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Owning a puppy or dog is a big responsibility, and naturally, one of the most important concerns for this new family member will be health care. Good health care is important for the well-being (physical and mental) and longevity of your dog. Good preventative health care, including veterinary exams, parasite control, dentistry, grooming, vaccinations, microchips/ID tags, and proper nutrition will likely lead to fewer health problems and lower veterinary bills throughout your pet’s life.
Your dog’s veterinarian is one of the most important people in your dog’s life. You should select a local Oklahoma veterinarian for your new dog before you bring it home, and make sure to schedule your dog’s first appointment as soon as possible. The first veterinary visit gives your dog and its new doctor an opportunity to establish a relationship. It also allows the veterinarian to identify any potential long-term health problems and to confirm the health status you were told when you adopted your pet.
When you meet with the veterinarian, be sure to discuss your daily care routines, home environment, any anticipated problems or concerns you may have, behaviors that seem abnormal, and any grooming needs like nail trimming and bathing requirements. Your veterinarian will examine your dog to ensure overall good health. At Pet Medical Center of Edmond, a full examination includes checking health of bones, joints, and muscles; heart; lungs; eyes; ears; and skin and coat. Blood testing may be performed to check heartworm disease status, tickborne disease status, general blood health, general internal organ health, and diabetes status. It’s common to have a fecal analysis done at the first visit as well to rule out gastrointestinal parasites.
Your dog may experience some stress going to the vet. Hopefully every visit to the veterinary clinic will be a happy one! Try to provide positive reinforcement with every visit. If your pet has a favorite treat, bring it along for staff members to offer. Occasionally stop in at the veterinary office with your dog for a social visit, so that the staff can make a fuss over your dog without poking and prodding. Pet your dog and give it praise when it behaves well and calmly at the veterinary office. Fortunately, our Pet Medical Center staff are experienced at handling dogs of all sorts and will likely make your job much easier.
After the first visit and your dog’s initial vaccinations, you should plan on getting your dog checked by the vet once a year, although you may need to go more frequently if other health issues arise.
A basic vaccination series should be a part of your puppy’s initial health care schedule. The series will typically involve visits at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Pet Medical Center recommends administering the distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza vaccines at all three visits. The leptospirosis vaccine should be administered at the 12- and 16-week visits. Intranasal Bordetella and rabies vaccines can be administered any time after 12 weeks (either the 12- or the 16-week visit). If you adopt a dog that is older than four months and has not been vaccinated, then your veterinarian may suggest a slightly different protocol.
Female dogs are spayed and male dogs are neutered to remove reproductive organs and therefore prevent pregnancy. But some other health issues also provide compelling reasons for spaying and neutering dogs.
Intact female dogs can develop cancers or other health issues that are related to the presence of hormones. Spaying removes the source of many of those hormones. Breast cancer is related to the production of estrogen, and spaying prior to the first heat cycle (typically between 6 and 12 months of age) largely eliminates this potential problem. Older females with intact reproductive organs can contract a life-threatening infection of the uterus (pyometra) that is related to the presence of a hormone called progesterone.
Males that are not neutered often exhibit aggressive behaviors, which can be dangerous to them, other animals, and people. A dog that was well-behaved and calm in its youth can suddenly show a pack mentality and become more aggressive, chase cars, try to get loose to roam freely, or bark and growl a lot, all as a result of high testosterone levels. Many of these habits become hard to break. A male dog neutered between six months and one year of age will be much more likely to retain its youthful charm.
Spaying and neutering are common canine surgeries, and they require some form of anesthesia. Your dog may be under the weather for a few days as a result of the surgery, but typically, dogs return to normal within 24 to 48 hours. The majority of healing will occur within the first 14 days. Restricting activity during the healing process will greatly reduce postoperative pain and complications.
Your dog is likely to have some health issues during its life. Some of these issues (such as some cancers) are unavoidable, but many health issues can be prevented with vaccinations, parasite control, good nutrition (prevention of obesity), prevention of dental disease, and spaying or neutering.
Fleas and Ticks and Your Dog. Fleas are external parasites that cause a skin allergy, a common skin disease for dogs and cats. Ticks latch on to the skin and burrow in to feed on blood. Both can be itchy, annoying and unhealthy for both you and your dog. Keeping your dog flea and tick free is easier today thanks to a variety of products that can be applied/administered once-a-month. Even on good preventative medications, it’s still a good idea to visually inspect your dog’s skin for signs of fleas during daily grooming and check for ticks after returning from trips to tall grasses, forests, streams, lakes, etc…
Internal Parasites. Whipworms, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are parasites that can enter your dog’s intestinal system and create serious health problems (these parasites can also enter the intestinal tract of humans!). Heartworms are passed on to dogs through mosquitoes. Regular monthly preventative medications are the best way to help your dog avoid these parasites. No prevention is 100% effective at stopping transmission of these parasites, so even when your pet is on regular monthly prevention medications, it is important for your vet to perform annual testing for heartworm and gastrointestinal parasites.
Poisoning and Your Dog. Many common indoor and outdoor plants in Edmond and across Oklahoma can be poisonous to dogs. Before your bring your dog home, consider ridding your home of any houseplants that appear on the list below. Don’t let your dog eat plants and leaves when outdoors. If you do suspect poisoning, get your pet to Pet Medical Center or an emergency veterinarian immediately. You should also keep the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline number near your phone in case of emergency. You can reach this 24/7 hotline by calling 1-888-426-4435.
Following is a partial list developed by the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center of common plants that are poisonous to dogs and cats: