There are several key ways to ensure your emotional support dog remains happy and healthy, including correct diet and exercise regimes. Learn more with this article.
Puppy dog eyes are usually enough to convince people to spend every last coin in their pockets. People buy the best toys, beds, and accessories for their beloved dogs, hoping to bring a spark of joy to their pooch; however, a lot more goes into keeping them healthy and happy than just these things.
As of 2018, over 470 million dogs were kept as pets worldwide, and a recent study has suggested that people are more inclined to feel empathy and affection for dogs than for other human beings. This makes some sense; though a fur baby might seem to lack the communicative ability of their human counterparts, they actually have a range of ways they communicate with their owners. For example, dogs raise their eyebrows and even widen their eyes when a moment of warmth passes between them and their humans. (1) (2)
Dogs feel love, they feel pain, and they suffer from terrible morning breath too. They deserve proper physical and mental health care in order to make sure they stay fit and sociable.
Your dog may flash you those big brown eyes, or nudge your knee when they see you eating something particular alluring; however, it’s important to ensure that, along with the occasional tempting treat, you are also feeding your dog appropriate foods with the correct amount of nutrients.
Every dog is unique and has its own set of medical and dietary needs, so remember that what is healthy for one dog may not be healthy for the next. Pet insurance for dogs may be worth looking into if your dog experiences complications after eating something unsuitable. Still, as a baseline, the Veterinary Centers of America Inc. has suggested that most dogs should be consuming a mix of the following nutrients:
- Fats (3)
A diet that provides a good balance of the these, as well as a mixture of plant-based foods and meat, should suffice. Some pet owners prefer to feed their dogs a fully-vegetarian diet, and that can be adequate as well, as long as it’s efficiently balanced.
What constitutes a healthy diet will also depend on the specific dog and their immediate requirements. For example, a puppy needs an increased amount of protein, fat and minerals when compared to a fully grown dog. If puppies eat the same amount and type of food as adult dogs, they may suffer nutrient deficiencies and other health problems. Understanding when to switch from puppy to adult dog food is essential, too. Experts recommend this be done when dogs reach 80% of their final, adult size. (4)
Important dog nutrition factors you should understand include:
- The sufficient nutrient intake to maintain energy levels and repair tissue damage
- The correct diet for senior dogs to ensure a healthy body weight and minimize risk of disease
- To avoid overfeeding, as this can lead to serious health problems
- The weaning process if puppies are less than seven weeks old
- Correct body weights and portion sizes
- Dangerous foods include chocolate, alcohol, dairy-products, salty snacks, onions and garlic, fatty foods, and citrus. (5) (6)
If in doubt, you may want to refer to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for further instruction.
Regular exercise is an extremely important component of optimized dog health. Hitting the park, going for a walk in the woods, jumping in the pool, or running laps together may be all you need to ensure your dog has the proper physical and mental outlets. Not only do these activities allow your dog to expend energy on something other than shredding your last roll of toilet paper, they can also positively affect their mood.
Other benefits include:
- Optimizing digestive health and reducing constipation
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving social skills with other dogs and humans
- Building muscle
- Managing behavioral problems
- Minimizing depressive symptoms
- Reducing risk of obesity. (7)
It’s essential when choosing a breed of dog to make sure you’ll be able to meet their needs. If they’re a very active breed, make sure you’ll be able to provide them with enough opportunities to exercise. If their breed has common health issues, be ready to deal with those as well.
Obesity is one of the biggest dog-related health issues, but it can be rectified with the appropriate fitness regimen. It was estimated in 2018 that over 50 million dogs in the United States suffer from obesity. To avoid this for your pet, consult a veterinarian when determining how much, and what sort of, food and exercise are best for your dog. (8) (9)
Understand the warning signs
Owner’s hearts understandably break when their fur babies are sick or injured. Sometimes it’s out of their control; however, other times certain illnesses and diseases could be prevented if picked up early enough and treated appropriately. Regular veterinary check-ups are important, as is ensuring that your pet is properly vaccinated and protected from parasites.
There are various ways to determine if your dog is in good health, including the following:
- Body temperature is around 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Correct speed and strength of heart beat
- Clear yellow urine
- Features are clean and show no signs of sores, growths or other abnormalities
- Their oral hygiene isn’t compromised by infection, pungent smelling breath or plaque. (10)
If, however, you dog shows any of the following warning signs, you may need to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible:
- Inability or refusal to eat
- Loss of balance
- Excess or difficult urination
- Skin irritation
- Weight loss
- White gums
- Runny eyes and nose
- Coughing and wheezing. (10) (11)
Ensuring you act quickly and responsibly if any of these symptoms occur, or persist, is key in caring for your dog’s overall wellbeing and preventing their health from deteriorating.
Protecting your dog healthy from mental and physical ailments is, understandably, a top priority for most pet owners. The best way to keep your dog happy and healthy is to focus on feeding them a well-balanced diet, and giving them the appropriate level of exercise for their breed. Recognizing the warning signs of potential disease onset and/or other health issues is also vital. Consult a veterinarian if you’re unsure of the correct medical assistance or at-home remedies to administer. By keeping these things in mind, you’ll help ensure your dog stays as healthy and happy as possible.