Up until your dog is around 12 months of age (or later, depending on the breed), he's considered to be a puppy. A puppy's health and nutritional needs are constantly changing. Puppies require extra nutrition and calories to support his rapid growth and high energy level. And while he may look like an adult at six months, he should continue to eat puppy food until he's fully mature. This is also a time when your puppy learns basic obedience and begins to develop his own personality.
Your puppy's gums should be firm and pink (or pigmented), and he should have around 23 teeth. Like humans, puppies lose their baby teeth which are then replaced by permanent teeth. To ensure your puppy's good health later on in life, start taking care of his teeth now by brushing his teeth once a week with a special dog toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste). Crunchy dry food will also help break down tartar.
When your puppy gets older, you may choose to take him in for professional cleanings, though you should still continue to brush at home. Getting your pup used to it early will avoid any hassles later on.
Your puppy's eyes should be bright and shiny, with little or no discharge or watering. Puppies have a third eyelid that protects their eyes from dust and other particles that can be picked up from the ground. However, it doesn't provide protection from tossed sticks or toys, so be careful when you're playing interactive games with your pup. The most frequent eye infection in puppies is conjunctivitis, caused by drafts, foreign bodies, eyelids in the wrong position, or many other things. Weepy eyes are the most obvious symptom, but inflammation of the "inner eye" can also occur. If you notice eye disorders of any kind, consult a vet as soon as possible.
Keeping your puppy's ears clean is very important, as the ear is susceptible to trapping all sorts of bacteria, mites and yeast infections. This is especially true with puppies who have longer ears. There are commercial cleaning solutions available that you can use to clean the ears - just ask your vet to make a recommendation. To clean your puppy's ears, use a cotton ball soaked in the cleaning solution and wipe the inner ear, taking care not to go too deep. Signs of ear infection include a red, swollen ear, discharge, head shaking, ear itching or a foul odor. If you notice these signs, take your puppy to the vet immediately.
A puppy's coat should be glossy and clean, with no excess oil or dandruff. A puppy's coat feels shorter and thinner than an adult's coat. The skin underneath will range from pink to black, depending on his breed. Puppies generally shed their coats when they are 9 to 10 months of age. Even the color of the coat can change. Puppies don't need as frequent grooming as adult dogs, however, it is a good time to teach him to lie on the table and stay still while you brush. This fun and easy grooming time early on will help prepare him and you for the weekly grooming sessions required by an adult dog. When he gets older, regular grooming becomes more important in maintaining healthy skin and coat.
When a vet is estimating the nutritional condition of your puppy, he or she will consider the ideal weight for that particular breed of dog. This ideal varies according to a dog's age, developmental stage, individual characteristics, and other factors. Puppies and young dogs should on no account be overweight. To check your pup's weight, you should be able to feel your pup's ribs, but they shouldn't be pronounced or visible. Your puppy's waist, when viewed from above, should be visible but not too pronounced. There should be no substantial fatty deposits on your pup's body. Above all, however, the criterion for the good health of a puppy is the activity and curiosity that he shows.
With all that playing and walking, you can imagine the daily beating those soft puppy paws endure. Dog pads are made to be strong and sturdy but puppy pads haven't hardened and may require a little extra care.
Pay attention to changed behavior that may indicate your pup has a sore paw. For example: If your pup is walking differently, or is favoring a leg or foot, he may have an injury that needs to be examined by your veterinarian. Also, paw lifting may mean your puppy wants to play but it could also mean that he has a sore paw he wants you to look at.
And don't forget his nails. Nail trimming is important for your puppy's health and comfort. It can be painful for him to walk on untrimmed nails. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim your puppy's nails the first time. It's not difficult but it's easier to learn if you see it done once or twice.
Some puppies will leak a small amount of urine when they are excited or nervous, even after they are housetrained. This may indicate that they suffer from a condition called submissive urination. It's important to remember that puppies who suffer from submissive urination don't have much control over their actions - it's a reflective action that they may not be aware of. For example, some puppies are so excited to see their owner return from work that they may urinate a small amount when greeting them.
Puppies become more confident as they grow older and many puppies outgrow this condition before they are a year old.
Don't assume that your puppy is suffering from submissive urination because his behavior meets the description. See your veterinarian so your puppy can have a physical examination to rule out any medical problems that may be the reason for his inappropriate urination.
In puppies diarrhea is particularly serious, because the puppy can quickly become dehydrated - which can in turn lead to organ damage.
In puppies, the causes of diarrhea are primarily infectious diseases, worms, incorrect feeding, sudden change in types of food given, or stress due to a change in environment. If your puppy is suffering from diarrhea consult your veterinarian sooner rather than later.
Most puppies are infected with worms at some point in their life. The good news about worms is that they sound worse than they are. Getting rid of them is not difficult - but prevention and treatment are very important. Your veterinarian can diagnose what kind of worms your puppy has and recommend the appropriate prescription. The bad news is that worms can cause weight loss, weakness and dehydration. Some types, if left untreated, may even be transferred to humans. Most puppies experience worms at some point in their life so it is important to know how to recognize and treat worms. The four most common types of worms are: tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.
To aid in the prevention of worms, puppies should start receiving treatment a few weeks after they are born, before they show signs of the infection. When you bring your puppy home for the first time, or if you suspect he has worms, take a stool sample to your veterinarian to have it checked microscopically for intestinal parasites.
Keep your puppy free from fleas and this will help prevent tapeworm.
Always clean up after your puppy. Infected stools that haven't been cleaned up can re-infect him.
Depending on the size and breed, a dog is fully mature around the 12 to 18 month mark. At this stage, your dog is in peak condition with plenty of energy and a distinct personality. He will also be at his full height and weight according to the specifications of his breed. Nutritionally speaking, a complete and balanced diet is a must however he won't require the high-calorie diet that he needed as a puppy.
The average adult dog has 42 teeth. Taking care of your adult dog's teeth will go a long way in ensuring good health later on. That's because dental disease can lead to far more serious problems elsewhere in the body. Bacteria from infected teeth or gum disease can circulate throughout the body and affect the major organs. Have your dog's teeth examined by your veterinarian on a regular basis, and brush your dog's teeth at home at least three times a week. You can also get special dental chew toys and dog food that assist in reducing plaque.
Giving your dog hard crunch snacks and kibble, will help keep his teeth clean if he takes the time to chew them, rather than swallow them whole. Their abrasive action will scrape off some of the plaque.
The adult dog's eyes should be clear, bright and alert. There should be no discharge or redness. Various conditions, such as cataracts or the increase of pressure inside the eye, can lead to the opacity of the lens and poor eyesight.
Caring for your dog's ears should be a part of his regular grooming process. If your dog's ears have a foul odor, it could indicate an infection. If your dog is constantly shaking his head and scratching ears, check for ear mites. To do this, place a bit of the dog's ear wax on a piece of paper and look at it under a bright light. Any tiny white specks that appear to be moving are ear mites. Your vet will be able to provide you with the proper treatment. Mites are very contagious, so any other pets in the home will also need to be treated.
Your dog's coat should be shiny, healthy and free of mats. To check skin condition, separate the hairs to ensure skin is smooth, clean and uniform in color.
Standing above your dog, look down and check for a 'waist' - pets at the proper weight will have a visible indentation behind their ribs. Place both hands, palms down, lightly on your dog's ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs, but they shouldn't be sticking out. If you cannot feel the ribs, chances are your dog is overweight.
Bladder and kidney infections are common problems in adult dogs. Symptoms can include increased frequency of urination, urinating in the house, difficulty urinating, bloody urine, and increased thirst. The cause is usually a bacterial infection that can also include the formation of stones in the bladder. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately as these types of infections can cause kidney damage.
The main function of a dog's joints are to provide motion and flexibility, as well as to act as shock absorbers. Joint injuries can be quite painful. To prevent your dog from getting joint injuries, avoid rough play and don't encourage your dog to jump from significant heights. This is especially true for smaller dogs. Also, keeping your dog from getting overweight will prevent any undue stress on his joints.
Dogs spend a lot of time on their feet. So it's important that they receive the same amount of care and attention as the rest of your dog's body. This is especially true for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors. Check between the toes for any unusual lumps, sores, mats, burrs or ticks. Also be sure to check the pads for any cracks or cuts.
Depending on the breed, most dogs are considered to be senior as young as six. Some of the changes are easy to notice, like the graying of the fur around your dog's muzzle or eyebrows. Other changes are less noticeable, like a slower metabolism, a loss of hearing or vision and other stresses of aging.
There are also a number of nutrition and health issues that you'll need to know about - like the importance of protein to help maintain lean muscle mass or vitamins E, C and selenium to help fight the stresses of aging.
Why, for example, would a dog as young as six, prefer a soft ball to a hard stick? One of the most common changes seen in older dogs is dental disease. Unless you've ensured that your dog has had proper dental care since he was a pup, it's highly likely that your dog has some sort of dental disease. In fact, studies have shown that by the age of four, 85% of dogs have begun to show signs of dental disease. Teeth and gums can become more sensitive for dogs as young as six. That's why we're introducing new PEDIGREE HEALTHY MATURITY TM, an easier to crunch food for dogs over six.
Dental disease may lead to infections that can spread to vital organs and cause serious damage. While you can take your dog to the vet for regular, professional cleanings, brushing your dog's teeth at home will help lengthen the time between visits. Try to brush his teeth at least three times a week. This will not only help reduce bad breath and plaque build-up, it will benefit your dog's overall health and well-being.
Older dogs often experience a reduced sense of smell and taste. When this happens, their food becomes less appealing, which could lead to unhealthy weight loss. You can help your dog enjoy his food again by simply warming up his food to enhance the aroma. If your dog eats a lot of dry food, try mixing in some wet food to make it more appetizing.
It's not uncommon for aging dogs to develop nuclear sclerosis, a condition where the eye lens appears cloudy and bluish. It may cause difficulty for your dog to focus close-up on objects. Cataracts and glaucoma, on the other hand, are much more serious and could lead to blindness. Typically, a cataract is white in color. Here are a few signs to watch for:
Tripping and running into furniture or doorways
Eyes that seem to be 'glowing'
Cloudy eye surface
Red, painful looking eye
If your dog appears to be slow or inconsistent in responding to your commands or seems to be oblivious to noises, there's a good chance he's experiencing hearing loss. There are a few ways you can help your dog cope with hearing loss. Don't let him roam around freely in open areas as he won't be able to hear approaching cars, people or other dogs. You should also be careful when waking up your dog. Dogs with hearing loss sleep very soundly, and if you disturb him he may snap at you because he's startled. Finally, start incorporating hand signals into commands like sit, stay or come.
The hormones produced by the thyroid play a major role in your dog's metabolism. As a dog ages, however, its production of the thyroid hormone gradually drops. On one level, this means that your dog will have less tolerance to cold because of the reduced function of the thyroid and adrenal glands. On a more serious level, if the thyroid is producing a less than adequate amount of thyroid hormone (known as thyroxine), it can result in a condition known as hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hypothyroidism aren't always obvious and tend to occur gradually. What's more, many of the classic symptoms (which include lethargy, obesity, and reduced exercise tolerance) are often chalked up to being a normal part of a dog's aging process. Other symptoms, like decreased mental sharpness and personality changes are other clues that your dog may be experiencing hypothyroidism.
As a dog ages, the artery walls of the heart begin to stiffen and lose elasticity, increasing the resistance to blood flow. This stiffening of the arteries also occurs throughout the body, reducing the blood supply to all the major organs. When the flow of blood is impaired, blood may back up into the heart, lungs or other organs causing constriction of the blood vessels, resulting in high blood pressure, congestion of the lungs or fluid buildup in the abdomen or other tissues. The kidneys also may have trouble expelling toxins. The type of heart disease a dog can get usually depends on the dog's size. Smaller dogs tend to have problems with the heart valves, which can lead to endocardiosis. Larger dogs tend to suffer from diseases of the heart muscle itself, causing abnormal rhythms and muscle weakness. This condition is known as cardiomyopathy.
The kidneys act as a filter for your dog's body, removing waste materials and toxic substances from the bloodstream and regulating body fluids. They also reabsorb the nutrients that your dog's body needs and controls the balance of body acids. When kidney disease occurs, the kidneys lose the ability to remove waste products and excess nutrients from the blood, which can ultimately lead to death. Kidney disease is one of the most common medical problems faced by older dogs. The signs of kidney disease can often go unrecognized until two thirds of the total kidney function has been lost. In fact, the majority of adult dogs have some degree of kidney damage present. The causes of kidney disease are varied. It could be a result of inherited defects, infections or toxic substances.
While being overweight is unhealthy for dogs at any age, it becomes an even greater risk for an aging dog, adding increased stress on the heart, joints and other organs. Many older dogs will gain weight because their metabolism tends to slow down as they age. Nor are they getting the same amount of exercise they enjoyed when they were younger, either because they have less energy or health issues like painful joints prevent them from being more active. Whatever the case may be, it's important to get your dog back down to a healthy weight. If you can, try to exercise your dog as much as he is able. The more muscle he maintains, the more calories he'll burn and less fat he'll carry. Ensuring your dog gets sufficient protein is important at this stage in his life as it helps maintain lean muscle mass.
It's not uncommon for older dogs to develop tumors on their skin. As a senior dog's cells get older, they begin to mutate. And the more these mutations occur, the more likely it is that one will develop into a tumor. That's not to say, however, that all lumps are tumors - nor are all tumors malignant. Generally, benign lumps appear and grow more slowly. If you notice that your dog's lumps are growing rapidly, appear to be painful, or if there's any hair loss or bleeding, you should go the veterinarian immediately. If you're unsure as to whether the lump is harmful or not, take your dog to the vet and he or she will let you know whether it needs to be removed.
As dogs age, they can develop joint problems. Arthritis is a common disease in older dogs, affecting joint cartilage. With arthritis, lubrication within the joint is decreased making movement painful and difficult. If your dog has arthritis, you may notice that he has trouble walking, limping or experiencing a slow, stiff gait. He may also have difficulty in getting up from a lying position and climbing stairs. Dogs with arthritis may also try to 'nip' at you when you pet them as you could be touching a painful spot. Light exercise and keeping your dog from getting overweight can help alleviate the symptoms. Vitamins E and C, and selenium are also helpful in supporting joint health. Severe cases of arthritis may require medication and regular therapy.