6 Ways To Enhance Your Dog's Life

Help your dog thrive, not just survive. For many dogs, these six tips can also contribute to better overall health (and lower vet bills for you - BONUS!).

1. Protect His/Her Paws

Paws were not made for navigating hot concrete and asphalt. To avoid heat, walk your dog in the early morning hours or as the sun is setting (or later).

Paws were also not meant to trudge along icy sidewalks or roadways.

You can prevent burns, frostbite and general cracking by outfitting your dog with booties. If this is too much for you or your pooch to handle, thee are a couple of excellent balms to protect the feet -

Only Natural Pet Soothe Shield Paw Balm

Musher's Secret

2. Use a Harness Instead of a Collar When Walking Your Dog

Contrary to what many people believe, a dog's throat is not equipped to handle this type of pulling. Over time, there can be significant damage to the trachea. Note: NEVER use a choker.

Harnesses also work well to even the body weight and can be very helpful for dogs with mobility issues and sore joints.

There are now strong harnesses available for even the largest dogs.

3. Teach Your Dog To Use Stairs or a Ramp to Get On/Off the Bed and In/Out of the Car

Whether your dog is big or small, the bones and joints can only take so much impact before they start to become sore or worse. By providing stairs or a ramp before they need stairs or a ramp, you can contribute to healthy bones and joints.

Solvit pet products offers a great line of ramps and stairs.

4. Don't Make Your Dog Hold Urine All Day

This is a case of just because your dog can hold it in, doesn't mean he/she should.

Having your dog ‘hold it in’ for long periods can lead to the development of bacteria in the accumulated urine. This can lead to a urinary tract infection or worse – a bladder or kidney infection. It can even cause bladder stones. Over time, spending days, weeks, months and years holding urine for extended periods can also contribute to incontinence.

Of course, many people have full time jobs and are away from home for extended hours. That doesn’t mean the dog has to go all day without peeing. Here are some solutions:

5. Feed a Real Food Diet

Avoid feeding highly processed, carbohydrate and starch-laden kibble containing synthetic vitamins and minerals. Even grain-free kibble is loaded with starch (that's how the pieces stay together). Instead, opt for homemade food. This can be from scratch, which is very economical. There are misconceptions about the time and effort it takes. You can actually make four days worth of food in less than a 1/2 hour, including clean up time.

A more convenient option for some is using a pre-mix - all you have to do is add the meat, water and oil. There are also freeze-dried complete foods that just require adding water. You can realistically make four days worth of food in 10 - 15 minutes.

Commercial raw pet foods are another great option. They are made with human grade ingredients and most contain organic produce and food-derived vitamins and minerals.

Of course, if you have a very large dog (over 55 pounds), you may have to supplement the diet with some kibble to keep costs in check and to meet caloric requirements. Look for dry foods made from human grade meats and produce and is free from things you can't pronounce on the label.

6. Avoid Over-Vaccination

Over vaccination has been linked to a number of canine (and feline) diseases, including cancer. Many vaccines prove to be effective for several years or more. This is because antibodies produced in response to vaccinations often carry on for years.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association: revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.

So how can you tell if your pet needs a booster or not? You can ask your vet to perform a blood test called an antibody titer. This measures your pet's immunity. Veterinarians all over the U.S. use Vaccicheck. If your vet doesn't carry it, you can purchase the kit yourself and provide it to the clinic.

Since rabies vaccines are required by law, opt for the three-year vaccine.

If your dog does require booster vaccinations, it is best to give them one at a time. This way,

if there is an allergic reaction, development or worsening of inflammatory conditions, organ system failure or seizure, your vet will be able to pinpoint which vaccination was the cause.

Work with your vet to determine a vaccine protocol that is right for your dog, as each is a unique individual and should be treated as such.

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