According to the Sate of Pet Health 2011 Report, the top 3 diagnoses for 2.1 million dogs were dirty teeth, ear infections and chubbiness. Although the diseases are all relatively minor, dog owners can keep their dogs healthier and happier by following preventative measures to keep these three common health problems at bay.
1. Dental Tartar
In humans, periodontal disease has been dubbed “the silent killer.” The destructive bacteria bred by tartar have been linked to aspiration pneumonia and heart disease in humans. Its full effects are still unknown.
As in humans, the greatest threat posed by this type of bacteria is damage to your dog’s organs. Bacteria can travel through the gums to the bloodstream, infecting vital organs. Dental problems can also cause a loss of appetite as well as broken or lost teeth.
Dental tartar is a mineralized plaque that actually makes it easier for plague to accumulate. Though tartar can accumulate above and below the gum line, it is often apparent as a hard yellow or brown residue. Other direct signs of dental tartar are swollen, bleeding or irritated gums. You may also notice that your dog’s breath has become increasingly foul.
Behavioral symptoms of periodontal disease can be displayed in chewing and eating habits. Your dog may be experiencing pain caused by periodontal disease if he favors softer foods, neglects his chew toys or favors one side of his mouth while chewing. Chewing less may also cause your dog to vomit, and you may notice his food to be poorly digested.
Periodontitis is incredibly common among all ages, but is seen in 80 percent of dogs older than three. There are many preventative measures that can be taken to keep you dog healthy, such as daily brushing habits. Also, dogs with healthy chewing habits have healthier teeth, making chew toys and crunchy treats essential parts of your dog’s dental care routine.
Extensive yearly exams are also recommended for identifying periodontal diseases. Larger breeds are recommended to undergo these exams once a year; while smaller breeds need to visit the doggie dentist twice as often.
2. Otitis Externa
It may have an elaborate name, but the second most common canine disease is an ear infection. While there are some external factors that may cause an ear infection, many dogs are predisposed to the condition through genetics.
Some dogs, like Chinese shar-peis, chow chows and English bulldogs, have predispositions to abnormal ear canals. Other breeds with hair inside the ears or long, heavy ears can be more susceptible to infections.
Causes of infections include fungus, bacteria or parasites. Infections are most common in humid weather during the summer months and can particular affect dogs that are exposed to water or foreign bodies. Physical symptoms include redness and swelling of the external ear canal and abnormal odor or discharge from the ear. Behavior symptoms include scratching or rubbing the ears, shaking the head and exhibiting signs of pain when the ear is manipulated.
Prevent ear infections by cleaning your dog’s ears routinely and treating them monthly with an ear mite preventative. A visit to the vet will be necessary to treat an ear infection.
Overweight dogs are more susceptible to a variety of health problems like pancreatitis, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems. Despite consequences that could lead to life threatening conditions, obesity and overweightness is extremely common in dogs. In fact, it is estimated that over 50 percent of dogs are overweight.
For some breeds, obesity is obvious; but if you need to check to see if your dog is overweight, there is a simple way to do so. If you can feel your dog’s ribcage and spine, your dog is at a healthy weight. Once your dog reaches maturity, ask your vet to provide information for your dog’s optimal weight. Dogs that are up to 15 percent over are considered overweight, while those that are above 15 percent are considered obese. Weigh your dog periodically to monitor his weight (or weight loss if needed.)
Though some breeds are genetically predisposed to weight gain, owners are often to blame for their dog’s unhealthy weight. Overfeeding and lack of exercise are the two biggest causes of weight gain. Controlling portions and limiting snacks will help reduce your dog’s calorie intake, and ramping up activities is the only way to help your dog burn more calories. If you are too busy to walk your dog regularly, consider hiring a high school or college student as a dog walker.
By taking control of your dog’s diet and exercise routine, you should see a weight loss of 1 to 2 percent per week. Stick with your program to maintain this weight.
If your dog has a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, the problem could be medical. Thyroid problems and hormonal imbalances can also lead to weight problems.