Maintaining A Healthy Dog

Maintaining a Healthy Dog

Learning how to keep your dog healthy begins with understanding how dog's develop and mature. Here's a simple breakdown of key moments in your dog's life.

Life stages of a dog:

  • Birth. Right after a puppy is born, he can't walk, hear or see. However, his sense of smell is already fully developed. In the first 3 weeks, his mother's milk will provide him with all the nutrition he needs.
  • Three weeks to ten weeks. Beginning in the third week, his eyes and auditory canals open so he can communicate with his brothers and sisters for the first time. Around day 21, he'll make his first attempts at walking and barking. By the fourth week, his senses are fully developed so that he can carefully observe his environment. He will examine and sniff everything. At this stage, his ability to learn is as great as it will ever be. You should spend a lot of time with your puppy now to help him become a sociable dog. From the fourth week on, he can eat solid food. Between 8 and 12 weeks, the puppy is in the socialization stage and is ready to move to a human pack. It is the best time for separation from mother and siblings.
  • The first months. If you adopt a puppy at the 10th week, take him to the veterinarian immediately. They will check his health status and will recommend when he should be vaccinated and wormed. Your puppy needs a lot of loving attention right now to cope with a new environment and the loss of his siblings. Praise him often using his name. Set boundaries with a stern “no” and begin housetraining. The puppy's development until the 16th week is called the “phase of hierarchy.” Your dog is seeking a new leader of the pack. Decide what and when your dog is fed and what he is not to eat. Make sure your puppy's requirements for nutrients are met in this phase of quick growth. Give him a variety of new experiences such as riding in the car, visits to gatherings of people, and contact with children, other dogs and other animals. It will help him be an agreeable, strong-minded companion as an adult dog. Puppies should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine at 2, 3 and 4 months of age and then once annually. This vaccine protects puppies from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. A puppy's vaccine program cannot be finished before 4 months of age. Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Pit Bulls should be vaccinated until 5 months of age.
  • Puberty. Puberty is rather short and will last from between one month and six weeks. It starts around the sixth month and can manifest in many ways. Often your dog will behave badly and won't want to learn anything new. Sometimes he may forget what he has learned or at least pretend to. In this phase you should be persistent with his education program.
  • Adulthood. A male has finished puberty when he lifts his leg to urinate. A female will be out of puberty when she goes into heat for the first time, usually between the 7th and 8th month, but it may take up to a year. After her first heat, your pet's diet should be changed to that of an adult dog.
  • Senior dogs. Different breeds are considered senior at different ages. The aging process will begin slowly and nearly imperceptibly. Your dog will become less active, his metabolism slows down and he might put on weight. It's important to change his diet and give him smaller portions 2–3 times daily. It will relieve his digestive system and ensure an even intake of nutrients. Your dog might need a special diet, which you can get from your veterinarian. The first signs of aging appear between the 8th and 10th year. The head and muzzle will grey, and he may experience deterioration of sight and hearing. His sense of smell, however, is almost completely unaffected by aging. Your senior dog will still love to play, even if his fitness level has declined. And if he has some little house-training accidents, he'll be quite embarrassed. So, try not to scold him for this.
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