Pet Connection: 7 tips to keep you and your dog happy

04/02/2013 12:00 AM

04/01/2013 3:50 PM

As the veterinarian on "Good Morning America," I'm always hearing about and looking at pictures of other people's pets. I truly enjoy hearing about the love people share with their companion animals.

But being recognized so frequently also means I hear a great deal about the things that bother pet lovers. The other day I was thinking about those annoyances that apply to dogs, and thinking about the knowledge I always share with people.

I've written entire books sharing tips and cutting-edge information, but here's a short list of seven secrets I wish more dog owners knew:

Secret No. 1: Shedding is a top complaint of dog lovers, but when people choose a low-shed pet, they're usually barking up the wrong tree. The kind of dog that sheds the least? A small one (less dog, less fur) with long fur (long fur stays in longer than short fur) that's kept clipped short (less left on to clean up when it does eventually fall out).

Secret No. 2: Preventing accidents can save more than your pet – it saves money, too. Veterinarians like me hate to treat – and even worse, to lose – pets that have suffered accidents that can be easily prevented.

By keeping all medications – human and pet prescriptions, and all over-the-counter drugs – safely locked away, you'll protect your pet from this poisoning hazard.

Secret No. 3: Stop the post-bath shake from getting water all over your bathroom and you. It's simple: That water-spraying shake starts at the nose, and if you hold your dog's muzzle until you can get a towel over it, you'll prevent it from shaking.

Secret No. 4: Getting old doesn't need to mean misery for your dog. Working with your veterinarian to provide your old dog "neutraceuticals," such as omega-3 oil and glucos- amine, along with prescription pain medications (such as Rimadyl) can put the bounce back in your old dog's step. Ask your veterinarian.

Secret No. 5: Most people want to take advantage of the incredible advances in veterinary medicine, from stem cell treatments to chemotherapy, but many simply can't afford them. The solution for them is a pet health insurance policy, which can cover the bulk of costs for an expensive accident or illness without forcing any compromises on care.

Secret No. 6: It's easy to save money on pet care without shortchanging your pet. While you shouldn't skip wellness exams (they can spot a problem when it's still easier and less expensive to treat) or lower the quality of your dog's food (good nutrition means good health), you can save money by price-shopping for prescription medications (but do give your veterinarian the option of matching prices), buying items in bulk and sharing with others, keeping your pet thin (and therefore healthier) and even bartering for your pet's needs.

Secret No. 7: Yearly shots are no longer recommended. Current advice is to tailor vaccines to fit your pet. Most dogs should get core vaccines on a three-year cycle for the most common and most deadly diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. All dogs need rabies shots on a schedule set by law. But other vaccines may depend on a dog's breed type, size or the region where you live, and you'll need to go over the options with your veterinarian.

It's not hard or expensive to make life easier and better for both you and your dog. You just have to know the secrets.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Email them at petconnection@gmail.com or visit www.petconnection.com. Back columns: www.sacbee.com/spadafori.

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