The Oundle and District Dog Training Society promotes responsible dog ownership which includes looking after the health of the dog. The Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme also places emphasis on health care for dogs. Generally prevention is better than cure so the following may be of help to new and more experienced dog owners.
As with any animal a dog needs to be well fed and have access to fresh water. This is much easier nowadays with the choice of dry and wet complete food. A puppy will usually arrive at his new home with a diet sheet and some food. 8 week old puppies are best fed 4 times a day and fed to appetite. The number of meals can be reduced as he grows until he reaches adulthood when 2 meals per day is the norm. Food manufactures give guidelines on quantities but it is usually better to look at the dog as well as the food bowl. A healthy dog should have a covering of flesh over the ribs. If the dog carries a lot of coat it is best to feel over the ribs and not just look at the fluffy ball.
Dogs training at Oundle are usually well fed but some are too thin.
In this case extra food should be given, especially to developing puppies, they grow in spurts and need reserves. Poor eaters sometimes need encouragement to eat, soaking the dry food in warm water or adding tinned food, chicken or scraps can help.
We rarely see obese dogs but reducing food and titbits and increasing exercise can restore them to a healthier weight.
Another problem we see is hyperactive dogs. A good first indicator is to find out what food is used. Working type dogs (spaniels, labradors, collies, some terriers) can become hyperactive if the protein level in the food is too high. So if the dog is fully grown, read the back of the food packet and if the protein level is over 23 per cent and your dog is swinging from the chandelier consider gradually changing to a lower protein food. They might require more of it to maintain their weight.
Diseases like distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis etc were killers until fairly recently. The incidence of these diseases in the dog population had dropped because the majority of dogs are protected against these diseases by vaccines. One of the strictly adhered to rules of the Society is that all dogs must be fully vaccinated with conventional vaccines, we check certificates when joining and renewing subscriptions. This protects all the dogs owned by our members – remember some people may have baby puppies or very elderly dogs at home.
Puppies and older dogs often carry intestinal worms. They should be wormed regularly with a good wormer from the vet. Round worms can cause diseases in humans – especially children.
Fleas and Ticks
Dogs can pick up fleas all year round and they can lurk in carpets ready to re -infest dogs and cats. ‘Spot on’ preparations from the vet are usually the most effective but need to be re-applied regularly.
Kennel cough is highly infectious hence the name, it often occurs when several dogs congregate in one place. It is passed from dog to dog in droplets so it is possible for a dog to catch it from contact with a person who carries a droplet on shoes or clothes. The disease can be a minor irritation in a young, healthy dog but in small puppies and elderly dogs it can be a killer. Vaccination may help protect against some infections but like the common cold there are many strains and it is not possible to protect against them all.
We ask that members keep their dogs away from training if they are coughing or sneezing. They shouldn’t return until 10 days has elapsed since the last symptoms were seen. If veterinary help is needed it is best to leave the dog in the car and not take it into a waiting room where it might infect other dogs.
Eyes should be checked regularly for signs of discharge or discomfort. Grass seeds can lodge in eyes
Ears should be checked for signs of canker – indicated by a brown discharge and a characteristic smell. Ear cleaner and drops are available from the vet. In dogs with pendulous ears e.g. spaniels it is a good idea to keep the hair short around the ear opening. If air can circulate freely it can prevent problems. In the summer the dart like grass seeds can easily find their way into a dog’s ear canal. The dog will usually hold that ear down low and may shake his head. A trip to the vet is required but removal of the seed brings instant relief
Dog’s feet should be checked for signs of grass seeds between toes. If one of the darts enters the foot it can travel and set up a serious infection
Sickness and Diarrhoea
Dogs often eat items that cause problems and usually the effects only last a short time. If removing food (but not water) for 24 hours has no effect then veterinary help should be sought. If the dog is obviously unwell, help should be sought sooner.
Bitches ‘In Season’
Depending on the breed a bitch may have her first season at 6 months or older and have seasons at 6 monthly intervals throughout her life. A season lasts a full 3 weeks and bitches should be kept away from other dogs for all of that time. In built up areas they should be supervised in the garden and only walked where there are no other dogs. Bitches in season should not be brought to training.
Spaying a bitch removes this problem but it can lead to obesity and incontinence in older bitches although it protects against mammary tumours and infections. Coated breeds revert to a puppy type coat after neutering but they can still be kept smart with regular trimming. It is a fallacy that bitches need to have a litter.
Puppies change their teeth from 14 weeks onwards. Mouths can be sore during teething and it can cause eyes to water. Once the adult teeth have grown in, regular tooth brushing can prevent build up of tartar, tooth decay and gum disease.
An unpleasant odour from the mouth might not be due to the teeth. Spaniels sometimes have lip folds under the mouth which can become sore and infected because they are always damp. Swabbing with Hibiscrub can be helpful if the infection is not serious.
Signs of Illness
A dog that is off his food for more than 24 hours, lethargic, coughing, limping, losing blood, collapsed, having a fit, having difficulty breathing or swallowing, having prolonged sickness or diarrhoea or is just generally off colour will need veterinary attention.