Health Check

Congratulations – you have a new puppy!

You’ve anticipated the new arrival by 'puppyproofing' your home and had lots of fun choosing the crate, bed, blanket, toys and other supplies he will need. This frisky little creature is sure to bring you much joy. In return, you can make a major contribution to your pet’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, sanitary environment and regular checkups at your vets.

Your puppy’s basic health check

Your new puppy should visit a vet as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:

  • A thorough physical examination to determine his state of health.
  • Check for external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites).
  • Check for internal parasites (tapeworm, roundworm, etc.).
  • Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your puppy needs and when they should be scheduled.
  • Discussion about whether your puppy should be neutered and when.

This first health check will give your vet the information he needs to advise you on your puppy’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will give him a “knowledge base” from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your pup’s life, he can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health.

Make your new puppy feel at home

Show your puppy the special places where he can eat, sleep and eliminate and, since he’s probably quite overwhelmed, give him some quiet time to himself to let him adjust to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of his new home. If there are young children in the home, make sure that they are taught that a puppy is not a toy but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. As early as 8 weeks old, your puppy is capable of learning specific lessons – so start house-breaking and teaching simple obedience commands the day you bring him home. Your vet can suggest the best training methods and, if you wish, recommend a good obedience school. Your pup will find learning fun and easy and, with your positive reinforcement, he should remember his lessons well!

Spaying or Neutering your puppy

Spaying or neutering not only helps solve the serious problem of unwanted pet overpopulation but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female dogs are more relaxed, while neutered males are less likely to roam, 'spray' or urine-mark their territory, or fight with other males. Plus, sterilization has health benefits – it helps to minimize the risk for cancers of the reproductive organs and the mammary glands in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems in males.

Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female dog, usually after the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anesthesia. Complications are rare and recovery normally is complete within two weeks.

Neutering, also carried out under general anesthesia, removes the testicles of a male dog through an incision at the base of the scrotum. Usually performed when the puppy is about six months old, it necessitates only a brief hospital stay. Full recovery takes about seven to ten days.

Your Geriatric Dog

When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When he’s a puppy. Starting off your dog’s life with good nutrition, regular exercise, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in his older years. However, as your dog ages, much like humans, changes to the metabolism will occur. Paying attention to your dog’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier.

What you can do at home:

  • Check your dog’s mouth, eyes and ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge.
  • Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.
  • Groom your pet often. You’ll detect any unusual sores or lumps and keep his coat healthy.
  • Make fresh water available at all times.
  • Maintain a regime of proper nutrition, exercise and loving attention.

Common Problems

Obesity is a big health risk. An older dog is a less active dog, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on his joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive problems and more. Other changes to his nutrition should include increasing fiber, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.

Arthritis’ severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. An exercise program, also to maintain muscle tone and mass, can be adjusted to his condition. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe any necessary medication.

Intolerance to hot and cold temperatures occurs because your dog produces less of the hormones which regulate the body’s normal temperature. Move his bed closer to a heater and bring him indoors on cold days.

Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of infection or tumours. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will help keep these to a minimum.

Prostate enlargement or Mammary Gland Tumours is mostly diagnosed in unneutered or unspayed dogs. Have the prostate or mammary glands examined at checkups.

Separation Anxiety presents itself when older dogs can’t cope with stress. Aggressive behaviour, noise phobia, increased barking and whining or restless sleep are the signs. Medication combined with behaviour modification techniques are key.

Skin or coat problems in ageing dogs means the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the coat’s hair thins and dulls over time. Grooming more often and fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction manifests itself in confusion, disorientation or decreased activity. Medication can help solve some of these issues.