Understanding Your Dog's Medical Needs
Although your dog is susceptible to many diseases and viruses there is a lot you can do to help protect him. It is important to develop a good relationship with a local veterinarian. He can inform you what viruses and parasites are local to your geographical region. As your dog gets older your veterinarian can also run tests to detect illnesses prior to the onset of symptoms which could save or prolong your dog’s life.
You can vaccinate against many viruses and bacterial diseases. Some of these diseases, such as distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvovirus, can be fatal to your dog. Serious illnesses you can vaccinate against such as parainfluenza or “kennel cough” are not life threatening in themselves but can cause other complications like pneumonia. If you are worried about over vaccinating, talk to your vet about titers.
Your dog also needs to be protected against parasites. Your veterinarian can provide products which will prevent an infestation. You will see flea and tick products in your local stores but check with your veterinarian before purchasing them since some may be harmful to your dog. If an infestation of fleas does occur, your dog will have itchy skin and possible hair loss. Some dogs and humans can have an allergic reaction to fleas. If left untreated fleas could cause your dog to have a terrible skin infection as well as become anemic. Ticks can cause problems such as paralysis and Lyme disease. If the infestation is severe enough, anemia can also occur as with fleas. That is the reason it is important to use preventative measures when it comes to fleas and ticks.
It is also best to take precautions against heartworm. Heartworms are internal parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. Once a dog is infected with the parasite it travels to the heart were it can grow up to twelve inches long and will result in congestive heart failure. Heartworm will be fatal if not detected in the early stages. Because of this you should use a pill which protects against heartworm. This pill is given monthly year round for the dogs entire life. A yearly test should be run to confirm that your dog did not contract the parasite. Your dog can also get other internal parasites such as round worms, hook worms, and whip worms. These parasites can be detected through stool samples and should be tested for at least once per year.
Recently it has become apparent that it is also important to care for your dog’s teeth. Tartar build up can lead to bad breath, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. If left untreated bacteria can spread to the blood stream causing infections in the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Although your veterinarian can provide a dental cleaning for your pet you should also help keep your pet’s teeth clean on a regular basis. You can brush your dogs teeth a few times a week with a pet safe toothpaste. These toothpastes are enzymatic. As a result you just need to rub some on your dogs teeth and gums and the enzymes will clean the teeth for you. The toothpaste is also meat flavored so your pet will enjoy the experience. At first it may take some time but eventually your dog will enjoy having his teeth cleaned. Feel free to let him lick a little when he’s done for a reward. Other products can be used to help supplement your brushing. You can buy dental ropes to help “floss” your dog’s teeth and dental chews to help break tartar off. Make sure these products are the appropriate size for your pet or they could develop serious digestion problems.