Sun. May 19th, 2024

Give your furry best friend the best life ever with these smart tips from veterinarians on improving their life, energy and health.

Your beloved four-legged buddy is part of your family. You include them in family photos for the holidays, take them along on vacations, and eagerly look forward to snuggles before bed. We all want our dogs to live as long as possible, and luckily, there are ways we can maximize their health for a healthy, vibrant life. Veterinarians weigh in on the wellness habits we should all prioritize in our pup’s routine. 

Ensure Daily Exercise

Much like humans need to maintain an active life, exercise is vital to your dog’s overall health, says Dr. Adam Chung, a lead veterinarian at Parker & Ace. “Keeping your pet lean can help prevent excess weight and pressure on joints,” he explains. “In adult dogs, this may help protect their cranial cruciate ligament—equivalent to our ACL—which they can tear over time due to persistent wear and tear or an acute injury.”

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Plus, as your pup ages, they may develop arthritis in their joints, making any excess weight more problematic. Dr. Chung also notes that decreased body fat helps reduce their risk of systemic issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. “Studies have shown that exercise can help release pent-up energy, which can reduce stress and anxiety,” he adds.

Schedule Regular Grooming

Though not all doggos require frequent visits to the salon, if your pup has a longer coat, it’s vital to keep these appointments regular, says veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Frione Monaghan, DVM. 

“Grooming needs vary depending on the breed and size of the pet. Routine grooming is essential to help control matting, reduce skin and ear infections and keep pets’ coats healthy and bright,” she says. 

Have a short-haired pup? Grooming can also be used for a thorough bath and nail clipping that helps take stress off you while keeping their coat vibrant.

Spay and Neuter Your Dog

Several major health concerns arise when you have a dog that hasn’t had its sexual status altered, warns Dr. Grant Little, DVM, a veterinarian at Arlington Pet Hospital. Female dogs can be prone to a life-threatening infection called pyometra. This becomes more likely with age and is a surgical emergency when it arises. And male dogs can get testicular tumors and prostate cancer. “If you have no intentions of having your furry friend be a breeding dog, then it is generally recommended to spay and neuter,” he says. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Your primary care physician will encourage you to eat a balanced and nutritious diet to ensure your health across your lifespan. And the exact same is true for your pup. “Feed your dog high-quality commercial dog food that is appropriate for their age, size, and activity level,” says Dr. Jonalyn Gagliardi, DVM, a veterinarian at Boston Veterinary Clinic. Speak with your vet about what they recommend for your pup. 

Avoid Giving Table Food

Those puppy dog eyes looking up at you from underneath the dinner table are difficult to resist, but it’s better if your dog sticks to his own kibble instead of sneaking bites from your table. How come? Human food often contains more fat than most commercial dog foods, increasing a pup’s risk of developing pancreatitis, warns Dr. Audrey Weaver, DVM. “Pets can also develop cholecystitis (gall bladder infection and inflammation) as well as cholelithiasis (gallstones) from fatty meals. These conditions can be severe, requiring extended hospital stays,” she says.

If you absolutely can’t resist giving some fun treats to your pup (we get it!), Dr. Weaver recommends the following:

  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots 
  • Watermelon
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Grilled, bland chicken or lean turkey

Schedule Routine Checkups

Once your puppy’s vaccinations are completed, you won’t visit the veterinarian quite as often. Adult doggos should see their doctor once a year, and senior pups should visit every six months to a year, with potentially more frequent visits if they have chronic conditions. “These check-ups are recommended even if the pet is doing well at home,” Dr. Weaver says. “During these visits, the veterinarian can occasionally catch issues early before they are on the pet parent’s radar and provide the recommended next steps.”

It’s also essential to sign up for pet insurance. Though routine preventive care is essential, emergencies happen and having support from a trusted provider can help lower the financial burden when you’re already under emotional stress. 

Practice Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention

Remember, these medications aren’t just for the summer but 365 days a year. As Dr. Weaver says, contrary to popular belief, fleas and ticks do not go dormant in the colder months; they remain active all year round. “There have been steady increases in cases of tick-borne diseases in dogs,” she says. “Many veterinarians recommend heartworm prevention all year round as it is nearly impossible to control all the mosquitoes in the world.” 

Engage Your Dog’s Mind

Though puppies will play more than older dogs, socialization and mental stimulation continues to be critical throughout a dog’s life since it plays a factor in neurologic development, Dr. Chung says. “Keeping their minds active is important to their overall health as they age. A lack of environmental enrichment can lead to anxiety, stress, and unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate urination and defecation, aggression, and the destruction of property in the home,” he continues. “Offering a variety of toys and puzzles with treats can help provide the stimulation they need. If there’s a dog friend in the neighborhood, play dates can also be an effective addition.”

Don’t Skip Brushing Their Teeth 

According to Dr. Michelle Lugones, a veterinarian at the Best Friends Animal Society, dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions veterinarians see in their canine patients — and by the age of three, more than 80% of dogs already have dental disease.

A simple way to promote oral health and delay the need for a dental procedure is by brushing your dog’s teeth daily. “Starting from when they are puppies, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to using dog-safe toothpaste with a dog toothbrush,” she says. “Toothpaste for dogs is enzymatic, meaning it isn’t rinsed off. By brushing your dog’s teeth long term, you can keep their mouth healthy and decrease the chance they will need a dental procedure performed under anesthesia.”

Keep Toxins and Household Dangers out of Reach

Last but not least, ensure your home is safe for your dog during each stage of its life. Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Chimes says to research common toxic plants and household and garden toxins and then ensure that your home is either free of them or inaccessible to your dog. “Be aware of household items that dogs love to chew and tidy away,” she says. “So often dogs end up in the emergency room after exposure to these household and garden dangers, either because of their owner’s unawareness or the dog’s persistent ability to reach items that were supposedly out of reach.”

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