Dogs can (and will) get into just about anything. Pet parents aren’t always aware that their actions regarding how they care for their canine companions can have serious consequences. Read on to learn how seemingly innocent actions can turn into big mistakes when it comes to caring for your canine companion.
“I’ll just leave this food here.”
Dogs are astonishing creatures, for several reasons. Many are obvious – their loyalty, sunny demeanor, great attitude, and ability to make us forget all of our troubles – but others maybe not as much. One of the most astonishing things about dogs that tends to take their owners by surprise most often is the vast array of food and objects that they will ingest, or try to.
Food should be an obvious risk, but for some reason humans continue to leave delectable items, like ham bones, sausages, and packages of thawing hamburger, within easy reach of the family dog. Even things that we wouldn’t expect dogs to seek out, like unsweetened baking chocolate, rising bread dough, and pounds of butter are fair game to these creatures that evolved as scavengers. And let’s not forget the non-food items that veterinarians find themselves surgically removing from the guts of their canine patients, including feminine hygiene products, reproductive items, and the perennial favorite, underwear.
In short: secure anything that can be ingested. Keep all food out of reach, teach your children to do the same, and buy trashcans with lids. Live by the mantra that if it could conceivably smell like food to a dog, he’ll try to eat it.
“I’ll just give him an aspirin for that limp.”
There are a few reasons why it’s dangerous to handle apparently minor injuries in your dog as you would your own. First of all, dogs are extremely sensitive to common human pain relievers, and what you might consider a normal dose can be highly toxic to your dog.
Second, giving human pain relievers – even something as apparently innocuous as aspirin – compounds your veterinarian’s ability to treat the pain with really effective drugs that are safe for dogs. These pain relievers, when used concurrently or within a day of each other, contribute significantly to the risk of gastrointestinal upset.
And finally, trying to treat your dog at home only prolongs the time until a definitive diagnosis can be reached, and effective treatment given. So if he doesn’t improve with a day of rest from the dog park, get him in to your veterinarian to find out what’s causing the problem.
“Still a hungry boy? How about a piece of this?”
Feeding your dog from the table is mildly dangerous from the standpoint that you are likely to create and obnoxious, begging, monster-dog, but it becomes really dangerous when you make it a habit and do it routinely. Feeding dogs from the table is the first stop on a one-way road to obesity, since we usually don’t factor these calories in to what the dog should be receiving, and we’re feeding them their normal diet in addition to table foods.
Here’s some perspective: a 15-pound dog that’s neutered and has an average activity level needs to consume only around 450 calories per day. Feed a cup of so of Purina Pro Plan and you’ve hit that. Add in a few biscuits, and a couple of bites of pasta with meat sauce, and you’re giving him well over what he needs and can use in a day.
“He’s eating just fine, so his teeth must be fine, too.”
Dogs have a strong survival instinct, and they are highly unlikely to stop eating due to dental pain. I have seen dogs with multiple abscessed and broken teeth continue to eat their food without missing a beat.
But dental disease has serious ramifications beyond the mouth. Abscessed teeth create pockets of infection in the body that are nearly untouchable with antibiotic therapy, yet leak nasty bacteria into the bloodstream, where they can damage the liver, kidneys, and heart. Practice routine oral care, and follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding routine dental cleanings, so that your dog never gets to that point.
“I’ll trim his nails next week. He hates it anyways.”
The longer you wait between nail trimmings, the longer the cuticle inside the nail becomes, and the more difficult it is to actually clip the nail without cutting right into the cuticle. And once that happens, nail trimming becomes a traumatic event for your dog, and he anticipates that it will be painful every time, so it gets more and more difficult to accomplish.
If you have a puppy, get him accustomed to your handling his feet. Play with his feet, massage the areas between the toes, and practice trimming his nails. It’s usually really straightforward with puppies anyways, because the sharp little tips are simple to snip. Give lots of treats and verbal praise once the task is over, and you’ll be one the road to a lifetime of simple nail maintenance.
“I don’t think there’s a chance he’ll get heartworm disease.”
According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm disease strikes dogs in all of the 48 continental United States, plus Hawaii. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos, which in many places in the country are present year-round.
Heartworms kill dogs by setting up shop in the large vessels that lead into and out of the heart, where they mature and compromise cardiac function. Much like vaccinations against infectious diseases, routine monthly heartworm prevention has saved the lives of countless numbers of dogs, for only about $5 per month. If you forego the prevention and decide to “roll the dice,” you’ll possibly be looking at extended treatment with a drug that is derived from arsenic, is extremely painful to administer, and requires strict cage rest for several days after administrations. And that’s assuming the disease is caught with enough time for effective treatment.
So don’t gamble with your dog’s health and well-being. Use heartworm prevention every month year-round, to make sure that he doesn’t get this terrible disease.
“I’m sure it’s just something he ate.”
When 3 people in your office get the same stomach bug after eating at the sketchy-looking new food truck in the parking lot, you can pretty much assume that yes, it was something you all ate. But when your dog comes down with similar symptoms, who knows? He could have picked up intestinal parasites at the dog park, leptospirosis from drinking in the creek on a hike, or swallowed the squeaker out of his new toy.
One episode of vomiting, or a bit of diarrhea that resolves with a bland diet after 24 hours are likely not cause for exceptional concern. But several episodes of vomiting, accompanied by loss of appetite, lethargy, and diarrhea that continues should be investigated, because so many diseases cause these signs. Hopefully, it’s something simple, but it’s dangerous to assume that.
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