Here's what you need to know about your dog’s health as he matures from 1 to 8 years:
Your dog is growing up. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), gives advice on how to keep your dog in tip-top shape.
Adult Dog Health: Preventive Health. Even if your dog appears fit, see your veterinarian once a year for a checkup. "Most health problems are more readily and less expensively addressed if you catch them early," Murray says. What's more, your vet can detect problems that you might miss. You can also stay up to date on vaccination boosters.
Adult Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines. Continue to use preventive medicines. Talk to your veterinarian if you've moved or if your lifestyle has changed to make sure you are using the products best suited for your dog.
Adult Dog Health: Diet. Your pet needs the right food for optimal health. Check with your vet about adjusting the type and amount of food that your dog eats.
Adult Dog Health: Dental Health. If you haven't done so already, get in the habit of cleaning your dog's teeth daily. "Animals who get gingivitis or inflammation of the gums can end up with problems of the kidneys and the heart," Murray explains. Get your dog accustomed to having your fingers and hands around her mouth. At the pet store, you'll find dog toothbrushes and finger brushes as well as dog toothpaste.
Adult Dog Health: Weight Gain/Loss. When your dog steps on the scale at her annual visit, weight gain (rather than loss) is more likely to be the problem. Meals usually are not the culprit. It's the things, such as biscuits and human food, she gets in between. "It all adds up," Murray says. As your pet gets older, she becomes less active, which can contribute to weight gain and a host of other problems (diabetes, arthritis, and breathing trouble, for instance). But there's another reason to keep an eye on the scale: Weight loss might signal an underlying health problem.
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Switching your dog to a new food takes some planning. Because dogs are creatures of habit, they tend to prefer their current food to a new food. Like us, they become accustomed to a food and might not be thrilled about a new routine. These useful dog-feeding tips will help you keep your dog satisfied.
4 Tips to Successfully Transition Your Dog to a New Food
1. Introduce the new food gradually.
When easing your dog into a change in diet, think “slow and steady.” Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% current food. Slowly change the proportions over the next three days or so by gradually increasing the new food and lessening the amount of the current food. Here’s a sample feeding schedule:
- Day 1: 25% new food, 75% current food
- Day 2: 50% new food, 50% current food
- Day 3: 75% new food, 25% current food
At the end of this weaning process, you should be feeding 100% of the new food. Your dog may want to eat only the old food, or not eat at all. Don’t worry — a healthy dog can miss meals for a day or two with no ill effects.
2. Watch your body language.
Bringing a new food into your home, pouring it into your dog’s bowl and declaring that he should eat it might cause your dog to go on a hunger strike. This is not the time to show who’s boss. It’s better to introduce the new food by using a pleasant tone of voice and gently encouraging him to try the new food.
3. Don't give in to demands.
Persistence is key! For the first two days of the food transition, don’t give your dog treats or table scraps. Dogs train us as much as we train them. Giving in to their demands only reinforces refusal behavior and makes it more difficult to make a nutritious dietary change.
4. Be patient when switching from wet food to dry food.
Switching diets may be more challenging when changing from a moist food to a dry food. If your dog continues to resist eating dry food, mix in a little warm water. You might even want to put the moistened food in the microwave for a few seconds. If you mix the food with water, be sure to throw away the uneaten portion after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage. The same rule applies for canned and pouch food. After the dog has become accustomed to the moistened food, you can wean him onto completely dry food. To do this, follow the same mixing instructions outlined above.
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