I’m going to bet that nothing here is going to be surprising because you know it all about yourself, but perhaps what is most surprising is that everything in the realm of dog health is on a higher speed. 

You might get blood work and a physical checkup once a year. Your dog’s lifespan is so much shorter than yours – they grow and age so much faster, so we need to be a little more on top of things for them. 

When your puppy is young, you’ll see your vet far more frequently as they need a lot more care than an adult dog as they develop. After the first year, you might switch to an annual appointment and as needed. Once they hit their senior years, you’ll need to book every 6 months as they age quickly and require more care like they did as puppies. 

Ensure that you have a vet appointment booked each year for a wellness check. Most Veterinarians are not on a rotation for vaccines that looks like this (after the first year):

Year 1: Core vaccines: Distemper and ParvovirusYear 2: Rabies vaccine (3 year)Year 3: Optional vaccines: Leptospirosis and others

This is so that your dog’s system is not overloaded with too many vaccines at ones. It also ensures that you show up for your annual checkup! Clever! 

I’ve put together some details on typical health concerns – please know that this does not replace Veterinary care or advice – this is just a general overview based on my experience. 

Scroll through the topics below:


Coughing is not normal in a dog – if you hear them coughing and it is not immediately related to fast water intake or eating a treat, go into detective mode. Remove them from the company of other dogs and wash your hands. They should not be near other dogs until you have had them cleared by a vet.

Coughing can be a sign of choking on food/water, of course, but it can also indicate discomfort in the trachea from a collar. Switch to a body harness especially in small dogs and brachycephalic dogs (with short snouts). It can also present as hacking (productive or not) if your dog has contracted Bordatella (“kennel cough”).

See your vet, but they may want to examine your dog outside the clinic so notify them over the phone if there is any coughing present as it is highly contagious to other dogs.

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Ear Infections

Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections, but all dogs can get them and they are PAINFUL. When I say painful, I mean it. Imagine a hot, twisting knife in the ear.

Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections, but all dogs can get them and they are PAINFUL. When I say painful, I mean it. Imagine a hot, twisting knife in the ear.

You might notice your dog has red/inflamed ears, that there’s a sweet/sicky smell in their ears, or behaviourally, they are avoiding touch and much more snarky if anyone comes close to their head. Perhaps they’re tilting their head, scratching their ear, or shaking their head more than usual. This is a sign that they need to see their vet for treatment before it gets worse and damages the ear drum. 

This can be caused by debris, dirt, dust, foreign objects (grass seed), allergies (environmental or food), swimming, or yeast build-up. They will likely need antibiotic ear drops in order to resolve this. Have your vet or tech show you how to administer them properly. Ask your vet if you should be cleaning your dog’s ears regularly – not all dogs need this, so it’s good to ask. 

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Fleas & Ticks

Pesky! That’s what they are! Fleas can be a problem year-round, whereas ticks are more likely in temperatures above 4ºC / 39.2ºF. Both can be prevented and there are a lot of options out there that may not involve pesticides being ingested by your dog or applied to them topically. For the best solution, contact Sabine at Better Dog Care for a consultation as this is her wheelhouse! 

Either way, check your dog frequently and keep a clean home. 

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Health Insurance

For more on health insurance for pets, click here

Itching & Scratching

One of the most common reasons our vets get called. Dogs too can suffer from allergies and it’s not as easy to diagnose as you’d think. Here are a few quick fixes that might help:

One of the most common reasons our vets get called. Dogs too can suffer from allergies and it’s not as easy to diagnose as you’d think. Here are a few quick fixes that might help:

  • bathe your dog weekly or bi-weekly in a dog-safe shampoo that addresses itching and sensitive skin
  • brush your dog daily to remove dead fur and stimulate the oils in their skin
  • only use hot water and vinegar to wash floors and pet bedding and toys
  • never use deodorising sprays on your dog or their bedding (like Febreeze) 
  • limit the proteins that your dog consumes – don’t have them taste-testing all the proteins out there – stick to 2-3 max. If you’re worried about food allergies, try a limited ingredient diet and contact Sabine at Better Dog Care for a consultation
  • after walks and outdoor play, wipe your dog down from head to toe with warm water and a drop of Dawn dish soap; this can remove surface allergens
  • There are two allergy tests out there – one for environmental allergies, available through your vet, called IDEXX. The other is available through and is for food allergies. Both are pricey but if you’ve exhausted all options and your dog is struggling, then they are worth it in the long run so that you can sort this out with out months or years of elimination diets, allergy pills, allergy shots, and more. Your pet deserves relief! 

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The other challenge is that dogs are very, very stoic. They don’t show that they are in pain unless the pain is unbearable. Pain causes a great deal of stress on the body; affecting the heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, appetite, and can even delay healing from wounds or illness. For this reason, we need to know what pain looks like in a dog. 

Here are just a few subtle signs that your dog may be experiencing pain: 

  • shaking/trembling
  • flattened ears
  • low posture
  • hiding
  • aggression
  • grumpy temperament
  • panting, crying, or vocally reacting to touch
  • excessive licking or scratching a specific area
  • reluctant to play, interact or exercise
  • lameness (limping)
  • stiffness after rest
  • loss of appetite
  • licking lips
  • flinching
  • turning head/moving to avoid touch
  • increase in respiratory or heart rate
  • warmth, redness or swelling of area

Any of these signs should be noted and tracked and seen by your vet. Do not provide over the counter pain medication as there are none that are safe for dogs!

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Poop is an amazing indicator of health in your dog! So even if you have a backyard, you should be checking their poop daily, if not just to pick up after them and prevent parasites from seeping into your soil and spreading. (Also, it’s gross and attracts rats!) You should be checking how it looks, smells, or “feels” when picking it up. 

If your pup is struggling to go (constipated) or is experiencing loose stool, you can give them 1-3 tsp of canned pumpkin puree (not the spiced pie filling kind!) and that should help them go or bind them – whichever problem they’re having. 

If your pup is having watery stool (diarrhea) and they’re young (under 3-4 months) you should see your vet and not wait. Once they’re fully vaccinated and they are deemed fabulously healthy, it’s a little less concerning, but in young puppies, diarrhea can be a sign of Parvovirus and can turn south very quickly. 

Anytime your dog (of any age) has diarrhea, you should immediately stop all food – that includes treats and meals. Anything going in is going to come out at top speed. Always, always, always provide access to fresh water (meaning the bowl is washed daily and the water is not stagnant). Dehydration is your biggest enemy. 

The consistency of your dog’s poop will vary based on their diet. Generally speaking, your dog’s poop should have a rather firm consistency, like stiff bread dough. It also should look like small logs that don’t contain whole particles of food or objects. Normal dog poop has an earthy but relatively mild aroma. If it smells pungent (like more pungent than you’re expecting) then something might be off. See your vet. 

  • Your dog’s poop should be chocolate-brown
  • If your dog’s poop is very dark, red, or black, gather a sample and see your vet – this could be a sign of internal bleeding.
  • If your dog’s poop is yellow or orange, there may be too much corn in their diet, raw carrots, or bone content, OR there could be a concern with their liver, pancreas, or gallbladder. See your vet.
  • If your dog’s poop is orange, white, or grey, there could be a concern with their liver, pancreas, or gallbladder. See your vet. 
  • If it is encased in mucous, the lining of their intestine is likely irritated and you should follow the diarrhea protocol preemptively and switch to a bland diet to help settle their tummy. See your vet if it continues or you notice blood. 
  • If you notice worms (grains of rice, inchworms, long flat worms, or spaghetti noodles) or anything concerning, take a sample AND your dog to your vet right away. 
  • If you notice your dog straining and there are strings (either from grass, a rope toy, fabric, hair, or otherwise) you can use a poop bag to slowly and gently help it along, but resist the urge to pull if you feel any resistance – it may be wrapped in the intestine. Bring your dog to the vet immediately. 

After picking up poop, always wash your hands well in warm soapy water. Children under 12 should not handle dog poop. Some parasites are transmittable to humans. 

Diarrhea Protocol

  • Fast (withhold food from) your dog for 12 hours but always have fresh water accessible to prevent dehydration (really – no food – it will just cause diarrhea again)
  • After 12 hours feed the following recipe – give small amounts 2 or 3 times a day. 

If you see blood, mucous, vomiting, or lethargy, please see your vet.

  • 1.5 parts boiled white cooking potatoes or overcooked (extra water) white rice
  • 2 parts boiled chopped chicken breast (no fat)
  • serve at room temperature – not hot or cold –
  • Stick with this diet until the stool is back to normal and then gradually reintroduce the regular food.

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