Bringing a new puppy into the home requires careful preparation. Before a purchase is made, any owner must decide what to expect from the dog and why the dog is wanted. Responsibility for feeding, exercise, training and veterinary care should also be established well in advance.
SAFE AREAS FOR THE PUPPY
A comfortable shipping crate or box helps the puppy and human members of the household to live together in harmony - it also helps with house training. Any crate should be large enough for the dog when it is fully grown. This is a great way to give the pet a place to eat and sleep and provides a safe haven from service people and unruly children.
The puppy will also need an exercise area. An ideal arrangement is to erect double fencing that gives protection from teasing youngsters and any traffic noise. It also helps to prevent the puppy from barking excessively at outside distractions. A second fence will stop the puppy if it tries to escape, perhaps when a meter reader or others inadvertently leave an inner gate open. This type of fencing also insulates legitimate visitors from an angry dog guarding the home. An entrance from the inside yard into the house through a doggy door will allow the dog to exercise when it chooses while also enabling it to perform its duty as a watch dog.
THE EARLY DAYS AT HOME
When the puppy arrives in its new home depends a little on circumstances, but bitches usually wean litters between the ages of six and eight weeks. Owners find it difficult to raise anything younger. Animal behaviorists have learned that training at this early age has a favorable effect. For the first few days, excessive petting and handling by children should be limited.
Any puppy should only be purchased subject to a veterinarian's health examination - few legitimate breeders will object to this. The new puppy should visit the vet as soon as possible. He or she will determine its health status, test for parasites, and prepare an immunization schedule. The first visit is the time to ask about cost and any other relevant questions.
Most breeders recommend a feeding program for the puppies that they sell. Even if the diet seems unusual, it should be adhered to for a week or two. The new home thrusts many adjustments on a puppy and strange foods often trigger attacks of diarrhea.
TEETH, TOYS AND TRAINING
At three months of age, adult teeth will begin to erupt and push out a puppy's baby teeth. New owners should be prepared for it to chew on shoes, slippers, socks, furniture and anything handy. Giving a puppy its own well designed toys will go some way to diverting its attention from expensive oriental carpets, antique chairs or other valuables. Toys should be chosen carefully, however.
The new puppy should be introduced to a soft collar and leash as soon as possible - the collar will need to be changed frequently as the dog grows. It is important to start obedience training early and there are many helpful books on this subject. Once the owner has learned how to control the puppy on its leash and the puppy has completed the initial round of immunizations, it may be walked in safe areas where it can meet adults, children and other dogs. This form of socializing develops the puppy's confidence and prepares it for an environment inhabited mostly by humans.
Children with dogs can bring joy to parents but they can also create major problems. Growing up with a dog provides invaluable training for a child and caring for the pet teaches him or her responsibility. It is essential that children are taught that a pet is not a toy but a living being with feelings like their own. Most youngsters are not ready for a puppy until they reach about six years of age. If a dog is living with a couple before the birth of a first child, careful supervision of both the dog and new baby will be necessary. if breeding the house pet is purely to help to educate the children, owners should think seriously about the fate of the puppies, and then probably abandon any ideas about breeding. Surgical sterilization is a reliable method of birth control in dogs. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club endorse spaying and castration any time after eight months of age. A vet may recommend postponing surgery until later but it should be done before the female's first heat period.
DISEASE AND PREVENTION
A number of infectious diseases affect dogs and there are many vaccines that prevent them. There are also numerous ailments and other categories of disease of which the prudent owner should be aware. The study of genetic defects in dogs is now receiving much attention. As elimination of these problems from breeding stock becomes more feasible and a reality, it will ultimately lead to healthier and happier pets.
Vets have the academic training and experience in disease prevention to design immunization schedules for all dogs in the community. They may also recommend protection against other infectious diseases in addition to those described in "Diseases and Disorders"Table.
Accidents do happen so all dog owners should ensure that exercise yards are kept free of rakes, sharp instruments and objects that dogs might swallow. In addition, when a dog is being walked on a leash, the owner should be wary of any loose dog that approaches. The best policy is to freeze until the stray's intentions can be determined. All dog owners should prepare a first aid kit and keep it in an accessible place. The vet can suggest items that are appropriate for the dog and its environment. Every summer, dogs locked up in hot automobiles die of heat strokes. Ambient temperatures may measure a pleasant 80 degrees F/26 degrees C but a lethal 140 degrees F/60 degrees C inside a vehicle. Heat stroke can also strike dogs inside and outdoors when exposed to direct sunlight. Dogs must always have access to plenty of fresh water. If a dog is panting with its tongue lolling and seems restless, move it to a cooler spot. if possible, place an ice cube in its mouth and splash it with cold water. Rush it to the nearest vet unless these measures give immediate relief. These signs and a temperature over 104 degrees F/40 degrees C signal approaching heat stroke.
Mouth infections can cause serious health problems and should be prevented. Daily care should begin on a routine basis when the puppy starts to teethe. Pet supply stores sell canine toothbrushes and paste - dogs object to those designed for humans. owners should begin by rubbing the teeth and gums with a 2 x 2 inch/5 x 7-) cm piece of gauze saturated with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. If this does not work, play with the dog's mouth, massaging the gums and teeth with bare fingers. The gauze alone may then be introduced and finally, peroxide added.
As dogs mature, they require professional dental care. Ultrasound instruments and dental scalers will remove tartar before it can injure teeth and gums. An annual examination of the teeth and gums is adequate for most dogs, but older ones may require more frequent dental care. These measures will prevent serious complications.
The eyes of healthy dogs rarely need attention, but may require periodic cleaning. if a dog gathers discharge at the edges of the lids on a windy day, its face should be washed with clean warm water. When the discharge is thick or causes discomfort, professional help should be sought without delay. Injury or a foreign body lodged behind the third eyelid can cause severe pain. This type of problem is compounded because a dog will usually scratch or rub its face.
Today, veterinary ophthalmologists are able to suture tears expertly and, successfully remove thorns or splinters which become buried in the cornea. They also routinely remove cataracts and can even replace a lens with an artificial one.
Cancer is as much a growing problem for canines as for humans. It is the owner's responsibility to recognize signs that indicate a need for precise diagnosis. The American Veterinary Medical Association publishes a useful brochure, Cancer in Animals, that lists common signs. Some member countries of the Federation Cynologique Internationale also publish leaflets on diseases. Essentially, the common signs of cancer that alert owners should look out for in their dogs are:
Food quality and genetic background help to determine a dog's state of health and length of life. Many pet food companies offer a variety of preparations that will fit the needs and budgets of most people. However, interpreting advertising claims and label information can confuse even the best informed. A vet or breeder is probably the best informed source of advice about food or diet. The following information will also help owners to make a good choice of diet for their dogs.
There are seven basic ingredients which must be incorporated into a complete diet:
Most puppies will begin to taste their mother's food at five weeks of age when they begin to explore outside the whelping box. Weaning usually begins in earnest at five weeks of age and reaches completion at six to eight weeks. Growing dogs require greater quantities of key ingredients. Good commercial puppy diets offer easily digested protein that includes the ten essential amino acids. The food should contain about 26 percent crude protein.
Many breeders prefer homemade weaning diets. These should include a quality animal source protein; a soft, cooked cereal; vegetable oil; and a vitamin mineral supplement. Puppies will eat these preparations if they are moist, well cooked and warm. Sometimes the only way to introduce a puppy to its new diet is by placing a bit of food in its mouth.
Puppies should be given plenty of clean water. Nutritionists do not recommend milk after weaning. Breeders usually keep puppies on the special formula for about two weeks and then change to a commercial puppy food.
Most good, commercially prepared food will have an analysis of its content and recommended quantities to feed on the container label. This information should be used as a guide. Keeping a chart of an animalís daily intake of food and measuring its weight regularly is a good way to keep a reliable report on progress. The amount of food provided may have to be adjusted to avoid obesity. Any unexplained loss in weight may either indicate sickness or the need for more food.
AN ADULT DOG'S DIET
Adult maintenance diets contain approximately 16 percent crude protein and usually contain less carbohydrate and fat. Active dogs need more calories. Others often like the easy life and prefer eating to exercise. They should receive maintenance or reducing diets. As dogs age, maintaining a good balance between exercise and diet becomes more important. Obesity decreases a dogís life expectancy and makes its life less enjoyable. A sensible exercise program and controlled food intake help to control a petís weight. Weight reducing diets on the market provide balanced nutrition, more fiber and lower energy content.
Hard working dogs, those used for hunting, police duty and exhibition in dog shows, require food with high levels of protein and energy. Manufacturers prepare diets for them with 30 percent crude protein and more high calorie fat Some handlers and owners supplement these with a good canned meat product or fresh meat.
DIET IN AGING DOGS
A dog's nutritional needs change as it ages. It exercises less and requires fewer calories. Most dogs over five years old experience some loss of renal and cardiac function. Authorities believe that diets containing adequate but not excessive amounts of protein, phosphorous and sodium slow the progression of renal and cardiac failure. The limited amount of protein must include readily digestive, essential amino acids that are found in a balanced diet. It is wise to consult the vet to ensure that the older dog is getting all it needs from its food.
Obesity increases handicaps in the aged dog. Weak muscles, creaking joints and an inability to cope with the added load lead to inactivity and more weight gain. Aging dogs need a minimum amount of easily digested fat that includes adequate amounts of necessary fatty acids. Fat is high in calories. Filber contains no calories but older animals have less efficient digestive tracts and so should receive moderate amounts.
Food companies offer special diets for elderly dogs but so-me owners believe that it is possible to provide more quality for less money with home-prepared diets. A vet can help to insure that the recipe includes proper proportions of essential ingredients. Weighing the dog regularly helps to prevent obesity. if the aging dog is ever fed "treats" between meals, these additional calories should be included when calculating daily intake. Older dogs get set in their ways and resent abrupt changes, so their diet and exercise routines should be adjusted with caution.
DEVELOPMENTS IN OLD AGE
As a dog ages it experiences a partial loss of vision, hearing, taste and some sense of smell. The family's response to a pet's altered behavior is as important as a correct diet. A handicapped dog should always be protected when it is away from home or outside a fenced yard, and only taken out when leashed.
Small children should be taught to approach an aging pet cautiously because a blind, deaf dog might bite if startled. Also, if the position of furniture is changed, the dog should be introduced to the new arrangement. A veteran is best confined to its crate or kept out of the way when visitors who are unfamiliar with dogs are being entertained.
A toothache or inflammation of the ear can make any dog feel under par. An aging dog's mouth should be regularly inspected and dental care provided when needed. A dog with toothache may mouth its food, drop it back into the pan and paw at its lips. Most owners will recognize dogs with an aching ear - the animal will hold the bad ear down and scratch at it. Inspection under the ear flap will frequently reveal a foul odor, discharge or swelling, and the vet should be consulted.
Aged dogs may suffer from incontinence the inability to retain urine. Also, excessive thirst associated with kidney disease can cause lack of control. Often the sphincter muscles that regulate the passage of urine from the bladder grow weak and can result in bed wetting. The vet may find a correctable cause. If therapy does not solve the problem, the dog should be exercised outdoors frequently. When inside, it should be confined to rooms with easily cleaned floors. Pet stores stock beds with washable, waterproof covers that protect sensitive elbows and hocks from hard surfaces.
Some people have an amazing amount of tolerance for an old dog that dribbles urine in the house. Others find the situation unacceptable. An old dog who has lost control suffers from shame and punishment is inappropriate. Four-legged companions need as much help in adjusting to retirement and old age as people. They appreciate generous applications of tender, loving care and attention.
COPING WITH LOSS
The term euthanasia comes from the Greek word meaning "easy death." Members of the veterinary profession pledge to prevent pain and suffering in animals, not to terminate lives. However, sometimes the latter is the only way to prevent the former. Seeing a beloved pet finally at peace and completely free of pain can offer comfort to members of the family.
The human/companion animal bond has developed over thousands of years. Only in the last twenty or thirty years have psychologists tried to help people to cope with the loss of a cherished pet. They describe four different stages of bereavement: denial, anger, grief and resolution.
Professional help is available in many communities but some mourners prefer to go it alone. They find solace in silent contemplation and often in volunteer work for humane or animal welfare organizations. Psychologists agree unanimously on one aspect: it is healthy and normal to grieve. When nothing else helps, it may be best to go for a walk in the park or sit alone on a bench. Owners should try to reflect on all the good times that they have enjoyed with their wonderful companion, and to remember that there is nothing wrong with shedding tears.