Did you know that 67% of all households in the United States have at least one pet? That adds up to roughly 85 million families across the country who own pets.
Maybe you’ve never had a dog and you want to see what it’s like, or maybe you had a family pet as a child and you want to relive that experience as an adult. Maybe you’re replacing a beloved pet that passed away, or perhaps you even want a dog to keep another pet in the house company.
One way or another, you can see that there are lots of reasons for owning a dog: they make wonderful companions, they can help keep your family safe, and they keep things from getting too boring when you’re alone at home. Having a dog can also be a powerful incentive to get outside and work out more, since a dog will need plenty of exercise depending on its breed.
Although the benefits of owning a dog are too numerous to name here, pet ownership comes with a great many responsibilities as well. In addition to needing walks and playtime, a dog will need good nutrition, occasional vet care, good training, and plenty of positive attention. These things are especially important while your dog is still a puppy.
But if the responsibilities seem overwhelming, don’t worry — as long as you prepare correctly ahead of time, taking care of a dog or puppy doesn’t have to be terribly difficult. In fact, it can be so rewarding that you might not notice the work at all.
When you get a pet, your ultimate goal is for it to fit in as a happy member of your family. This mostly comes down to the health of your pet and the health of your relationship with it. To help you prepare to raise a happy, healthy pet, keep reading for our must-know dog health tips.
Make Sure Your Family Is in Good Health
While this article is about dog health tips, having a healthy pet starts with having a healthy home and family to introduce it to. After all, the health of your (human) family needs to come first. If anyone in your household is currently struggling with a sickness, even if it’s a mild one, you should probably wait a while to think about getting a dog. You might want to set an appointment with a family urgent care center if anyone is in need of immediate medical attention.
The health of your home itself is another thing to consider before getting a pet. Your home should be in good repair, with no lingering damage or repairs that are being put off. It shouldn’t be experiencing water leaks or water damage, as this can lead to mold and mildew problems, which are bad for pets and humans alike. If you have an infestation of rodents or insects, you should hire local pest control services to take care of that before you bring a new dog into your home.
If you’ve been putting off getting certain repairs done because of budget constraints, then you might want to reconsider whether you should get a dog at all. It may seem harsh, but owning an animal is a financial responsibility too. You’ll want to be sure you can handle basic upkeep costs before splurging on a pet.
The financial costs of pet ownership are one of the most important things to consider. It should go without saying, but your family’s health and happiness needs to be your first priority in any decision you make. If someone in the family needs dental bridges or some other form of care, you should see to that before investing in a new furry companion. This is one of those dog health tips that might be unexpected but is important nonetheless.
Prepare Your Home for the New Arrival
Besides having a home and family that are healthy, there are several tasks you’ll need to get out of the way before you bring a dog into your household. Much like you would get your house ready and prepare a new bedroom if you had a baby on the way, you’ll need to make similar preparations when you’re getting a new pet.
An important thing to remember when you’re getting a puppy is that they can cause a lot of trouble in an environment that’s not prepared for them. From chewing on electrical cords to yanking off tablecloths, a puppy can get into trouble that ranges from merely annoying to downright dangerous. To prepare for this, you should reorganize your home the way you would if your relative’s toddler was coming over. Make sure all breakables are put away out of reach; avoid leaving shoes, clothes, or pillows out where the puppy can find them; and make sure there aren’t any long cords, strings, or drapes on the floor, such as cords from appliances or curtains.
It’s also a good idea to define portions of the house as zones where the puppy should not go, such as the bathrooms or bedrooms. It’s much easier to keep a dog out of trouble in a more confined space, such as the main living area. Just make sure your family members always close the doors behind them when they leave one of the off-limits rooms.
Of course, you can’t remove everything from the rooms where your new dog will hang out — carpets and furniture are notable examples of things which can be damaged by an adventurous puppy, but aren’t really movable. Because of that, you should consider using the most durable, puppy-friendly rooms of the house to keep your dog in when no one’s able to babysit it. Vinyl flooring is both highly durable and low-cost should it need to be replaced, while plastic blinds are a good alternative to curtains. Obviously, you don’t want to leave your dog alone for very long at a time, but for those moments when you simply can’t keep an eye on them, it’s good to have a room or two set up to keep them out of trouble.
While we’re on the subject of preparing your home for a new pet, you might want to consider home repairs or upgrades to make ahead of time. Maybe you’ve been needing new flooring in a couple of rooms for a while, and a construction loan could help you get that work done, as well as prepare for your new dog. If there are lingering maintenance issues or repairs you’ve been postponing, it would be wise to get those taken care of before you bring your pup home. Local plumbers and electricians can make short work of important repairs.
Get Set Up for Raising Your Dog
No list of dog health tips would be complete without detailing the tools and supplies you need to care for your pet. From giving it exercise to teaching it tricks, you’ll need to be prepared for the responsibilities involved in owning a dog. Part of those responsibilities is having the equipment and setup you need ahead of time to take care of them properly.
First of all, if you haven’t already, think about where your dog will live most of the time. If you have a fenced in yard, this is ideal, since it offers the perfect balance of freedom and security for your pet. Vinyl fence companies can provide the materials you need to build a fence in your back yard, and they may even do the work for you. Of course, if you plan on keeping your dog indoors, you can probably get away with giving it daily walks as opposed to setting it loose in your yard. Just make sure your dog will have plenty of clean space where it can play when you aren’t around to keep it company.
Having adequate time for healthy forms of play is one of the most important dog health tips. A puppy will entertain itself with just about anything available, regardless of how expensive, breakable, or dangerous it is. To keep your dog out of trouble, you will want to have a handful of engaging toys for them to play with. Some dog toys, like little knot ropes, are ideal for playing together — many canines enjoy playing tug-of-war with their human companions. But when you’re shopping for toys, be sure and keep in mind how much noise they make. Some squeaker toys can be very loud, which can be a problem if you have upstairs neighbors or work from home.
Another thing you should consider when you buy products for your dog is what those products are made of. It’s great to support sustainability by buying products made with recycled materials, but some materials used in cheap toys can be toxic. For example, toys made out of rubber from old car tires wouldn’t be the best thing for your dog’s health.
Besides toys to keep your dog entertained, you’ll need some other essentials: food and water bowls, a kennel for traveling and trips to the vet, some high-quality dog food for puppies, and perhaps some training pads. You might also want to go ahead and purchase a collar and leash for your new best friend. A dog bed and small blankets are also a good idea, especially if you live in a colder climate.
Finally, to wrap up this section on dog health tips, you should think about how pet care responsibilities will be divided between your family. Unless you live alone, it’s a good idea to give each family member the chance to care for the new pet. When this is handled responsibly, it’s especially good for children to gain experience caring for an animal. Whether you divide the chores among everyone or not, at least establish some house rules before you bring the dog home, and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Find a Local Veterinarian You Can Trust
Suppose you went bike riding with your dog and got in an accident with a driver. A good bicycle accident attorney could represent you in court to seek compensation, but your first thought would no doubt be for your pet’s wellbeing. It’s times like this when having a great veterinarian on call becomes especially important. No one expects things like this to happen, but when they do, you need to get help fast.
Of course, knowing a good veterinarian isn’t just for emergency preparedness, like auto roadside assistance (although this kind of investment is also key for the health of your pet and family while you’re on the road). Another of our essential dog health tips is getting periodic checkups for your pet. In fact, the first thing you should do when you get a new dog is to take it in for an exam. This is the case even if you got your dog from a shelter that advertised it’s up to date with its vet visits and vaccinations.
If you get a puppy younger than 16 weeks old, you should take it to the vet every three to four weeks. Besides ensuring your pet is healthy and developing properly, the vet will also provide a series of important puppy vaccinations during these visits. Your dog should also start to receive regular heartworm treatments around the time that they’re eight weeks old. Flea and tick prevention medicine will often be provided when the pup is around 12 or 16 weeks of age. Finally, your puppy will need to make one more visit to the vet to be spayed or neutered when it’s six months old.
Once your pet turns a year old, it will graduate from puppyhood and become an adult dog. Healthy adult dogs should only need one physical exam every year. Depending on your dog’s breed and quality of health, this should go on until they’re between seven and 10 years old.
When a dog’s age exceeds seven years, it’s generally considered a senior dog. This is where dog health tips become a little more complicated, and a lot more important. Even if your older dog seems to stay in good health, you should make sure it gets two checkups per year. The reason for this is that senior dogs are more prone to unexpected health conditions than young ones are, and the sooner these conditions are noticed and treated, the better for your pet. As your dog ages, your vet will also recommend changes in activity and diet for your pet.
Since getting a vet visit is one of the most important dog health tips, you should probably find a promising veterinarian early, ideally before even bringing your dog home.
And with that, you should know all the dog health tips you need to keep your pup in good health from day one. While there’s lots more to learn about caring for a dog, and this article really only scratches the surface, these tips should be more than enough to get you started. Just remember to have a good veterinarian on call in case you run into problems, and do plenty of research on dog breeds, breeders, and shelters before buying or adopting a dog. With these dog health tips, you’re now well on your way to having a happy, healthy new member of your family.