"Happiness is a warm puppy" - Charles M. Schulz
Dog care is important and the time involved is worth its weight in gold. When taking care of your dog, there are many things to keep in mind, like keeping them in good health, spaying and neutering, feeding, supplies, exercise, playtime, training, grooming, oral care, vaccinations, and much more.
"Dogs need to sniff the ground; it's how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard." Dave Barry
A dog is called "man's best friend", and the bond between a dog and its human is incredibly strong. Need someone to hug - then get a dog! Dogs give unconditional love, and if you want someone to talk to - they keep all your secrets! Dogs are extremely loyal, cuddly companions, and give sloppy kisses.
They make us more social and are great workout buddies. Try agility sports and get exercise both for you and your dog. Some of the breeds that love agility are Golden Retrievers and Border Collies. Most dogs make us smile, play fetch, and enjoy riding in the car! Dogs live in the moment and have wagging tails when getting attention and affection.
A dog has up to 300 million sense of smell receptors in its nose, compared to 6 million in humans. In your kitchen, you are cooking chicken soup and you smell the soup, but a dog walks into the kitchen and smells all the ingredients in the soup! That's why dogs are trained to be seeing eye dogs; for search and rescue operations; to find explosives and narcotics; to stop the trafficking of live, wild animals; detect certain diseases; to help disabled people, and more.
The first ingredient listed in any dog food should be meat. If the first ingredient listed is wheat, corn, meat by-product, or bone meal then this dog food should be avoided. Dog teeth are primarily made up of canines that are designed for shredding meat, not grinding grains.
Feed the highest-quality dog food you can afford. Most experts recommend feeding your adult dog twice a day - morning and evening. Puppies under 5 months of age should be fed 3-4 times a day, or as directed by your veterinarian. Keep your pet's water bowl clean and filled with fresh, cold water every day. Treats are like candy to your dog, so don't give too many. About 2 a day is enough and be sure they are made for dogs.
Easy homemade dog treat recipes are simple to make, delicious, and nutritious because you know exactly what ingredients are used. If your treats don't turn out pretty - your dog will love them just the same! Meatless, dry dog biscuits can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 weeks.
If your dog has health issues, your veterinarian will prescribe a prescription diet dog food that has special nutrients to help your pet.
3 Kinds of Food You Can Buy for Your Dog
- Dry food also known as kibble costs the least. Usually made up of all nutrients your dog requires, tastes good, and helps keep your dog's teeth clean. You can feed it dry, or moisten it with water or broth for variety. Dogs like their food crunchy so don't moisten it a lot.
- Semi-moist food comes in packets, is convenient, tastes good, is easy to store, and costs more than dry food.
- Canned food usually has meat products and added grains, vitamins, and minerals. It tastes good, is easy to store, and is the most expensive.
Why do dogs eat grass? Good question! Dogs might eat grass to improve digestion, treat intestinal worms, fulfill an unmet nutritional need (like fiber), or boredom. Eating grass isn't harmful if you don't have dangerous chemicals in your yard.
Switching to a New Food
To prevent digestive problems do it gradually in order for your dog's system to adjust. Switching foods too quickly can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or excess gas. Generally, a 7 day change from old food to new food is OK, but it might take longer. Be patient!
Dog Doesn't Like Food
At different stages in your dog's life, you may decide to change to a new food. Or, your dog just turns his nose up, acts disinterested, and walks away from his food.
This is what you should do at mealtime on the first day. Put the right amount of food for his size into his dog bowl, and place it on the floor. Walk away and give your dog about 15 minutes to eat. If your dog does not eat, pick up the bowl without saying anything. During the day, do not offer treats or food.
With the next meal, do the same thing - wait 15 minutes for him to eat. If by the end of the second day your dog hasn't eaten anything, then take him to the veterinarian for a check-up, because there could be a medical reason he isn't eating food.
A tired dog is a good dog! Dogs need exercise to burn calories and avoid obesity, to stimulate their minds, and stay healthy. Exercise also helps dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors.
Supervised fun and games will stop your pet's urges to dig, herd, chew, and chase. Active breeds need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, preferably daily. Even small breeds need exercise inside the house.
Dog parks are fun for dogs where they can get exercise outdoors. Requirements include a collar with a current license, ID, and rabies vaccination tags. Veterinarians recommend a dog be up to date with vaccinations before visits to a dog park because they will protect your dog while being around other dogs.
Your dog should see the veterinarian for a full check-up, shots, and a heartworm blood test every year. Your veterinarian can advise you on all aspects of dog care.
Immediately seek veterinary care if he is sick or injured. Your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate vaccines during the lifespan of your dog. Many health issues can affect dogs - some common problems are dental disease, skin issues, ear infections, allergies, urinary tract infections, vomiting, diarrhea, parasites, and obesity.
Consider your Dog's Age
The latest research on a dog's age compared to a human's age is not a 1 year old dog equals 7 human years. Here is a general idea on how to figure your dog's age to human years:
Small dogs, sometimes called "lap dogs," are the easiest to handle. To carry a puppy or small dog, place 1 hand under the dog's chest with your forearm, and with the other hand support the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your dog by the forelegs, tail, ears, or back of the neck. To carry a large dog, lift from the underside, supporting the chest with 1 arm, and the rear end with the other.
Your pet needs a warm, quiet, safe place to rest away from all drafts and off the floor. A crate with a soft pad is ideal, or use a dog bed with a clean blanket inside. Wash dog bedding often. If your dog will be spending a lot of time outdoors, be sure it has access to shade, plenty of cool water in hot weather, and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it's cold.
Licensing and Identification
Follow your community's licensing regulations, and attach the license and ID tag to your dog's collar.
- Purchase the highest quality dog food and treats you can afford.
- Buy a food dish and water bowl - stainless steel bowls are durable and easy to clean.
- Buy lots of toys, toys, and more toys - including safe chew toys.
- There are many grooming tools you will need such as brushes, combs, pet shampoo and conditioner, unscented wipes, toenail clippers, styptic powder, forceps and gauze for ears, pet toothpaste, and toothbrush.
- Every pet needs a collar with license, ID tag, and name. Check the collar frequently to make sure it isn't too tight or too loose.
- Have your veterinarian microchip your dog to provide a method of permanent identification.
- Buy a harness or vest vest for outdoor exercise.
- You will need a leash to use when walking outside (best to attach the leash to a harness, because attaching it to the collar can put a strain on his neck).
- Every dog needs a comfortable bed to relax in and chill out.
- You will need a dog crate for house training your puppy.
Little puppies grow super-fast! Owners put a collar on their new puppy and do not realize how fast he is growing. Most manufacturers recommend that you should be able to put 2 fingers under your dog’s collar easily – anything tighter is too tight. A poorly fitting collar can affect your dog’s eating, drinking, and even breathing which could be catastrophic over time. Also, a collar that’s too stiff can cause irritation.
If it is too tight, it can cause chafing around the neck, fur loss, coughing, and choking. If too loose, the dog can get the collar hung up on something, creating a dangerous situation. Check the collar periodically to make sure it fits properly. Dogs gain and lose weight, so it's important to observe whether it is too tight or too loose.
A well-behaved companion dog is a joy, but if untrained, can cause trouble. Teaching your dog the basics "Sit," "Stay," "Come," "Down," "Heel," "Off", and "Leave it" will improve your relationship with your dog. If you have a puppy, start teaching manners early. Use tiny dog treats as a reward. Puppies can be enrolled in obedience courses after vaccinations. Make sure your dog will come to you at all times when you say the word. A dog who is disobedient or aggressive is not ready to play with others.
Very young puppies will not have much bladder or bowel control. A larger breed dog can start to have control when they are about 12 weeks old (3 months). A small breed it can take longer - about 16 weeks (4 months).
Begin potty training by taking your pup outside about every 2 hours - and immediately after eating, drinking, playing, and sleeping. Put a leash on your puppy and go to an area outside where you want your puppy to pee and poop. Stand and wait until your dog begins to circle and sniff, then as soon as he begins to urinate or defecate say "go potty". This command is what you will say each time you take your dog out to make. Soon your dog will eliminate on cue.
After your puppy eliminates reward the good behavior. Make a big fuss - clap your hands, and say "good doggy!" Give lots of praise and offer a treat . Go for a walk or play with your pup outside before going back inside the house. The next time you take your puppy outside, go to the same spot. Do this every time, so your doggy will feel safe - at a place that is familiar and has the smell where it relived itself before.
During the first few months of house training, you'll need to take your doggy outside in the middle of the night for a potty break. Keep this calm - you don't need to make a big fuss after he goes. Just go back inside your house.
If your puppy has an accident in the house (this will happen), clean it up when your dog is not watching you, and don't say anything. You can use a combination of white vinegar and water, with a little bit of dish soap in a spray bottle to clean the area. This will remove any odor.
Crate training is a method of house training because a crate represents a den for your dog. Using a crate to train your dog teaches your dog the house (den) is clean and a place of comfort.
Crate size should enable your dog to stand up and lie down stretched to full body length. If using a wire crate for a puppy, buy a divider panel to adjust size as your puppy grows. If the crate is too big he may eliminate in a corner and then go to another corner to sleep. A crate can keep your dog safe when you are unable to watch him or leave the house without him. Put a soft crate pad inside for comfort.
Never put your dog in a crate for long periods of time or use it as punishment! By leaving the crate door open, many dogs will go into their crate to rest or hang out. Provide lots of daily companionship, playtime, and exercise while crate training. A crate can help reduce prevent destructive behavior, and be a mobile indoor dog house moved from room to room.
Clicker training rewards desired behavior using positive reinforcement. A clicker is a small device that makes a clicking sound, and is faster than saying "Good dog!". Start clicker training in a quiet place, and keep training sessions short so your dog doesn't become bored or tired.
A few short sessions are better than 1 longer session. Shape a behavior or trick into small steps, and progress from a learned step to the next step, until the behavior is completely learned. Train 1 behavior at a time, and connect the association between the clicker and the treats in the beginning. Click the clicker and immediately give a treat. Soon your dog will give you a look "I heard that click, where's my treat?"
Dog Anxiety and Fears
An important part of dog care is treating anxiety and fears.
Many pet owners use a calming vest or Thundershirt to help anxious pets feel more secure - similar to swaddling babies. Plan an activity that usually brings about anxious behavior. If your dog is anxious around strangers, have a friend come over who is a stranger to your dog. Ignore any trembling, whining, or hiding. What you are doing is acting like everything is perfectly normal. Ignore all fearful behavior and respond to all good behavior.
Your dog may whine when left alone, be terrified during storms, be afraid of strangers, or have full-scale panic attacks from separation anxiety.
Your first instinct when your dog displays anxious behavior such as trembling or hiding is to comfort him by petting, soothe with your voice, baby him, or pick him up. Reassurances will make him feel better, but comforting also rewards him for acting afraid, and he will likely use the same strategy next time he needs to feel better. It also reinforces that there is a good reason for his anxiety.
If your dog is afraid of riding in the car, get him to jump in and out of the car, without taking a trip. The next day, get him to jump in, start the car while rewarding him, but again do not take a trip.
After he gets familiar with the car and realizes it's a safe place, then take short trips around the block and back home. Praise him for good behavior. Gradually move up to longer trips - but keep these car rides pleasant - and don't end up at a scary place like the veterinarian!
Over time, he'll become accustomed to riding in the car, and might even jump in and wait for you to take him! Give rewards and praise when your dog is behaving confidently, calmly, and happy. Don't shout, yell, and never hit because that will increase anxiety. By ignoring anxiety and fears, you will help your dog overcome fear and prevent anxiety.
Wet Greetings - Submissive Urination
A shy, timid, or anxious dog may exhibit fearful urinating when he's greeted, or when someone approaches him.
- Excitement is often the cause of puddles of pee, so keep greetings low-key and calm when you come home; ignore your dog for about 5 minutes until he is calm.
- Ask visitors to ignore your dog for about 5 minutes when entering your house.
- Never scold your dog for wet greetings - a raised voice or punishment will make him even more nervous resulting in an ongoing, vicious cycle.
- Pet under the chin, not on the top of the head - this reinforces confidence in your dog.
- Quietly reward happy, alert, and confident postures from your dog with treats and praise.
- Clean up any accidents with equal parts water and white vinegar, and a small amount of dish soap in a spray bottle. Vinegar neutralizes the ammonia smell of urine.
- Don't clean up the mess when your dog is watching you - and don't make a fuss or say anything when you see the accident - less commotion helps to disarm the situation, because your dog feels guilty enough, no need to exacerbate his guilt!
Poop Eating - Break the Habit
Eating poop is socially unacceptable and exposes your dog to parasites and diseases. If your dog is eating poop (coprophagia), rule out a medical cause with your veterinarian. Sometimes an underlying illness can be the cause, such as disorders of the intestinal tract, diabetes mellitus, a deficiency in vital nutrients, or other causes.
Upgrade your dog's diet by replacing grain-based kibble with a complete nutrient-packed and balanced diet. You also should keep your outside area free of any animal waste, by picking up poop right after your dog has defecated. If you can, leash your dog when he goes outside when defecating. If you see he is interested in his feces, say "leave it", and pick up the feces and discard it.
Verbal scolding, yelling, or punishment may be interpreted by your dog as attention. This approach won't resolve the problem and is likely to produce fearful or aggressive responses from your dog. Animals live in the moment and won't understand why you are upset about something they did hours, minutes, or even seconds before.
Stool eating deterrents give poop a very bad taste and can be added to your dog's food or given as a treat. They also freshen your dog's breath!
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
Brushing and Grooming
Brushing and grooming is easy to build into your routine and helps with shedding, removes dirt, dandruff, and prevents matting. Brushing also stimulates the natural oils in your dog's coat and gives it a glossy and healthy sheen. Tools you can use include a brush, flea comb, and nail clippers.
Check your dog's gums, teeth, eyes, ears (look for signs of ear mites), skin, legs, belly, and paws. Brush daily to decrease shedding when your dog is blowing his coat. Many people take their dog to a groomer for brushing, bathing, and nail trimming. But it is not hard to do this yourself and it also increases bonding.
Odor Control - Anal Glands
The anal glands (also called anal sacs) are located on either side and slightly below the anus and secrete a pungent fluid. They are found in many mammals - including cats, dogs, bears, opossums, skunks, and beavers.
They produce fluid with a distinctive odor that identifies him and tells other dogs his sex, approximate age, health status, and more. Healthy anal glands empty this fluid when the dog defecates. If the anal glands don't empty properly they can become impacted, making bowel movements difficult or painful, and potentially lead to infections or abscesses.
Anal glands can often be relieved by manually expressing or squeezing out the fluid they contain. This is a smelly process. Have your veterinarian or groomer show you how to do it, and if needed you can do this yourself. It's not hard!
Dog Bath Time
Gather all the supplies and keep them near you. Use a shampoo for dogs, and have your dog stand on a mat to prevent slipping in the tub or sink. Don't bathe too often - it's OK to bathe about once a month - to prevent stripping the coat of natural oils. Put cotton balls inside the ear canal to prevent water from entering. You can also buy pet shower caps.
Using lukewarm water, saturate your dog's coat, then shampoo your dog's coat into a good lather, while massaging his body to release dead fur. Rinse, rinse, and rinse again. Some doggy shampoos have an easy rinse formula, but make sure there is no soap left. You can add a conditioner made for dogs after the bath. Some formulas are leave-in and some are rinsed out.
Remove the cotton balls! Then either dry your dog with towels or a blow dryer that is not too hot or close. Some short-haired dogs can air dry if it's not too cool in the house.
After a bath, trim nails because they are soft from the water. If you let nails grow too long, they will begin to curl under making it difficult and painful to walk. The nail contains a blood vessel and nerve that is called "the quick" or "kwik". If you don't trim your dog's nails regularly the quick grows with the nail, making it more difficult to keep trimmed.
It's better to take off small amounts more often than to remove large portions every once in a while. Use dog toenail clippers, or a dog grinding tool, and a dog nail file for smoothing. With a dog toenail clipper hold the dog's paw firmly and cut off the tip of the nail. Many pets are able to tolerate a grinding tool, like a Dremel. With a grinding tool, hold the dog's paw firmly and grind all nails just for a few seconds, because it will get hot. Move fast from 1 nail to the next. If you cut the nails too short, stop bleeding with styptic powder. Don't forget the dewclaws!
Most dogs will need their nails trimmed every couple of weeks. Some dogs get wiggly, so you can have your dog held by someone and you trim, or vice versa.
Oral and Teeth Care
A very important part of dog care is making sure your dog's teeth are in good health because oral problems can lead to bad breath and problems with the heart, liver, kidney, and brain. To brush your dog's teeth, buy a cleaning kit that includes a dog toothbrush and special dog toothpaste.
Dogs like the taste of the toothpaste, which is usually poultry, beef, or peanut butter flavored. Start with a small amount of dog toothpaste on your finger, place your finger in his mouth, and let him get a taste. Your dog will love the taste! Do this for a few days. Then progress to very gently rubbing his gums with your finger and the toothpaste. Wet the toothbrush with water, then start brushing a few teeth with the toothbrush and gradually build up to a regular brushing routine of 3 times a week - the minimum recommendation to help remove plaque and prevent tartar.
It's perfectly normal for a dog to have a small amount of dry boogers, goop, or gunk in the corner of his eyes after sleeping. This light brown crust usually occurs in the morning after your dog wakes up from a long sleep. You can remove it with a hypoallergenic, no fragrance baby wipe or with warm water on a cotton ball. Gently wipe the crusty material away.
If the secretion smells bad, is yellow or bloody, take your dog to the veterinarian right away, because there is an infection in the eye. If your dog has long hair that grows into his eyes, trimming is best left to the groomer.
Dog Common Eye Problems
Dogs love it when you scratch behind their ears! A healthy dog ear is pink with no odor, and a bit of wax or dirt in the outer part of the ear canal and around the ear leather wrinkly area is normal. Remove the visible wax with a piece of gauze, cotton ball, or a cotton swab (Q-tip), but NEVER push a Q-tip inside the ear canal!
A once-a-month cleaning is suggested by veterinarians for most dogs, but a dog with long floppy ears might need cleaning every 2 weeks. Always follow your veterinarian's advice.
Keep the ears clean using what your veterinarian recommends for an ear wash, or use a homemade recipe of 50/50 vinegar and water, which should help cut through the waxiness of ear residue. An effective natural enzyme solution - Xymox (promotes ear health) is also very effective.
Pour or spray the room temperature solution onto the ear leather and gently into the ear canal. Then massage at the base of the ear, and work the solution in thoroughly. Continue for about 15 seconds massaging from the outside while holding your dog's ear up to loosen normal dirt and wax. Then use a cotton ball to dry as much of the ear as you can reach without pushing down into the ear canal. Your dog will shake his head, which helps to release any internal debris.
If your dog has an ear infection, use what your veterinarian prescribes, follow the instructions and complete the course of treatment to prevent a recurrence. Recurring ear infections are very common.
If your dog has long, heavy, floppy ears your groomer or veterinarian can determine if the hairs inside the ear need to be plucked for air circulation.
Prevention is the best medicine. From the day you get your dog, check the ears regularly for excessive dirt or unusual odor.
Fleas and Ticks
Is your dog itching like crazy? Inspect your dog for fleas and ticks often. Use a flea comb to remove fleas, and frequently dip flea comb into hot soapy water to kill them. Numerous products that vary in how long they work will kill adult fleas on your dog or cat. Follow label directions on whatever product you buy, and consult your veterinarian about age restrictions.
Dogs and Outdoor Weather
Some dogs like to play and enjoy the outdoors regardless of the weather. Keep a close eye on your dog during very hot or very cold weather. Seek veterinary treatment if symptoms indicate a weather-related condition.
Dogs can be more susceptible to weather extremes than humans. A general rule of thumb to use - if the outdoor temperature is too hot or cold for you to be comfortable - it's too severe for your dog. Hot temperatures can cause dehydration and heatstroke. Temperatures lower than 32℉ can cause hypothermia or frostbite. Allow your dog to play outdoors when you can join him comfortably.
On extreme heat days, walk your dog early morning or late evening, when temperatures cool down. Place your hand on the sidewalk first to make sure that it's not hot enough to burn the sensitive pads on your dog's feet.
Never leave your dog in the car during warm weather. On an 85℉ day, a car with its windows partially rolled down reaches 102℉ in only 10 minutes. During hot weather, watch for symptoms of dehydration and heatstroke: panting; drooling; rapid heart rate; pale gums and a bright red tongue; bloody diarrhea, vomiting with blood; disorientation; muscle tremors; and unconsciousness.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, spray with water or cover in water-soaked towels to cool him off. Provide cool water, and encourage but don't force him to drink. Move him indoors or to a shady area. Seek veterinary care immediately because this is a life-threatening emergency.
During cold temperatures, dogs need plenty of food- staying warm uses up extra energy. Make sure that water is available and that it's not frozen. During cold winter months, walk your dog during the warmest hours of the day. Make sure that his paws are protected from ice, which can cause frostbite, and cut the pads. Even breeds that are more tolerant to cold should not be left outdoors for a long time in below-freezing temperatures.
During cold weather watch for symptoms of hypothermia: shivering, slow breathing, lethargy, fixed pupils, muscle stiffness, and coma. Hypothermia can cause death. If you suspect your dog is suffering from this condition, move him out of the cold and seek immediate veterinary attention.
Heartworms, Roundworms, and Hookworms
Heartworm is a parasite that lives in the heart and is passed by mosquitoes. Heartworm infections can be fatal. Your dog should have a blood test for heartworm every spring - this is crucial for detecting infections from the previous year.
A once-a-month pill given during mosquito season will protect your dog. If you travel south with your pet during the winter, your dog should be on the preventive medicine during the trip. In some warmer regions, veterinarians recommend preventive heartworm medication throughout the year.
Dogs are commonly exposed to worms and possible infestation - even in urban areas. Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms are passed in an infected dog's feces. Most puppies from healthy mothers in good homes carry roundworms or hookworms.
Hookworms can be especially serious and even fatal for puppies, so early diagnosis and treatment are key. This parasite is named for its hook-like mouthpiece that it uses to attach itself to the lining of a dog's small intestine where it feeds on the lining’s blood vessels.
Roundworms in dogs normally live in the intestines, thus depriving the dog of food nutrients. The symptoms of a heavy roundworm infection may include malnutrition, weakness, weight loss, and stunted growth.
The key to treatment is the correct diagnosis to ensure that the medication is effective against the parasite your pet has. A dewormer that eliminates roundworms, for example, will not kill tapeworms. Your veterinarian can best determine the culprit, and prescribe the appropriate medication.
Spaying and Neutering
Female and male dogs should be spayed or neutered (altered) around 6 months of age. No, your dog won't get fat and lazy after altering! Provide appropriate exercise and feeding.
Spaying your female dog before maturity reduces the risk of mammary tumors, a common and frequently fatal disease of older female dogs. Spaying also eliminates the risk of an infected uterus, which is a very serious problem in older females who will need surgery and intensive medical care.
Neutering male dogs prevent testicular and prostate diseases, some hernias, and certain types of aggression.
Dogs, cats, and other animals exposed to asbestos and pesticides can develop mesothelioma. Some of the symptoms they may have include cough or rapid breathing, loss of appetite, respiratory problems, tiredness, difficulty moving, and trouble sleeping. Because the symptoms are common and can occur with other illnesses, it's important to have your pet examined by your veterinarian to rule out mesothelioma.
Senior Dog Care and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)
With extra attention, senior dogs can live a long healthy life. Small dogs can live about 15 years, medium to large size dogs live about 10-13 years, and some giant dog breeds live for 7-8 years. Because some diseases can go unnoticed in the early stages, regular visits to the veterinarian can detect problems when most treatable.
Many senior dog health problems are a result of canine obesity. Being overweight can increase the likelihood of dog arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Geriatric dogs may have many changes: weight loss or weight gain, lumps or bumps, skin or coat changes, bad breath or inflamed gums, bleeding, vomiting or diarrhea, increased thirst, increased or decreased urination, difficulty climbing stairs, stiffness, lameness, abnormal gait, tremors, confusion or disorientation, changes in house training, eating, or any unusual behavior.
How You Can Help Your Older Dog
- Provide extra love and patience (gentle hugs).
- Have a warm, soft bed in an easily accessible area for achy joints.
- Use a stroller for your dog to sit in while you walk outside.
- Dog ramps or pet stairs to get up or down from a sofa, chair, bed, or vehicle.
- Stair gates to prevent falls from stairs.
- Dog lift harness for mobility-challenged dogs.
- Put a soft, comfortable pad or mat inside the crate.
- Make sure the crate is not near drafts.
- Age-appropriate exercise for a senior dog (ask your veterinarian for advice).
- Plenty of fresh, cold water every day.
- Twice-daily feedings of a quality diet formulated for senior dogs.
- Veterinarian checkups once a year or more often if necessary.
Older dogs may experience many health problems including hearing loss, vision loss (cataracts or glaucoma), dental disease, arthritis, liver or kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, benign or malignant lumps or masses, incontinence, and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). This memory disorder is compared with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in humans.
Senior dogs may have forgetfulness, disorientation, dementia, and not recognize family members. When dogs have CDS, owners notice behavior that seems like their dog is like a stranger in his surroundings. In addition to getting lost in their own yards, dogs with CDS may cower in the corners of familiar rooms unable to remember how to get past the sofa or chair, pace at night, forget the difference between indoors and outdoors, soil floors, sleep many hours during daytime, not remember eating and want to eat again.
If your veterinarian suspects your senior dog is experiencing CDS, he will perform a thorough examination to look for an underlying medical problem that could be causing the behavior change. As a dog ages, their bodies undergo several different changes. They're prone to problems with their hearing, smell, sight, and joints - and at a higher risk for heart problems and metabolic conditions.
Always get your dog microchipped - keep a record of the number. When your dog has a microchip, veterinarians and animal shelters will be able to notify you even if the collar and ID tags were removed. Have your dog wear a collar with ID tags all the time. Take a photo of your pet, so you can scan the photo onto flyers if necessary. Search your house and yard.
After you've determined that your dog is definitely gone and not hiding, search your neighborhood - but don't gather your entire family to search for your dog, because dogs can return home soon after their departure. You'll want someone at home to contact the others if your dog wanders back home after the search party leaves.
When searching the neighborhood, call your dog's name because your dog can hear you from a great distance - don't rely on just your eyes for finding your dog! While searching, post LOST DOG flyers with a picture and include your dog's sex, age, weight, breed, and color, but keep the information simple.
Provide just your phone number - not your name or address. If you advertise offering an award, leave out identifying details of your pet (coat is short and fluffy, blue eyes, crooked tail). While you walk around your neighborhood tell people you are looking for your dog.
Visit your local veterinarian offices, animal control, humane societies, and animal shelters with the flyer. Ask if you can post the flyer where people can see it. Describing what your dog looks like on the phone isn't enough. At these places, pets are scanned for a microchip that has your dog's ID number.
Check the newspaper's classifieds section for Found Pets. These ads usually change daily, so check them every day. If your newspaper has a website search, those listings online. You can also pay for a classified ad for a LOST DOG. Post a free message on your local Craigslist, and NextDoor Neighborhood.
Contact your microchip company to see if anyone has reported a lost dog. Post flyers at grocery stores, community centers, pet supply stores, and other locations. Check the newspaper's classifieds section for Found Pets.
Lastly, never send or wire reward money until you see your dog. If someone calls saying they have your dog, ask them to describe the dog before you offer any information. If they don't mention the identifying characteristics you left out of the flyers, they may not have your dog. Be cautious of pet scams where people insist that you give or wire them money for the return of your pet.