12+ tips for maintaining the health of a dog

Responsible dog owners want the very best for their dogs, and many go to great lengths to be sure that they are as happy and healthy as possible. But what if you are new to dog ownership or if you are looking for some new ideas to make your dog's life even brighter?
Even veteran dog owners can use a refresher once in a while about the ways to keep dogs healthy and by their side for many years. Here is a list of 12 tips to improve your dog's life. Check and see what you already do and what you might want to do for your dog's health and future.
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1. Take your dog to the veterinarian regularly
All dogs need regular veterinary care but for more than just routine vaccinations. Although vaccinations are important, the examinations are just as critical because your vet can make early diagnoses of medical issues. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chances of successful treatment. It will also cost less than if you wait until the medical situation is extremely serious.
2. Brush and clean your dog's teeth
Whether you are brushing your dog's teeth at home or having them cleaned professionally at the veterinarian's office, a clean mouth is vital to your dog's well-being. Oral and dental diseases will cause great pain, making it hard for it to eat. Untreated dental disorders can lead to other deadly conditions such as kidney and heart disease. Keeping your dog's mouth clean and healthy will translate to the rest of his body as well.
3. Feed your dog a high-quality diet
A proper diet, one with healthy meats and vegetables, will strengthen a dog's digestive and immune systems, as well as keeping its joints, muscles, coat and skin healthy. Although a proper diet is often a more expensive one, feeding your dog cheap, processed food may lead to costly health problems.
4. Keep your pet moving
Even with the best diet, a dog can gain weight if it does not get enough exercise. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by two years, and overweight dogs often suffer from osteoarthritis and other joint diseases. Make sure your dog exercises regularly: Go on frequent walks or head over to the dog park so you and your dog stay active and lean.
5. Provide hydration for your dog
Like people, dogs need hydration and should have access to fresh water at all times. Even mild hydration can cause a dog to pant, suffer dry mouth and lose skin elasticity. Severe cases of dehydration, especially in hot climates, can cause heatstroke and death.
6. Don't let your dog roam around unsupervised
You may think your dog should be allowed to roam wherever it wants, but in fact, you are placing it in danger by doing so. Dogs on the loose can be exposed to poisons, contagious diseases, attacked by other dogs or animals, or injured or killed in car accidents. Keep your dog in the backyard or on a leash so it is in sight at all times.
7. Groom your dog regularly
All dogs need physical upkeep, not just fancy show dogs. Generally, dogs who do not have allergies or special breed requirements need a monthly bath, nail trim and brushing. Longer-haired breeds may need daily brushing. If you can't keep up with daily or monthly physical care for your dog, take him to a groomer.
8. Challenge your dog's mind
Physical exercise for your dog is necessary and proper, but don't forget about its mental exercise as well. To avoid boredom, dogs need new stimulations. Try teaching your dog a new trick, taking him to a new dog park or walking trail, or buying him puzzle treat toys.
9. Play with your dog daily
Dogs are pack animals, social creatures, and they are not meant to spend long periods alone in a crate, backyard or house. They need companionship to be happy and want to be part of the family's social order and daily activities. Most of all, dogs need to play. Dedicate some time each day to playing with your dog. Whether it's playing fetch, tug-of-war, going for a walk or throwing your dog a frisbee, give your dog some of your time and watch your happiness and bond strengthen.
10. Vaccinate your dog
With regular veterinary visits, you will have ample opportunity to have your dog vaccinated and protected against serious and deadly diseases. It is your responsibility as a dog owner to make sure your dog is protected against such diseases as rabies, distemper and parvo to ensure that it does not fall prey to any of these terrible illnesses.
11. Keep your dog free of parasites
Your dog needs frequent care to stay free of parasitic infections from fleas, ticks and heartworm. Speak with your veterinarian or purchase preventatives from a pet store to keep your dog bug-free and comfortable.
12. Spay or neuter your dog
Not only can you help extend your dog's life – you will prevent uterine and breast cancers in female dogs and prostate and testicular cancers in males – but you will also contribute to controlling the pet homelessness crisis wherein millions of healthy dogs are euthanized each year because of a lack of homes.
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Follow these tips, and your dog will be happy and healthy for the length of its life. Better yet, you will have your best four-legged friend by your side for as long as possible.
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