We recently published our “Five Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment” blog, the aim of which was to help all you purry pet parents to understand a little more about the needs of our feline friends… and, whilst there are a few crossovers at a general level between cats and dogs (providing safe places, appropriate diets etc etc…), cats and dogs have a lot of very specific needs and will do best with pet parents that understand these needs and are therefore able to fully support their health, wellbeing and happiness.
Of course, the diversity of dog breeds means that there will also be several very specific breed requirements that exist and comparing the needs of a Great Dane with a Chihuahua might highlight a few doggy differences…
However, as with the Feline Five Pillars, there are a few canine fundamentals that we should all be aware of and, ideally, in a position to positively influence to help provide the best quality of life for our pets.
So, in no particular order (as they are all important) here are GVC’s four foundations to being great pooch parents!
- 1. Provide your dog with a suitable living environment
- And by this we mean that there is a little more to it than, for example, Snoopy and his doghouse (although no one should question Charlie Brown’s doggy dad credentials), no, a suitable living environment should be:
- Safe and free from hazards, so think poisonous plants (please check if you have any doubts about what’s in your garden), chemicals, open windows and balconies (so falling from height opportunities), unprotected flames, unsafe electrical sockets etc…
- Free from obvious causes of fear and anxiety, i.e. loud noises, strangers, constant stimulus and attention, maybe even other animals if there is evidence of aggressive behaviours…so an environment with quiet areas and space for your pooch to have some undisturbed “me” time as needed.
- Comfortable for doggy snoozes and resting, so an area that is dry, draft-free and an appropriate temperature (and sheltered if your dog stays outdoors – although that would certainly not be advisable in the UAE summer).
- With access to an area for toileting or, with adequate opportunity for regular toilet breaks. A dog is likely to become distressed if unable to do their business away from their living area.
- Very importantly, dogs are vulnerable to heat and heat stress. This is a very serious issue around the world but, in many countries, dogs will suffer critical or even fatal heat stress issues due to being locked into cars, conservatories or other heat increasing confined spaces. In our part of the world, just being outside for too long in the summer can induce the same awful results. So, it is absolutely crucial that dogs can shelter away from the sun and, ideally, have a cool space in which to escape the summer heat and humidity. Also points to consider when exercising with your pooch!
- 2. Provide your dog with a suitable diet
- Your dog will benefit most from a diet that is appropriate to age, gender and size with consideration also for whether your dog is neutered and their activity levels. There are also some breeds that may have breed specific diets available but speak to your vet about the benefits of these in relation to your dog.
- Water is a crucial part of any diet and your dog should always have access to fresh, clean drinking water.
- Most importantly, doggy diets should be for dogs…! Feeding off our plates will not be a good choice and likewise expecting your dog to chow down with the cat will do no one any favours.
- A good balanced diet supports positive health and wellbeing, and, for some illnesses and conditions, prescription diets are often used as part of a treatment plan by your vet. So, we would always recommend that pet parents speak to their vet during check-ups for recommendations and advice for your pet’s dietary requirements.
- We should also try to avoid changing our dogs’ diets suddenly and without a good reason…dogs do not need variety in their diets (unlike the human expectation of eating, if a dog has a food they love, they’ll happily eat the same thing every day) and sudden dietary changes can cause tummy troubles… Very importantly, any change in your dog’s eating (and drinking) habits should always be monitored and if in any doubt, please seek veterinary advice.
- 3. Provide your dog with positive company and lots of love
- It’s really simple, dogs are naturally sociable animals and they seek company, they love to love and they love to be loved… let your dog dictate terms but always be ready to be affectionate and provide lots of positive reinforcement for all the wonderful doggy things they do.
- Also don’t forget to consider your dog when planning your own social activities, when you go away ensure that they have appropriate boarding or sitting arrangements in place and, if you have people to stay, ensure that they know about your dog and are ready to act appropriately around them… it may seem straight forward to a pet lover but not everyone knows how to act around animals and this is something that can cause confusion in both pet and person…
- 4. Provide your dog with every opportunity to live a healthy and happy life!
- Which basically means being attentive to your dog’s needs, understanding (in a general way) doggy health and wellbeing (physical, emotional, and mental) and… visit your vet regularly!
- Ok, so we would say that…but the benefits of having regular check-ups and a proactive, preventative approach to your pet’s health are demonstrable and supported by real facts and figures, so yes, regular trips to the vet really do benefit both you and your furry family over time. That’s why we at GVC launched the Pet Health Club (click here to learn more).
- Vaccines, parasite treatments and dental checks will all contribute to your pet’s overall health and wellbeing and having a vet or veterinary nurse carry out an annual check-up for your dog during their adult years will help to avoid or reduce some of the challenges of their senior years. Of course, puppies will probably see a vet at least 4 or 5 times in their first 12 months and these opportunities are hugely beneficial, both to ensure the puppy is in good health and prepared for the years to come as well as allowing your puppy the opportunity to learn that veterinary clinics can be a positive place… this is something we at GVC really believe in and strive to achieve through the Fear Free approach. Removing the potential for fear and anxiety from your dog in all areas would be a wonderful thing and taking these negative emotions away from the vet clinic really makes a big difference to support your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
- Importantly, as you get to know your dog you will also become more adept at learning to recognize the indicators of illness, pain and distress… which, can often be communicated initially through how your pooch pal behaves. So recognizing behaviour changes (e.g. eating more or less than normal, becoming lethargic or agitated, showing uncharacteristic signs of fear or aggression) can be the first step to dealing with health issues and ensuring that you’re able to seek veterinary support at the earliest opportunity. After all, we all get sick at some point and the sooner we can get to a doctor the sooner we can get better.
- Lastly, please do not undervalue the importance of mental and emotional health in our pets. Like us humans, animals have the capacity to feel emotions and process learning. Which makes the behaviour of our furry friends such an important barometer for their health and wellbeing. Luckily, we have a Veterinary Behaviourist (GVC’s Owner and Head Vet, Dr Katrin) on our team, who can help understand and treat our pets to overcome behaviour challenges and mental illnesses.
And that’s it… our Four Foundations! The list could be forty or four hundred as there are so many important considerations when taking the responsibility to become a pooch parent. However, never forget that your veterinary team is always there to support. At GVC we aspire to provide you and your pet the very best care and attention and support you in enabling your pet to live a wonderful life. And we know that the happiness that comes from a loving and loved pet is one of those pure joys that are hard to top.
Whether physical, mental or emotional (or all three as we prefer to take a holistic approach), the health and wellbeing of your pet is our priority! Call 025562024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.