(SPM Wire) Keeping your dog healthy means taking good care of him or her before problems arise, much as you should with human members of the family.
Good veterinary care for your dog includes preventative care, according to Dr. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Nelson recommends that dog owners take their adult dogs to the veterinarian twice a year for checkups. Dogs in their senior years may need to be brought in for checkups more frequently. Puppies should be brought in for booster shots between six weeks and eight weeks of age, and then checkups every three to four weeks until they reach 16 to 18 weeks of age.
"Frequent wellness screenings play an important part in preventive care," Nelson said. "Big disasters can often be avoided if we can catch a disease early. Often we can make it less severe or even reverse it."
Some problems can't wait for the next checkup, though. There are symptoms and behaviors to look for in your dog that may mean a visit to the veterinarian is needed.
"Most people know the normal routine of their pet," Nelson said. "If you see them lying around more than normal, being more reclusive or they have a diminished appetite, there is probably something wrong. Other signs of possible illness include -- but are not limited to -- vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, limping, scratching, coughing, unusual odors, discharge from the eyes and new or growing lumps in and on the skin."
Nelson said some of the common dog ailments that she treats on a regular basis are eye and ear infections, allergies, skin infections, fleas and ticks, intestinal parasites, lameness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog is exhibiting any of these ailments, it is important that you bring the dog to the veterinarian for treatment, she said.
Owners can do a few treatments at home to care for minor dog injuries, Nelson said.
For small skin abrasions, owners can trim the hair around the wound, wash it with a mild soap and then apply a triple antibiotic skin ointment. However, for more severe abrasions and lacerations, the dog needs to see the veterinarian, she said.
If your adult dog has diarrhea, owners can try giving them a bland diet for a few days, as long as the pet is acting normally and there is no blood in their stool. Nelson said a bland diet is not recommended for young puppies or very old dogs as they can quickly dehydrate and develop a more severe illness than an otherwise healthy adult dog.
For minor limping, you might be able to monitor the dog for 24 hours. If the condition worsens or does not improve, then a trip to your veterinarian is warranted.
Whenever an owner is unsure about their dog's condition, it never hurts to call your veterinarian and ask for advice. But while a veterinarian may be able to give some advice over the phone, do not expect a diagnosis.
When the time comes to bring your dog to the veterinarian, there are ways to make the visit more comfortable for the dog. For larger, more severely injured dogs, lie them down on a towel or blanket and carry them inside. For smaller injured dogs, use a box or pet carrier for transport.
"If dogs are in extreme pain, owners need to be careful handling them because they might bite," Nelson said. "Even the best dogs who have never bitten before might bite when they are in pain. Sometimes it is best to put a muzzle on them if there are no breathing difficulties."