Four Ways to Love Your Dog 

John Payne DVM.MS DACVS

Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center 

 Since February 20 is Love Your Pet Day, it seems appropriate to suggest a few ways to truly love your pet.  The first thing that most of us think of is going home to give our pets a big hug, but guess what?  Most dogs HATE to be hugged!  There are much better ways to love your pet that will truly benefit them- even if they don’t appreciate it at the time.  So, let’s explore a few ways to really love your pet. 

 Keep your pet physically fit.  

 Obesity in pets is an epidemic in the United States.  Our dogs and cats are simply too fat.  We may think that overfeeding our pets is making them happy, but it is really the worse thing we can do for them.  Overweight, obese pets have multiple health issues that are similar to the ones seen in humans who are overweight.  A short list of adverse effects seen in overweight pets include diabetes, osteoarthritis, knee ligament rupture, heart disease and others.  Obesity in pets is theoretically easy to correct but requires dedication by the owner to correct the pets diet and to provide the pet opportunities to exercise.  If your pet needs to loose a few pounds, here are a few suggestions.  First, look at the total caloric intake and make sure that it is appropriate.  Second, eliminate all treats.  Dog treats are generally loaded with empty calories.  Third, find ways to increase your pets exercise.  Sometimes, there are medical reasons your pet is not loosing weight.  If you are not achieving your goals for your pet, see your family veterinarian for a physical examination and some blood work including thyroid hormone levels. 

 Check your pet’s teeth 

If your dog or cat has horrible breath, there is often a good reason for it. Dogs and cats are both subject to periodontal and dental disease.  Tooth abscesses, gum recession and tooth loss are all common in dogs and cats.  Dental disease is a common but insidious disease that is very painful for your pets.  Severe dental disease has been linked to shorted lifespans in pets.  It is well worth a visit to your family veterinarian to have your pet checked for dental disease.  If your pet has periodontal disease, treatment is essential.  A thorough dental exam in dogs and cats often involves an examination and dental radiographs.  If a dental cleaning is needed, general anesthesia is necessary to do a thorough cleaning, but it is well worth the small risk.   

 Take your dog to the dog park.   

Dogs are naturally very active animals and can become board if they are left in the house all day.  Pittsburgh has a number of dog parks that allow dogs to run and explore new horizons off the leash.  Some of these areas are fenced for added safely.  If you take your dog to a park, make sure that you are in control of your dog and that they get along well with other dogs.  Generally, dog parks have a number of dogs of various breeds, sized and temperaments present.  Dogs that don’t get along or are aggressive are generally not welcome.  If you go to the dog park, it is important also to carry plastic bags to pick up your dogs waste.  Also, make sure that you have pet restraint devices in your vehicle to assure a safe trip to the park and back. 

 Lastly, be aware of temperature extremes when your pet is left outside or in a vehicle.   

This time of year, the extreme cold has been very risky to pets left outdoors for extended periods of time.  Dogs that are used to being in the house are not acclimated to extreme cold and may become hypothermic or even develop frostbite if they are left outside without shelter for extended periods of time.  Extreme heat is even more dangerous to dogs and cats.  While not an issue in January, when the days begin heating up, dogs should not be left in cars without ventilation.  Many dogs die of heat stroke unnecessarily each year.  This can be caused by being left in a vehicle in the heat or by overexertion on very hot days. Please be cognizant of temperature extremes and protect your pets from exposure to these extremes. 

 Most families love their pets and indeed consider them to be important members of their families.  For Love Your Pet Day, consider one of the above options to truly show your pets the love they deserve! 

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