BASIC DOG HEALTH CHECKCongratulations – you have a new puppy!You’ve anticipated the new arrival by 'puppyproofing' your home and had lots of fun choosing the crate, bed, blanket, toys and other supplies he will need. This frisky little creature is sure to bring you much joy. In return, you can make a major contribution to your pet’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, sanitary environment and regular checkups at your veterinarian’s.Desexing your puppyMany veterinarians believe that desexing not only helps solve the serious problem of unwanted pet overpopulation, but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female dogs are more relaxed, while castrated males are less likely to roam, or urine-mark their territory, or fight with other males. Plus, desexing has health benefits - it helps to minimize the risk for cancers of the reproductive organs and the mammary glands in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems and testicular cancer in males. Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female dog, usually around the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia and occasionally involves an overnight stay at the veterinary clinic. Complications are rare and recoverynormally is complete within two weeks. Castrating, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male dog through an incision at the base of the scrotum. Usually performed when the puppy is about six months old, it necessitates only a brief hospital stay. Full recovery takes about seven to ten days.Your puppy’s basic health checkYour new puppy should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:•A thorough physical examination to determine his state of health.•Check for external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites).•Check for internal parasites (tapeworm, roundworm, etc.), if you can bring a fresh stool sample for analysis. Blood tests may also be done.•Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your puppy needs and when they should be scheduled.•Discussion about whether your puppy should be desexed (spayed or castrated) and when.This first health check will give your veterinarian the information they need to advise you on your puppy’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will give them a “knowledge base” from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your pup’s life, they can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health.Make your new puppy feel at homeShow your puppy the special places where he or she can eat, sleep and eliminate and, since they're probably quite overwhelmed, give him or her some quiet time to themselves to let them adjust to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of their new home. Be sure, if there are also young children in the home, that they are taught that a puppy is not a toy, but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. As early as 8 weeks old, your puppy is capable of learning specific lessons – so start house-breaking and teaching simple obedience commands the day you bring him or her home. Your veterinarian can suggest the best training methods and, if you wish, recommend a good obedience school. Your pup will find learning fun and easy and, with your positive reinforcement, they should remember their lessons well!Your Geriatric DogWhen is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When they're a puppy. Starting off your dog’s life with good nutrition, regular exercise, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in their older years. However, as your dog ages, much like humans, changes to the metabolism will occur. Paying attention to your dog’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier.What you can do at home•Check your dog’s mouth, eyes and ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge.•Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.•Groom your pet often. You’ll detect any unusual sores or lumps and keep their coat healthy.•Make fresh water available at all times.•Maintain a regime of proper nutrition, exercise and loving attentionHow old is your dog?* Please note, these equivalences refer to small breeds.Common ProblemsObesity is a big health risk. An older dog is a less active dog, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on their joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive problems and more. Other changes to their nutrition should include increasing fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.Arthritis’ severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. An exercise program, also to maintain muscle tone and mass, can be adjusted to their condition. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe any necessary medication.Intolerance to hot and cold temperatures occurs because your dog produces less of the hormones which regulate the body’s normal temperature. Move his bed closer to a heater and bring him indoors on cold days.Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of nasty infections. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will keep these to a minimum.Prostate enlargement or Mammary Gland Tumours is mostly diagnosed in uncastrated or unspayed dogs. Have the prostate or mammary glands examined at checkups.Separation Anxiety presents itself when older dogs can’t cope with stress. Aggressive behaviour, noise phobia, increased barking and whining or restless sleep are the signs. Medication combined with behaviour modification techniques are key.Skin or coat problems Ageing means the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the coat’s hair thins and dulls over time. Grooming more often and fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial.Canine Cognitive Dysfunction manifests itself in confusion, disorientation or decreased activity. Medication can help solve some of these issues.