This is part 4 of a series of blogs on the formula for Good & Happy Dogs. Read from part 1 here.
To be Good & Happy your dog needs to feel Good & Happy. That's hard if he's got pain, irritation, infection, disease or parasites. It's very easy to dismiss a dog's odd behaviour as "he's just grumpy" or "strange" when he might actually have an underlying health or hygiene issue.
You need a great team on your side for routine preventative care and in case of emergency.
- Qualified therapist eg hydro, physio, chiropractic or other.
It's really a shame when you have access to great professionals but your dog hates them and won't cooperate or melts down on visits. I know because my first dog needed valium shots to stay calm at the vets! In the ideal world you'd have a responsibly sourced puppy, great set of genes, great rearing environment, well "socialised", etc.... and you would take time to introduce your dog to his health and hygiene professionals. On top of that you'd teach your dog what was going to happen on visits by training him for cooperative care. Take a look at the series of simple tricks for easy care on my YouTube channel.
Take your vet's advice about vaccination and parasite control. There are opposing views about best practice. You must find a solution that you feel comfortable with and that is supported by your qualified professional. Keep up to date with the healthcare plan you've decided to follow whether that's boosters/titer testing, spot-ons/tablets/parasite counts or something else reputable. Things as simple as poor dental health or fleas can make your dog miserable. With the right veterinary advice they are easy to prevent and treat.
Groomers know how you should care for your pet's coat and you should definitely follow their advice. If they tell you to comb your dog through thoroughly once a week, make sure that you do. If they need your dog to come in for a full groom every 6 weeks, make sure you do. It may be that you have the grooming skills to maintain your dog's coat well yourself, but most owners of long coated and curly coated breeds don't. A significant problem for groomers is that owners don't listen to their advice which means the coat gets matted underneath and must be shaved off. The owner is then devastated and may take their dog to a less scrupulous groomer who puts your wishes before the dog's health. Matts are painful, dirty and lead to infection which is why a good groomer will shave your dog off rather than hurt them or leave knots underneath and prettify over the top. The worst story I've heard about poor dog hygiene is one from my vet nurse friend. She treated a thick coated northern breed who was left outdoors in the summer. He was old and a bit dirty. The heat, moisture and filth in his coat attracted blowflies. Flystrike is fast! Eggs hatch, maggots dissolve the skin to eat their way in, within days they are in the muscles and organs of the animal. Totally yuck! This happened multiple times to the same dog. All it would've taken is regular trips to the groomer to wash and blast out the coat, a cleaner yard and respite indoors to prevent this infection. Something less gross, such as a grass seed can cause havoc for your dog too. Keep your dog clean and tidy.
There may be a time that you choose to be referred to a specialist therapist. It could be your dog is suffering from dysplasia, muscle atrophy or recovering from an injury. You'll need a veterinary referral to see a physiotherapist or hydrotherapist and will probably be given exercises to do with your dog at home to help them progress between sessions. It really makes all the difference if you've spent time learning how to communicate with your dog (built a trusting relationship and learned how to train) in advance of needing these sorts of physical treatments.
There's not a single formula for keeping a dog happy, healthy and a joy to live with, but there are ways to increase your chances. I hope you've enjoyed reading my thoughts on looking after one aspect of the Good & Happy formula, health and hygiene, in today's blog. Read last week's on Socialization and keep a look out for Part 5: Good & Happy Nutrition next week.