It goes without saying that if you are here reading this, you are a devoted pet parent. I am certain you want to give your fur baby the best life they can possibly have and would do anything to make that happen. Taking care of a pet is a full time job. They can't feed themselves and they can't speak and tell us when something is wrong. With that being said, sometimes, despite our best intentions, we do things that could be harmful to them without even realizing it.
Don't stress if you read something on the following list and think "I do that"! I assure you, you are not alone. The majority of pet owners are guilty of one or more of the things on the list below. Do not panic. It is never too late to make a change. Giving your pet their best life requires you to be proactive and requires action.
Lack of Exercise
Simply put, exercising a dog is hard work. It requires time (at least twice daily) and effort. We all live crazy, busy lives. We all come home from work tired and not wanting to exercise for our own health but that could also be detrimental for your dog's health as well.
Greater than 50% of dogs are considered overweight or obese. That is an astonishing number that needs to decrease. This extra weight can predispose them to numerous health conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, bone and joint pain, respiratory diseases, and damage to internal organs. Yes, all of that just from being overweight.
To get your dog moving, start going on walks, even if they’re brief. If your dog is smaller and playful, encourage sessions of fetch and other fun doggy games. Even just a little bit of exercise can make a big difference. It may require you to set your alarm just a little bit earlier in the morning but your dog's health is worth it.
Feeding them human food
This is arguably one of the most common problems I encounter in practice on a weekly basis. We have all been conditioned that rewarding our dog means giving them treats. WRONG!!! Dogs are very easily pleased. They often times can be rewarded with attention or a favorite toy. The never ending treats will certainly begin to pack on the pounds that could result in some of the problems listed in the previous section.
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so when you eat food, they know. When you look down after taking your first bite, they may be right there giving you those sad eyes just begging for a piece of whatever it is you are eating. Resist the urge to give them even just a little bite. Just don't do it!
This encourages the habit of begging for food, which is annoying and obnoxious for you, your family and your guests. If you do feed your dog (approved) human food, place a little bit in their dish so they know that’s where they need to eat their food. They should never beg for food from the table.
Aside from that, there’s the health issue. Certain human foods are actually quite good for our dogs in smaller doses. Many can be harmful, like the obvious toxic and dangerous foods, but also high-fat foods. Foods high in fat can hurt their stomach and could also cause pancreatitis. Don't forget about foods with bones inside. These can cause choking, obstruction, or intestinal trauma.
Neglecting their teeth
Greater than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years have some level of periodontal disease that would require treatment. You, as the pet owner, are the first line of defense against your pet developing dental or periodontal disease. By being proactive and evaluating your pet’s teeth at home, you can help prevent harmful disease from running rampant inside your pet’s mouth and preventing spread of disease to other organs in the body.
Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the pet owner; this does not mean the pet is not feeling pain. Unfortunately, the pet cannot tell you he or she is in pain. In the wild, animals generally will hide any sign of illness or weakness. Dogs and cats are descendents of wild animals and posses this same instinct. Many painful conditions will develop gradually and may be more common in the middle-aged or older pet. By simply lifting up the pet’s lip, many of the following clinical signs can be seen. Please consult your primary care veterinarian if you notice any of the following clinical signs.
Bad breath (also known as halitosis)
The pet shies away from you when you touch the mouth
Dropping food from the mouth
Only chewing on one side of the mouth
Bleeding from the mouth
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Excessive tarter build up on the teeth
Not wanting to eat hard kibble or play with toys
Pawing at the mouth
For more information, you can click How Many Teeth.
Skipping the yearly vet visit
We know that taking your dog to the vet can be a pain, especially if they don't like the vet. It can be time consuming and may require you taking off work. Let's not forget that it can be expensive as well. Despite all the negatives, it is extremely important to ensure your pet's overall health is where it needs to be.
As a veterinarian, I have lost count of how many times I have uncovered a problem on my physical exam that the pet owner did not even know was there. There is often a feeling of guilt on their part because the feel like they were neglecting their pet. This is not the case. Veterinarians are highly trained to detect even the slightest abnormalities that often get overlooked. After all, our patients cannot speak to us so we have to use many other factors to ensure everything is ok. Taking our time during the physical exam, along with the numerous questions we ask, it all has a purpose.
If the expenses are a road block for you, talk to your vet about how to make the most out of your budget. I promise you are not the only one struggling with the cost of vet care. We prioritize what is going to be best for the pet based on a person's budget all day long. We will help you as best we can. Also talk to them about ways to reduce the cost with things such as pet insurance. I assure you there are ways to ease the burden of paying for your pet's vet bills. The truth is you will likely save money by keeping up with routine visits to the vet. A problem could be detected before it becomes serious and costs more money to correct.
Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM