How to Track Your Puppy's Health in the First Year
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Congratulations! You're the proud owner of a puppy. It's important to take steps now to ensure great puppy health. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), offers these pointers for your puppy's first year.
Puppy Health: Preventive Care
Talk to friends to find a veterinarian you can trust. Within a week of bringing your puppy home, take him for a checkup. The doctor will perform a physical and start keeping a detailed medical history.
Puppy Health: Vaccines
The overvaccination of pets is currently a hot topic, Murray says. The question is, however, not whether to vaccinate but which vaccines to use and how often. What she calls the 'core vaccines'—those for parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus type 2, and rabies—are essential. 'These shots protect your dog from diseases that are very real, very common, and very dangerous,' she says. Additional vaccines may be necessary based on where you live, where you take your dog, and whether you travel.
Puppy Health: Diet
Choose a reputable brand of dog food and discuss your choice with your veterinarian. In his first year, your puppy will be on food that is specifically geared toward younger dogs and will likely eat three times a day rather than once or twice.
Puppy Health: Spay/Neuter
An excellent measure against pet overpopulation, this procedure ideally should be performed between ages 4 and 5 months, which is before a female dog goes into her first heat and before a male enters puberty. A female dog who is spayed before going into heat is 2,000 times less likely to get breast cancer, Murray says. Males who are neutered before entering puberty have fewer behavioral issues, such as aggression toward other dogs and urine marking.
Puppy Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Most dogs should be on medicine year-round to prevent heartworm, a life-threatening parasitic infestation, Murray says. Fleas, often seen as just an annoyance, can actually cause severe skin problems and even anemia. Ticks carry multiple diseases (including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). Your veterinarian can prescribe effective preventives for these two problems.
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- adp_description_block164Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs
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Healthy joints and proper weight are especially important for dogs that grow to be more than 50 pounds. But not all large- and giant-breed adult dogs have the same nutritional needs. Is your dog getting proper exercise? Is she about to have puppies? Special conditions can dramatically affect your dog’s nutritional demands. Giving her a food specially formulated for her large size, life stage and activity level is the easiest way to make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs.
Choosing a Food for Overall Health
To address the special needs of your large- or giant-breed dog, look for these features:
- Less fat to help maintain an ideal body condition for less joint stress
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for healthy skin, shiny coat and overall health
- Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help maintain good health
- High-quality animal-based protein sources to help maintain muscle tone
- A moderately fermentable fiber source, such as beet pulp, to maintain intestinal health, enhance your dog's ability to absorb nutrients, and reduce backyard cleanup
- A carbohydrate blend to help sustain energy by maintaining normal blood sugar levels
These components are key to good nutrition. Look for them in treats, wet dog food, or dry dog food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Large Breed.
Maintaining Healthy Joints and Cartilage
Joint health is a big concern for owners of large- and giant-breed dogs. A large- or giant-breed formula that contains high-quality protein can help nourish healthy joints. Vitamins and minerals help promote the production of cartilage. Also, keeping your dog at a healthy weight will help minimize joint stress.
Guarding Against Weight Gain
Dogs with lower activity levels and dogs that have been neutered or spayed are all prone to weight gain. Controlling your dog’s weight is an important step toward protecting against the health effects of excess weight, such as diabetes or joint health problems. If you use a weight-management food, look for these characteristics:
- A reduced fat level that still offers essential nutrients for skin and coat health
- L-carnitine, a key nutrient that helps burn fat and maintain muscle mass during weight loss
- Special carbohydrate blends that help maintain energy while managing weight
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for overall health
Providing Nutrition During Pregnancy
Pregnant dogs have substantial nutrition requirements. Starting in the seventh week of her pregnancy, a mother dog will need to increase her energy intake up to 50% by the time she gives birth and increase it even more when she starts nursing her puppies. Because she may lose her appetite at times, it's important that she eats a nutrient-dense food. A complete, balanced puppy formula can give her the extra nutrients she needs. But avoid puppy food created for large and giant breeds; these formulas contain specially adjusted levels of energy and minerals that may not be sufficient for a pregnant or nursing dog.
Switching to a Mature Diet
Dogs who grow to be more than 50 pounds are considered mature or senior at age 5 or 6, which is earlier than small-breed dogs. So, it’s critical to make a proactive transition to a specially formulated mature diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Mature Adult Large Breed, to help keep your dog healthy and active as she ages.
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