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How To Maintain Your Dog’s Health

How To Maintain Your Dog’s Health

Every dog owner wants the absolute best for their pup. But, while we regularly find ourselves asking ‘how can I prevent my dog from getting diseases?’, we also know not every health disorder is preventable. However, there are many things we can do to help limit the chances of our dogs developing a medical condition.

Do Your Research

When researching a breed, consider the diseases they are prone to, and check if the parents have had the recommended health testing. Some breeds are almost guaranteed to develop certain health disorders, so make sure you are aware of this from the outset. This can help you be prepared for the emotional and financial costs that can come with taking on a disease-prone breed. When it comes to behavioral health, think carefully about whether you can meet the energy needs of a very active dog to prevent behavioral disorders from developing.


What Are Dog Vaccinations?

Vaccinations work by teaching your dog’s immune system to recognize infections—allowing their body to respond faster and more effectively.

Some vaccination products will cover the canine parainfluenza virus as standard. Additional vaccinations you might want to consider include kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica) and rabies[1].

Puppy Vaccination Schedules

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) puppy vaccination schedule recommends two to five injections before 16 weeks of age, followed by a booster vaccination between 26 and 52 weeks old[2]—but your veterinarian will be able to discuss the best schedule for your puppy.

When your puppy is first born, it usually gets immunity from its mother via maternally derived antibodies (MDAs). If mom can’t feed the puppy, it may not get the benefit of these antibodies[3].

Interestingly, these MDAs can also make vaccination less effective[4]. And it’s when your puppy is losing this natural immunity and developing its own—thanks to vaccinations—that they are most at risk of infection. That’s why multiple injections are needed, to ensure your puppy’s immune system has had the exposure it needs to recognize and respond to these harmful diseases.

Parasite Treatment

We’re used to thinking about fleas and worms, particularly as fleas are one of the most common contagious skin issues in dogs. However, depending on your pet’s lifestyle, there are other parasites they could encounter, including ticks, lice, mites, and even some rare blood parasites if they travel with you. All these can have a massive impact on your dog’s health and well-being. Some can even infect owners—with children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems most at risk.

Given this range of parasites and lifestyle factors, there’s unfortunately no one-size-fits-all recommendation for parasite control. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss the products available and advise you on a plan tailored to your dog’s needs.


A fundamental cornerstone of health and well-being is nutrition. But canine nutrition is a vastly complex topic, which can make it complicated to build a complete, balanced diet containing all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep them healthy. Their requirements also change depending on life stage and health status. Generally speaking, high-quality, life-stage-appropriate commercial dog food will meet their needs. If you’re choosing to home-prepare diets, it’s a good idea to speak with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, to ensure there are no deficiencies.

Weight Management and Exercise

In 2022, an alarming 59% of dogs in the US were found to be overweight or obese[5]. Being overweight or obese not only puts significant strain on your dog’s joints, but can also have adverse effects on many different systems within their body. Being overweight or obese can also reduce your dog’s life expectancy[6], so keeping them at a healthy weight is very important.

Regular exercise and careful feeding are critical to maintaining your pet’s healthy body weight. You should aim to feed your dog to maintain a lean body weight, with a neat waistline and a ribcage that can be easily felt but not seen. Your veterinarian can give you weight management advice if you are struggling.

At What Age Do Dog Joints Start to Hurt?

You may think of joint disease as a condition affecting older animals, but it’s a little-known fact that as many as 20% of dogs may have a degree of osteoarthritis (joint inflammation) by the age of 1 year old[7]. Maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce joint disease.

Dental Health

You can improve your dog’s oral health by brushing daily with a dog-safe toothpaste and scheduling regular dental checkups with your veterinarian. It’s important to note that, even with a perfect toothbrushing schedule, your dog will still need professional teeth cleaning. This should always be done under general anesthetic. Tooth scaling while awake is painful for your dog, and ineffective at targeting the main culprit of periodontal disease—plaque below the gum line.

At What Age Do Dogs Have Dental Problems?

Studies show 80-90% of dogs over the age of 3 suffer from some degree of periodontal disease[8]. But the incidence of dental disease does increase with age and is generally higher in smaller-breed dogs.

Behavioral Health

All dog breeds have complex behavioral needs, with some breeds, such as Border Collies, needing significantly more mental stimulation than others. Failing to meet your dog’s behavioral needs can lead to severe behavioral problems. So, carefully researching a breed before taking the plunge is vital to ensure you have time to give them the stimulation they need. It’s also important to make sure you train and socialize your new puppy in the early months of life, as a well-adjusted puppy will live a much happier life.

At What Age Does a Dog’s Health Decline?

Like with humans, older dogs are likely to have more problems than their younger counterparts. The age at which a dog is considered ‘older’ depends on their breed. Larger dogs do not live as long as smaller dogs, so their health will generally begin to decline sooner. Some breeds with significant health issues, such as those bred with flat faces, may have health problems from a very young age.

At What Age Do Dogs Get Cancer?

Sadly, cancer can affect dogs of any age. Generally, cancers or tumors tend to develop more commonly in middle-aged to older dogs. However, there are some breeds, such as flat-coated retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs, that are at a higher risk of certain types of cancer at a younger age[9].

Final Thoughts

While it is not always possible to prevent your dog from getting poorly, there are lots of ways we can reduce or limit the risk of diseases developing. By keeping on top of routine healthcare and providing excellent nutrition, we give our dogs the best chance of living a happy, full, and healthy life.

1. Day M (2017) Small Animal Vaccination: a practical guide for vets in the UK. In Practice DOI: 10.1136/inp.j6
2. WSAVA (2016) Guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats. Available at chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/
3. Chastant and Mila (2019) Passive immune transfer in puppies. Animal Reproduction Science. DOI

4. Wilson et al (2014) Influence of maternally-derived antibodies in 6-week-old dogs for the efficacy of a new vaccine to protext dogs against virulent challenge with canine distemper virus, adenovirus or parvovirus. Trials inVaccinology. DOI

5. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (2023) 2022 Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey Available at,a%20slight%20increase%20from%2060%25.

6. Salt. C et al. (2018) Association between life span and body condition in neutered client-owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. DOI

7. Anderson. K et al. (2020) Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A systematic review. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. DOI 10.3389/fvets.2020.00220

8. Wallis and Holcombe (2020) A review of the frequency and impact of periodontal disease in dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice. DOI

9. Adams, V.J et al. (2010), Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 51: 512-524.