How to keep a healthy dog and a happy pet: Pete Wedderburn writes in the Daily Telegraph

My latest piece in the Telegraph describes my summary of seven simple but essential steps to ensuring that your dog is a healthy and happy animal.

I accept that this is just my own opinion, but I am a vet, and my opinion is based on a combination of science and over thirty years of experience, so I feel strongly about it. I am convinced that if people follow these seven steps to good health for their dogs, the result is likely to be healthier and happier animals.

I have no other agenda here: I am not trying to make money by selling vaccines, or anti-parasite drugs, or particular pet foods, or special dog toys, or dedicated dog toothbrushes, or anything at all. All that I am trying to do is to spell out precisely what most people need to do if they want their pets to get the most out of life.

I know that there will be people who disagree with some of what I say, and that’s fair enough. Animal care is both a science and an art, and it is not black and white: there are many shades of grey. So to those who disagree with me, I say “Go ahead and disagree. But don’t try to tell people that your way is the only way: you have just chosen a different shade of grey to me. There are many shades of grey and people may choose the shade they prefer.”

This applies to a number of areas:

  • Vaccinations. Titre testing is a choice some people make. Some people choose to give fewer vaccines than others. There are a range of possible ways of tackling this area, but just remember the main aim: all dogs deserve to be protected from serious diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.
  • Nutrition. There are many ways of feeding dogs to keep them healthy. Raw diets are one option but again, they are just one shade of grey. There are many other excellent ways of feeding dogs: as before, there are many shades of  grey. I have known many thousands of dogs, and they have each thrived on a different type of diet, whether dry kibble, tinned/sachet, home-cooked or raw. There is no single universally wonderful way of feeding dogs, to the exclusion of all others. And people who choose to feed raw diets cannot ignore the risk of the  increased bacterial load in the household – the kitchen, the floors, people handling the food and dishes, etc. I am not saying “don’t do it” but I am saying “don’t ignore this fact”, and if you are a raw feeding advocate, remember that your way is not the only way.
  • Dental care. Toothbrushing is the best method to optimise long term dental health in dogs, and dental chews work reasonably well for people who cannot brush their pets’ teeth. As for feeding raw bones, which many people advocate, again, this is another shade of grey: while it may work well for some dogs, raw bones are so hard that dogs easily fracture their teeth while chewing them. Autopsies of wild animals have repeatedly shown a high incidence of tooth fracture and subsequent root infection. So go ahead, and choose this shade of grey for your dog, but be aware of the risks.
  • Make your vet your friend. Like it or not, vets are trained in animal care, and on average, we know more about pets than most people. I am not being arrogant or pompous: it’s our job to know this stuff. It’s what we do.  So if you want the best for your pet, get to know your vet, and in the process, they will get to know you and your pet. In the long term, this is likely to be of benefit when times get tough healthwise (as they will, inevitably, at some stage). The annual health check with your vet helps spot many problems in the early stages, and it also forms the foundation of the relationship between you, your pet, and your vet.  But of course, this is yet another of my shades of grey: you may prefer never to see your vet until your pet is in dire straits, and that is your choice. Or you may prefer to see your vet four times a year, for simple nail clipping or whatever. As before, you are your pet’s guardian, and it is up to you to make the judgement and make your choice.

Choose your own shade of grey for yourself and your pet: if it works for you both, that’s great. Just don’t presume that everyone else has to choose that exact same shade of grey for their own pets.

To read my article in the Telegraph, click on the link below.

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