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Five Common Mistakes Vets See Owners Make When Caring for Their Dogs

A veterinarian holds a dog's leg while it stands on an exam table

Dr. Erica Irish author of Five Common Mistakes Vets See Owners Make When Caring for Their Dogs

In the last fifty years, a lot has changed with respect to the way that we take care of our dogs. And even though it seems more complicated, it has greatly benefited our canine companions. Better pet care has not only increased the dog’s life expectancies, it has also vastly improved their quality of life.

Veterinarians encourage semi-annual physical examinations so that we can help educate pet owners and address problems before they become greater. Without these visits, a lot goes unchecked, and it can be detrimental to the relationship between you and your pup. What are some of the more common problems that vets see in these cases?  

Not socializing a puppy early enough 

Most puppies should have their first preventive care around six to eight weeks of age, and by then, they are already learning to socialize. Owners who have a more “hands-on” approach to puppy care are likely to have some well-socialized puppies. These pups will grow into adult dogs that have better odds of not being fearful of strangers and other animals. Early socialization can also minimize other problematic behaviors such as aggression and anxiety.

It is important to note that your puppy should avoid areas where new dogs and other animals have been until the puppy has had at least two or three of his first vaccines. This is because diseases like parvovirus can exist in an outdoor environment for up to six years! When pups have not had all of their vaccines and are brought to a neighbor’s yard or a local dog park, they are at a greater risk of contracting the illness.

Not keeping up with annual vaccinations

Speaking of parvovirus, annual vaccinations are extremely important. The immune system of a dog is a bit different than that of a human and so annual vaccines are necessary to maintain good immunity against certain diseases. In the case of the rabies vaccine, however, some vaccines can offer immunity for up to three years.

It can be easy to start your puppy on a routine vaccine schedule and then fail to repeat the vaccines once he is an adult. Many of the diseases including in your dog’s vaccine series can cause serious illness, and some of these diseases can be fatal.

There may be some instances where your dog can no longer receive vaccines (e.g. immune-mediated diseases, severe anaphylaxis), but if your dog gets the okay from his vet, boosting your dog’s vaccines annually can also help provide herd immunity for animals in your area, even your own pets. One such example is that dogs have vaccinations available for influenza and leptospirosis whereas cats do not. Cats are equally at risk for developing various dog diseases.

Overfeeding a dog

It can be easy for a dog to become overweight or obese. What may seem like an innocent treat from our own plates can cause a lot of trouble! Compared to the standard 2,000 calorie diet for humans, dogs need much less each day: large breed dogs can get away with half of that while toy breeds may only need 100 to 150 calories per day. So, if you end up giving your 10-pound dog a piece of your hamburger, you’ve given him almost the entire daily allotment of calories in one bite!

Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from health conditions like diabetes mellitus. They are also at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and joint disease like arthritis. By helping your furry friend lose excess body weight, you can add an additional one or two years to his life expectancy! Nutrition and exercise are the major components to help your pup lose weight, and your vet can help you create a weight loss plan that is safe and effective.  

Not enough exercise 

Most dogs love a good walk or playtime with their owners. After all, they are very social creatures! But the life of a “couch potato” can be an unhappy one, and it can increase the risk of becoming overweight. When possible, try to schedule about ten minutes of play once or twice a day. This can include games of fetch or tug-of-war. Some dogs might even enjoy chasing a laser pointer toy. 

Long walks are the best for dogs with high-energy, but if your schedule does not permit this, you can see if a family member, neighbor, or friend might be willing to take your pup for a stroll. There are also doggie daycares that allow for playtime with other dogs and people. Dog parks are also a great way for your canine companion to socialize and have a good time. 

Sold out

Neglecting oral health

Your dog’s mouth is extremely important. Not only does he need his mouth to chew and swallow food, but he also uses his mouth to pick up items and play with toys. By ignoring oral health, your dog may be at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease. This will contribute to bad breath, oral pain, and tooth loss. In severe cases, dogs can develop bone infections of the jaw, and bacteria from the mouth can travel to the heart via the bloodstream. It is estimated that more than 67% of dogs in the United States have periodontal disease.

Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily. If this is not possible, consider brushing their teeth at least three times a week. You can use any soft bristle toothbrush but make sure that the toothpaste you’ve purchased is one that is labeled for dogs. Enzymatic toothpaste are particularly effective and come in tasty flavors like poultry or peanut butter. Oral rinses and dental chews can also help remove plaque and minimize tartar accumulation.

Most veterinarians also recommend yearly dental prophylaxes to remove plaque and tartar from beneath the gum line. This is not possible without general anesthesia, which means that “awake” dental cleanings are not effective due to the disease left below the gumline. Dental x-rays can also identify early tooth disease before the onset of a painful tooth root abscess can occur.  


Do not feel bad if you’ve ignored one of the details on this list – better late than never! Pet owners who are proactive regarding their dog’s care benefit from a happy pup and fewer vet bills. Preventive medicine, exercise, good nutrition, and socialization can greatly improve the quality of life for your furry friend.

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish author of Five Common Mistakes Vets See Owners Make When Caring for Their Dogs

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.

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