You love your dog — maybe even more than your child, particularly if he or she is a toddler. A dog is a great addition to any home — as long as you take care of it properly. Whether you’re a first-time owner or an experienced fur baby parent, it’s essential to keep your animal in top physical and mental shape.
You might actually — unknowingly, of course — be doing some seriously scary things that could very well shorten your dog’s life. Learn about ways you might endangering your companion now — and get back on track to having a healthy, happy pet.
1. Feeding Fido an inferior diet
Low-quality, commercial dog foods and treats contain ingredients that could be compromising your dog’s health, according to the website ShastaDogs.com. Pay less for your furry friend’s food now and you might pay for it mightily in the long run. Poor food can cause a host of problems for your dog, including loose stools, itchiness, attention deficit, lethargy gas, runny eyes, ear infections, greasy fur, and even liver and kidney damage. Do yourself — and your pet — a favor: Buy U.S.-sourced, grain-free food and check the website Dog Food Advisor to make sure it measures up.
Next: Just do it.
2. Not giving your dog proper exercise
Exercise is key to keeping your dog — and yourself — healthy and happy. It improves muscle tone and circulation, releases endorphins, and reduces obesity. Dogs need exercise, just like humans. In fact, if you don’t give your pup a way to release energy he or she could end up being nervous, or worse — destructive. Overweight dogs tend to live two years less than those who are fit, reports ShastaDogs.com. Make sure yours gets those extra years.
Next: Don’t forget to vaccinate.
3. Not vaccinating your puppy
Parvo and other infectious diseases are leading causes of puppy deaths, according to the American Kennel Club. You must give puppies their DHPP — distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza — vaccinations when they’re between eight and 18 weeks old to protect them. Get your dog to the vet and make sure he or she is off to the right start.
Next: Have a heart.
4. Not treating his or her heartworms
Heartworms actually live in your dog’s heart and lungs, according to WebMD. Once an infected mosquito bites your dog, the larvae turns into heartworms in approximately seven months. Adult worms can live for up to seven years and grow up to 12 inches in length, and your pooch can have as many as 250 of them in his or her body. The earlier you treat the worms, the better chance you’ll have that your dog will recover. Get Fido tested for them once a year.
Next: Take time to train.
5. Not training your pooch
If you don’t train your dog, you’re putting him or her in danger. For example, say you never taught your dog to come when you call. If your dog gets out, it might get lost, run over, attacked by another animal, or hit by a car. In addition, if you let your dog run wild and he or she is aggressive and hurts someone or another animal, you’re looking at some serious fallout. Take the time to train your pup. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.
Next: Go to the vet sooner than later.
6. You don’t get immediate vet care
If you see your dog acting any way out of the ordinary for a while, take him or her to a vet posthaste. What you see — excess salivation, increased water ingestion, panting, a change in stool, whatever — could be indicating a deeper health issue. Find a vet you trust and make sure he or she knows your dog’s history — then take your fur baby in right away if there’s something going on. Better safe than sorry.
Next: Cleaning the canines
7. You’re not brushing your canine’s canines
Sure, dogs went centuries without people cleaning their teeth. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t dying young. Dogs need their teeth brushed too — it can help combat bad breath, tooth loss, periodontal disease, pain, and even prevent bacteria and infection from getting into your pet’s bloodstream, according to Colony Park Animal Hospital. Find Fido a special doggy toothbrush, throw in some chicken-flavored toothpaste and go to town — every day. It takes only a minute, and it’s the right thing to do.
Read more: 15 Foods You Should Never Give to Your Dog
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