Answers to Common Dog Health Questions

Image of a yellow Labrador Retriever

Dog ownership comes with a lot of responsibilities, and one of the most important is to provide your pet with adequate health care. Since most of pet lovers are not veterinarians, they wind up having a lot of dog health questions. But that's okay; questions are good. Asking questions is how people learn, and the accumulated knowledge can only help everyone take better care of their beloved canines.

Frequently Asked Dog Health Questions

Sooner or later, every owner has some dog health questions. Here are answers to some of the most common ones.

How often should I take my dog to the vet?

This largely depends on your dog's age and overall health.Puppies will see a vet more frequently in the first few months of life as they receive vaccinations and routine de-worming. Sometimes teething difficulties become an issue and also require a little extra veterinary care.

On average, a healthy pet in the prime of life will only need an annual check up, including a yearly booster shot if your vet recommends one, a follow up rabies vaccination every three years, and yearly heartworm testing and prevention.

Senior pets may require more frequent visits to the vet should their health begin to decline.

How many and what type of vaccinations should my dog receive?

The standard vaccine dogs are given is the DA2PP, a combination vaccination against:

  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus Type 2
  • Parainfluenza
  • Parvo

Some vets also prefer to use a combination shot that includes protection against leptospirosis, but because this particular vaccine has been known to cause adverse reactions in some pets, owners have the option of leaving this one out.

Additionally, a rabies vaccination is required by law. Depending on the type of rabies vaccine given, boosters will be required every one to three years. Puppies should receive initial vaccinations at approximately six, nine, and twelve weeks old, with a rabies vaccination given between four and six months of age.

What are worms, and how do dogs get them?

Worms are intestinal parasites that can populate your dog's digestive system and rob it of vital nutrition. Worms and their ova enter your dog's system via eating contaminated dirt, stools, and vomit; thus beginning a fresh life cycle. Your vet can diagnose worms through a fecal sample and administer medication to safely eliminate them.

Do I need to put my dog on heartworm preventative if she's not an "outside dog"?

Most dogs do go outside to relieve themselves, and it only takes a few minutes of exposure during peak season to be bitten by a mosquito. Since heartworms can be fatal if left untreated, it's better to have your pet tested during her yearly checkup and kept on preventative during the summer.

Why does my dog's breath smell bad?

Bad breath is usually one of the first signs of a gum infection. While canines rarely get cavities, tartar build up around the gum line harbors harmful bacteria that can get under the gums, causing an infection that has the possibility of traveling through the bloodstream to your dog's heart.

If your pet's breath smells bad, it's time for a trip to the vet.

Why does my dog scratch so much?

Scratching can be a sign of flea infestation, allergies, or a combination of both. A flea problem can be treated by using flea shampoos, dips, or products such as Frontline, however, allergy problems need to be addressed by your vet to determine the exact cause of the irritation.

My dog is getting fat. What should I do?

Canine obesity puts extra stress on your dog's skeletal/muscular system and internal organs.

First, take your dog to the vet to be sure there are no underlying medical conditions causing the weight gain that need to be addressed. Then, you will need to feed your pet a well-balanced dog food in slightly smaller portions than he's used to while you take him for daily walks to increase his exercise. Work gradually until you have found your dog's proper balance between food and exercise that will allow him to remain at a healthy weight without further weight loss.

Do I really need to have my dog spayed/neutered?

There are definite advantages to having the procedure done. Neutering eliminates the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, and if performed before your pet reaches maturity, it can stave off the possibility of your dog developing certain types of cancers.

My dog chews everything, even the electrical cords. What can I do to stop this?

Chewing electrical cords can prove fatal if your pet makes contact with the live wires beneath the covering. To lessen your dog's chewing, you will need to take several steps.

  1. Pick up all loose items you don't want your pet to chew.
  2. Spray all remaining items and furniture with a product called Bitter Apple to make them taste bad to your pet.
  3. Give your dog one or two items he is encouraged to chew.
  4. Remain vigilant, and give your dog a very strong "NO" command if he tries to chew something he shouldn't, so he learns the difference.

Do You Have More Questions?

If you have more dog health questions, or just questions about dogs in general, you've come to the right place! Visit the LTK Dogs Advice page and there you'll find links to past questions from members of our online community, plus space for you to ask questions of your own.

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Answers to Common Dog Health Questions