Dog preventive care is essential to providing your dog a long, healthy life, and we can easily achieve it by staying on top of wellness visits and vaccinations. Much like humans, who see their doctor for an annual physical, dogs must see their veterinarian every year to screen for potential issues. It’s likely that you have questions about health and wellness for your dog, and that certainly involves preventive care. That is why we’ve taken the most frequently asked questions about dog preventive care and answered them for you here.
If you have further questions and are in the San Francisco, CA area, give us a call at (415) 333-0813 to schedule an appointment.
What is preventive care for dogs, and why is it important?
Preventive care is essentially wellness care for dogs, and it’s all about proactively doing things to keep your dog as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Preventive care for dogs includes the following:
- Regular exams
- Blood work for things such as heartworm and ticks
- Full wellness screens
Preventive care is a way for veterinarians to catch things early, protect your dog against disease, and give them the best quality of life possible.
What preventive care can I provide at home?
There are many things you can do at home to keep your dog healthy, and you’re likely already doing a lot of those things. A quality diet is a foundation for good health, and your veterinarian can help guide you through the confusing information you might find. Another thing you can do at home is exercise your dog. Even with high-energy, younger dogs, the physical and mental stimulation of a 5 to 10-minute walk once or twice daily can make a big difference.
There are also other forms of enrichment, like puzzle toys and games, for working your dog's brain when you can't work their body. Training is also a huge part of preventive care and enrichment for both their mental and behavioral health.
What information does my veterinarian need to know about my dog's lifestyle before providing preventive care recommendations?
Certain vaccinations might be needed for dogs with a specific lifestyle, such as a hunting dog that's outside in rugged conditions, or a water-loving dog that swims frequently. These lifestyles might expose them to parasites, so communicating those specifics to your veterinarian is necessary. There are also different diets for dogs that are much more active and athletic, requiring higher protein or fat. Understanding their activity level at home is also essential, especially as dogs become more prone to weight gain and osteoarthritis as they get older.
What recommendations will my veterinarian make when it comes to my dog's preventive care plan?
Dogs that are outdoors more often are at a higher risk for exposure to diseases, so they might require a more comprehensive vaccination schedule or other medications. An example would be medicated ear cleaners for dogs that swim often since they're more likely to have ear infections. Other preventive care recommendations depend on their history, like recommending weight loss if they're already a larger breed and more prone to osteoarthritis. Based on their living environment we will make specific recommendations.
How do I keep my dog safe in the car?
While we want our dogs to enjoy riding along with us, the safest thing is to secure your dog in the car. Several companies make high-quality safety harnesses that allow you to strap your dog in, either through the latch system in the car or through a seatbelt. If that's not a good option for your dog, you can use a crate in your back seat or hatchback. Your dog should never be in your lap, as they may cause a distraction and risk injury to you both.
When I'm exercising my dog, can they be off-leash?
While there may be circumstances where you can safely exercise your dog off-leash, you should always have your dog on a leash unless it is a secure environment where you can control who they come into contact with. Many dogs are great off-leash and come to you when called, but other dogs may not be comfortable interacting with your dog. If your dog is leashed and another dog is not, it can result in a conflict between them. It’s vital to use a leash unless you're in an empty dog park or an area you know is secure. It’s also important to remember that there are plenty of skunks, porcupines, and various other hazards you want to avoid, even when on private land.
Why should I keep my dog on a leash when in public?
Your dog should be on a leash in public for the safety of your dog, other animals, and other people around you. While your dog may listen well off-leash, there could be an unforeseen situation where you need to have control of your dog. If they see another animal and want to run toward it, you have no way to effectively stop them without a leash. It is also important to consider people who may be fearful of dogs. You should have your dog in your control in public at all times.
What can I do to keep my house and yard pet-safe?
It depends on the dog, including their size and the living environment. If you have a smaller breed dog who likes to sleep or cuddle with you, you can use ramps or pet ladders next to your furniture to avoid injury from falling. You should also make sure that they can’t access places where chemicals or other toxic substances are stored.
The American Animal Hospital Association offers a list of household items that can be toxic for pets, including types of plants. For dogs that spend a lot of time outside, make sure they have adequate shade, water, and ventilation, and that there are no holes in the fence where they can break through. A secure fence will also prevent other animals from entering your yard and coming into contact with your dog.
What pesticides are harmful to my dog?
Pesticides are harmful to most living things, so the best way to keep your dog safe is avoidance. Don’t use any pesticides if you do not need to. A commonly used pesticide is rat poison, which is incredibly toxic and can be deadly to dogs. If you must use it, put it somewhere a rat or mouse can access it, but your dog cannot. Inquire with your exterminator or lawn care service about what they are using and any precautions to take. When they do spray, allow adequate drying time before your dog is brought back into the space. Pesticides are more concentrated and toxic when wet, and you don’t want your dog coming into contact with surfaces that were just sprayed.
What are common health issues that can be prevented with wellness care?
There are many common health issues in dogs that can be avoided with preventatives, vaccines, and regular exams.
Some of the common dog health issues that we can prevent with vaccines are:
- Rabies – this vaccine is required by state law as it is a public health issue.
- Distemper, adenovirus (a type of virus that causes hepatitis), and parvovirus (an often fatal disease that is incredibly expensive to treat)
- Parainfluenza, a respiratory virus sometimes associated with “kennel cough.“
- Leptospirosis, a potentially deadly disease which is spread through the urine of infected animals and can survive in water or soil for weeks to months
We recommend tick preventives and testing for tick-borne diseases.
Some additional preventive care options you should consider for your dog are:
- Regarding additional vaccines, we routinely vaccinate for leptospirosis, a bacterial organism often found in areas where wildlife and rodents congregate.
- Heartworm and flea prevention is also standard and administered on a monthly or semi-annual basis.
- Monitoring weight can help prevent diabetes and osteoarthritis.
- Dental disease is also often overlooked, but regular dental exams and cleanings are good for overall wellness.
We can do many different things in terms of preventive care, first and foremost being a full annual physical to screen for problems.
If you have further questions about dog preventive care and if you live in or near the San Francisco, CA area, we’d love to see your dog for an annual wellness exam and screen for any issue. Give us a call at (415) 333-0813.