Ten tips for a happy, healthy dog

Lorna Cowan / 17 November 2015 ( 03 August 2017 )

Is your dog as happy as he can be? Read our tips for giving your much-loved pet a happy, healthy life.



A healthy dog is a happy dog. And if your four-legged friend is wagging its tail, then you’ll be smiling too. Although there are some illnesses you can’t prevent, if you look after your dog’s health, you’ll both be rewarded with a happy life.

Keep vaccinations up to date

It’s not only puppies who need to be vaccinated – usually when they’re between eight and 12 weeks old – all dogs should get a booster on a yearly basis, protecting them against diseases such as canine parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. Keep a record of vaccination dates as this is vital if you’re booking a boarding kennel or applying for a pet passport.

Find out more about applying for a pet passport

Discuss neutering with your vet

To reduce the number of unwanted dogs being born, the RSPCA advise owners to neuter a pet if they are not planning to breed. A bitch can be spayed before her first season, and a dog castrated around eight months. With the urge to sire a litter gone, your dog will lead a more contented life. Ask your vet for advice.

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Watch your dog’s weight

Dogs need a well-balanced, nutritious diet and fresh water at all times. The breed and age of your dog will determine the number of meals you give it. Treats can aid training, but don’t feed it titbits all day long as this will affect your pet’s appetite. Weigh your dog regularly and tell your vet if it seems to be putting on too much weight or losing it rapidly.

Vary your daily exercise

All dogs need to be exercised every day, regardless of the weather. Try to walk your four-legged friend before meals and carry poo bags. If possible, vary your walks to keep your dog active and interested. Also give them plenty of opportunities to run, explore and socialise with other dogs. They’ll return home ready for a snooze.

Find out about fun sports you can do with your dog

Get grooming

Afghan hounds obviously need more grooming than a smooth-haired terrier, but all dogs should get used to being groomed and handled regularly. Combing and brushing helps to remove dirt and prevent matting. Check your pet’s eyes and ears too, and remove grit or thorns from its paws. If you wash your pet at home, use a mild dog shampoo.

Don’t forget a toothbrush

A happy dog’s smile can be ruined by a bad breath, so get into the habit of brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week. Plaque and tartar causes receding gums and loose teeth so even if they struggle, don’t give up. Start by massaging your dog’s lips with your finger, then move onto the teeth and gums, gently brushing up and down. Dog toothpaste is available, as are soft toothbrushes that fit on your finger.

Banish fleas forever

You don’t want fleas in your home, and neither does your dog. Irritating flea bites can drive a dog to despair, causing allergic reactions and making it gnaw its skin until it bleeds. Prevent this happening by using a flea treatment once a month – choose from sprays, drops and tablets. It’s also recommended that you worm adult dogs four times a year.

Tackle ticks head-on

Ticks are disgusting blood-sucking pests that latch themselves on to dogs (and humans) and transmit disease. Always check your dog for ticks after a walk in long grass or woodland, paying attention to its face, eyes and inside its ears. Invest in a ‘tick twister’ and learn how to remove ticks properly. Have a sealed container to put the tick into and dispose of it safely.

Keep bedding clean

Even if your dog enjoys rolling in mud, it should have a clean bed. Shake bedding outdoors every other day and vacuum regularly to get rid of hairs. Removable covers, blankets and towels should be washed on a weekly basis, to keep fleas at bay and smells away. Remember to wash bedding and towels that you keep in the car too.

Know your dog’s routine

When you become a dog owner, take note of your pet’s behaviour and habits from day one and you’ll soon be able to tell if your dog is feeling out of sorts. It may just be tired or swallowed something it shouldn’t have, but if you notice a change in your dog’s eating pattern or the way it interacts with you, consult your vet.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.