If you’re like most pet owners, your dog is a part of your family, and you want to do everything you can to help him live a long, happy life. Even though your dog can’t tell you what he needs to stay in good condition, you can trust that he needs the same things you need to stay healthy. This overview discusses the importance of a good diet, plenty of exercise, and routine health check-ups.

Feeding Your Dog a Healthy Diet

Each breed of dog has different quirks when it comes to the foods they can eat, so you should discuss your dog’s dietary needs with a veterinarian. As a general rule, however, dogs eat both meat and plant-based foods just like human beings, so you should look for a food that contains meats and vegetables. A well-balanced kibble diet can be supplemented with bits of real meat, such as beef and fish. You can try feeding your dog a small amount of raw meat, but, if he gets sick afterward, switch to cooked meats. It’s also important to practice good food prepping hygiene. Dogs are just as susceptible to bacteria, such as campylobacter or salmonella, as people, so be safe and discuss feeding your dog raw foods with your vet.

Another matter that should be discussed with your vet is the quantity of food you feed your dog. You can determine that your dog is an ideal weight if you can feel his ribs beneath a thin layer of fat. If his ribs are visible, your pet is more than 20% underweight. If the ribs can’t be seen or felt at all, your dog is obese. Above all, every dog should always have access to water. Even if your vet puts an obese dog on a restricted diet, water should always be available.

How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

Much like your dog’s diet, his requirements for physical activity will vary based on his age, breed, and size. As a general rule, younger dogs will need more exercise than seniors, but that doesn’t mean older dogs won’t need or want to be playful. Doctors advise people that they need 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to high-intensity physical activity each day and that seems to be a good rule of thumb for your dog as well. If your dog is still hyper and energetic after a jog around the block, he’s not quite ready to go home.

There’s a myth that smaller dogs, such as pugs, get plenty of exercises indoors, so they don’t need outdoor exercise. This belief often leads to toy dogs becoming overweight and obese. With that in mind, pay attention to the weather. Outdoor exercise should be avoided on days with extremely hot or extremely cold temperatures. On these days, running up and down the stairs, playing tug, and teaching new tricks are good ways to stimulate your dog indoors.

When Does Your Dog Need to See the Vet?

Puppies under 16 weeks will need frequent visits to a vet to receive vaccines and to undergo more frequent checkups. Once your dog gets older, he won’t need so many vet visits. Just as you may only see your doctor once a year, a growing dog will also need just one annual visit. When you pick a vet to provide care for your pets, you will usually receive reminders from them in the mail, or via text messages, when your dog is due for his annual visit.

Otherwise, you won’t need to visit your vet until you observe a problem with your dog’s health. For instance, a torn ACL in dogs is a common injury that occurs with more active canines. As you pet or play with your dog, watch for unusual lumps that may indicate tumor growth, or observe dietary changes. Since dogs can’t speak, watching your pet’s behavior is the best way to discover health problems as they develop. Discovering a problem and getting it diagnosed early can help you get it treated before it grows more severe.

While some issues may arise along the way, following the guidelines presented here will help you give your dog a healthy life. You can trust that he will be with you for many years to come just be giving him a healthy diet and providing him with plenty of exercises. Other than that, regular visits to your vet will help you identify any problems that your dog can’t tell you about.

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