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, and makes your dog less likely to pull through surgeries. The treatment for this is free: tough love! Ignore those pleading eyes, get your dog on a realistic diet, and increase his exercise levels.
You, as the owner, can maintain the general health of your dog through nutrition and exercise. However, annual trips to the vet are a must! Your dog will need vaccinations for distemper, parvovirus, rabies, and bordatella (kennel cough) at the least. For young puppies, vaccinations usually start at six to eight weeks of age and are given every three to four weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. The vet can also examine your dog for health problems that may not be evident to you.
The vet is also your best resource when accidents happen. It can be an unwelcome and unexpected expense, but professional health care is, of course, part of your responsibility as a dog owner, and should be expected. There are also expenses you should plan for, such as spaying or neutering, which increases your dog's lifespan, reduces the risk of health problems such as cancer, and limits the number of homeless puppies in the world.
Copyright 2001, Steph Bairey -- All Rights Reserved
Steph Bairey is a web developer and pet owner, with 25 years of pet care experience and 30-40 pets at any one time. Get immediate, reliable answers to your pet care questions at Steph's website, Practical Pet Care, located at http://www.practical-pet-care.com.