by Elijah Merrill
We all want our pets to live healthy lives, but are we as informed as we should be? Take this quiz and see how you measure up.
1. I schedule basic veterinary checkups for my adult dog:
a. Once a year
b. Twice a year
c. When needed
Optimal answer: b. Twice a year
Although annual visits are a good start, twice-yearly exams are your best insurance against hidden diseases. "I also recommend checking your pet's blood test and urinalysis once a year in patients over 7 years old," says Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian based in North Carolina.
2. I give my dog a bath using:
a. Dog shampoo
b. My shampoo
c. Baby shampoo
Optimal answer: a. Dog shampoo
"Though we often treat our dogs as our kids, they aren't," says Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian in California. "A dog's skin is much more fragile than ours, with a very different pH. Using our shampoos -- even a baby's shampoo -- can strip a dog's skin of its protective oils."
3. I check my dog's ears:
a. Once a year
b. Every few months
c. Every few weeks
Optimal answer: c. Every few weeks
Ear infections are common but preventable. "If the earflap is red and inflamed; if the canal is narrow, has a heavy buildup of debris or is smelly; or if touching your dog's ears is painful; you have a problem that needs to be addressed," says Cruz.
4. My dog gets its teeth cleaned:
a. Once a year
b. Twice a year
c. Every five years
Optimal answer: a. Once a year
Annual cleanings are recommended, but Dr. Katy Johnson Nelson -- a Virginia-based veterinarian who is a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council -- says some dogs need more. "Just like some people have more cavities, some dogs have more severe dental disease than others. Your veterinarian will be able to determine how often they need those teeth cleaned," says Nelson. Between cleanings, brush your dog's teeth at least weekly.
5. I bring my dog for vaccine renewal:
a. Yearly or sooner
b. Every three years
c. Every five years
Optimal answer: a. or b. Yearly or sooner, or every three years
Core vaccinations are given every three years, but many others last a year or less. Go over this with your veterinarian and know the schedule for each vaccine.
6. The best way to exercise my dog is:
a. Go for daily walks
b. Give him free reign of the backyard
c. Take occasional trips to the dog run
Optimal answer: a. Daily walks
Dogs left outside alone do not self-exercise. And while trips to the dog run are great, the most important thing is consistent exercise. Daily walks, as long as they're substantial, are the basis of a good exercise routine.
7. I feed my dog:
a. Table scraps
c. Only dog food
Optimal answer: c. Only dog food
"An occasional bite of people food is OK, but a good-quality dog food is the foundation for a health-filled life," says Cruz. Dogs love a big bone, but they're dangerous to intestinal tracts -- especially cooked bones, which splinter easily.
8. My dog's mealtime schedule is:
a. Once a day
b. Twice a day
c. I keep the bowl full all day
Optimal answer: b. Twice a day
A perpetually refilled bowl is a no-no that can lead to obesity, and Cruz says feeding only once daily can negatively alter metabolism. Three times a day is acceptable if portions are controlled. "The most important weapon against obesity is a measuring cup," says Ward. "Find out from your veterinarian how many calories your dog needs each day and feed that amount to your pet."
9. My dog's food bowl is made of:
Optimal answer: b. or c. Ceramic or metal
"Many dogs become sensitive to plastics and may develop skin issues if fed from plastic bowls," says Ward. Plastic is also more likely to retain bacteria.
Eight to nine correct:
Congratulations! You're doing a great job safeguarding your dog against medical problems. But remember that as your dog ages, you'll need to adapt too. Maintain a close relationship with your vet, and your dog will live a long and happy life.
Five to seven correct:
Looks like you've got a decent foundation when it comes to safeguarding your dog against medical problems, but there's room for improvement. Go back over your incorrect answers and take action on them!
Zero to four correct:
Oh no! We're sorry to say it, but at 50 percent or less, you scored an F. You've got some work to do with safeguarding your dog against medical problems.
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Pets | Dogs: Are You Protecting Your Dog's Health?