Dog Health: Healthy Dog Basics

Post Pic

As dog owners and people who care deeply for animals and wildlife, we wanted our Dog Encyclopedia to be a website that could empower pet owners to create the most positive, loving environment for their dogs. Dog Encyclopedia realizes that owning a dog is like adding a new member to your family.

Your dog's health and behavior go together, one directly impacts the other. Dogs with proper health care and appropriate behavior will also make your life more delightful. The most important aspect of your dog's well-being is health. An unhealthy dog will not benefit as much from training and may also develop behavior problems.
Veterinary Care
High-quality veterinary care sets the foundation for your dog’s overall health. Find a veterinarian you can trust and visit regularly. Ideally, routine wellness examinations should be performed by your vet twice a year. Puppies and senior dogs should be seen even more frequently. If your dog has special needs, a chronic health condition or other illness, comply with your vet’s recommendations. Because your dog ages at a faster rate than you, many subtle changes can develop over a six to twelve month period. Routine visits allow your vet to closely monitor changes before your dog’s health gets out of control. Learn how to effectively communicate with your vet and you can expect the same in return. If you can develop a good connection with your vet, it can lead to long-term benefit for you and your dog. Check out our glossary of Dog Diseases and Illnesses.

Proper nutrition is a fundamental for keeping all dogs healthy. Diet directly affects your dog’s skin and coat, weight, energy level, and gastrointestinal function. If a problem occurs in one of these areas, it may be linked to improper diet. Choose a high-quality dog food made by a reputable company, or learn about homemade diets. Once you find the right food for your dog, use that food consistently. Watch your dog’s response to the diet over 4-8 weeks. How does her coat look? It should be shiny and free of flakes, but not greasy. Have you noticed a change in her energy level? A decrease in energy could indicate a problem. Has she lost or gained weight? Obesity in dogs is a very common problem which can often be reversed with proper diet and exercise. Excess weight loss may occur if your dog does not find the food palatable. If her response to the diet is poor, it may be time to look into other foods. A sudden change in dog foods can cause gastrointestinal upset, so switch over gradually unless otherwise directed by your vet.

Many dog owners underestimate their dogs’ exercise needs in relation to keeping their dog healthy. Destructive behavior may lead to a diagnosis of separation anxiety or other behavioral problems. While these conditions truly exist, in many cases the behavior is actually the result of an energy surplus. If you feed your dog a healthy diet, it should give her plenty of energy. However, if your dog can’t release that energy with exercise, it may be released on your furniture, carpet, doorways, or even your prized collection of rare books. Before you blame your dog for the damage, ask yourself if she’s getting enough exercise. In general, dogs need at least 1-2 hours of exercise per day, but this varies by breed, size and age. No two dogs are the same, so discovering your dog’s exercise needs may require some trial and error. When in doubt, give your dog as much exercise as she wants, but don’t overdo it. Watch her closely for signs of exhaustion such as heavy panting, wheezing, lameness, disorientation, and slowing or stopping to lie down during activities. Avoid outdoor activities on very hot days, and be sure your dog has access to fresh, cool water at all times. There are many activities you can do with your dog while exercising at the same time. Try walking, running or hiking with your dog and see how much better you feel. Some activities provide more exercise for your dog than for you, but are still a fun way to bond. Play fetch with a ball or disc, visit the dog park.

Dental Care
Dogs need dental care, too! Unfortunately, dental hygiene for dogs is sometimes overlooked. Many people seem to just expect dogs to have bad breath, and few people brush their dogs’ teeth frequently enough. Plaque and tartar build-up can lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until dental disease is present - start focusing on dental care right now, if you nave not already. You can brush your dog's teeth, use oral rinses, feed dental treats, or all of the above - just do something. Catching teeth problems early will help avoid severe dental disease. The simplest way to keep track of your dog’s teeth is to look at them on a regular basis and be aware of signs that may indicate a problem. To inspect your dog’s teeth, lift the lips all around the mouth, looking at the front and back teeth as closely as possible. Be gentle and use caution so you do not accidentally get nipped! Your veterinarian will also take a look at your dog’s teeth during routine examinations, so make sure you keep up with these.

Warning Signs
Because our dogs cannot speak in words, we must rely on the signs they give us when it comes to analyzing our dog's health. Your dog may exhibit a variety of signs that indicate a health problem. Just like you, your dog can develop a mild illness that resolves on its own, so not all signs are cause for alarm. However, many dogs will instinctively try to conceal signs of serious illness. You know your own dog better than anyone else, so you may be the first to notice that something is wrong. However, family and friends who do not see your dog every day may notice subtle changes that need to be addressed. Immediately contact your veterinarian or go to an emergency clinic if you observe any of the following signs:
Blue, white or very pale gums
Labored breathing
Collapse or loss of consciousness
Dizziness, imbalance, or circling
Extremely bloated abdomen
Signs of acute severe pain (such as crying out very loudly and excessively) Body temperature over 104 or under 99 (normal is typically 100.5-102.5) In general, you should contact your vet if you notice any signs that you deem abnormal for your dog. It is better to be cautious than to wait.



You can help provide a better life for dogs in need. Find out how to support canine rights and welfare. The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but our stray and feral animal overpopulation problem, in many areas of this country rivals that of some of the poorest countries of the world. 

Dog Breeds:

Dog Encyclopedia has added beautiful dog photographs on each of our Dog Breed pages to enhance your experience. Each section in Dog Encyclopedia helps to educate pet owners, enabling both the dog, and the owner to have a safe, high quality experience