Canine Basic Health Checks:  

You’ve anticipated the new arrival by puppy proofing your home and had lots of fun choosing the bed, blanket, toys and other supplies they 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/her with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, clean environment and regular check-ups at your veterinary practice.

Neutering Your Puppy  

Many veterinary surgeons believe that spaying or neutering not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted dogs, but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets.  Spayed female dogs are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while castrated males are calmer and less likely to ‘spray’ or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight.  Plus, sterilisation has health benefits – it minimises the risk of mammary cancer in females and prostate problems in males.


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.  Complications are rare and recovery is normally complete within ten days.


Also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of the 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 check  

Your new puppy should visit a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.  

The first visit will probably include :

  • A thorough physical examination to determine his/her state of health
  • Check for parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites, worms)
  • Initial vaccination and/or discussion of the types of vaccinations your puppy needs and when they should be scheduled
  • Discussion about whether your puppy should be neutered and when

The first health check will give your veterinary surgeon the information he/she needs to advise you on your kitten’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will create a ‘knowledge base’ from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your cat’s life, he/she can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health.

  • Make your new puppy feel at home  
  • Show your puppy the special places where he/she can eat, sleep and go to the toilet.  
  • Since they are probably quite overwhelmed, give them some quiet time to adjust to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the new home.  

If there are young children in the home, make sure 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-training and teaching simple obedience commands the day you bring them home.  Your veterinary surgeon 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, should remember lessons well.

Your Geriatric Dog  

When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet?  When he/she is 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 older years.  However, as your dog ages, much like humans, changes to the metabolism will occure.  Paying attention to your dog’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier.

What you can do at home? 

  • Check your dog’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly.  
  • Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge  Groom your dog often.  
  • You’ll detect any unusual sores or lumps and keep his/her coat healthy  
  • Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm  

Make fresh water available at all times  Maintain a regime of proper nutrition and loving attention

Common Problems  


Obesity 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 the joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive problems and more.  Other changes to nutrition should include increasing fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing phosphorous, sodium, protein and fat.


Diabetes is common especially in older dogs.  It is a disease in which your dog’s pancreas can no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin.


Arthritis severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. An exercise program, alto to maintain muscle tone and mass, can be adjusted to his/her condition. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain.  

Your veterinary surgeon 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/her bed closer to a heat source and bring them indoors on cold days.

Tooth Loss Or Decay

Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of infection or tumours. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will keep tartar, gum disease and gingivitis at bay.

Prostate Enlargement

Prostate enlargement or mammary gland tumours are mostly diagnosed in unneutered dogs.  Have the prostate or mammary glands examined at check-ups.

Separation Anxiety

Seperation 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 combines with behaviour modification techniques are key.

Skin or coat problems

Skin or coat problems in ageing dogs 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

Canine congnitive dysfunction manifests itself in confusion, disorientation or decreased activity.  Medication may help solve some of these issues.

Reference: Schering-Plough Animal Health

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