Loving your dog is easy, but it takes more than love to keep him healthy and safe. Just like humans, dogs need a variety of care to ensure their lives are secure and comfortable. Unlike humans, however, a dog's course in life is out of his own control. Dogs don't have the cognitive ability to make healthy choices or engage in safe behaviors. It's up to us to be vigilant about their care and ensure that they are provided with the best health and safety benefits available. Here are three things every dog lover should know about the health and safety of their dogs.
Spaying and Neutering - When most people think of spaying or neutering their dogs, they think of it in terms of reproduction. Certainly, having your dog surgically altered does, indeed, help contain the overpopulation of the species. However, removing your dog's reproductive organs has many other significant health benefits as well. Spayed females have dramatically less risk of developing mammary cancer and uterine infections, called pyometras. Neutered males no longer risk testicular cancer and also have a lowered incidence of prostate cancer and perineal hernias.
Survival Instinct - Because domesticated dogs are ultimately the offspring of wild animals, they have maintained their instinct to hide injury or illness to avoid attack from predators. As a result, by the time they show signs of illness, they are often already very sick. Sometimes the slightest difference in our dogs' behavior can be an indication that something is wrong. We should take the time to closely observe our dogs often so that we can recognize when something is out of balance. Regular preventative health exams are also important; vet visits shouldn't be reserved just for when something is wrong.
Bad Behavior - When a dog acts out or misbehaves, it is almost always the fault of his owners, rather than the dog himself. Dogs aren't born with manners or sensitivity to our social expectations - those things have to be taught. Although it may be easier to teach puppies correct behaviors, mature dogs can be still be taught as well. The old adage that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is just flat out wrong. As a dog owner you have a responsibility to socialize your dog and train him to behave appropriately in order to keep him safe.
Accepting the responsibility of dog ownership is not something to be taken lightly. The commitment of both time and money is extensive, and the ultimate responsibility for anything that goes wrong lies with you. Taking that responsibility seriously and providing a safe and healthy environment for your dog, however, can reward you with years of loyal companionship and lifelong memories.
Lila Miller, "Benefits of Spaying," PetFinder.com
Race Foster, "Mammary Cancer in Dogs," PetEducation.com
Lila Miller, "Why Neuter Your Dog?" PetFinder.com
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