Dog ownership can be a steep learning curve. And the stakes are high when it’s your dog’s health at stake. Here are five things I wish someone had told me upfront when I became a new dog owner.
1. Do your homework
This applies from the moment the thought of getting a dog enters your head. And it never ends. Whether it’s to do with food or neutering or worming, you have choices.
There is a lot of conflicting advice out there. It’s your job to wade your way through it and find the right answer for your dog.
Don’t take the pet shop clerk’s word for it. Or even your vet’s. Consult your vet, absolutely. But do your own thorough research and weigh up all the information as it relates to your individual dog, factoring in the breed and your dog’s specific health situation.
The vet is the vet. But you are the owner and you need to advocate for your dog. You can only do that if you are as well informed as you possibly can be. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to get proactive.
2. Feed raw bones
Raw meaty bones are nutritional powerhouses that have been shown to improve everything from gut health to teeth and gums. Remember the bones must always be raw. Cooked bones become brittle and can splinter.
Avoid weight-bearing bones like femurs because they’re denser and therefore more likely to crack teeth. Lamb’s necks are great as long as you trim the excess fat.
Always supervise and take bones away before they get so small that your dog can gulp the last bit.
3. Get a UTI home test kit
UTIs are said to be the most common infectious disease of dogs. 14% of dogs will be affected at some point in their lifetime. Home test kits are not a substitute for a sample given to your vet and sent to the pathology lab.
But they can be a useful tool to keep on hand. They give you instant results and some peace of mind, especially for monitoring the success of treatment.
4. Watch your dog’s poop
As an owner, you can hardly avoid noticing your dog’s poop. But really pay attention, because your dog’s droppings are a major indicator of health. It’s where you’ll see signs of worms, but also simpler things like whether your dog’s food is agreeing with him.
Not all abnormalities in the poop necessitate an immediate vet visit. For minor diarrhoea, a 24-hour fast will usually see it resolve. Make sure water is always available so your dog stays hydrated.
One of my single biggest lightbulb moments as a dog owner has been to do with the charming but important topic of mucus in your dog’s stool. This really worried me when it happened to us because I’d read it could be a sign of anything from parasites to cancer.
But, don’t panic.
If you have just changed your dog’s food, this can cause mucus to be expelled from the digestive tract. So can a recent course of medication. In both cases, the mucus will pass on its own. Of course, see your vet if things don’t normalize or if your dog shows signs of feeling unwell.
5. Splurge on an orthopaedic bed
Don’t wait until your dog develops joint problems to give him proper support. Orthopaedic dog beds mightn’t always look as good or have as great a range of shapes and styles. But they are a million times better for your dog’s joints.
Some of the most important things I’ve learned as a dog owner have not come from books or vet visits.
Instead, this knowledge has grown out of direct experience — and from insights shared by other dog owners who’ve trod this path before. It’s incredible how just a few small tips and tricks can make life a whole lot easier, for both you and your dog.
As you go along and learn from your pup, be sure to share what you know. That way, we all can become better owners and our dogs will be happier and healthier.