HEALTH TIPS, PART TWO:
YOUR CANINE PARTNER
Keeping Your Dog Healthy for Visiting Those Who Aren't
The most obvious health-and-wellness issue for therapy dogs is, obviously, cleanliness. The cleaner the dog, the fewer pathogens, parasites, etc. he will be carrying with him to the facility. Be sure that cleanliness includes the mouth.
Other health issues may be less obvious. There is a reason for the insistence, by most national registries, on evidence of an annual wellness check by your veterinarian. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call a vet whom you trust. A few checkpoints are listed below.
Weight and muscle tone: an overweight, flabby dog will experience more wear and tear than one that is fit and at an appropriate weight. Too many therapy dogs are on the chubby side. Watch your dog’s weight—in consultation with your vet, of course—if you want him to continue doing this work for many years.
Teeth and nails: many health problems enter the dog via his mouth. Keep in touch with your vet about oral health, and brush those teeth often. Nails are not only a potential hazard to those you visit but also a health issue for your dog. Very long nails will push the dog’s weight back onto his pasterns, sometimes with lasting results. Short and smooth should be your motto.
And finally: be sure you know what your dog looks like and how he acts when healthy. Any departure from the norm is worth checking.