7 Ways to Improve Your Dog’s Health for Pet Wellness Month
October is Pet Wellness Month, an initiative sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Fort Dodge Animal Health. The goal of Pet Wellness Month is to raise awareness about how to care for and improve the health of your pets.
To help you honour Pet Wellness Month, we’ve put together a list of seven ways you can improve your dog’s health. These seven tips will highlight the key concerns that may impact your dog’s health and quality of life, let’s get started!
1. Offer comfort to ease separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a real problem for pets who are left alone for long periods of time. Symptoms of separation anxiety may include having accidents indoors, barking or howling, chewing or destroying furniture and household items, escaping, and pacing.
Dogs can develop separation anxiety for several reasons. If there’s a change in living situation or schedule, your dog may struggle to adapt to this change – this one is especially relevant now that we are seeing lockdown restrictions easing, leaving your pup at home while you head out to work. Also, the sudden absence of a family member due to death or moving may make separation anxiety more pronounced.
One of the major ways to combat mild separation anxiety is with counterconditioning. Counterconditioning works by combining good things with unpleasant necessities. In the case of separation anxiety, that may mean giving your dog a special treat when they have to be left alone so they’ll associate being alone with good things.
In more severe cases, more advanced mental health care may be necessary for your pup. If your dog is experiencing severe separation anxiety, consult your veterinarian about how to help them cope.
2. Watch for signs of PTSD in your dog.
PTSD isn’t just an illness for humans facing trauma. Your dog may experience PTSD if they’ve experienced violence or if they’ve lived through a natural disaster. Working dogs experience PTSD when exposed to intense situations.
Symptoms of PTSD in your dog include excessive panting, panic, fearfulness, clinging to owners, being timid, aggressive behaviour in previously unaggressive dogs, depression, hypervigilance, and other changes in behaviour. If your dog is a working dog, he or she may shut down and refuse to work.
Dogs with PTSD require therapeutic support, which usually includes slowly exposing them to things that make them fearful (like loud sounds) under the skilled guidance of your pet’s veterinarian. This can help desensitise them to stimuli. In extreme cases, your veterinarian may prescribe anxiety medication to help your dog cope.
3. Help them reach or maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity is a common problem that impacts your dog’s overall health. If your dog is overweight, they may be at increased risk of health problems (just like humans). It’s important to monitor your dog’s weight and make necessary changes to help them reach or maintain a healthy weight.
You can help your dog lose weight be decreasing their caloric intake and increasing their physical activity. Your veterinarian can give you recommendations on portion sizes, food, and feeding times.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring for your dog. You can help them increase activity by playing with them or taking them for walks. Indoor activities may be necessary if you live in an area where regular outdoor walks aren’t possible, so get creative and incorporate some fun toys!
4. Schedule regular wellness exams.
Your dog should have a wellness exam twice a year. Even when your dog is overall healthy, wellness exams can help you spot problems early. These appointments also allow you to touch base with your veterinarian about minor issues like allergies.
Regular wellness exams help you prioritise your dog’s health. Even if you’ve had many dogs in the past, your veterinarian will still have valuable insights to offer you as you care for your pup. This could even save your dog’s life, as many life-threatening medical conditions are spotted during wellness exams.
5. Take care of your dog’s dental health.
You need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Did you know…most breeds should have their teeth brushed one or more times a week? Some breeds, which are prone to periodontal disease, need to have their teeth brushed every other day.
Many veterinary clinics offer dental exams. Because periodontal disease can lead to other major health problems, it’s important to take care of your dog’s teeth. Good dental hygiene can help your dog maintain good health.
6. Be aware of hazards in your home.
Accidental pet poisoning is a major issue for domesticated animals. Most dog owners know to avoid feeding their dog things like chocolate, but there are many things in your household that could be dangerous to your dog.
Make sure your pet cannot reach medications, chemicals, and plants. Certain household items like bleach, fertilisers, rat poison, paint thinner, and weed killer can be toxic to your dog. Concentrated ingredients such as essential oils should not be used on your dog’s skin or coat.
You should also avoid giving your dog foods like grapes, raisins, caffeine, alcohol, xylitol (an ingredient in sugar-free foods), dairy, mushrooms, avocados, garlic, and macadamia nuts. Unless a human food has been specifically cleared by your veterinarian, you should avoid it.
7. Ask your veterinarian about vitamins and minerals for your dog.
Your dog should get necessary nutrients from their food. However, many dog foods lack complete nutrition, creating the need to provide supplements to your dog. Certain vitamins can help target specific issues like skin problems, allergies, and digestive issues.
Don’t start a supplement for your dog without consulting your veterinarian. Under your veterinarian’s supervision, your dog may find relief from certain problems by adding supplements to his or her diet.
With these 7 tips, your dog is sure to be one happy and health pup. Happy Pet Wellness Month!