Taking care of your pet’s mental and physical health is the key to their overall happiness and like with humans, it really does show in their appearance.
A twitchy wet nose, bright sparkly eyes and a shiny coat are all signs of good health and making sure your pet is in peak physical condition, will help them as they grow and develop.
Any behaviourist will tell you that a fit and well animal will be much more receptive to general training and learning more complex commands, and this applies particularly to puppies in the early stages of their development.
We’ve taken a tip to toe look at some of the things you can do to take care of your dog so that they are in top condition.
Grooming Tip: Use grooming as your everyday health check
Grooming your pet isn’t just a cosmetic thing – as well as a way to keep him looking in show condition, it’s a chance to do a regular general health evaluation. It’s important to start grooming early with a puppy so that their sensitive skin gets accustomed to brushes and combs. This is particularly important if you ever have to treat your pet for fleas or any skin conditions they might pick up on their adventures.
If you welcome an older dog into your home who isn’t used to grooming, pet behaviourists suggest you start with just showing them the brush you intend to use – let them sniff it and realise it is nothing to be afraid of. Over the course of a few days you can gradually begin to gently brush their fur, taking particular care over their hind legs and chest hair which often gets overlooked.
It’s also important to get the right tools for the job – you can find many different styles of brush and comb for all different types of dog. Make sure when buying grooming products that you pay particular note of their coat type – whether they shed and what length the fur is.
Once your pet is used to regular grooming and you become familiar with their anatomy, you can use this opportunity to check for anything unusual, lumps and bumps and as important, for ticks and other parasites that might take up residence in your pet’s coat.
Grooming is the backbone of keeping an eye on your pet’s health and it’ll help with the continued bonding process too. Set a schedule to do this often and your pet will always look his best!
Bathing Tip: Less is best, chemical free
Like many pet care issues, bathing frequency, products and methods are hugely controversial. Let’s start with the irrefutable. Sometimes, regardless of what your furry friend has found to roll in, you cannot bath them. This might be after a flea treatment or whilst they are taking medication for other skin or coat conditions.
We asked a bunch of pet parents “how often do you bath your dog?” and the answers were many! However, the three most common answers were “when they get into something disgusting and I have to!”; “on a regular schedule, once a week/month”; and lastly, “when they go to the groomer”.
Much like coat care, this is another breed and lifestyle dependent topic. The general consensus is now that frequent washing of dogs is unnecessary and chemical free shampoos are essential so as not to strip your dogs fur and skin of vital oils.
Outdoor adventure dogs however might need a good scrub more often than their urban dwelling companion counterparts but sometimes a simple paw wash will do – removing grit, sand, mud and other gunk allows you to have a good feel… which leads on to checking your pets paws.
Checking Paws Tip – Do this everyday
We all experience seasonal changes in our skin and your dog’s paws are no different. However, your pups paws are also subject to a continuous assault from environmental elements – and not all of those are natural. In winter, your pup will likely get gritty, salty road and path treatments on their paws and it’s important that you clean them every time they come in from a walk.
Having a good feel of your pup’s paws is one of the most important things your vet advises you to accomplish with your puppy from the very beginning –– desensitising them to this process will make life easier in the long run as this is perhaps the most important task on your everyday to do list!
Pups that spend a lot of time out and about on walks, either in urban areas or in the countryside should have a daily paw check. In urban areas you should be checking for grit and stones and wiping them down to free the pads from chemicals like salt and fuel. Country dogs have the added concern of nasty splinters and grass seeds which make their way between your dog’s pads, causing considerable discomfort and is often accompanied by a visit to the vet.
Trimming nails – get a training session with your vet!
Age and breed dependent, your dog will also require their nails trimming on a regular basis and, if you’ve taken the time and effort to desensitize your dog to having their paws touched, this should pose little stress to her. The process does not hurt but many people find it challenging so leave it to the expertise of the vet or their grooming technician if you’re very nervous of messing up.
It’s important to trim your pups nails for a variety of reasons – when their nails are too long, it causes discomfort, affects their posture and can damage the structure of their entire paw if left unmanaged.
Older dogs have faster growing nails and often take a little less exercise so their nails don’t benefit from the same wear of a younger dog. Indoor dogs; dogs that only play on grass; and those whose paws rarely touch paved areas will need a trip to the nail bar every so often.
The best advice we can offer is ask your vet to show you exactly how to trim your dog’s nails, ask him to supervise you to ensure you have the technique mastered, and then invest in some high quality dog specific nail clippers. The better quality the blade, the cleaner the cut and the less chance there is of fracturing the nail or causing any discomfort to the animal.
Nose care tip – Slap on the sunscreen!
Your dog’s nose is arguably it’s most important resource – with over 300 million scent receptors in their noses, their sense of smell is approximately 40 times as powerful as ours. They read the world with their noses and so it’s critical to their overall wellbeing that this window to their world is in mint condition.
Obviously, you’d report any changes in the overall look and texture of your pup’s nose to their vet but one of our top tips for nose care is sunscreen!
Do not underestimate the importance of protecting your pooch against the same harmful rays that cause premature aging and UV related sun damage in humans – and that includes their noses! The same general advice applies however, it’s important not slap human sunscreen on your dog (or cat) without looking very carefully at the ingredients.
Both zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) which are common in human sunscreens are toxic to dogs and will not be present in a canine specific cream or spray. If you are in an emergency situation and can’t get hold of any canine sun cream, check out baby cream for sensitive skin and keep an eye out for those ingredients.
Tooth and mouth care tip – keep it natural
There are many products on the market for doggie teeth and gum health and many of them are crammed full of chemicals and who knows what to try to alleviate that pong from your dog’s breath.
It’s important to understand that there are many reasons why your dog’s breath might smell so if you’re concerned, better to see your vet than to try to navigate the millions of dental products on the market.
However, if you’re looking for something that will help your dog scratch that chewing itch, then consider a chew root. Without the risks associated with bones (shards), wooden toys (splinters) and synthetic chew toys (chemical ingestion), chew roots are a safe and natural solution to help dogs of all ages scrape off that tartar and prevent them knawing on your favourite chair!
Chew roots are exactly what they say – the root ball of a tree – commonly the Araack tree – dried for months to firm them up, leaving them splinter free and completely natural.
You may also consider the conventional tooth brush and tooth paste as part of your dogs dental care regime. Look for toothpastes for dogs made from natural ingredients. These help reduce plaque and tartar. They are usually enzymatic meaning they do not form and does not require rinsing.
Dog toothbrush on the other hand comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Choose the appropriate size for your dog. There is the standard toothbrush with long curved handles, finger toothbrush that goes over your finger and large toothbrush stick seen below:
Eye care tips – weepy eyes and seaweed products
If your pets are like ours, you will instantly be able to tell if something is up with your pooch by the look in their eyes but, like with humans there are also a great number of health issues that have symptoms exhibited in the eyes. Your pet may have environmental or food allergies or other inflammation of some sort which causes their eyes to weep and this is extremely common. The good news is that there are some excellent natural remedies on the market to alleviate this issue and to many dog owners, Oculus Prime has been life changing for their dog. Again – as with anything we’ve mentioned here, if you are in any doubt, make sure to check with your vet.
There you have the basics when it comes to pet care…coat, paws, nose, eyes and mouth – your tip to toe pet care tips, every owner should know!