Go to the Veterinarian
Set up a schedule for regular check-ups with your veterinarian. Ask the vet questions about your dog's diet, behavior, activity level or other concerns. Contact the veterinarian at once if your dog seems ill or in pain. As a special registration benefit, the AKC has arranged 30 days of pet insurance coverage from AKC Pet Insurance* for newly registered puppies. Details about this special complimentary benefit will be sent to you shortly after registration.
Feed a Good Diet
Work with your veterinarian or breeder to find the food that is best for your dog's age, size and activity level. Keep the diet consistent. Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
Dogs need regular exercise to ensure continuing good health. Take your dog for walks, run around in the yard, throw a ball around - anything to get him up and moving. This will benefit his health and could prevent behavior problems.
Dogs should follow a strict schedule of vaccinations to prevent diseases. Keep your dog current on his vaccinations, following the schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Keep a copy of your dog's vaccination records handy.
You can take steps to prevent other diseases not covered by the regular series of vaccinations. Depending on the area of the country you live in, your dog could be at risk for diseases such as heartworm and Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian for advice on prevention.
Repel Fleas and Ticks
Aside from discomfort, parasites such as fleas and ticks can cause serious diseases. Keep your dog, his bedding, and your home free from parasites by using the method recommended by your veterinarian.
Know Your Dog's Patterns
You should become familiar with your dog's patterns in terms of eating, drinking, sleeping and relieving himself. Any major variations in these patterns could indicate illness and should be reported to your veterinarian.
Provide Chew Toys
Dogs never outgrow the need to chew. Protect your possessions by providing a variety of chew toys to satisfy your dog's urges.
Bathe Your Dog
A clean dog is a healthy dog. Bathe your dog on a regular basis appropriate to his breed and environment. Overbathing can be harmful to a dog's skin. Use a good shampoo and be sure to rinse well. If bathing your dog is more than you can handle, take him to a groomer or veterinarian for help.
Groom Your Dog
All dogs should be groomed regularly for health and best appearance. Some short-coated breeds need just a quick brushing every week, while some longer-coated breeds need daily brushing to prevent matting and to reduce shedding. If your dog requires clipping or sculpting, you may want to consult a professional groomer.
Clip Those Nails
Keeping your dog's nails short will keep him comfortable, prevent injury to his feet, and may save the surface of your floors. If you can hear your dog's nails click on a hard surface, they need to be trimmed. Ask your veterinarian for advice on clipping your dog's nails yourself.
Clean Those Teeth
To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, clean your dog's teeth regularly. Most dogs will accept a "toothbrush" if introduced to it slowly and gently. You can also give your dog products such as hard biscuits, rope bones and nylon chews to keep his teeth clean.
Keep your dog healthy by maintaining him at an appropriate weight. Feed him a well-balanced diet and give him plenty of exercise. Don't give in to begging - "people food" is generally bad for dogs.
Know Your Breed's Health Risks
You should be aware of common health problems in your breed, how to prevent them, and how to recognize their onset. For example, some giant breeds are prone to bloat, while some short-faced breeds are prone to respiratory problems. Ask your breeder or veterinarian for information about any signs or symptoms you should watch for in your pet.
Protect From Poisons
Make sure that your home and yard are free from poisonous substances, such as antifreeze, which tastes good but can cause serious illness or even death. Keep your veterinarian's number handy in case of accidental ingestion.
Be Alert to Changing Needs
As your dog ages, his needs will change. He may require a different diet, need more sleep, and be less active. Do what you can to keep him comfortable. Your dog may not be as "fun" as he once was, but he is the same dog you loved as a puppy. You should do everything you can to pamper him in his final years.
If, due to illness or old age, your dog reaches a point where his quality of life is severely compromised, arrange to end his life humanely. Letting go is sometimes the kindest thing you can do. Don't prolong the suffering because you fear the pain of losing your dog.