Taking care of your dog’s health is not something everyone thinks about on a regular basis, but it is vitally important to ensure a long, happy life for your canine buddy. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on the best way to care for your dog.

Food, glorious food.

There’s dog food, and then there’s dog food. There is absolutely a huge difference in a low-grade, cheap dog food and a high-quality, healthy food. What can a high-quality food do for your dog? Well, for starters, it can help keep your dog’s weight at a safe level, his heart healthy, his lifespan longer, his breath livable and will usually cause him to have smaller, firmer, and less odorous stools. That’s right. His business will be compact, easier to pick up, and one less reason for the kids to complain, I can’t pick that up, IT STINKS!

High-quality food will also contribute to a shinier, healthy coat and all-around energy levels. There are numerous comparison charts available, so you can see for yourself what the differences are in regards to by-products, fillers, and main ingredients in multiple types of foods. Investigate supermarket-brand foods versus premium-brand foods available at pet supply stores. If you are looking even further, check into feeding a raw diet known as B.A.R.F., which stands for Bones And Raw Foods. Many dog fanciers swear by the health rewards in feeding this particular diet, which involves feeding only raw, natural food such as raw meat and bones along with fresh vegetables, certain herbs, enzyme supplements and some dairy items.

This won’t hurt a bit

Regular veterinary care is essential to a dog’s health. Don’t wait until your dog is ill to make a trip to the office, make a yearly appointment and keep it. From the time your puppy comes home, obtain regular preventative care such as vaccines, de-worming, teeth maintenance and flea/tick prevention. Many a dog owner is devastated to find a disease that could have easily been avoided with proper and early vet care. To obtain a good vet, ask around. Word of mouth is your best bet to finding a great vet and beginning a rewarding relationship with.

Give me a home, where I don’t dare roam.

Never, ever let your dog roam. Many folks think a dog needs to get out and run, and while they are partially right as far as healthy exercise goes, no dog ever needs to be running around unsupervised. Not only is it unfair to other homeowners to have a strange dog trampling through their flowerbeds or using their lawn as a porta-potty, your dog runs the risk of being struck by a car, attacked by another dog, injured by wildlife or contracting a disease. Supervised walks on leash are essential to good health. Roaming is taking a chance on early death.

One, and two, and lift, and bend

Here’s where the healthy exercise comes in. A couch-potato dog is as healthy as a couch-potato person, which isn’t saying much. Boost your health status along with Fido and get outside for some fresh air. Play Frisbee or fetch, go for a long walk along the beach, or just play a rousing game of run-around-the-yard. Exercise will help the heart, lungs and muscles to assist in overall good health. By the way, those benefits help you, too.

I’m too young to be a mother!

Frankly, dogs don’t care one bit about parenthood. If you aren’t a breeder who is working to better the breed and continue qualified, titled and tested bloodlines, then make an appointment for that surgery now. Your dog will statistically live a longer life if spayed or neutered, with zero chance of getting uterine cancer, testicular cancer, or pyometra, which is an often-fatal situation in which the uterus becomes abscessed and filled with pus. Without even mentioning the dangers of giving birth, spaying or neutering will greatly increase your odds of maintaining the health of your dog. Most communities even have spay/neuter assistance funds available to help defray the costs of surgery.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

Outside dogs are generally much happier inside with the family. An outside dog is exposed to the elements: cold, heat, snow, ice, rain, tornados and other natural disasters including the neighbor’s pesky cat who likes to tease from the top of the fence. Outside dogs tend to be lonely, prone to barking, digging and exhibiting other unwanted behaviors. Fleas, ticks and other parasites such as worms are easily picked up, and you are less likely to notice illness or injury in a timely manner if your dog is outside 24/7. Let your dog come on in and lay at your feet by the fireplace while you read a good book. Besides, it makes for a beautiful Christmas card image.

Got a whole lotta love

Love your dog. Dogs know when they aren’t cared for. Dogs can and do get depressed, which can lower their immune systems. Spend some time each and every day with your dog, whether it is outside playing ball, or simply resting your hand on his head while you watch TV. Keeping him happy provides an added benefit to you: studies have indicated that owning a pet can possibly increase your lifespan as well, by lowering blood pressure and keeping the blues at bay. Stay healthy together.