Vaccinations for Dogs
Vaccinations are a safe and effective way of protecting your dog against the most dangerous infectious canine viruses and bacteria. However, because of the many variables involved (for example, when the vaccine has been given after the dog has already been exposed to a given microorganism), vaccines do not guarantee protection against disease. That said, they help a great deal!
These are the standard vaccinations typically recommended for dogs. Consult your veterinarian about your dog's ideal vaccination schedule (remember, puppies require their own specific schedule of vaccinations!).
Rabies: Initial one-year vaccination; followup vaccinations good for three years (required in Maryland)
DHLPP: Annual vaccination; combination of five vaccinations in one injection (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo Virus, and Corona Virus)
Bordatella ("Kennel Cough"): Annual vaccination
Lyme Disease: Annual vaccination (as recommended)
Leptospirosis: Annual vaccination (as recommended)
Parainfluenza: Annual vaccination (as recommended)
Heartworm larvae are transmitted year-round to dogs via mosquitos; once inside the dog, the larvae mature into adult heartworms, leading to heartworm disease. Left untreated, heartworm disease is deadly; the adult worms infest the dog's heart and lungs, leading to congestive heart failure, pulmonary distress and embolism.
Heartworm disease is easily preventable by giving your dog a monthly heartworm preventative medication. Many of these medications also protect against various types of intestinal parasites; consult your vet and the product packaging for details.
Flea and Tick Control
Fleas and ticks are more than a nuisance for your dog --- they're also disease vectors. Lyme Disease and Ehrlichia are both passed to dogs through infected ticks; left untreated, both diseases have potentially lethal long-term complications. Fleas can potentially infect a dog with tapeworm (if the dog eats an infected flea while grooming); serious flea infestations can also cause dermatitis and anemia.
There are a variety of topical flea and tick control agents available; consult your vet on which is best for your dog.
Oral care for your dog is very important! Discuss your dog's particular needs with your vet --- many products are available to improve and maintain your dog's oral health.
Coat and Ear Care
Take care not to over-bathe your dog (every three weeks or longer should be fine) --- too-frequent bathing can strip the natural protective oils from his skin and coat and cause dermatitis. Also, look for natural pH-balanced shampoos and rinses specially formulated for dogs. There are even OTC and prescription shampoos available for dogs with special skin or coat conditions.
Floppy-eared dogs (like beagles) tend to be more prone to ear infections, since their outer ears overlap the opening of the ear canal, creating a moist environment with little air circulation. Ask your vet to show you how to clean your dog's ears, and check them regularly for swelling, discharge, or other signs of potential infection. A 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water is inexpensive and effective for cleaning and disease prevention, but should only be used if there are no signs of infection.
In the winter, be mindful of your dog's paws --- watch out for caking of snow and ice in the fur between the paw pads, and gently rinse your dog's paws with warm water if he was in contact with salt or ice-melting products. Also, make sure his nails are trimmed regularly! Overgrown nails can adversely affect your dog's paws, and can potentially lead to orthopedic issues.
Dogs require good nutrition and plenty of fresh water to thrive! Beware mass-market brands of dog food, even those claiming to be "premium" --- they're often high in animal byproducts, bonemeal, and other leftovers from the meatpacking industry (and as we've seen in the dog food recalls of recent years, not all of these ingredients are easily traceable to their origins). A good general rule: buy the highest quality dog food you can reasonably afford, or make it yourself --- there are many excellent recipes for homemade dog food online, with ingredients such as ground turkey and rolled oats.
Avoid giving your dog animal bones; they can easily splinter. Also, before adding "people food" to your dog's menu, educate yourself about the foods that are harmful for dogs (indlucing chocolate, grapes/raisins, garlic, ginger, avocado).