How to Keep a Dog in Good Health And Happy
"When you get a dog, whether as a puppy or an adult, this animal becomes your responsibility. Most domestic dogs are unable to survive without the assistance of humans, and in addition to food and attention, the dog's health will be one of the most important aspects of dog ownership. Always remember that dogs are unable to tell you when they are feeling ill or hurt, and some breeds are so stoic (mastiff breeds especially) that they will not show that they are in trouble until they are extremely ill. It is up to the owner not only to schedule vaccinations and checkups, but also to observe their dog for any deviation from normal behavior, even if slight.
When you have decided upon a breed of dog, it is definitely best to use a reputable breeder with a solid reputation. Make sure that you visit the breeder's facility and meet the puppy's parents; this will give you a good indication of the pup's future temperament. I would also recommend looking over the puppy's pedigree. Although many breeders extol the value of 'line breeding' where cousins and sometimes siblings are bred to one another repeatedly, this is still inbreeding and can cause genetic problems such as hip dysplasia, Von Willebrand disease (a form of hemophilia), Cushing's Disease, and cardiomyopathy. Make sure that the breeder's dogs are as free as possible of genetic problems, and ask to see test results.
The puppy you buy should have been wormed and received its first vaccinations. Observe the puppies at the kennel - the one you want will be sturdy in physical appearance and active. A hyperactive puppy will likely be a hyperactive dog and a puppy that hides rather than coming out to meet you is also exhibiting abnormal behavior. The mental health of the puppy is every bit as important as the physical, so a pup that comes out to greet you without being frantic about it is exhibiting normal, healthy puppy behavior.
Vaccinations against common and serious canine diseases are necessary from the time a dog is a puppy. Vaccinations work by using either attenuated or dead viruses or bacteria to 'train' the immune system to fight a disease should the dog be exposed to it. Your veterinarian will begin to vaccinate your puppy at about 6 to 8 weeks of age, usually beginning with a 4-way shot that will offer protection against distemper, parvo, hepatitis, and parainfluenza. If you live where leptospirosis is present, your pup will get a 5-way shot.
One of the most serious and dangerous viral diseases is rabies. This is a disease of the central nervous system and affects the brain, causing hallucinations, headache, and eventually death. It is spread by bite, and can spread from dogs to humans. Rabies vaccinations will prevent the disease and are given, initially, every year, then every 3 years. If you are worried about the cumulative effect of rabies vaccine on your dog, it is possible to have a blood test done to make sure that your dog is still producing antibodies against the rabies virus.
Checkups for your dog are very important. A yearly, or twice yearly, checkup will not only assure that your dog is current on all his or her vaccinations, but will enable your vet to spot problems before they become serious. A comprehensive checkup should include complete blood work that will establish a baseline for your dog's liver and kidney functions. Should your dog become ill later, this will help your veterinarian see how much deviation has occurred.
A checkup will also allow your vet to check your dog's teeth to see if a cleaning or extractions are needed. Plaque buildup on teeth has been linked to heart and kidney disease in dogs. You can help keep the dog's teeth cleaner between checkup by either brushing them, or using a damp washcloth to clean them regularly.
A healthy dog will not only be a more pleasant companion, but will also remain your companion for a longer time."