Health is a complicated subject and everyone knows you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Still, there are some simple, uncontroversial things you should keep in mind when it comes to caring for your pup.

Below you’ll find information on what supplies you’ll want to have in your home, how often you should take your dog in for a checkup, what shots your dog should have, and how to deal with minor illnesses and injuries.

Supplies

Here’s a short list of things you’ll want to have on hand in case your dog experiences any minor or major issues:

1. Phone numbers and addresses

You don’t want to find yourself scrambling in an emergency. Have the phone numbers and addresses of the following experts on hand at all times (your best bet is to store them in your phone, if like most people, that’s something you always have with you)

  • Your veterinarian
  • An emergency veterinary clinic (in case you can’t reach your vet)
  • A poison hotline (such as the ASPCA poison-control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)

2. Medical paperwork for your pet

If your dog is bit or has a weird cough, you don’t want to have to wonder what vaccines he’s received. For that reason you’ll want to keep on hand:

  • Vaccination records including rabies vaccination status
  • Other medical records, especially if your dog has a special condition

3. Pet first aid book

This may seem excessive, but have a predetermined go-to source in the event that your pet experiences a health issue. You’d rather spend time giving care to caring for your pet than analyzing the ever-changing first page results on Google to decide what resources to trust.

4. First aid kit for dogs

This may seem unnecessary given how infrequently you use your first aid kit for humans, but think of how not having a simple band-aid turns a little finger cut into a major inconvenience. The same thing is true for your pup. If you don’t have the right supplies on hand, the chances of successfully treating your pup’s minor scrapes and bruises go down significantly, and your chances of infections and other issues goes up.

Regular Checkups

You should ask your vet how often they think your dog should have regular wellness checkups, but in general here’s what you can expect:

Puppies

From newborn to four months of age, a puppy should be seen by a vet once a month.

Healthy Adults

Dogs aren’t technically adults until they’re 2-3 years old, but starting at the age of 6 months, they usually only need to get a checkup by the vet once or twice a year. Even healthy dogs need to receive booster vaccinations; get prescriptions for heartworm, flea, and tick prevention; and have their teeth and poop analyzed.

Senior Dogs

Smaller breeds of dogs are considered senior around the age of 8 years old. Larger breeds are seniors around the age of 6. At these ages, dogs may need more frequent checkups, depending on their overall health. Even if they’re relatively healthy, regular checkups with your vet will help you determine if you need to make any necessary changes to their diet or exercise routine, and track any physical changes that may predict future issues.

Immunization Shots

You should visit a vet as soon as you can after bringing a new dog home. During this first visit, your vet will be able to tell you what, if any, further immunizations your dog needs.

To avoid having to administer any unnecessary shots, take note of what shots your pup has already had. A good breeder or rescue facility will give you this information without you even having to ask.

Even with all of these experts in your court, you should still be aware of the typical shots dogs get and when they usually get them:

Note: This is just one example of a typical immunization routine. It’s not the only accepted routine. Your vet will recommend a specific immunization routine for your dog.

DHLPPC (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvo and corona)

  • First vaccination: 6 to 8 weeks
  • Second vaccination: 9 to 11 weeks
  • Third vaccination: 12 to 14 weeks
  • Fourth vaccination: 16 to 17 weeks
  • Booster shots: 12 months

Bordetella

  • First vaccination: 14 weeks
  • Booster shots: 6 months

Rabies

  • First vaccination: 16 weeks (varies by state)
  • Booster shots: 12-36 months

Giardia

  • First vaccination: 14 weeks
  • Second vaccination: 17 weeks
  • Booster shots: 12 months

Lyme

  • First vaccination: 14 weeks
  • Second vaccination: 17 weeks
  • Booster shots: 12 months

Treating Illnesses

Dogs can get minor illnesses, like a cold or diarrhea, but sometimes the symptoms that accompany them are actually signs of more serious issues. You should contact your vet if you have any doubts.

The general rule of thumb is that puppies and senior dogs should both be examined by a vet any time they have cold-like symptoms.

Some signs that your dog is sick:

1. Behavior changes

  • Sleeping more or moving less than usual
  • Irritable or agitated
  • Extra needy or clingy
  • Withdrawn or avoidance of human attention

2. Breathing issues

You should consult your vet if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • A loud, honking cough
  • Noisy or wheezy breathing
  • Persistent heavy breathing
  • Persistent cough lasting more than 24 hours
  • Persistent runny nose
  • Persistent gagging
  • Persistent nasal discharge, especially with mucus or blood

3. Potty concerns

You should consult your vet if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • Issues trying to pee
  • Issues trying to poop
  • Peeing or pooping accidents by a housetrained dog
  • Increased urination or pooping

4. Stomach issues

Vomiting and diarrhea alone aren’t cause for alarm. These can be the result of too much food, the wrong food, or even from eating objects that aren’t really food. However, you should consult your vet if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • Refuses or doesn’t want to eat
  • Persistent vomiting lasting more than 24 hours
  • Persistent diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
  • Bloody poop
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Persistent dry heaves and a swollen belly may be a sign of “bloat,” a condition that can affect large breeds, especially if they over-exert themselves soon after eating. This is life threatening and you should seek emergency medical treatment.

5. Changes in their appearance

You should consult your vet if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • Lumps or bumps that weren’t there before
  • Changes in existing lumps or bumps
  • Any Bloody or oozing sores
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Rashes
  • Hair loss
  • Persistent itch
  • Persistent head shaking
  • Persistent ear scratching

6. Fever

The only way to diagnose a fever in a dog is to use a thermometer. In other words, you can’t rely on the conventional wisdom that a cold wet nose is the sign of a healthy puppy. If your dog is showing signs of illness and has a temperature above 103° fahrenheit, then you should take him to the vet.

Dogs are especially susceptible to heat stroke. If they’re having fun they sometimes over exert themselves, even in hot conditions. In this scenario you should try to cool them down while seeking emergency medical care immediately.

7. Visible Pain

Since most dogs suffer in silence, it might not be obvious that your dog is suffering. That’s why you should consult your vet if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of bones or joints
  • Issues chewing, including uncommon drooling
  • Signs of stiffness that lasts more than 24 hours
  • Reluctance to move, jump, or walk
  • Signs of agitation or guarding of body parts, sometimes even growling

8. Head Problems

If your dog is acting funny and you observe any of the following symptoms, you should consult your vet immediately:

  • Seizures
  • Persistent twitching
  • Persistent circling
  • Stumbling
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Repetitive twitches

Treating Minor Injuries

Your dog isn’t bulletproof so he’s susceptible to cuts and bruises, especially on his legs or paws. After any vigorous play session, be it in the woods, at a dog park, or even in your backyard, you should be observant of any potential issues with your dog.

If you do find a minor cut on your dog, here’s how to treat it:

Note: If your dog is showing signs of a swollen joint or bone, the exposed area is bleeding profusely, or is oozing, consult a vet immediately.

  1. Clean the injury with warm water. Try to also use a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in the water.
  2. Use a cloth rag or towel to clean the injury. Tissues, cotton balls, paper towels and other flimsy materials may leave behind fibers in the wound.
  3. If your dog has a bruise, apply a cold compress such as ice wrapped in a cold wet towel and keep it in place for a few minutes.
  4. Use your first aid kit for dogs to bandage the wound. This helps keep it clean and free from infection, but also prevents your dog from excessively licking it. Be sure to change the bandages every day.
  5. If you have any doubts about the seriousness of the injury, call your vet.

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