Dr. Zeltzman: 10 Things I Wish Every Dog Parent Would Do

AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

We know you love your dog, and we know you want what’s best for your dog. But many guardians are laboring under dangerous misunderstandings that concern me as a veterinarian, and AJ as my wonderful technician. Speaking candidly, here are 10 things we do our best to tell every client, but many clients still may not understand. I hope that these points will help more guardians better understand their dog and their veterinarian.

1. Recognize pain and suffering


Most dogs are extraordinarily stoic. It can be extremely difficult, but is very important to recognize when dogs are suffering. If they are limping, they hurt. If they are vomiting, something is wrong. If they have difficulty breathing, they may be, in fact, suffocating, and it's terrifying for them. Seek help immediately. Procrastination is heartbreaking for us.

[Check out the top 10 signs your dog may be sick]


Dog looking up at camera

2. Denial about weight can be deadly


If you have to use words such as “solid,” “big boned” or “fluffy,” chances are your dog is overweight or obese. We know dogs love their treats, and that you love giving them, but overweight is not healthy. It takes years off of their lives, it makes anesthesia riskier and it makes recovery from surgery more difficult. Love your dogs in a way that makes them healthy and happy:

  • Hugs
  • Petting
  • Playing
  • Brushing
  • Interactions
  • Walks

These alternatives are all calorie-free, but your dog craves them.

[See 7 reasons why dog obesity is dangerous]

Overweight pug

3. Know whom to trust


Speaking of food, who do you think knows more about dog food? Your veterinarian, or the 18-year-old kid at the pet store (or feed store)?

As they say, “You are what you eat,” so choosing the correct dog food is a big deal. Please talk to your vet when picking food. Feeding the wrong food for your pet can lead to obesity, bladder stones and a poor hair coat. In addition, given the regular pet food recalls, choosing a reputable brand is very important.

The composition of pet food should be based on scientific research, not slick marketing.

[Learn more about the true pet experts here]

Obese pug outside

4. Never assume anything


We can't diagnose your dog’s lump or bump over the phone. We can't tell if a mass is cancerous or not just by looking at it or feeling it. We can have an impression, but that’s all we can do. And without the proper follow up, which may involve a biopsy or other microscopic review, we can’t be sure.

We sometimes need to run lab work to find out what is going on with your dog. Yes, that fee is going to be in addition to the exam fee, but these tests are best for the health of your dogs. These diagnostics are our X-ray glasses to understand your dog’s condition, and without them we might be blind. This is really no different than in human medicine.

Woman holding dog on the beach

5. Spay or neuter your dog


Spaying a female before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of breast cancer. Spaying also totally prevents pyometra, a deadly uterine infection. Neutering prevents testicular cancer and almost eliminates prostate conditions. Beyond those medical reasons, spayed or neutered pets are less likely to run away and get hit by a car. They also have a lower incidence of behavior problems.

[Learn about mammary tumors here]

Happy puppy in bed

6. Follow discharge instructions


Discharge instructions are made to be followed. This is one of those times where you get to learn from someone else's challenges, and that can save you and your dog from some serious trouble. We know that wearing a plastic cone for 2 weeks is no fun. We know that being stuck in a small room or a crate for 4 to 8 weeks is boring. If there were an easier way to do things, we would tell you! So please follow discharge instructions, all of them, all of the time.

[Meet Sam, a great example of the importance of discharge instructions]

Dog with a cone on his head

7. Get pet insurance


Pet insurance can make all of the difference in your dog’s life. If you cannot afford thousands of dollars in emergency or medical care, please consider getting pet insurance. And do your homework, as there are some really bad companies and really good companies out there.

[Check out 10 common dog insurance myths]


Woman giving treat to dog next to paperwork

8. Know thy enemy


Anesthesia is not the enemy. Surgery is not the enemy. Your dog’s condition is the enemy. We are here to help you choose the best weapon to fight the enemy.

Girl petting sick dog at the vet

9. Prevention is a critical part of dog medicine


For all dogs you should discuss year round heartworm, flea, tick and intestinal parasite preventive medication with your veterinarian. All dogs should be up to date on all of the vaccines recommended by your veterinarian. Vaccination against rabies is likely a legal requirement in your state. Other vaccines are recommended to prevent several deadly diseases.

Every year, countless dogs die because they did not receive basic, effective, affordable preventive care.

[Even if your dog seems healthy, it's important to visit the vet]

Woman playing with dog

10. Don’t inadvertently starve your dog


When you realize it’s time for your dog to lose weight, be sure to create a plan with your veterinarian. Many dog guardians may not realize that when you put your overweight dog on a “light” diet, it is next to impossible to make him lose weight effectively. So many make the mistake of unknowingly restricting dogs too much by cutting the amount of food down significantly. We would rather have you trust us, and feed a diet that was made specifically for weight loss. It will have fewer calories, may have more fiber to fill the stomach, and will have all of the nutrients and vitamins required. And it works more consistently when the rules are followed. At the very least let’s review the diet together.

Veterinarians are trained to provide care “from the cradle to the grave.” Veterinarians do truly want what's best for you and your dog. (Please) Help us help you.Hungry dog at dinner table

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on: 
Friday, August 7, 2015
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