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Developing a Care Routine to Support Your Dog’s Overall Well-Being
Our dogs are members of our family, and as pet parents, we understand the responsibility that comes with keeping them healthy and happy. Although many of the basic routines that we follow with regard to our pets’ health are easy to remember—like following a proper diet—other important aspects of dog grooming and routine care may not be at the forefront of your mind.
To help ensure that you’re following the best wellness routine for your dog—including both their physical and mental well-being—we asked Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM and Head of Veterinary Medicine at Petco to weigh in on what preventive measures are most important for your dog’s health.
Optimal canine wellness routines
Our pets can’t tell us when they’re in need of care, so it’s up to us, as pet parents, to pay attention to their overall appearance and behavior and be on the lookout for signs that something might be off. Having a wellness routine and sticking to it helps prevent serious issues and is one of the best ways to help keep your dog happy and healthy. Some of the most important health and wellness routines include:
Wellness veterinarian exams
Frequency: Yearly (Aging or senior pets should be seen twice a year)
What you should know: A yearly wellness exam is crucial to your dog’s health and ensures that they’re meeting all their milestones, but you shouldn’t shy away from scheduling additional appointments if you have specific questions or think your pet’s health has changed. Regular visits to your veterinarian help prevent certain illnesses and diseases and can help detect serious problems early, in addition to keeping your dog up-to-date with vaccines and preventive medications. Staying on track of routine veterinary visits can also help you save money, since preventive care can help avoid issues before they become serious and costly.
Vaccines and booster shots
Frequency: During puppyhood and yearly thereafter
What you should know: Your dog will require different vaccines and boosters depending on their age, breed and lifestyle, especially within the first few months of life.
Check in with your veterinarian for any questions or concerns you have specific to your dog’s vaccine and booster schedule (or click here for more information), but in general, most dogs can adhere to the following schedule:
- First round: 6 to 9 weeks old
- Second round: 9 to 12 weeks old
- Third round: 12 to 16 weeks old
- The timing of booster shots is determined by your veterinarian and local laws depending on the type of vaccine. Typically, they’re given every 1 to 3 years, depending on the location and type of booster shot.
Veterinary dental exams
What you should know: Your dog should have a dental exam performed by your veterinarian every year at your pet’s annual wellness checkup, so you don’t even have to schedule an additional appointment. Taking proper care of your dog’s dental hygiene at home is part of their overall oral care, but a check-in with your veterinarian is important, as well. “Dental exams are a standard part of a full veterinarian physical exam and should be done at least once a year for a pet’s entire life,” says Dr. Miller. Contrary to popular belief, young dogs do need veterinary dental exams, even before they lose their puppy teeth. As Dr. Miller cautions, “dental issues can start young with retained baby teeth, fractured teeth, etc.”
Frequency: At minimum, once per month
What you should know: How often you cut your dog’s nails will often depend on their breed and overall activity level. Paying attention to the length of their nails will help you determine when they need a trim. However, Dr. Miller says that a good rule of thumb is to plan on trimming your pet’s nails at least once per month. Trimming your dog’s nails helps prevent them from becoming uncomfortable when they walk and can help avoid injuries caused from improper grip to the ground. If you don’t feel comfortable clipping your pet’s nails yourself, read these at-home nail care tips or bring your pet to a professional groomer.
Frequency: Daily (with some wiggle room)
What you should know: Although daily teeth-brushing is recommended, in the real world that can be difficult to accomplish with all of the other things you have going on. Luckily, taking care of your pet’s oral health doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hunker down with the toothbrush every day. “While pets should definitely have a daily dental routine, that can be as simple as providing your dog with a daily dental treat,” says Dr. Miller. Water additives and dental wipes work as well. Aside from that, “aim to have their teeth brushed one to two times a week,” she adds. If you’re ready to become more proactive with your pet’s oral care, consider a program like Petco's Vital Care, where you can get free unlimited teeth-brushing at your local Petco (in addition to other services, such as nail trims and vet visits where applicable.) You can leave it to the experts to help you keep up with your pet’s wellness checklist.
Frequency: Every 4(ish) weeks
What you should know: Like nail clipping, how often you bathe your dog will depend on their overall coat type and activity level, but a good starting point is every four weeks, unless otherwise needed. A bath with gentle shampoo helps remove the regular build-up of dirt, oil and debris, and specialized products can help with additional skin or fur issues your pet might have, like dryness or itching. A bath is also a good time to examine your pet’s skin and coat and look for any pests, bites or lesions that might require veterinary care.
Exercise (both mental and physical)
What you should know: Most pet parents understand the importance of physical exercise for their pet, but it’s often forgotten that mental workouts are equally important. Physical exercise and brain games not only help keep your dog in top shape, but they also help avoid problems that might result from boredom, such as barking or destructive chewing. Your dog’s daily activity needs will vary by size and breed, but it’s important that they get outside for at least a few minutes every day and are mentally stimulated daily. For mental activity, try keeping your dog busy with treat puzzles or long-lasting chews, which help with their overall mental well-being and gives them something to focus on so they don’t get bored.
Frequency: Daily (there’s no such thing as too much!)
What you should know: Your pet is a part of the family, so it’s important to treat them that way. Take the time every day to give them some extra love with snuggles on the couch, trips to their favorite park or playing their favorite game. How much time you have to devote to your dog for bonding each day will likely vary—and that’s okay—just be sure to carve out some attention-time for your pet daily.
Each dog has individual needs, but every dog needs routine care to maintain optimal health and wellness. By keeping your pet’s physical and mental wellness front and center year-round, you’ll be sure to help them live life to the fullest!