How to Raise a Healthy Dog
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Health first, has always been my motto, not just for raising a dog, but for this thing we call "life." After all, without it, it's not much of a life. Agree?
I've always had a dog but fortunately I've never experienced health issues with any of them. Needless to say, the vets haven't lined their pockets with my business and they never will. I wish I could choose the dog for every future dog owner. I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever that they would never be saddled with a health-challenged dog.
Most of the risk can be eliminated from the get-go by selecting a healthy breed and/or working with a good breeder. For shelter dogs, it's a different situation, but just as easy: In most cases the shelter will provide you with a health history of the dog, or identify any existing problems.
Anyhow, back to the breeds. Most of "rustic" types are hale and hearty, like the terrier, hound, sporting and herding groups. These dogs have been bred to get the job done, not for looks or unusual faces like bulldogs and pugs which were actually bred to have human-like features. Cute? Maybe. But try breathing with a crunched up face. Try cleaning the wrinkles every day.
Rustic dogs were bred to work, to hunt, to fetch, and yeah, even to kill. So if their progenitors weren't robust little buggers, they were't bred. These dogs are sturdy and rugged and haven't changed that much for centuries. They're also usually low maintenance, feed and exercise them and they're good to go.
Terriers in particular are a good bet. They're solid and wiry, essentially without health issues and tend to live long like most small dogs. Get a giant breed like an Irish Wolfhound or a Great Dane and you're looking at short life span and high vet bills. Many of these big guys also experience joint and hip issues, not to mention bloating. Are you prepared to deal with this?
That said, you still may want a breed that is known to have issues. A good breeder will have already eliminated most of them and can prove it with vet certificates rating hips, eyes, etc., but be demanding. Does the breeder have any senior dogs you can see? Were there any specific issues with any of the lines? The best breeders will be happy not just to answer you, but glad you asked. After all, their goal is to improve the breed.
And of course, a natural raw diet will help your dog live healthier and longer for the most obvious reasons. No additives, preservatives, fillers or abrasive pellets that rip the gums, stain the teeth and ultimately lead to gingivitis. Just real food that canines evolved to consume.
It's really not that hard to avoid acquiring a health-challenged dog. Do your homework, get a vigorous breed or one with health documentation from a good shelter and you will avoid headaches for years to come.