Pet Health and Wellbeing
Your Dogs Health and Wellbeing – Click a Category for More Information
Preparing for your new dog
Preparation for your new arrival means that you will have everything necessary in place when your new dog arrives. Preparation beforehand ensures that your dog’s arrival will be a more positive event for the dog as well as his new family. It is a good idea to plan for your dog’s homecoming when things in the house are quiet, and not during a busy period when visitors may be coming and going to the house, for example, Christmas, birthdays, other busy occasions. If you are going away on holidays, it would be better to wait until after you come back so that your dog’s routine is not disturbed in the early days. Ensure that your garden is secure, check for gaps in hedges/fences and repair them. Side gates should close properly. Move low structures against garden walls that your dog could use to get up on the wall, as they may use these as a stepping stool to escape, Ensure that there are no plants in the garden that may be poisonous to dogs. There are information lists on the Internet. Make sure the house is safe; make sure medicines are out of reach. Research local vet/daycare/grooming/training classes/boarding. Book your dog into the vet for microchipping, vaccination and worming, if not already done. Enquire about neutering/spaying. Research dog food brands and types. Pick the best quality you can in order to give your dog a good start.
• Bed • Bowls • Soft collar • ID tag with two telephone numbers (no need for dog’s name) • Harness (we recommend walking on a harness rather than a collar, in order to protect dog’s neck. • Leash (we do not recommend flexi leashes due to risk of serious accidents and lack of control. When your dog is at the end of the flexi leash, they are not in your control and could run out into the road or get tangled with another dog. Trying to recoil the leash quickly can lead to owner cutting themselves. • A baby gate can be helpful in curtailing the dogs access to certain areas.
Important: The first few weeks/months in his new home are early days for your dog. It takes time for him to know that he is home. Be patient, treat your dog kindly and fairly, and you should have a best friend for life! Ask for a little of the food your dog has been eating in foster so you can mix gradually with what you are feeding, to avoid tummy upsets. A small piece of his original bedding can help your dog settle in his new bed. It is important to remember that, although you know that you are your new dog’s family, your dog does not know this! It will take time for him to realise that he is in his forever home. When your dog comes home, do not fuss or allow children to excite the dog, keep everything calm. Offer water and a tasty meal (the food that came with him from the foster home). If the dog will not eat, a little chicken or grated cheese over his food may help. A rescue dog may have had several moves in his short life. Moved from his original location, to the dog pound, from there possibly to the vets for treatment, then to a foster home, and at last, to his forever home and family. No wonder the dog may anxious and confused when he arrives to you! Please be patient and give your dog time. Do not scold if he has a toileting mishap; he may not know how to get outside or how to ask. Place your dogs bed in a quiet place, out of draughts, not in a walkway such as a hall or busy area. Your dogs bed or crate should be a comfortable, safe haven where good things happen, such as treats and toys. He should be allowed to feel safe and secure when in his bed and not disturbed. Never send to bed or crate as a punishment. To get your dog used to his bed or crate, throw in some tasty treats and a toy and praise when he gets into the bed. When it comes to bedtime, your dog may be anxious - unfamiliar surroundings and sounds can be frightening and he might not sleep. He may have been used to sleeping with his litter mates or with other dogs in his foster home. A ticking clock stuffed in a sock can imitate his mothers or littermates’ heartbeats and can be soothing. A fleece covered warm hot water bottle and a night light can help. A blanket over his crate can provide a secure, safe nest. If the dog cries and wont settle, it is no harm to bring your dog’s bed to your bedroom for the first few nights to help him feel more secure. You can wean him off this after a little while, when he is more used to your home.
General Health and Advice
Nutrition for your dog
Crate Training your Dog or Puppy
Grooming your Dog
Neutering your Dog
Training your Dog
Nutrition for your dog
Dry versus tinned food Keep your dog healthy by feeding him good quality food and maintaining an appropriate weight. A good diet will cut down on future veterinary bills and also minimise fouling and smells. Tinned foods are full of sugar, salt and other additives and are not good for dogs. They also represent bad value for money as they are full of water and which you are paying for. A good quality (not supermarket) “complete” food, i.e. dry nuts, is recommended by Dogs in Distress. Dogs enjoy variety in their diet. It’s a myth that all food tastes the same to a dog. Offer your dog a piece of chicken or steak and you’ll notice that he will be particularly delighted! Some dogs love vegetables, a peeled carrot can make a welcome treat, a piece of apple, a boiled potato. A small tin of mackerel mixed in with a complete food will enhance the flavour and provide your dog with valuable omega oils. Many dog owners make up a special stew for their dog, based on meat or chicken with ingredients such as rice, potatoes, other root vegetables, peas, herbs etc. Small portions can be frozen and your dog will love you for it. Having said that “people food” is generally bad for dogs, dogs should not be fed dairy products or foods with salt or sugar added. Raw meat bones Most dogs will relish a raw meat bone. Dogs benefit from the calcium of the bone and the high calorie marrow inside. Research indicates that chewing on a bone releases endorphins which make a dog happy. It also helps to remove plaque from teeth, keeping teeth and gums healthy. Always supervise your dog if he is eating a bone as large pieces that are not chewed properly can result in choking. Never give a dog a cooked bone, as these can splinter in to dangerously small pieces that may do internal damage. Dangerous foods for dogs Certain foods including chocolate, coffee, tea, grapes and raisins can cause an extreme allergic reaction in dogs, sometimes resulting in death. These foods should not be fed to dogs and should be stored away safely in your home. If in doubt always consult your vet for advice.
Crate Training your Dog or Puppy
Some people may make the mistake of believing that putting your dog into a crate is cruel and the equivalent of being in prison. What they don’t know is that when used properly a crate provides a cosy and secure den for your dog to call his own. Whilst it is great for your dog to have his own space, where he will not be disturbed and can rest, it also has other benefits for you and your dog. For instance, it can be used to help with toilet training and destructive behaviour problems. What is a crate and where can I get one from? There are several different types of crate, but probably the most common and easy to use is the one that looks like a cage, with one or two doors on the side and/or end. This type is made of wire mesh and folds down for easy storage when not in use. Crates are available from all good pet shops. What size do I need? When you choose your dog’s crate it needs to be big enough for him to be able to sit, stand up and turn around in. Remember to allow room for how much your puppy may grow. How can I make it a nice place, where my dog will want to go? The crate should be a place where your dog can feel happy and relaxed, so you need to set it up so that it will be cosy and comfortable for him. Put it in a part of your home where you spend a lot of time, so that your dog has you nearby and won’t be lonely. To help keep out draughts, try to place it in a corner and then cover the top, back and perhaps also the sides with a blanket or towel to make it more den-like. Put comfortable bedding inside that is also easy to clean. If you have a puppy, you may need to place some newspaper at one end, in case he has an accident. You will need to give your dog access to water, so put in a water bowl or get one that clips onto the side of the crate, so that it cannot get knocked over. How can I make my dog like the crate? It is important that you get your dog used to his crate very gradually and without force. If you just shove him in and shut the door, you’ll frighten him and he won’t want to go in again. Put some treats in the crate to tempt your dog inside. Do this several times a day and start to give your dog all of his meals inside the crate. Don’t close the door yet. If your dog has bedding that he has been using up until now, after a few days place this in the kennel with one of his toys. Give him lots of fuss or a treat whenever you see him go into the crate. When he looks relaxed inside the crate, or when he is eating his dinner in there, close the door for a few moments and then open it again. This should be for only seconds to start with and then slowly build up to minutes.Once your dog is happy with being shut in with you there in the room with him, practice leaving the room for very short periods of time and then returning. Slowly increase the time that you leave him alone. Puppies tend to get used to an indoor crate very quickly, especially if you use it whenever they need to eat or sleep. Older dogs may take a little longer and need more patience, but should get used to it with time (and a lot of treats!) A crate is particularly useful for house training puppies. As a pup’s metabolism slows down at night time they can generally get through the night without going to the toilet. Your pup should sleep in his crate. As soon as you wake up in the morning take your pup straight outside to go to the toilet. When should you use a crate? As well as being a nice place for your dog to ‘chill out’ and a safe place for him to sleep through the night, it can also help you to keep your dog safe at times when you cannot give him all of your attention. Here are some examples of when it will be most useful: 1. If you have a new puppy and an older dog in your home and you cannot pay close attention to their playtime to make sure it is safe, you can put your puppy into the crate to keep him out of harms way until you are able to watch them both. 2. Puppies and dogs should never be left alone with children. If you cannot be there, then you can pop your dog into the crate so that both child and dog can be safe. 3. If you are busy around the house, cooking for example, then your puppy can be kept safe in the crate. 4. During house-training you can keep your dog or puppy safe in the indoor crate whenever you are unable to keep an eye on him. 5. When your puppy is teething and chewing everything in sight, you can place him in the indoor crate with a safe chew toy so that he doesn’t destroy things that he shouldn’t. 6. If you have to leave your puppy alone for short periods, then being in the indoor crate will make your puppy feel safe as well as preventing toilet accidents and chewing disasters! 7. You can also use the indoor crate when travelling in your car as a safe resting-place. Punishment? You must never put your dog into the crate to punish him or to keep him away from the rest of the family. You should never keep your dog in the crate all day. All dogs – puppies and adults – must be taken out regularly for the toilet, exercise, play and training. Do not turn your dog’s home into a prison. Remember that the crate must be a place where your dog feels secure and comfortable at all times. It is not a place where children (or adults) should be allowed to tease your dog. It must never be used to punish or frighten your dog. If a crate is used as a place for punishment, your dog or puppy will never be happy there and will not want to use it as his den.
Grooming your Dog
Brushing 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. Nail clipping Keeping your dog’s nails short will keep him comfortable, prevent injury to his feet, and may save the surface of your floors. It is possible to clip your dogâ€™s nails yourself, but before you attempt it for the first time ask your veterinarian for advice. Teeth cleaning Prevent tooth decay and gum disease by cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly. Most dogs will accept a toothbrush if introduced to it slowly and gently. You can also give your dog a raw bone to chew on (with supervision in case of choking)or products such as hard biscuits, rope bones and nylon chews to keep his teeth clean. Anal glands If your dog is scooting, or dragging his behind on the floor he may need to have his anal glands expressed. A professional groomer or vet can carry out the procedure for a small cost and provide further advice.
Dogs in Distress advocates both conventional medicine and alternative remedies for dogs. Our commitment to alternative approaches is based on the positive results that we have seen in our dogs as a result of their application. In this section we provide information on some of the alternative approaches that we are happy to recommend. Where appropriate we will also recommend practitioners of alternative remedies who we have worked with. Tellington TTouch Tellington TTouch is a wonderful way to work with animals, without fear of force. It provides a way of working with your dog to address problems or just to build a happy relationship encouraging mutual respect and trust. TTouch incorporates a mixture of Body work and Ground work. It can be used to address a range of problems including fear of the vet, general nervousness, separation anxiety, noise sensitivity, stress, car sickness, spinning, fear biting and excessive vocalising. TTouch builds up self confidence, teaching the animal to become more focused and to think for himself. TTouch is something you can do for your dog to enhance his quality of life. It provides a natural calming way for your dog to build confidence and develop self control. For the individual TTouch will help you to improve your understanding of your dog and build a better relationship with him/her. Dogs in Distress recommends TTouch expert Mickey Parker. Mickey runs small group courses in TTouch and can also see you and your dog for an individual appointment. Mickey Parker can be contacted at 087 224 3554
Neutering your Dog
The only way to be sure your dog doesn’t produce unwanted puppies is to have your dog neutered. Intact male dogs and females in heat have an uncanny way of finding each other, and breeding can occur in an instant. All Dogs in Distress dogs of 6 months or over are neutered before being homed. Adopters of puppies of less than 6 months old must commit to having the pup neutered when he/she reaches 6 months. Spaying of females involves the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries. Castration refers to the removal of a male dog’s testicles. The term neutering is a general term to describe either spaying or castration. Benefits of Neutering In addition to preventing unwanted puppies, neutering your dog has many benefits. For Males Neutered dogs often are better behaved than their intact counterparts. Not only are they less likely to stray, they are also less likely to mark their territory by urinating in the house (testosterone is one of the major drives for this dominance-related activity). In addition, neutered male dogs are much less likely to be aggressive toward other male dogs. These behaviour benefits are particularly true if you neuter your dog between the ages of 9 and 12 months, before he becomes sexually mature and develops bad habits. Neutering prevents the development of prostate problems often seen in older dogs. A neutered dog won’t develop testicular cancer, a common cancer of older, intact male dogs. There are several health benefits to neutering. One of the most important concerns the prostate gland, which under the influence of testosterone will gradually enlarge over the course of the dogâ€™s life. In age, it is likely to become uncomfortable, painful and the dog might find it difficult to urinate. The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection which is almost impossible to clear up without neutering. Neutering causes the prostate to shrink into insignificance thus preventing both prostatitis as well as the uncomfortable benign hyperplasia (enlargement) that occurs with aging. Other health benefits of neutering include the prevention of certain types of hernias and tumours of the testicles and anus. Excessive preputial discharge is also reduced by neutering. What if a dog has an un-descended testicle? Un-descended testicles have an increased tendency to grow tumours. They may also twist and cause life-threatening inflammation. For these reasons, neutering is of critical importance for dogs with un-descended testicles. This procedure is more complicated than a routine neuter; the missing testicle can be under the skin along the path it should have descended to the scrotum or it may be inside the abdomen. For Females Female dogs that are spayed prior to their first heat cycle (which usually occurs between 6 and 9 months of age) have a significantly reduced chance of developing mammary (breast) cancer compared to dogs that have had even one heat cycle. Spayed females can’t develop pyometra, an infection of the uterus that can be quite severe and can even result in death. Spaying eliminates ‘spotting’ on the carpet and floor surfaces during the females heat, twice yearly. Spayed females tend to have more even temperaments and do not go through the hormone-induced mood swings that intact bitches sometimes have. If not pregnant, an unspayed female may follow her seasons with false pregnancies. Many bitches will look as if they are pregnant and display obvious maternal behaviour, such as producing milk, nursing their toys or other objects such as shoes and making nests out of their bedding. They can show signs of increased panting and restlessness and be considerably distressed for periods of up to three months after the season has finished. As bitches may have seasons twice a year, they could be unwell and uncomfortable for up to half of their lives. General Considerations Will my dog get fat? Many people think their dogs will get fat if they are neutered, but this isn’t the case. Neutered dogs frequently don’t need as much food as their intact compatriots, but there is a simple solution: don’t feed them as much. You may need to reduce the amount of food that you give him/her or switch to a ‘diet’ food after neutering. Ask your vet for advice on this. If your dog has enough exercise and you feed him/her correctly, he/she will not get fat or lazy. What behavioural changes can be expected after neuter? The only behaviour changes that are observed after neutering relate to behaviours influenced by male hormones. Playfulness, friendliness, and socialisation with humans are not changed. The behaviours that change are far less desirable. The interest in roaming is eliminated in 90% of neutered dogs. Aggressive behaviour against other male dogs is eliminated in 60% of neutered dogs. Urine marking is eliminated in 50% of neutered male dogs. Inappropriate mounting is eliminated in 70% of neutered dogs. In fact if your dog is neutered at 6 months old he/she is likely to retain their playful puppy nature and carry it on into adulthood. Post-op care For the first couple of days after surgery, your dog should rest and be kept warm. Most spay patients go home as if nothing had happened though some will need pain medication for a few days. Your dog should only go outside to relieve him/herself. For the next week, mild exercise such as on-leash walking is all right. Dogs will have to wear a ‘buster collar’ after the operation. This special collar, which looks like a lamp shade, stops the dog licking at or pulling out the stitches so it is important that it is kept on at all times. About ten days after surgery, the vet will check to make sure the incision is healing properly and remove the sutures. At what age can neutering be performed? The best age to get a dog neutered is approximately 6 months old, when he/she reaches puberty. Ideally female dogs should be neutered before their first heat which usually occurs between 6 and 9 months. Dogs neutered before puberty tend to grow a bit bigger than dogs neutered after puberty (testosterone is involved in the causing bones to stop growing so without testosterone the bones stop growing later). The same behaviour and prostate health benefits can be realised no matter what age the dog is. (In other words, a dog does not become “too old” to obtain the same health and behavioural benefits of neutering.)
Vaccinate Dogs should follow a strict schedule of vaccinations to prevent diseases. Keep your dog up to date on his vaccinations, following the schedule recommended by your vet. Keep a copy of your dog’s vaccination records in a safe place. Fleas and worms Aside from discomfort, parasites such as fleas and worms can cause serious diseases. Keep your dog, his bedding and your home free from fleas by using the method recommended by your veterinarian. Worm your dog every three months, especially if you have young children in your home. Flea and wormer treatments supplied by pet shops are not as effective as those supplied by vets. Flea and worm treatments can be bought over the counter from vets, it is not necessary for your dog to have a consultation for you to purchase them. Micro-chipping & tagging All Dogs in Distress dogs are micro-chipped before being homed. If a micro-chipped dog is lost a scanning device can be used to scan the microchip so that the dog’s owner can be identified. Generally vets, dog pounds and animal rescue groups have microchip scanners. As part of our homing process DID registers the adopters details on an online microchip database. For more information on micro-chipping visit www.fido.ie Dogs should always wear identification tags on their collars. Tags can help to quickly reunite owners with lost dogs as most people don’t have easy access to micro-chip scanners or may be unaware such a thing exists.
Lead training puppies Puppies will find lead training stressful at first. Start by putting the lead on your puppy and allow him to wander around an enclosed area, e.g. a garden, with the lead trailing behind him. In this way the pup does not associate the lead with limiting his desire to investigate. Do this for a few days and then move on to holding the lead and following the pup around the garden. After a week to ten days you might start walking in public with the puppy. Try to limit the time you spend in very busy or noisy areas at first – but don’t avoid them completely. Take your dog out in the day time for very short walks at first. Don’t drag him along, be patient. Walk along slowly ensuring that your pup walks closely to one side of you. Lead training dogs Many rescue dogs may need to be lead trained, as they may have little or no experience of being walked on a lead. It is possible to lead train an adult dog without special equipment. Aim to have your dog walking closely to one side of you. If your dog pulls on the lead, often the simplest and most effective way to stop this is with the use of a special harness. Dogs in Distress recommend the Lupi harness for this purpose. This harness stops your dog pulling on the lead and ensures that you can both enjoy a walk together.
Training your Dog
Training will teach your dog what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in your home. Training also goes beyond this in helping to build the bond between dog and human. A dog that is well trained will fit harmoniously into your household. An obedient dog can be confidently introduced to other humans and dogs and be taken to public places and social events. Therefore a well trained dog will be able to experience and enjoy a more varied and interactive life. Dogs in Distress only recommends motivational and reward based training. You will find lots of useful content on dog training online or visit your local library or bookshop for books on the subject. Obedience training classes are often a good way to begin training your dog or pup. At classes your dog or can socialise with other dogs. The one-on-one advice that a professional dog trainer provides can help to get your home based dog training sessions off to a flying start. Our Links page provides details of dog trainers and behaviourists that DID volunteers have recommended.