Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy

By Ruthie Bently

I own a dog and several cats, and I am always looking for ways to keep them as healthy as possible. When I adopted Skye, because of her special health issues I began looking at things I could do, that I may not have already been doing. We all know that we should provide fresh water every day for our dogs, but did you know your tap water could contain chemicals even if you live in the country and have a well? Cities regularly use chlorine to clean their water systems and some cities add fluoride to the water. Other chemicals that may be in your water are nitrates, arsenic and lead. By using bottled water or putting a filter on your kitchen faucet you can get cleaner water without the chemical additives.

You can use natural cleaners that have baking soda or vinegar in them. Vinegar cuts through grease and is great as a glass cleaner. Baking soda is a safe abrasive that can be used on dog dishes and water bowls, and you don’t end up with soap residue on your pet dishes.

By keeping an eye on your dog’s weight you reduce their chance of getting cancer or other health issues related to weight, like diabetes or heart disease. They can even have problems with their joints like hip dysplasia, and difficulty breathing. If you aren’t sure how much your dog should weigh, ask your veterinarian to help you decide the proper weight.

When walking, keep your dog away from puddles in the street, which could be contaminated by lawn chemicals like herbicides, insecticides or fertilizers. Don’t walk them across lawns that have been treated with chemicals; they can get chemical burns on their feet or get sick from licking the chemical residue from their feet. When working on your car in the driveway, make sure to sop up any spills of oil, brake fluid or toxic anti-freeze with pine shavings or clay kitty litter, and discard it in a tightly sealed, dog-proof garbage can.

Another great way to help not only your pet but yourself, is to get several houseplants that have the capability to filter the air in your home. Some good examples are Aloe Vera, spider plants, Gerber daisies, Mums and Philodendrons. However, a few of these are toxic to pets if eaten, so always keep them out of reach with a plant hanger attached to a wall or the ceiling. If you are a smoker, try not to smoke in your dog’s presence. Secondhand smoke can make them ill, and the more you smoke around your pet the more dangerous it is for them.

Try to use natural products to resolve issues with ants, ticks or fleas. There are many non-toxic organic products on the market today that will not harm your animals, but will take care of the bugs. Using diatomaceous earth or borax on the carpet or cracks between the carpet and the walls can help with the bugs as well. By vacuuming regularly and emptying your vacuum bag often, you can get rid of fleas in your household. There is even a flea trap that attracts the fleas with a light. The fleas jump toward the light and get stuck on a sticky sheet in the trap. And sprinkling powdered cinnamon around door and window sills will keep ants from coming in the house. If you have ant hills in your yard, I’ve been told that putting fish heads on top of the hills will drive the ants further into the ground, but that sounds a bit nasty to me and the cinnamon works fine for us.

Exercise your pet every day for at least 20 minutes at a time. Vigorous playing stimulates the tissues of the body and raises your dog’s blood pressure, which in turn sends more oxygen throughout your dog’s body and aids in removing toxins from the blood and body. Regular exercise has also been shown to strengthen a dog’s immune system.

Last but not least, try to keep your dog from getting overly stressed. Stress for your dog can be caused by a divorce in the family, guests visiting, other pets in the household, or getting ready to travel. You can help keep your dog stress free by sticking to a daily routine. Feed your dog at the same time every day. If you have a set time for playing, exercise or training, stick to it. Dogs need routine and the more regular the better. If you crate your dog when you leave the house, put a radio in the room that plays soothing music and set the volume to low. By trying any of these suggestions you can help keep your dog healthy for the long haul, and they will love you for it.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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