Focusing on your dog’s wellness care can help enhance their quality of life and ensure they’ll be by your side for many years to come.
How’s your dog’s fur looking? Is it a little scruffy or maybe in need of a wash or trim? What about their nails and skin? Taking care of your dog’s coat, nails, and hair can help keep them healthy and comfortable.
Give your dog a bath
Many dogs do fine with a bath about once a month. That is unless they really enjoy the great outdoors or love rolling around in unidentifiable stuff. And plenty of dogs don’t mind a bath. It can be a fun bonding activity that relaxes your dog.
Of course, some dogs despise bath time and bolt for the door the minute they see the shampoo come out. If that’s the case, have some treats on hand and be sure to give your dog lots of praise during each step of the process. If you’re really having a tough time, ask your veterinarian or a professional groomer for help.
Brush them regularly
Regular brushing does more than keep your dog’s coat looking good. It helps distribute their natural oils so their fur doesn’t seem greasy, boosts skin health by stimulating circulation, and prevents mats from forming, which can be painful to brush out and may hide skin problems.
It also gives you a chance to spot issues, like fleas, hotspots, bumps that need to be checked out, or other common skin disorders. Early detection can make many of these easier to treat. Plus, it can reduce shedding, so you may be able to vacuum a little less often.
Get tips and advice on grooming your dog at home from cleaning their ears to trimming their nails.
Give them a pedicure
Noticing a clacking noise as your dog walks around the house? It’s probably time to give those nails a trim. Don’t cut too close to the quick, which supplies blood to the nails. It can be painful and profusely bleed when nicked. If you’re not sure how to cut your dog’s nails, ask your veterinarian. You can also visit a groomer if you’d prefer to have someone else wield the clippers.
Trim their hair
Your dog may not need a chic new hairdo, but you should regularly trim hairs that could get in their way of seeing or hearing properly. You should also clip back the fur in areas prone to getting dirty such as around the mouth, paws, and hind end. Take a trip to your local dog groomer or have a mobile groomer come to your home for a professional job.
Some dogs also love a short summer haircut. It can feel freeing and more comfortable for them. However, please don’t shave them all the way down. Their coat works as an insulator that helps them stay warm in the cold and cool in the heat. Plus, a close shave puts them at risk for sunburn and skin cancer.
How is your dog’s diet? Have they been eating the same old kibble for a while? How healthy are their treats?
Read the labels
It’s good to know exactly what goes into your dog’s favorite foods and treats. If they’re high in sugar and unhealthy fats, your dog could be at risk of becoming overweight or obese. Read the labels and ask your veterinarian for recommendations on the best diet for your dog. Also, remember that treats should only make up 5% or less or your dog’s daily food intake.
One of the biggest trends in dog food is consumer demand for easier to read ingredient labels. Learn more about dog food trends.
Switch it up
Like people, dogs can get tired of the same old treats. You can try a new flavor or offer your dog safe fruits and veggies, such as cut up sweet potatoes or carrots into bite-sized pieces.
Additionally, you can whip up some homemade treats for your dog, like banana-tastic dog treats or frozen goodies that can help cool them off on a hot day. If you’d like to change up your dog’s base diet, you should make the transition gradually to help avoid gastrointestinal issues.
Exercise and Play
Is your dog getting enough activity to stay in shape? When’s the last time you changed up your walking route or visited a new dog park?
Amp up your exercise routine
How much exercise dogs need depends on their size and age, but most dogs benefit from daily aerobic exercise along with a half hour walk. Make sure your dog is getting enough activity to:
- Manage their weight
- Keep their heart, muscles, and bones strong
- Help avoid boredom and frustration, which can lead to unwanted behaviors, like destructive chewing
On-leash running, biking, hiking, and skating are all great options for outdoor exercise. Just make sure you take precautions to help your dog stay safe outside, such as keeping them away from toxic plants or stagnant pools of water that may contain bacteria. If the weather is bad, you can initiate some indoor games such as fetch or tug of war to get your dog moving.
Looking for some new ideas for outdoor fun? Here are 13 ideas to enjoy time outside with your dog.
Try new things
You can easily change up your usual morning or evening walk by going in the opposite direction or choosing a slightly different path. Or even better, go on an adventure and drive to a new hiking trail or park. Enlist some friends with friendly dogs to join you and make it a fun group outing.
You can also teach your dog new games. If your dog has impulse control issues, try games such as “Wait then Fetch” that are both fun and instructional. In this game, you drop a toy a few feet away and say, “Wait.” If your dog waits, tell them to “Get it!” and let them snatch up the toy. If they struggle against the leash, wait until they calm down before you allow them to get their prize.
When’s the last time you checked around your house for potential dog dangers? What about outside in your yard where your dog likes to play?
Get a dog’s eye view
Look around your home with your dog’s viewpoint in mind. For instance:
- Tape down or hide any wires that could be chewed on or tripped over.
- Put away any valuable your dog could knock over and break.
- Make sure there aren’t any pill bottles in places, like low night stands or countertops, where your dog could grab them.
Get more tips for dog-proofing every room of your home.
Check the floor
You may already be vacuuming often to suck up the hair your dog leaves behind. You should also check the floor regularly for things that could be choked on or swallowed. Common culprits include rubber bands, paper clips, twist ties, and coins. Be sure to check between and under the couch pillows for loose change and other choking hazards.
Dog proof outside areas
If your dog spends time in your yard, help make sure your pooch won’t get hurt with these outdoor safety tips:
- Put away gardening and lawn tools that could injure your dog, such as rakes or spades, which can get stepped on.
- Follow the instructions for fertilizers and insecticides carefully and keep your dog away from treated areas for the full waiting period.
- Make sure your dog can’t get into compost piles or containers since they can contain moldy foods and other things they shouldn’t eat.
You should also make sure your dog has access to shade and plenty of water. If it’s a particularly hot day, you can set up a kiddie pool for them to splash around in. Throw in some of their favorite toys for them to fetch out.
Has your dog gotten their yearly check-up? Are they up-to-date on vaccines? Have you considered pet insurance, which can cover wellness services?
Give your dog a massage
Dogs can reap the benefits of massage like we do. Massage can help relax them, reduce their stress and anxiety, and promote their overall well-being. It can also help the healing process, but make sure you get directions from your veterinarian if you’re going to massage an injury, so you don’t cause more damage.
So how do you massage a dog? It’s more than just petting them. First, make sure your dog is in a calm state and start slowly. You can begin with your dog’s neck using gentle pressure and a circular motion. Continue on to the shoulders, back, chest, and legs. If your dog doesn’t like a particular body part being massaged, move to another one. If they don’t like the massage at all, you should stop, of course. Your dog may not be in the mood at the time. You can try again another time or stick to petting.
Visit the veterinarian regularly
The importance of regular check-ups can’t be emphasized enough. It’s one of the best ways to help your dog stay happy and healthy. They allow your veterinarian to track your dog’s weight, check for parasites like heartworms, and detect health issues sooner when they can be easier to treat and the prognosis better for your dog.
Vaccinate your dog
Vaccines help your dog avoid painful and often fatal illnesses. Your dog should receive the core vaccines, which protect against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and rabies. They may also benefit from non-core vaccines for diseases like kennel cough and Lyme disease depending on where you live and their lifestyle. Your veterinarian can recommend the vaccines that are appropriate for your dog and help ensure they stay up-to-date.
Consider pet insurance
You can add wellness coverage to an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan at a low additional cost, which pays you a set amount for covered wellness services, which can include annual visits, vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and more. By enrolling your dog, you’ll also have help managing the costs if they get hurt or sick so you can focus on your dog’s welfare with less worry about the cost.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.