When it comes to the health of your dog, how much influence do we have as dog owners? Not much, a little bit or a whole bunch?Obviously, there is not a concrete number, but what I do know from my experience and my studies, we actually have more influence and control over the health of our animals than we think. The question that it always comes down to is – do we have the commitment and the discipline to do what it takes so that at the end of the day we can say that we have done the best we could to provide a healthy and vital life to our pets.

There are three factors that impact the health and dis-ease of dogs as well as humans

1. Genes
Genes were given to our dogs by its ancestors. Certain genes lead to certain diseases. Research has shown that for example, German shepherds are more prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, pit bull type breeds have more skin issues, Rottweilers have a propensity for bone cancer, and the list goes on.

But just because science has proven that doesn’t necessarily mean that every dog of a certain breed will deal with this challenge. We also know now that we can easily override genes and reprogram them for better health in the right environment and with a healthy lifestyle.

2. Environment
The environment is critical for the health of our dogs. Minimizing or better yet eliminating any types of toxins and disease-creating substances in and around our home is very important for the health of our dogs. There are plenty of natural resources that are just as effective if not even more effective.

For example, I use corn gluten as natural weed control in my backyard. I would never use a chemical pesticide for that. When it comes to ants our other little critters around the house, I apply Diatomaceous Earth in the areas of need.

Replacing chemical cleaners and home deodorizers is another key factor for our dog’s health. Considering that dogs keep their noses closer to the ground than we do and considering that they like to lick anything that gets close to their tongue, it is much easier for dogs to ingest harmful toxins.

When my German shepherds were puppies, I was aware of the higher risk of hip and elbow dysplasia. To minimize the chance that they could suffer from this painful condition, we carried our dogs up and down the stairs as long as we could. Even though I am not a fan of carpets, my dogs are one of the reasons why I still tolerate carpets in the home because they slide less during play which decreases the chance of injury.

Another important part of my daily routine is cleaning my dogs’ paws after each walk to remove motor oil, pesticides or other toxins. It keeps the house cleaner and my dogs healthier.

3. Lifestyle
When it comes to providing a healthy lifestyle for our dogs, I look at it from three- prong perspective.

Daily walks and exercise. Too many dogs get themselves in trouble or develop behavioral issues because they are not mentally and physically challenged. Dogs spend the majority of their lives behind the walls of our home. It is unfortunate, but I know many people who have never walked their dogs in the neighborhood let alone in a park. Walking is absolutely necessary for the physical and mental well-being of a dog.

Nutrition. What we feed our dogs has a big impact on their health. Is very unfortunate that a lot of people think that kibble is healthy food. I always say that feeding your dogs kibble is like eating fast food morning, noon and night. What would your doctor say to you if you told him or her that you never eat a fresh vegetable, never eat fresh fruit and never cook a healthy meal? Instead, you eat Burger King for breakfast, you have Taco Bell for lunch, and you eat McDonald’s burgers for dinner. Do you think that your doctor would challenge you on that? And so why do veterinarians recommend this unhealthy food to their customers? Contributing to our dogs’ health by feeding them a fresh food diet is one of the simplest and price effective ways.

Preventative healthcare can avoid a lot of life-threatening and disabling diseases. But too much of something can be just as bad as too little. And so over-vaccination (i.e., yearly DHPP and rabies vaccines) overuse of medications (i.e., antibiotics or steroids) and use of flea and tick products during cold winters can cause autoimmune or life-threatening diseases. For example, I know dog owners who get 3-year DHPP vaccines for their dogs even though their dogs never go to boarding places or doggie daycare. In other words, if your dogs are not exposed to strange dogs there is no need to vaccinate.
My veterinarian taught me early on that I am my dogs’ health advocate and I have to ask the questions my dogs cannot ask.
And so even though yearly health checks are important for your dog, you want to ensure that they don’t impact your dogs’ lives in a negative way.

We may not have that much control over the genes of our dogs, but we have a lot of control over the environment and their lifestyle. Thankfully, the tips that keep your dog healthy have the same effect on you.
If you are ready to become more proactive regarding your dog’s well-being and consider switching to a healthier diet, check out my latest program, “from kibble to fresh food”.