Owning a ... dog
At the vet
All dogs must be fully vaccinated before being allowed outside. Puppies usually have the first vaccination at around 12 weeks, and a second around 2-3 weeks later. The vaccinations protect against distemper, canine viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo-virus and kennel cough (see below for details of these diseases). These diseases are potentially lethal. Not only will you be protecting your own dog by having it vaccinated but you will prevent other dogs catching any disease from your own.
Parasitic worms affecting dogs are ascarids, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Ascarids, whipworms and tapeworms live in the intestines of the dog. Symptoms of these worms include anaemia and indigestion, often causing the dog to vomit. Intestinal worms can result in a blockage in the intestine, which could be fatal if not treated immediately. Hookworms are blood suckers. They may cause skin disease and damage to the pads of the feet. Larvae can enter unbroken skin, particularly between the pads, causing redness and itching. The most well known worm in dogs is toxocara canis, which can cause blindness and even death in humans. It is mainly young puppies that are affected by this parasite, having aquired it from their mother. It is therefore vital that you worm your dog regularly for the whole of its life. There are many worming treatments available - consult your vet for advice about which one to use.
Identification - the microchip
To identify your dog you should get him microchipped. A tiny microchip is inserted just under the skin of the dog via a needle. This does not hurt the dog and is exactly like any other jab. The idea is that the owner's details and contact information are accessible via the chip when the chip is scanned. The scanner will show the unique code on the microchip, which is typed into the computer database. The vet, or whoever scanned the dog, can then find out the address and telephone number of the rightful owner. This not only returns lost dogs to their homes but can identify the true owner of an expensive pedigree dog etc. It is well worth it - so get your dog chipped today!
Fleas are a big problem and prevention is better than cure in this case. Once a dog is infested with fleas, it is more than likely that there will be fleas and flea eggs in the carpet as well. Plus, they will be transferred to any other animals in the house. Fleas cause immense irritation to the skin, resulting in excessive scratching and nibbling and sore and broken skin. There are many flea treatments, such as Program and Frontline, which either make the fleas infertile or kill them on contact. Such treatments are usually monthly and can be obtained from your vet. Alternatively your dog can wear a flea collar. Flea collars are impregnated with parasiticides (chemicals that kill parasites). When selecting a flea collar, always choose a reliable make which is known to be safe and effective. Some dogs will be allergic to the chemicals on the collars, in which case the collar should not be worn.
Ticks are small insects which feed on the blood of other animals. They start off small but the more blood they suck, the bigger their body grows until it is full, when it pops off again. Dogs can pick up ticks from farm animals, particularly sheep, even if they are no longer in the field you are walking through. Ticks are often found in long grass, too. If you find a tick on your dog, be careful as to how you remove it. The jaws of the tick are embeded in the dog's skin and if you pull the body, the jaws may well get left behind, leading to infection. There are special 'tick removers' available from vets and pet shops. If you are unsure, your vet can remove it for you.
It is important to have your dog either neutered (males) or spayed (females) to prevent any unwanted litters. It can also help to calm down overactive dogs. If you get a dog from a rescue centre, they will almost certainly request castration of the animal.
It is important to keep your dog's teeth clean and healthy. You will probably need to brush his teeth occasionally, using dog toothpaste, not human toothpaste. There are pet toothbrushes available too. You may find it quite difficult to hold the dog's mouth open while brushing and will find that the dog is more intersted in trying to lick the tasty toothpaste off the brush than to cooperate with you. You might need another person to hold his mouth open for you. Alternatively, there are gels available which do not require any brushing. Just squeeze out some gel and let the dog lick it up. This is a lot easier than brushing although it might not be as effective.
A good way to keep the teeth clean is to chew. There are bones available, called Rasks, which clean the dog's teeth as he chews them. This is a very good way to keep the teeth clean, since it doesn't require any input from the owner and is fun for the dog.
Canine distemper:- an infectious disease mainly of young dogs. Symptoms include a high temperature, dullness, loss of appetite and in later stages discharge from the eyes and nose. The disease is often complicated by broncho-pneumonia (characterised by a short, hacking cough and difficulty in breathing). A vet must be consulted immediately if your dog has any of these syptoms. Recovery is slow and relapses can occur. Dogs are vaccinated against this disease.
Canine viral hepatitis:- may occur simultaneously with distemper. Infection may exist without symptoms, which means that an infected dog, apparently healthy the night before, could be found dead in the morning. In less acute cases the dog may behave strangely, have convulsions, a high temperature, anaemia, lethargy and even go into a coma. Vomiting and diarrhoea may follow for 5 or 6 days. Immediate treatment is required. Dogs are vaccinated against this disease.
Leptospirosis:- symptoms may include loss of appetite, depression, fever, increased thirst, vomiting, a foul odour from the mouth and jaundice. This leads to infection and failure of the kidneys and finally death. Immediate veterinary treatment is required. Dogs are vaccinated against this disease.
Parvo-virus:- results in a low white blood cell count and affects the small intestine. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, causing dehydration. Rapid diagnosis and treatment is vital.Dogs are vaccinated against this disease.
Kennel cough:- a respiratory disease affecting the upper air passages, resulting in a fit of harsh, dry coughing which is aggravated by exercise. Dogs are vaccinated against this disease.
Gastro-enteritis:- an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This can be caused by eating poison or any other rubbish (especially rotting fish and other rubbish at the beach). Most common in young dogs and potentially lethal if left untreated.
Diarrhoea:- often caused by a sudden change in diet or by eating rotten food etc. Dogs with diarrhoea often become dehydrated. If diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours, consult your vet. Dogs with an upset tummy should be fed simple foods, such as chicken and rice, until it clears up.
Obesity:- in dogs may arise from over feeding, an unsuitable diet or a hormonal imbalance. Obesity can lead to heart disease, arthritis and skin problems. Especially common in the older dog, which should be fed less carbohydrate and more protein. Cut down the dog's food and increase its exercise to lose weight. Consult your vet if the problem persists.