It can be hard to make sure you have all you need before you adopt your first dog. Just like having a new baby, things will spring up necessary that you didn’t even know existed before. This list is to help get you along the road to having very few incidents needing to go to the pet store repeatedly.
A dog needs, at its most basic, medical care, food, water, and shelter, to live out its natural lifespan. Toys and grooming care can put your dog in extreme comfort, and keep up his mental capacity.
Medical care consists mostly of regular visits to your vet, getting your dog vaccinated regularly, making sure any odd behavior of his is not a disease or issue like hip dysplasia, and pest protection. Particularly down here in Baton Rouge, parasites abound with the heat and humidity: ticks, fleas, worms of all sorts, mange, mosquitoes bearing more diseases, even ants and Africanized honey bees can be a major pest to your pets. Most of these parasites will happily spread to you and your human family, as well, so protecting your dog protects you. There are chewable tablets and liquid applicators available to prevent your dog from catching most worms, as well as tasting terrible to fleas and ticks: your vet will let you know which brand coverage is best for your area. For outdoor-only dogs, mosquitoes will bite your dog more often than indoor dogs, and his chance at catching heartworms or another nasty disease is best prevented by vaccines. Additionally, outdoor-only dogs can be plagued by Africanized honey bees (starting to spread out in Louisiana, although probably not a real threat yet, they can easily kill a dog unable to get into shelter such as through a doggie door) and ants (both fire ants and normal ants will eat dog food, drown in the dog’s water dish, and bite the dog causing discomfort). If ants do become a problem, there are special dog dishes that are essentially a dog dish inside a bigger dog dish that is full of soapy water, but too small for your dog to drink out of. Ants crawl upwards and drown, keeping the kibble safer.
For food, if you have the ability, buy the food that the dog was eating before you adopted him – he will have one less thing dramatically different in his life during his big change. Over time you can change it over to your own preferred brand, making sure he doesn’t show signs of allergies: large itchy areas, particularly on the stomach; or he may be intolerant of it and end up vomiting or having diarrhea. In either case, discuss it with your vet as soon as possible to find a food that works. Make sure that you buy dog food appropriate for your dog’s age, and feed him only as much as the bag says, twice a day. Puppies need different food composition than adults, and old dogs need more supplements to keep them aging gracefully. Eating twice a day keeps a dog from being horribly hungry for half the day, and can help with behavioral problems. Dogs normally eat whatever they find, at any time of day, if feral – no need to force them to eat an entire day’s worth of food in one shot, which is also generally difficult or harmful for puppies. If your dog is a puppy, and he is not eating, make sure you have Karo syrup on hand. Puppies can go into shock from lack of sugars from not eating, and Karo syrup rubbed on the gums can give you enough time to bring the dog to the vet before it dies. The gums in the mouth automatically absorb the sugary substance and put it into the bloodstream, hopefully preventing seizures and death.
Dogs need fresh water, too, because many parasites lurk in water we would consider too gross to drink. Even if your dog wants to drink out of a muddy puddle, make sure he always has a fresh pan of water every day, that is always accessible, especially if he is an outdoor-only dog, due to Baton Rouge’s heat and humidity. Shelter is generally covered by your porches and dog houses for outdoor dogs, and your own house for indoor dogs. Just make sure that they are not too hot or too cold all the time, and your dog is set.
Accessories like grooming items, toys, collars, etc. will be covered in the next article.