How To Keep Your Dog Healthy: Easy Habits To Keep Your Pup Happy

how to keep your dog healthy

Keeping our pups healthy, happy, and safe is a top priority for most pet owners. You don’t have to be a veterinarian or dog expert to recognize the signs of an unhealthy dog, either – as your dog’s best friend, simply keeping track of their normal behavior is the best way to ensure a healthy life.

In this guide, we’ll be covering the basics of keeping your dog healthy, going over their diet, skin and fur, ears and eyes, potty habits, and much more.

What are the signs of a healthy or unhealthy dog?

So, how can you tell if a dog is healthy? If you’re looking for a few quick indicators of your pet’s health, there are a few different easy signs to keep an eye out for – if you want more detailed info, you’re going to want to keep reading:

A healthy dog will have:

  • A coat of fur that’s smooth, shiny, and washed regularly

  • Skin that’s clear and soft to the touch

  • A wet or slightly dry nose with equal size on both sides

  • Pink ears, clear of parasites and dirt, with a small amount of wax

  • Brown, firm, moist, and log-shaped poop

  • Regular pee breaks with clear or light yellow urine

  • A healthy weight that aligns with the usual guidelines for specific breeds

  • Playful behavior that works with other dogs and humans

An unhealthy dog will have:

  • A dull, brittle, discolored, or dirty coat of fur with fleas

  • Dry, flaky, or greasy skin

  • A runny or abnormally dry nose

  • Ears that are itchy, swollen, painful, or red – they may shake their head often

  • Runny, stinky, bloody, or discolored poop

  • Irregular amounts of pee that’s dark yellow or other colors

  • An unhealthy size, either underweight or overweight

  • Poor behavior such as anxiety, aggression, or lots of barking

What do dogs need every day?

Now that we’ve briefly gone over what defines a healthy or unhealthy dog, let’s talk a bit about what your dog absolutely needs every single day. You and your dog are allowed to have off-days, and you don’t have to run a marathon every week with your pooch, but there are a few things you can’t ignore:

  • Feed your dog everyday, on a regular schedule

  • Your dog needs access to water throughout the day, especially if it’s hot out

  • Access to shelter – some dogs are extremely sensitive to weather

  • A place to rest, as sleep is vital to the optimal health and behavior of your pup

How can you ensure your dog is healthy?

Going into a bit more detail, it’s a good idea to learn about how to make sure your dog thrives in all aspects of its life. Pet care is important – a dog is a lot of responsibility, and if you can’t follow the guidelines below, you may want to reconsider becoming a dog owner.

Feeding your dog a well balanced diet

The first thing most consider when it comes to dog health is the food they eat. Just like humans, dogs are omnivores that need a variety of micro and macronutrients to feel their best, and the wrong type or amount of food can cause a number of health issues.

Your dog should usually eat the same amount each day, which has the added benefit of making it easy for you to track their diet and cut down on overfeeding if it becomes an issue. First, you’re going to want to decide whether your dog will eat kibble, fresh food, or a combination of both. So, you’ll need to pick between:

  • Dry food or kibble, which should be primarily made from protein – not grains

  • Fresh food, including things like raw or cooked beef or lamb, carrots, or potatoes

  • A combination diet, or a specific plan formulated by your vet or a specialist brand

The best way to decide on a diet is by consulting with your vet, as there are a number of things to consider. Your dog’s age, size, and breed will all dictate what and how much you need to feed them – you also need to be aware of potential allergens, and how often your dog exercises. Finally, make sure your dog’s food and treats taste good!

You’re probably still wondering: what foods improve dogs’ health? Each dog is different, but there are a couple of healthy foods and treats you can spoil your pup with:

  • Cooked and unseasoned beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs

  • Green beans, carrots, pumpkin, spinach and other leafy greens

  • Bananas, apple slices, watermelon, blueberries, and other fruits

Dogs need plenty of water

Your dog needs to be able to drink whenever it’s thirsty – especially if you plan on leaving them alone during the day while you work. The standard amount of water suggested by vets is around 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. So, if your pup weighs 10 lbs, they should go through around 10 ounces of water everyday.

With that being said, every dog is different. Some dogs may need a little bit less or more than that, depending on what they get up to during the day. On particularly hot or humid days, always make sure your dog has access to more water than you think they’ll drink, just in case.

Protecting your dog from parasites

Dogs can become infected by a variety of parasites, a problem that could be out of your control depending on what kinds of things your dog is getting into when in the yard, what dogs they have playdates with, or any number of other random events that expose them to parasitic organisms.

Either way, the best way to prevent or treat heartworm disease and other related health conditions is by speaking with a registered vet: you want expert advice and top of the line medications if you’re committed to keeping your pup safe.

Pay attention to your dog’s potty breaks

As gross as it sounds, the first indicator of many health issues within your pup is some type of irregular poop or pee. If you want a super in-depth look at your dog’s bowel movements, make sure to check out our dog poop guide. In a nutshell, here’s what to look for in a healthy dog poop:

  • Regular bowel movements, which could be at the same time everyday

  • Chocolate brown, firm, smooth, log-shaped poops

  • A lack of visible parasites, diarrhea, discoloration, or other abnormal poos

  • Clear or slightly yellow pee, without a rancid or overpowering odor

If you notice your dog passing a stool that’s runny, bloody, discolored, or abnormally dry – you should schedule a visit to your vet as soon as possible. While it could just be a simple bug or something they ate earlier in the day, it’s best not to guess about your dog’s stomach or bowel issues.

Having trouble remembering to pick up your pup’s poos? Check out our commercial dog poop scooping services, tailor-fit to your specific needs whether that’s a weekly household scoop or big scoops for the entire neighborhood. Explore our scooping service area map for more info.

Caring for your dog’s coat, skin, and nails

Aside from bowel movements, another obvious indicator of your dog’s health is the state of its furry coat and skin. Most coat and skin issues can be traced back to either a poor diet, parasites, or some other undiscovered health issue. Here are the basics when it comes to maintaining your dog’s naturally healthy skin and fur:

  • A healthy diet that includes all required micro and macronutrients

  • Supplementation, a fancier word for that means making sure your dog gets all of the above

  • Regular brushing, depending on the breed and amount of shedding going on

  • Parasite prevention, which target pests like fleas, ticks, and ear mites

If you’re interested in reading up on the science behind your dog’s coat and skin health, I recommend checking out Pupford’s guide on dog skin and coat health. To summarize, your dog requires a number of essential fatty acids if you want their coat to shine. These include Omega-3’s, Omega-6’s, and Omega-9’s – all of which can be added to their food, given as supplements, or applied to their coat directly.

Last but not least, regularly check your dog’s nails. Just like human nails, you should keep your dog’s nails clean and trimmed when possible. For some dogs, having their nails trimmed spells the end of the world – complete with a dramatic display of whining, pouting, and sometimes a bit of hiding behind the couch. The best way to deal with this kind of behavior is to slowly introduce the idea of nail trimming to your dog over time.

Inspect your dog’s teeth, eyes, ears, and nose

Similar to a healthy coat of fur, your dog’s dental, eye, ear, and nose health are largely dictated by what it’s being fed, or any underlying health issues. A sudden change in the state of your dog’s eyesight or nose appearance, for example, could mean they’re missing some key nutrient or in the first stages of developing a more serious disease.

A dog’s teeth should be clean and white without tons of plague – just like human teeth. If you notice your dog has dry, sticky gums or teeth as well as any discoloration or swelling, you’ll want to bring them round to your local vet who can organize a doggy dental plan. You’ll also want to regularly check for any cracks or chips, especially if you notice them having trouble chewing.

Your dog’s eyes should be clear, alert, and free of any dirt or debris. Cloudy eyes, squinting, discharge, or other abnormal symptoms should mean an immediate visit to your local vet or animal hospital – you don’t want to mess around when it comes to vision problems. As your dog ages, its vision will most likely naturally decline.

Dog ears are usually pink-colored, dry, and relatively clean. A bit of wax or dirt is normal if your dog hasn’t been washed in awhile or spends lots of time outside. The main thing to look for is excessive moisture, swelling, discoloration, or strange smells. Honestly, your dog will most likely let you know if they’re suffering in the ear department – if you notice them trying to itch at their ears or dramatically shaking their heads, there’s a good chance something else is going on.

A dog’s nose is their most important tool – some breeds can pick up scents from over 10 miles away due to the presence of millions of olfactory receptors. The general appearance of a healthy dog nose is slightly moist or dry, and may change between cold or warm.

For this reason, don’t panic if you notice your dog’s nose is cold and runny, or warm and dry – the main thing to keep an eye out for is excessive discharge in the form of mucus or blood, which could be yellow, green, or red. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for flaky or discolored nostrils, or lots of sneezing and coughing in general.

You should also keep an eye out for changes that might happen throughout the year. For example, in the winter, your dog’s paws might get irritated from the salt you or your neighbors use to melt ice and snow.

Regular socialization, playtime, and exercise

Dog’s are social creatures, and a healthy dog is one that regularly plays, socializes, and hangs out with other adult dogs and humans. Of course, some dogs with past trauma aren’t instantly capable of this or may never be, which is totally fine.

In general, dog’s can take a bit longer than us to get used to new canine pals, humans, sights, sounds, smells – pretty much anything you can think of. Slowly introducing new and exciting experiences to your dog is the best way to avoid stressing them out. The good new is, you can often find doggy-centric environments to do this in, such as:

  • Training classes, which can help your dog meet friends and playmates

  • Dog parks, often some of the safest spots for dogs to hangout in urban jungles

Depending on your dog’s body size and breed, you’ll likely want to walk them at least once or twice per day. Each breed and dog is different – some high energy breeds could be impossible to manage if cooped up in a downtown apartment all day, while others are fine with simply chilling all day on their bed (or yours), and don’t need a ton of daily physical activity or walks. The key to all of this is consistency: dogs enjoy and thrive on a regular schedule, just like humans!

Whether it’s a bit of tug of war, puzzling out a snuffle mat, or enjoying some sunshine in your neighborhood – work towards developing a consistent schedule that allows you to make time for your furry pal everyday.

Dog tags and microchipping

One of the worst feelings for a dog owner is the great escape – not all dogs are escape artists, but it does happen. Pet-proofing your home should prevent most escapes, but tagging and microchipping your dog is the next line of defense.

Buying a quality dog collar and a set of identification tags should always be your first move. If a nearby neighbor or passerby spots your dog, they can check its collar to find your phone number or address – but what if your dog loses them?

Dog microchips are tiny electronic chips that transmit your dog’s identification info when scanned by a vet or animal rescue. These incredibly small devices are commonly inserted under a pet’s skin; a harmless procedure that enables you to be reunited with your pup if it ever escapes or loses its collar.

Pet-proofing your home

Making sure your home is hard to escape should be a priority for you, especially if you’re a first time owner. Your dog is likely your best friend, or will soon be – trust me, you don’t want to feel responsible for allowing them outside where cars and other dogs could hurt or scare them.

Pet proofing your home is essential, and while its an entire topic of it’s own, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when lowering your dog’s risk of escape:

  • Invest in quality dog-proof doors and gates if you have off-limit rooms

  • Consider attaching child-proof latches to cabinets and drawers if needed

  • Keep all of your food, hygiene products, medications, other supplies out of reach

  • Make sure any houseplants you own aren’t toxic (they will try to eat them)

  • Store your shoes someplace secure – dogs think everything is food

  • If you install a dog door, pet-proof your porch, fences, and other outside areas

When should you schedule a vet visit?

Dog’s aren’t really able to tell us if they aren’t feeling well, aside from a bit of barking or whining. It’s your responsibility as a pet owner to keep an eye on your pup’s overall health – any sudden or drastic changes in their appetite, poo or pee, or behavior could mean they’re suffering from a number of serious health problems.

The best time to schedule a vet visit is anytime you notice a change from the norm. It doesn’t have to be something crazy like explosive doggy diarrhea, it could be something as simple as your pup losing interest in its favorite treat. Annual visits are just as important too, as vets are able to screen for slow-developing diseases or other health problems that don’t typically develop overnight.

Final thoughts

If you consider your pup a member of your family, it’s your responsibility to ensure they stay healthy and live a stress-free life. Reading this guide will prepare you for most obstacles you’ll stumble upon and help you avoid panicking over the inevitable hiccups that every dog owner deals with. A happy dog is the key to a happy home, after all.