Part of being a pet parent is taking responsibility for the health and well-being of your dog. Regular vet visits, a nutritious diet, and plenty of activity are a great place to start. But paying attention to your dog’s unique habits and quirks matters too: dogs can’t tell us when they don’t feel well (and may even try to hide signs of sickness or injury), so noticing changes in their behavior is an important part of preventive care. These dog wellness tips can help you keep your dog healthy, so you can make the most of your years together.
Start with a Wellness Exam
Caring dog parents may wonder how often they should take their dog to the vet – especially if everything seems to be fine. A dog wellness exam is a routine check-up that all dogs should get annually, even if they appear healthy. The goal of a wellness exam (aka physical exam, or wellness check) is to maintain good health by identifying potential issues before they become serious problems.
The cost of a dog wellness exam can vary based on your location, the veterinarian you choose, and whether any routine vaccinations or boosters are recommended at the visit. You can always talk to your vet about pricing to help you plan ahead. Another option to consider is pet insurance. The cost of health insurance for your dog will depend on their age and breed, and the specifics of the plan. Whether or not pet insurance is worth it is an individual call. Vets may also offer payment plans if you find yourself facing unexpected costs.
Senior Dog Wellness
Senior dogs should have a wellness exam twice a year. Many health conditions that tend to arise later in a dog’s life have very subtle (or no) symptoms at first. More frequent exams increase the chance of spotting health problems earlier.
Because large dogs age more quickly, large breeds can be considered senior at 7 years old. Medium-sized dogs are seniors at 10 years old, and small dogs at around 11-12 years. Your vet may recommend an exam frequency based on your senior dog’s overall health and breed.
Walk Your Way to Wellness (with Your Dog!)
Just like people, dogs need regular exercise to maintain good health and enjoy the benefits, including:
- Weight management
- Stress management
- Healthy digestion
- Joint health
- Cardiovascular health
…and the list goes on! Exercising with your dog is also a great way to take care of your own health, by giving you some extra motivation to get those daily steps in.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
How much exercise a dog needs depends on their age, size, and overall health (again, just like people!). In general, most dogs need at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, though high-energy and working breeds may need much more. At the other end of the spectrum, dogs with shorter snouts (think pugs and bulldogs) shouldn’t be overexercised, because their compromised breathing leads to overheating.
As a dog parent, you’re in the best position to judge how much daily exercise strikes the right balance for your pup. Signs your dog may not be getting enough exercise include:
- Restless, hyperactive or destructive behavior
- Excessive barking or whining
- Weight gain not explained by other factors
- Withdrawal and seclusion
Of course, some of these symptoms could have other causes, so it’s important to follow up with a vet visit if they persist despite increased exercise.
How Often Should I Walk My Dog?
Walking is the most common form of exercise for dogs, but don’t feel locked into one or two daily walks. Your dog’s age, breed, fitness level, and overall health should factor in—as well as your schedule.
Whether it’s multiple shorter walks every day, or a couple of long hikes each week, try to create a somewhat consistent routine. Dogs find routines comforting, and experience less stress with a predictable schedule.
Walking isn’t the only way to exercise your dog: playing with other dogs, playing fetch, and swimming are great ways to give your dog a workout. You can also get creative and make an obstacle course in your yard, or hide a treat-filled toy and let your dog track it down.
How Regular Grooming Can Support Dog Wellness
Regular grooming—at home and from a professional— is an important part of keeping your dog healthy. Here’s how:
Brushing helps remove dead hair and skin, prevents matting, and stimulates growth. It also distributes natural oils (for a shiner coat) and improves circulation.
Nail trimming lets your dog walk with a natural gait (long nails can get in the way), and reduces the risk of torn nails.
Teeth cleaning prevents tooth loss, gum disease, and other painful dental issues. Bacteria in plaque buildup can even spread to the heart and other organs, which is another reason to brush your dog’s teeth or get professional cleanings.
Taking the time to groom your dog on a regular basis also lets you notice small health concerns early, before they grow into more serious problems. There’s one more bonus benefit: bathing and grooming your dog at home strengthens your bond and increases your dog’s trust and confidence in you, which is good for their mental health.
Mind Your Dog’s Mental Wellbeing
As a devoted pet parent, you don’t need clinical studies to know your dog is good for your mental health, but it’s official: studies have shown that dogs reduce stress, depression and loneliness (measured by lower cortisol and blood pressure, and higher levels of “happy” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine). So how can you help your dog with their own mental and emotional health?
Happy dogs typically act comfortable and content: they’re at a healthy weight, they’re excited to play, they eat normally, and they don’t destroy the house while you’re out. Warning signs of poor mental health in dogs can include anti-social or destructive behavior, and even symptoms like vomiting or excessive barking. Learn the signs of dog anxiety and take steps to improve your dog’s mental health if you spot worrying changes in their behavior.
The habits that promote physical health (like wellness checks, exercise and grooming) will also have a positive impact on mental health. In addition, you can support your dog’s mental wellbeing by:
- Spending plenty of quality time with your dog
- Providing dog enrichment activities
- Creating an environment where your dog feels safe
- Making time for socialization and play dates with other dogs
- Feeding a balanced diet that meets nutritional needs
For inspiration (and warm fuzzies), check out the results of our survey looking at the top ways pet parents show love for their pets.
Proper Nutrition Lays the Foundation
The nutrition your dog gets affects every aspect of their physical and mental health. Specific nutrients are needed to support the brain and every system in the body. Deficiencies contribute to problems like diarrhea, bladder stones, and even heart disease. In turn, discomfort from physical illness can increase your dog’s stress, affecting mood and behavior.
Serving appropriate portion sizes is part of helping your dog achieve or maintain a healthy weight, so don’t go overboard with treats or give in to begging. Dogs can also be sensitive or allergic to specific ingredients in dog food or treats, so always read the labels and learn the signs of food allergies in dogs.
Water Is a Nutrient
Hydration is another important factor in dog health. In general, dogs need one once of fluid per pound of body weight every day. There are many things that could cause your dog to need more or less water, like activity levels and the type of food they eat. You can help keep your dog hydrated with a healthy diet, and you can encourage them to drink more water by adding a splash of bone broth – as long as the recipe is safe for dogs (no onions, garlic, artificial ingredients, or high sodium).
Give Your Dog the Good Stuff
Stella & Chewy’s dog food recipes use only premium ingredients and responsibly sourced animal proteins from trustworthy suppliers. Our 100% complete and balanced diets are developed with animal nutritionists and reviewed by veterinarians to ensure safety. Our Stella’s Solutions line includes dog food recipes designed to support specific health concerns.
A complete and balanced raw dog food diet has many benefits, including balanced energy levels, a shiny coat, dental health, improved digestion, and much more. Explore recipes below, or reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org for help selecting the right food or treats for your dog.