A quick primer on keeping your beloved pet healthy and happy
You’ve probably heard the common adage that people begin to look like their dogs the longer they have them. Aside from a few dog owners who bear a striking resemblance to their pets, however, our dogs are more like us than we imagine, both inside and out. We’re not saying your dog should join your Keto diet, but the same basic principles that apply to our health also apply to theirs.
Exercise & Nutrition
Just as the obesity epidemic in the United States worsens every year, pet obesity is also on the rise. According to Dr. Emily Abraham, owner and medical director of GoodVets in Coral Gables, pet obesity is a serious and potentially fatal problem. “Obesity has been found to shorten our pets’ lives by one-and-a-half to two years, and it can lead to other comorbidities — including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, thyroid disease, and osteoarthritis,” says Abraham.
Exercise requirements vary according to breed, but as a general rule, most vets recommend between 30 minutes to two hours of exercise for your dog per day. If you have a smaller dog, a 30-minute walk in the morning might suffice, but larger, working dogs may need a walk, a run, and even a few rounds of fetch at the dog park to satisfy their needs.
Rebecca Pasko, owner and founder of the training service Happy with Dogs, says a dog’s breed often points to the right activities and level of exercise. Hunting breeds like Pointers often prefer a game of fetch to a walk, and swimming dog breeds like Labradors might enjoy time at the pool or beach. Other breeds may just need more playtime.
“Most commonly, dogs are missing enriching items,” Pasko says. “For example, Corgis are meant to run around, chase things, and nip at them. [We can teach] the Corgi to come and to sit, but it would be best to also give the dog some outlets that satisfy its innate needs. It would give the dog a higher quality of life and be more satisfying than just going on a walk.”
Of course, when you’re exercising your dog, keep the South Florida climate in mind. Walking in the midday heat when asphalt temperatures can be as high as 150 degrees can lead to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Dogs release heat through their paw pads and via panting, so this is especially dangerous for them.
Dr. Abraham recommends walks in the morning or evening with water available. And if you can’t take time to ensure your dog’s exercise needs, local dog walkers can help.
Keeping Up a Healthy Diet
After getting enough exercise, dog owners should make sure their pooches are also eating healthy. There are an overwhelming number of options, and each brand claims their food is the healthiest, the latest craze being chilled dog food in special coolers at the grocery store. But, contrary to popular belief, the healthiest dog food might be the one you least expect.
“It’s come out in the last few years, primarily from Cornell, that using a grain-free diet can lead to cardiomyopathy and heart disease,” says Dr. Abraham. “It’s actually better for pets to be receiving a grain-containing diet, which is really shocking to a lot of people.”
Abraham feeds her pets a mix of Purina and Acana dog food. She emphasizes that dogs should be eating the food appropriate for their age group. Senior dogs should be eating senior food; puppies, puppy food. These types of dog food have different mineral and nutrient compositions that are optimized for specific age ranges and can combat age-related health issues and nutrient deficiencies. Consult your vet if you need help making a choice.
Keeping Up With Hygiene
Although commonly overlooked, hygiene is an important part of a dog’s health. Establishing a hygiene routine not only improves appearance and smell but is also an important component in preventative care. A dog’s hygiene requirements will differ depending on their breed, but there are some basic tenets. “Basic hygiene is the foundation of keeping dogs healthy,” says Mariano Espinosa, franchise partner at Scenthound. “Everything starts at home.”
You brush your teeth every day, so why shouldn’t your dog? According to Espinosa, dog owners should make sure their dog’s teeth are regularly cleaned — ideally, daily. Just like humans, dogs accumulate plaque, which can inflame gums and lead to bacteria growth, sores, and eventually infection and dental diseases. Ways to keep them clean vary from “dental chews” for those who don’t relish the idea of daily brushing, to teeth rubbing with gauze, to actual brushing with dog toothpaste.
Next comes the ears. All breeds, and not just those with long, floppy ears, can develop infections if their ears are not regularly cleaned. An untreated ear infection can result in hearing loss and extreme pain. Espinosa recommends that owners regularly check their dog’s ears and even give them the occasional sniff. Strong odors coming from the ears could indicate a buildup of yeast or infection. You can clean them yourselves using dog ear cleaning solutions with soft cloth or cotton, or let your vet do it during a routine visit.
Regular grooming is another important part of maintaining your dog’s hygiene. You might be able to get away with giving your dog a bath only when they start to smell, but owners need to make clipping their dog’s nails a priority. Dogs who have unclipped nails are at an increased risk of developing arthritis. As long nails repeatedly hit the ground, they exert pressure back on the nail bed and toe joint, which could eventually move the joints of the foreleg.
Going to the Doctor
Just as you should visit your primary physician every year for a physical, you should take your canine companion to the vet for a yearly checkup. Getting blood work regularly for your pet not only allows you to monitor possible nutritional deficiencies, but also helps catch potential concerns early on.
Vaccines are a key tenet in preventative care. Parvovirus, for example, is extremely deadly to puppies, but is highly preventable with a vaccine. Left untreated, parvovirus’ fatality rate is greater than 90 percent and can be fatal in less than 72 hours. Dogs usually encounter this gastrointestinal virus in dog parks and other places with dog waste, so protect your pup through vaccination.
An annual checkup might also help you and your vet develop a treatment plan for chronic issues. If you have a larger breed or older dog, there is a high probability that he or she may develop arthritis. To combat this, along with other ailments, clinics like GoodVets are now offering acupuncture and dry needling services for canines. Dr. Abraham says the services are becoming more popular as more vets realize that alternative therapies improve the quality of their patient’s lives.
Keeping an open dialogue with your vet about your pet’s habits, exercise regimen, and behaviors is vital. Even an offhand comment to your vet about a pet’s behavior could reveal a potential dog health concern. An elderly canine pacing may be a symptom of cognitive dysfunction or dog dementia, for instance, which can be ameliorated by a change in diet or enrichment toys — if caught in time.
Getting Out & About
You probably look forward to the time you spend with family and friends every week, whether that means brunch with friends, meeting up with a running group, or cooking dinner for your family. It’s probably also your dog’s favorite time.
“Dogs really just want to be with their owners,” says Erin Ballinger, destinations editor at BringFido. “Whatever you’re doing, they want to be a part of it. When you’re at work or out of the house all day and your dog is home alone, it’s nice for them to come along when you’re grabbing a bite with friends or running errands.”
No matter what breed of dog you have, it’s important for them to get out of the house and interact with other people and dogs. Socialization not only eases your dog’s anxiety with new places and people but also enriches their lives. “It’s so important for a dog to be able to go out on a walk and get to sniff things, to go on a sniff-fari,” says Frankie Berti, co-founder of Equipaws Pet Services. “That’s how they explore the world. It makes their brains work, and they’re getting so much information about the outside world.”
Just like us, getting out, exploring the neighborhood, and meeting new friends is good for our furry friend’s overall emotional and mental health. However, if you aren’t confident in your dog’s ability to follow commands, especially in an emergency or stressful situation, you might consider working with a professional dog trainer. Trainers give owners the tools they need to communicate with their dog, curb unwanted behavior, and lessen reactivity to new situations.
Before taking her Australian Cattle Dog mix, Duncan, to Happy with Dogs, Christa Gurka was hesitant to take her dog to the park. Training eased her mind and improved her confidence.
“I was worried something might happen, and he wouldn’t come back to me. But after we did the training, his recall is fantastic. He walks on the leash better, and I’m not worried about taking him out or to the dog park now,” says Gurka.
Another challenge is finding places that allow dogs. Of course, dog parks are always a viable option, and Coral Gables has several — including the new dog run at Salvadore Park, or the dog runs at Chapman Field Park.
But what if you want to bring your dog along to a restaurant or for a drink? Try outdoor dining. Miracle Mile, Giralda Plaza, and the Shops at Merrick Park are all noted for their dog-friendly dining at outdoor seating.
If you’re not sure whether an establishment is dog-friendly, the BringFido app lists all the pet-friendly restaurants and hotels in the area. Some popular dog-friendly restaurants in the Gables are Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, Sawa Restaurant and Lounge, and Yard House.
Dog owners can also get acquainted with the Coral Gables dog community by joining monthly Sip and Strolls by Equipaws and Happy with Dogs. Every month, the organizations co-host a canine get-together that starts with a mile-long walk and ends at a local restaurant or bar. For more information, follow @equipawspetsmiami and @happy.with.dogs on Instagram.
We all love our pooches, but taking care of them is a huge time commitment. To make your life easier and your dog’s life better, try the following services for your canine’s needs.
Make Caring for Your Dog Easier With These Services
No one likes picking up dog poop. It’s gross, unsightly, and, according to a Forbes Advisor survey of 2,000 dog owners, it is the biggest challenge of dog ownership. However, it is your duty to clean up after your pet, for health and environmental reasons. If you want to delegate your dog’s doody to someone else, you can contact Doody Calls for pet waste removal and deodorizing services. And keep your eyes peeled for their pet waste stations around local dog parks — the company recently donated 40 to the City of Coral Gables.
Happy with Dogs
Based in Homestead, Happy with Dogs offers owners a myriad of dog training services. Pups can participate in dog training retreats, private training lessons, or group classes, and training services will soon be offered at home, as well. It’s a bit of a drive, but isn’t Fido worth it?
Equipaws Pet Services
If you’re looking to go out of town, Equipaws is the alternative to boarding your pet, which can be stressful for dogs. You can schedule one of their pet care specialists to come to your home every day and even stay overnight if your pet requires special attention. Their team is trained to administer medications and look for behavior that may indicate a medical crisis. Equipaws also offers dog walking services that can come as often or as little as you like.
7210 Red Road
Located right on Miracle Mile, GoodVets is a great option for dog owners looking for comprehensive and preventative care for their pooch. Although it is not an emergency hospital, GoodVets still performs urgent procedures during open hours. For a full list of services offered, visit their website.
315 Miracle Mile
Not your typical groomer, Scenthound offers hygienic services that not only keep your pet looking good but feeling good. With every visit, your dog’s technician gives you a full report on your dog’s skin, coat, ears, nails, and teeth, and alerts you to potential problems your dog may have.
4538 Ponce De Leon
The Dog from Ipanema
First opened in Brazil (as you might have guessed), The Dog From Ipanema has been a favorite of Gableites for more than 30 years. Washing, conditioning, blow-drying – in many ways The Dog is more like a beauty salon than a dog grooming service. This is haute pet care for your gorgeous pup.
7230 SW 57th Ave. (Red Road)