Some of the things dog owners ignore truly do make a difference to an animal's quality of life. It can be easy for well-meaning pet owners to get caught up in one aspect of their dog's care but pay no attention to something else that might be just as serious (or painful) a problem.
Here are a few health problems that dog owners often overlook, ignore or treat as “normal.” If you suspect your dog has any of the issues on this list, please see your veterinarian immediately.
1. Chronic Ear Problems
Although people do often bring their dogs in to treat an ear infection, the follow-through — like putting in drops or making follow-up appointments — can be very poor. Pet owners sometimes seem to begin to believe that ear infections are “normal,” especially for flop-eared dogs, but it's important that you don’t confuse “common” with “normal.” Just imagine how you'd feel if, every moment you were awake, you were dogged by a very painful and itchy condition. You'd be good about following up in that case, and your dog deserves the same consideration.
2. Dental Disease
“Doggy breath” is another thing that you shouldn't consider normal — or inevitable. Pets require dental care, just like humans do, but this is something that's all too often ignored by owners. There are times when I lift the lip of a canine patient — often for an unrelated reason — and discover horribly inflamed gums. Ouch! And sometimes the teeth themselves are no better. Just imagine if you experienced excruciating pain each time your tongue touched your tooth or if you could only eat on one side of your mouth (and even that might be painful). Work with your veterinarian to get your dog's mouth back in good shape and learn how to keep it that way.
3. Skin Issues and Biting Pests
When we get nailed by a biting bug, we swat it, squirt ourselves with bug spray, take antihistamines and apply soothing salves to the itchy bites. Dogs experience the same discomfort when they're under attack from fleas or other biting pests, with no way to stop the biting or alleviate the itch. Your pup deserves parasite control. And pests aren't the only potential cause of skin problems. Chronic rashes and other skin problems can also drive a person — or a pooch — crazy with itching, so don't ignore a dog who's constantly scratching. Be as diligent about your dog's skin care as you are about your own!
Your arthritic dog can't give you specific information about his pain, like where it hurts, when it started or just how bad it is, but he's certainly suffering. You might assume that your dog will slow down with old age and there's nothing you can do about it, but believe me, your dog's quality of life can be improved if you take responsibility and talk to your veterinarian about pain management.
Take a good look at your dog. Have you allowed him to get — and stay — overweight? If so, you need to know something: Fat kills. For example — and this is only one of several reasons — canine obesity can make arthritis worse, and when an old dog is in the kind of pain that makes him unable to move well, he runs the risk of being euthanized. Often, pets are allowed to continue suffering, even though we're well aware of how helpful losing weight can be. Have an honest conversation with your vet about your dog's weight. Make sure you're ready to listen to and follow his recommendations to get those excess pounds off your pup.