Dog Care Tips

Feeding Your Dog

Feed approximately 1/2 cup food per 10 lb body weight total per day. This will vary a bit depending on breed, age of pet, type of food, but is a ballpark estimate as I find many food manufacturer's over estimate "how much to feed" on the bag label!

So for a 20 lb dog, feed one 8 oz cup total per day, or 1/2 (4 oz) twice daily, this amount is including treats and table food, if given. For a 30 lb dog, 1 1/2 cups per day or 3/4 cup twice a day. Remember, most coffee cups hold 16-24 oz, so do not use this as your 1 cup measure! Overweight dogs-feed for a dog less than their ideal weight to achieve weight loss, preferably a reduced calorie diet (we can help with food choices!), then once weight loss is achieved, you may increase amount fed slightly.

For large breed puppies, I generally recommend a large breed puppy diet. Feed twice daily, an amount the puppy can ingest in 5 minutes or less, usually approximately 1/2 to 1 cup, increasing amount gradually. I also supplement with Vitamin C approximately 100mg daily (may purchase from drugstore) until 2-3 years of age. It is believed that Vitamin C may help with cartilage development and reduce the likelihood of joint problems in the adult large breed dog. Not overfeeding, or encouraging too rapid of growth, will also reduce the likelihood of growth-related problems (such as "growing pains" or panosteitis) in the large breed puppy.

The time to transition your puppy to adult food is at 6-12 months of age. If the puppy was spayed or neutered very young, it is better to transition earlier, 6-8 months. Realize that once a dog is spayed or neutered, their metabolism is reduced by approximately 25%. At the same time, their appetite increases! So it is extremely important to not feed puppies (or kittens!) free choice after they have been altered, but to gradually transition to adult food (which is less calorically dense) using the guidelines described above.

If changing your dog's food, it is always best to gradually transition to a new diet over the course of 5-7 days. If diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite result, the food may be the culprit. Any time your dog develops these symptoms, it is a good idea to schedule to see us. Remember to bring a stool sample to your appointment.

Preventative Care for your Dog

Preventative care for your dog is important. Heartworm prevention not only prevents but also lowers the risk of mosquito transmitted heartworm disease, in which heartworm parasites migrate to the pulmonary blood vessels, originating from the heart. These parasites, untreated, lead to heart failure and death. Treatment can be devastating as well. When the adult worms die, they can form a thrombo-embolism, leading to death. Therefore, prevention is the key!

Monthly heartworm preventatives, such as Heartguard Plus, Interceptor, and Sentinel also prevent intestinal parasitism on a monthly basis. Given regularly, these prevent roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm infestation. These intestinal parasites are contracted from other dogs, as well as the environment. With the availability of numerous dog parks and beaches in San Diego, where our dog population interacts, there is a tremendous need for parasite control. Because once these parasites establish themselves in the environment, little can be done to eradicate them. The eggs and larvae life stages can survive year round in our climate. People, especially children, are at increased risk of exposure to pets carrying intestinal parasites. If a person contracts intestinal parasites, the migration may be under the skin leading to scarring, or into the eyes leading to blindness. Since children tend to be less strict about hygiene, they are at increased risk. For this reason, and due to increased prevalence of heartworm disease due to the rise in mosquito population and dog ownership, heartworm prevention is recommended for all of our dog patients.

Vectra topical, available for dogs (and cats), applied monthly is effective against both adult fleas and larval stages, and in addition to flea prevention, also prevents tick infestation, and mosquitoes. Other topical preventatives include Advantage, which is a topical flea preventative. Frontline Plus is a topical formula aiding in the prevention of fleas and ticks. Comfortis is a chewable tablet used for the prevention of fleas and flea infestation. Trifexis is a monthly chewable tablet for dogs that kills fleas, prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections.  K9 Advantix is effective against ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, but must be used with caution on dogs living in households where cats are present, as it may have harmful effects if applied to or ingested by a cat. Revolution is sometimes recommended, especially if mange or ear mites are considered to be a concern, and for clients who prefer the convenience of one product for both flea/tick prevention and heartworm prevention. It does not, however, prevent intestinal parasites on a monthly basis.

We currently recommend monthly topical or oral flea prevention, combined with monthly oral heartworm prevention. If you have questions concerning which product is best for both you and your pet, please call to schedule an appointment. We will request you bring in a fresh stool sample to each appointment for your pet; at least annually, or any time your pet is coming in for vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite. It is important to rule out intestinal parasites microscopically!

At your pet's annual exam, or any time he/she is brought in for specific illness, screening lab work will be recommended. For young, healthy pets, this may be a Junior Wellness blood panel which includes a CBC blood count, mini chemistry values checking liver, kidneys, and blood sugar levels, as well as heartworm test (in cats, FELV/FIV test). For dogs and cats age 6 and over, a Senior Profile will be obtained. This includes more extensive chemistry evaluation including electrolytes, thyroid testing, and urinalysis.

Immunizations are important to maintain your pet's health and to prevent infectious diseases. Our vaccination schedules are tailored to your pet's environment, age, and risk of exposure. We try very hard to avoid over immunizing our patients, which can also be stressful to their immune systems and health, but emphasize the importance of appropriate vaccinations beginning at 6-8 weeks of age for puppies and kittens, given in a series ending at 12-16 weeks, as well as one to three year boosters as indicated. Vaccines that we currently recommend include DHPP (distemper parvo), Bordetella (kennel cough), and Rabies for dogs. We may recommend avoiding certain vaccinations if we feel that your dog has underlying medical problems.

Behavior and Training for your Dog

Understanding dog's behavior and obedience training from an early age are key components to having an enjoyable relationship with your pet. Puppies' prime window for developing social skills (kittens too!) is between 6 and 16 weeks of age. Therefore, in controlled situations (ie: not when exposure to animals carrying diseases is a risk; probably not dog parks and beaches) it is important to expose your pet to different ages and sexes of people and dogs and cats. How you react to your pet's behavior can affect it's development as well. As an obvious example, if you laugh and say "Get the kitty!", every time you are walking your dog and your dog barks and pulls the leash when he/she sees a cat, chances are given the opportunity you could be offering condolences to your neighbor for the loss of their cat some day. If instead, when your dog barks or pulls, you sternly say "No kitty!", pull on the leash/choke/gentle leader and have your dog sit/stay, offering a treat initially to reinforce this behavior, you can avoid the previous scenario. From the time you obtain your dog or puppy, I encourage you to have them sit/stay before you put their food down and before you greet them. Your dog will understandably be excited to greet you when you first arrive home, and may bark and jump up to express excitement. If you respond by acting excited as well, this will positively reinforce these behaviors. If you ignore your dog instead, firmly requesting "Sit!" before acknowledging and then (initially) offering a treat/praise for appropriate behavior, then you can avoid the barking/jumping up (which becomes more of a problem when puppies grow!). Leash walks, training by gentle leader, choke collar, and others, depending on the breed and nature of the dog or puppy, should be used for training and reinforcement, as well as exercise. During leash walks, your dog should be taught to heel on your left side, next to and not in front of you, and never pulling ahead. Teach to sit at corners, stop lights, and curbs. This is work for the dog and reward time is the visit to the dog beach or park. Your dog's only activity should not be car rides and running off leash at parks and beaches-this is all play and no work! In order for your dog to understand you are in charge, he/she needs to be taught to obey your commands by obedience training and daily reinforcement. Just like raising children, they are dependent on us for discipline and instruction and mentoring, not being their buddies!

Dr. Potter's Dog Care Tips House training is achieved by crate training or traditional reinforcement. With crate training, your puppy is kept in his/her crate, which should be large enough to stand, turn around, and sleep in, but not so large that the puppy can do his/her business in it! If it is too large, fill the extra space with a box or something comparable. Keep the puppy in the crate whenever you are not with it. Take out to potty, feed, all the while using appropriate command and praise when you are interacting with your puppy. Until it understands when/where to go potty, anytime it is left unattended, it may find a corner to its business in if you are preoccupied (cooking, working, on the phone). Hourly trips "out to potty", taking up food/water by 7 pm, and positive reinforcement all help. Yelling, rubbing face in "accidents" do not. House training is a process, and again just like toddlers, your puppy will become house trained with patience, time, and diligence. If crate training is your method of choice, realize that once your dog has learned not to soil in the house, it should not be kept in the crate! The crate may be kept as a safe place, door open, and many dogs like to retreat there for quiet time. But no dog should have to spend its days and nights living in a crate!

These tidbits and tips are only a few guidelines I have developed after over 20 years of practicing veterinary medicine and hospital ownership. There are many wonderful resources available to assist you in raising, training, and feeding your dog. No Bad Dogs: the Woodhouse Way by Barbara Woodhouse and The Art of Raising a Puppy (amongst others) by the Monks of New Skete are a couple of books that I have recommended for years.

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