Welcoming a new dog into your home is an exciting milestone. You have a new lifelong companion that will return your love and affection. However, a dog also comes with responsibilities to ensure their ongoing health and happiness.
Unfortunately, many novice dog owners are unaware of how to choose a healthy puppy, which can lead to significant stress, medical bills, contending with chronic illnesses, and ultimately, the untimely death of your pet. Here is our advice for ensuring your dog is healthy at every age:
Get a puppy that is at least eight weeks old
A pup should stay with its mother and littermates for at least the first eight weeks of life. Unless under extreme circumstances, every responsible shelter or breeder will know this. Generally, smaller dogs need to stay with their littermates for longer, so expect to get a Great Dane at a younger age than a Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier.
Research where you are getting your puppy
If you prefer to get a dog from a breeder, we urge you to do some research first. You should be able to see pictures or videos of both parents, and they are best registered with your country’s equivalent of the American Kennel Club. Any responsible breeder will allow you to visit the litter and ensure that the pups are kept in a clean, comfortable environment. They should have plenty of opportunity for socialization and habituation to the typical boisterousness of a home.
The telltale signs of puppy health
To start, check if the puppy and its kennel are clean. They should be free of signs of mites, fleas, or ticks and have comfortable bedding. Your chosen pup’s walking should be strong, even if still unsteady, and with no visible limp.
Any foul odor could signify infection. In addition, there should be no discharge from a puppy’s eyes, ears, or nose and no patchiness on their fur. A dry nose, a cough, excessive sneezing, or lethargy can all be signs of a more severe illness in a small puppy.
Watch the puppy’s poop
A pup’s stools should be firm. Diarrhea indicates a health problem that is better rectified before you take a puppy home.
Spend time with the litter
Every pup in a litter will have its own personality; some will be more rambunctious, while others will be more assertive, shy, or easily frightened. A healthy puppy typically wants to play with its brothers and sisters and is curious about human interaction. Be patient and look for the puppy with the right temperament to fit in with your family and lifestyle.
How to ensure your puppy stays healthy
Puppies need plenty of rest, nutritious food, stimulation, and love. The basic needs of a puppy are essentially not dissimilar to that of human babies. Before you take your puppy home, head to your local pet store to pick up:
- Freeze dried dog food and water bowls
- A comfortable dog bed appropriate for their adult size
- Chew toys
- Collar, harness and leash
- Treats for training
- Puppy pads
- Puppy or baby gates to block no-go areas
- Any necessary grooming tools for the breed
- Dog shampoo
- A kennel if you intend to crate train
It is also essential to ensure your new puppy receives timely vaccinations, including:
- Bordetella Bronchiectasis
- Kennel Cough
- Canine distemper
- Canine Hepatitis
- Canine Parainfluenza
- Canine coronavirus
- Lyme Disease
A puppy requires a different blend of food than a fully-grown dog. Look out for DHA in dog food that is specially formulated for puppies. Although it is possible to make homemade pet food, it is unlikely that your puppy or adult dog will receive their complete and balanced nutritional needs. We would instead recommend supplementing your dog’s food with homemade dog treats. If you ever have a health concern about your new puppy or worry about a food intolerance, then it is best to contact your local veterinarian without delay.
A large part of the responsibility of caring for a dog is ensuring that it can receive the appropriate routine medical attention. However, emergency vet care can add up to thousands of dollars and force you to make decisions that are best not made for financial reasons alone.
To avoid needing to make these difficult decisions, look into the cost of pet insurance. In general, the younger the dog, the cheaper the pet insurance policy. Small dogs tend to have less expensive premiums, with the average cost of pet insurance for a dog being about $50 per month.
How to ensure a senior dog stays healthy
Once your dog reaches their later years, it will also require special attention. However, when a dog is considered a senior varies depending on its breed and size. Typically, a toy or small breed dog is regarded as a senior at 11 years of age, whereas a medium-sized pooch, such as a Beagle or Cocker Spaniel, would be 10. However, giant breeds like Great Danes or Irish Wolfhounds are considered seniors at only seven years old.
Signs that a dog is becoming a senior
Weight gain is a typical result of dogs reaching their later years due to a decrease in metabolism and level of exercise. However, ensuring your dog remains at a healthy weight will limit the stress on their joints and organs and assist with their overall health. Speak to your vet about amending your dog’s diet to one formulated for senior dogs. In addition to weight gain and loss of energy, dogs show signs of aging in various ways, which can include:
- Loss of vision or hearing
- Decreased energy
- Diminished mental alertness
- Difficulty moving and loss of muscle tone
- Joint problems and arthritis
Raising a dog from puppyhood through to its twilight years is a privilege. Despite the immense heartache involved when your beloved pet passes, the years of play, companionship, and love provide a lifetime of memories.