dr hahnz

Dog health tips: Keeping your dog in good shape

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dr hahnz

Your dog’s routine visit to the vet

When you take your dog to the vet, you should try to give the vet all the information about your dog’s health that you think is important, so he has as much information on the animal as possible. The check-ups at the vets are necessary for the vet to give your dog its vaccinations, listening to its heart and lungs, examining its abdomen and taking a look at the condition of its coat, as well as checking up on its teeth and gums, eyes, ears, and its appearance in general. Its faeces may also be analysed to make sure that it doesn’t have intestinal parasites, and it may even get a full dental health check-up.

Dog Health Home checks

Regular good hygiene habits will let you pick up on any irregularities in your dog’s health, so special attention should be paid when cleaning its eyes, ears and teeth – as mentioned in the section on hygiene – so you can make sure that your dog’s health is in good shape. You should also look at:

Body and coat: Check to make sure that your dog’s body and coat is healthy by running your hand over its flank and paying particular attention to any lumps or strange-feeling patches that you come across. Take a close look at the roots of its hair to check for parasites.

Paws: Your dog’s paws should look normal and should not be swollen or have a strange appearance. Also, check the area between its toes as this is prone to fungal infections and parasitic infestations.

Nose: This should be damp and mucous-free.

Rectum: You should regularly check for any abnormal signs or if you see your dog trying to scratch itself here, as this could indicate that it has parasites. Apart from the visible effects, if your dog gets sick you will see changes in its behaviour or some other symptoms. Let’s have a look at what these could be:

  • It has a fever
  • It goes for more than a whole day without wanting to eat
  • It has diarrhoea, is constipated, has difficulty in urinating or defecating or passes blood when doing so
  • Vomiting
  • It is in severe pain, or continual discomfort
  • It pants excessively or has difficulty breathing (its tongue turns blue)
  • It coughs or sneezes excessively
  • It shakes its head (this may be due to a problem with its ears)
  • It suddenly limps for no apparent reason
  • It scratches or bites itself
  • It behaves aggressively
  • It hides and is easily frightened
  • It has bad breath

This is not a complete list of possible symptoms, so make sure you talk to your vet if you notice anything abnormal or if you suspect that something may be wrong with your dog’s health.

Parasites

Unfortunately, parasites are a very frequent form of torture for animals. They can start to have a negative effect on animals from when they are very young or even before the animal is born, so from the start it will be an aspect that you will have to keep a close eye on. As with everything, prevention is the best cure. And if you don’t manage to prevent your dog from picking up parasites in time, getting rid of them may be very difficult. Prevention is essential for your dog’s health as well as for your own, as there are some parasites that can affect humans as well.

Types of parasites

  • Internal parasites: These are found in the digestive tract and you will need to analyse your dog’s faeces in order to detect these parasites. They can be treated from an early age and the anti-parasitic treatment can be repeated according to instructions from your vet
  • Ancylostoma: This is transmitted during the gestation and lactation period, and is the most dangerous of the intestinal type of parasites. The symptoms that are produced are lethargy, anaemia, loss of appetite, and black faeces or faeces that has traces of blood.
  • Tapeworm: This is reproduced through swallowing a flea or can be picked up from rodents. The worms feed on what the dog eats in such a way that the dog is unable to put on weight.
  • Roundworm: This is detected if the abdomen is distended and can also be detected in the faeces. It could cause abnormal growth, vomiting, diarrhoea or pneumonia, although symptoms are not always produced.
  • Trichinella: The condition known as Trichinosis causes chronic inflammation of the intestine, which is where this larvae establishes itself, as well as faeces covered in mucous, loss of weight and diarrhoea.
  • Coccidia: This condition can be avoided by not giving your dog raw or rare meat. If your dog has these microbes in his intestine he will show symptoms of diarrhoea, fever and loss of appetite and weight loss, although as in the case of other disorders, the dog may not necessarily show symptoms.
  • Dog heartworm: This is a very dangerous parasite, difficult to eradicate but easy to prevent, which is something that is very worthwhile doing. It is transmitted through a mosquito bite and lives mainly in the heart.
  • External parasites: These can be found by examining the dog’s coat.
  • Fleas: These can be picked up from the surrounding environment or from the dog’s mother. You will know if your dog has fleas as it will scratch and bite at itself quite often, or if it has red stains on its skin or black dots in its fur around its neck or back. Fleas can cause allergic dermatitis, which appears as scab-covered sores. As fleas spend half of their lives on the dog’s body, the best way to prevent them is by treating the dog and where it lives at the same time. You can get rid of fleas in several different ways: sprays, powders, pipettes, etc. provided that these products are suitable for use on dogs. Ask your local vet for more precise information as mixing different chemical products could be hazardous. Wash the dog’s bedding thoroughly in hot water and, if the vet recommends doing so, spray the bedding with a flea spray. Clean carpets thoroughly, vacuuming them and throwing away the dust bag from the vacuum cleaner after vacuuming. If you can’t get rid of the fleas call in a specialist pest control expert.
  • Ticks: A bite from a tick can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease and other diseases. If you live in a region where ticks are prevalent, ask your vet for more detailed information. If you find a tick on your dog, remove it quickly and carefully – wear gloves and use tweezers. It is important to remove the head. Disinfect the affected area with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and ask your vet if further treatment is required.
  • Lice: These can be easily controlled using flea sprays or other flea repellent products that are suitable for use on dogs.
  • Mange: There are two types of this condition, the sarcoptic and the demodectic types. The first of these produces an irritating itch, which results in the dog scratching himself a lot; the skin becomes dry and wrinkled, the hair falls out and scabs appear on the surface of the skin. It is highly contagious even for people, so you should take your dog to the vet as soon as you discover that he has this condition. The second variety can provoke symptoms ranging from stains on the skin to pustules. You should also take your dog to the vet as soon as you find signs of this variety of mange. Both of these types of mange, apart from being highly contagious, are very difficult to treat.
  • Ear mites: These cause itching inside the ears and cause dogs to scratch or shake their head from side to side. Ear mites look like blackish coloured earwax, dry blood or grains of coffee. This condition should be treated by a vet.
  • Ringworm: This is highly contagious and can be transmitted to humans. Ringworms are produced by a fungus and can be detected as they leave oval-shaped stains or bald spots on the dog’s skin. To prevent this condition you should avoid contact with other dogs. Ringworm can be treated with special medication prescribed by your vet.

Vaccinations

Canine diseases are picked up very easily and although pups get antibodies from their mothers during lactation, these antibodies are insufficient as the pups lose them at between 6 and 16 weeks old. For this reason, dogs have to be vaccinated. Vaccines contain a very small dose of the disease that the dog is being vaccinated against which stimulates their body into producing its own defences or antibodies. Your vet will tell you when to vaccinate your dog. The majority of vaccines are given in several doses when pups are between six and sixteen weeks old. From then on, you should vaccinate your dog every year.

Neutering

Careful consideration should be given to the option of neutering your dog unless you actually want to raise pups, or in the case of your dog being a pedigree for example. Neutering is a good solution to prevent increasing numbers of abandoned dogs or animals in dog pounds that have to be put down because nobody wants them.

Sterilisation in female dogs

You should take the decision to have your dog sterilised before she goes into heat for the first time. This surgical procedure, which involves removing the uterus and ovaries, requires a general anaesthetic given that it is done through abdominal surgery and your dog will have to spend a couple of days at the vets for observation. Following surgery, your dog will no longer have a menstrual cycle and will probably be less likely to suffer from health problems such as breast tumours and urinary infections, etc. If a female dog is not sterilised she will require much more care and attention.

Castration in male dogs 

This is quite a safe surgical procedure that your dog will quickly recover from, and involves removing the dog’s testicles. Your vet will inform you of the best time to have this procedure carried out. Besides minimising the risk of prostate cancer or infections in the prostate, it may also produce a change in your dog’s character, making it more docile.

How to medicate your dog

You may not know how to go about giving your dog its medicine the first time you have to do this. You could try mixing it in with its food, though this is not a very good idea as it might be able to detect the medicine because of its different taste and may refuse to eat at all – with the result being that it gets neither its food nor the medicine. It is better to learn how to give it the medicine separately from its food. If you have to give it a tablet or a capsule, tilt its head back, open its mouth and place the tablet at the end of its tongue. Then close its mouth and wait until it swallows while stroking its throat.

If you have to give it a cough syrup or medicine in liquid form, tilt its head back and if required use a syringe to squirt the medicine into its mouth – squirting it in through the gap between its cheeks and teeth. If you stroke the dog’s throat this will stimulate it to swallow. For more information, read our story here or send us an email on ask@gourmetcorp.co.za.

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