Whether you’re a first-time adopter or a long-time dog parent, life with a dog comes with lots of fun and affection, not to mention a few surprises. At Continental Animal Wellness Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, we know your dog’s health and happiness are your top priority. That’s why we’re always happy to help pet parents find answers to their canine concerns.
When it comes to concerns or questions about your pet’s health, your first call should always be to your veterinarian. However, with a bit of knowledge and advice, many pet care basics can happen right in your home. Whether you’re trying to solve a puzzling puppy training predicament or crate training conundrum, keep reading for useful DIY home pet care tips.
Canine Health and Fitness
During their first year of life, puppies make canine fitness seem like it’ll take care of itself. Even energetic puppies benefit from a regular exercise routine, though. Exercise helps dogs burn off energy and keep fit while stimulating their minds. At any age, a bored dog is more likely to seek out novel experiences (like shoes to chew on, garbage to dig through, and mail carriers to bark at) than a dog who enjoys regular age- and breed-appropriate exercise.
Exercising your dog is easy and fun for both of you. You can work out with your dog by walking or running together, hiking, playing fetch, or swimming at a nearby (pet-friendly) beach. Many obedience dog training exercises, such as retrieving, also provide energy-burning and mind-stimulating opportunities.
When inclement weather keeps your pup indoors, you can still find plenty of ways to get him the exercise he needs. Running up and down stairs, on a treadmill, or setting up a game of hide-and-seek with healthy treats or a favorite toy can all provide physical and mental stimulation. If you’re crate training your dog, you can work on basic commands like “place,” “stay,” and “come” to give your dog some mental stimulation and reward his progress with energy-burning games of tug, fetch, or chase.
How much exercise does your dog need?
In general, puppies benefit from several short exercise sessions throughout the day instead of one or two longer walks or play sessions. Exercise requirements for adult dogs vary widely by breed. High-energy breeds like Giant Schnauzers and Golden Retrievers have different exercise needs and abilities than French Bulldogs or Bologneses, for example.
Senior dogs may develop arthritis or other conditions that require modifications to their regular exercise routines to avoid discomfort or injury. Talk to your vet about your dog’s exercise needs and limitations. Even young, high-energy breeds may need their humans to put the breaks on play sessions if they have underlying health concerns exacerbated by over-exertion.
DIY Dog Grooming
Dog grooming does more than keep your pup looking his best—it also helps keep him healthy. Regular bathing and frequent brushing can help identify signs of fleas, ticks, cuts, scrapes, and other possible sources of infection that could cause illness or other complications.
If you’re a new dog owner, some dog grooming tasks, like nail trimming and tooth brushing, can seem intimidating. Before firing off a search for “dog grooming near me,” you should know most dog grooming is easily accomplished at home, even if it means getting within drooling distance of your Cane Corso’s canine teeth.
Most dogs will tolerate at-home bathing, brushing, and other routine tasks that keep them clean and comfortable–and some will even love it! Though your dog’s breed, age, and activity levels will all contribute to their necessary grooming schedule, the sample schedule below offers a basic outline of what to expect:
Protect your dog’s teeth and gums by brushing them daily. Brushing your dog’s teeth is easier than you might expect. Learn how here if you’ve never done it before.
Weekly brushing reduces shedding and keeps your dog clean in between baths. Some double-coated and seasonally-shedding breeds require more frequent brushing.
Your dog’s breed and activity levels will influence how often you need to trim their nails. In general, plan to trim your dog’s nails monthly and adjust your schedule as needed.
Most flea and tick preventatives require monthly re-application. If you’re not sure when to re-apply your dog’s flea and tick protection, review the label instructions or talk to your vet so you can keep your dog protected year-round.
Your dog’s breed and other factors will determine how often, if ever, you need to clean his ears. If your dog is a frequent swimmer or has a history of ear infections, your vet may recommend monthly ear cleanings in between visits. You can learn the right way to clean your dog’s ears here.
No matter the frequency, it’s important you only use products specifically designed for canine ear cleaning. All at-home solutions, including vinegar, baby wipes, and even water, should be avoided, as they often do more harm than help.
Unless your vet instructs otherwise, most dog breeds require routine bathing only a few times per year.
Schedule your dog’s annual wellness exam, vaccinations, and dental cleaning.
DIY Dog Diets Treats and Food
Healthy dog food
Dog diets contain nutrients from a mix of meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Dogs and puppies need a well-balanced diet of quality dog food designed to meet their nutritional needs. You should feed your dog a diet appropriate for their life stage and breed size. For example, healthy dog food for an adult Akita will differ significantly from a Maltese puppy’s healthy diet.
Quality commercial kibble and canned dog food contain all the ingredients your dog needs to stay healthy. Some pet owners express an interest in feeding a home-cooked or raw diet. Unless your veterinarian recommends and oversees a home-cooked diet plan, commercially-prepared dog food is likely the safest and healthiest adult dog food.
- At best, home-cooked diets are expensive and labor-intensive without providing health benefits to dogs.
- At worst, they are inadequately nutritious and can lead to adverse health outcomes with potentially devastating consequences for their dogs.
- Home-cooked diets are never appropriate for puppies, pregnant or nursing dogs, or overweight adult and senior dogs.
- Raw food diets are unsafe for you and your dog and are never recommended regardless of whether they’re prepared at home or commercially.
Healthy dog treats
Healthy dog treats, whether store-bought or homemade, shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily food intake. Most owners find their dogs are happy to snack on many commercially-available dog treats. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) maintains a regularly-updated list of VOHC-accepted products for dogs you can use to help shop for healthy treats.
Still, many wish to prepare homemade dog treats, whether to allergens and sensitivities or to make use of available ingredients in the home. An easy DIY dog treat your vet will likely approve of is dehydrated fruit and vegetables. Dehydrated fruits and vegetables are tasty and chewy, making them appealing, healthy, low-calorie snacks for dogs.
Common dog allergies
Cleaning products, chemicals, environmental factors, and even food can all trigger dog allergies. Dogs can develop allergies at any time, even if they’ve never shown signs of it before. Chronic ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, and itchy or rashy skin may all be symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Your vet can help identify potential allergens in your dog’s environment and suggest a course of treatment to help with symptoms. She may also recommend and oversee an elimination diet to identify food allergies or sensitivities. While any food can cause an allergic response, common dog allergies include:
- Dairy products
When you have questions about your furry family members, the caring and experienced team at Continental Animal Wellness Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, are here to help. Our practice focuses on our pet patients’ health and wellbeing, incorporating behavioral health and traditional medicine to provide comprehensive and compassionate care. Our state-of-the-art animal wellness facility in Flagstaff, Arizona, is equipped for complete animal care, from vaccinations and routine wellness checks to behavior consultations, sick visits, and more. Contact us today to schedule a visit for your dog or puppy.