The ABC's of Dog Care

By Sara Vigneri

Nearly one out of every three households owns a dog — and a majority consider their dog a member of the family. According to the American Pet Products Association, expenses for a dog can reach $1400 annually not to mention the time commitment to train and exercise a dog. Consider this quick ABC guide below if you own a dog or are thinking of adopting a pet into your family:

A is for Alternative Medicine

Holistic and alternative medicine is gaining momentum in this country—and vets are now practicing this natural approach with pets. Wright Veterinary Center in Bethlehem offers various alternative medicine procedures such as acupuncture, herbal therapies, aromatherapy and reflexology. “I’ve been doing acupuncture since 2006 and it’s probably one of the most common alternative medicine procedures I do,” says veterinarian Danielle Dulin, MVB, CVA. “Acupuncture is usually used for senior pets to help with arthritis and pain management.” Pet owners also seek Dr. Dulin’s help when an elderly dog is diagnosed with an incurable disease, such as cancer, and they want to provide a comfortable quality of life in their final months. “I use alternative treatments to reduce the amount of medication that’s needed when a dog suffers from a chronic disease,” says Dr. Dulin. “For example, I have been treating a seizure patient with acupuncture and he hasn’t had a seizure in two years. We’ve also been able to decrease his medication.” As pets live longer due to advancements in medical technology, they are more prone to diseases that were previously unheard of in animals. Alternative medicine is growing in acceptance as a less invasive way to improve a dog’s quality of life as he ages.

Alternative medicine is growing in acceptance as a less invasive way to improve a dog’s quality of life as he ages.”

B is for Behavior

When it comes to training dogs, use the carrot not the stick. “We do not use punishment when training our dogs,” says Rayne Reitnauer, owner of Cold Nose Lodge, which offers daycare, boarding, dog training classes and private lessons. “Just like with children, philosophies of dog training have changed; it’s not always a good idea to punish.” According to the Humane Society, you should reward your dog every time he exhibits a good behavior. This method is called positive reinforcement training and it may require some patience as the animal learns the good behavior. For example, if you are teaching your dog to shake hands, you may have to reward him just for lifting his paw until he actually learns how to shake hands. Once your pet has learned the behavior, gradually reduce the number of times you reward him—and mix it up so he doesn’t spot a pattern. Eventually, he’ll realize that if he keeps doing the good behavior, he will be praised and may even get an occasional treat.

C is for Cleaning

Grooming a dog means more than just brushing and washing fur. A dog groomer will clean their ears, cut their nails in addition to taking care of their skin and coat. Because a groomer will examine the dog from head to toe, they are in a good position to spot health issues. “The groomer will actually see the dog more often then the veterinarian.” says Rich Cahill at Doggie D’tail. A dog needs to have his nails cut every three to four weeks—if you hear their feet clicking on the floor as they walk, it’s time to trim! Between grooming appointments, it is essential to brush the coat–it reduces matting, removes dead hair and distributes the natural oils in the coat. And while some animals are skittish about grooming, a good groomer will work with your animal to make him comfortable. “On my first day at grooming school, a dog named Hamlet bit me while doing nails. First day, first dog, first bite,” says Cahill. “Since then, I talk to all my dogs and try to calm them while doing nails. I’ve learned that dogs bite for a reason and you need to figure out what that reason is so they can have a happy groom.”

D is for Daycare

Have you come home to discover your dog has destroyed the house? Do you work long hours and find it hard to muster the energy to provide your dog the attention he needs after a long day spent solo? You may want to consider doggie daycare. While ”kennels”have often been used when owners go on vacation, doggie daycare allows dogs to enjoy socialization and exercise all day while their humans work. “Our dogs usually have 8-10 hours of play time where they interact with other dogs,” says Reitnauer. Breeds like labs, beagles, golden retrievers and spaniels do really well in daycare because they were bred to be in packs. Other breeds are hit and miss. “Boxers need to learn that not all dogs want to box,” says Reitnauer. “They often don’t realize that other dogs don’t take kindly to getting swatted in the face.” To find out if daycare is right for your dog, bring him in for an evaluation, which usually includes interacting with the dogs in the kennel and touring the facility.

E is for Examination

Examine your dog to make sure he’s not limping. “Limping on the back leg is one of the most frequent visits to the veterinary hospital or emergency room,” says Dr. Carlos Hodges, DVM, a veterinary surgeon at Valley Central Veterinary Referral Center. Examine the paw for any cuts or puncture wounds and make sure he doesn’t have an overgrown nail. Most likely it will get better on its own in a few days, but if it doesn’t it may be a sign of a bigger problem. Schedule a vet visit to rule out allergies, a torn ACL, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or Osteochondritis dissecans–a joint condition that affects large breeds. “Another common cause of limping is luxating patellas or trick knees,” says Dr. Hodges. “This is an inherited problem affecting many toy breeds of dogs.” Your doctor will perform various tests to identify the cause of limp, many of which can be treated.


Cold Nose Lodge
235 West Penn Ave, Alburtis
(610) 965-3647

Doggie D’tail, Easton
(610) 258-8710

Valley Central Veterinary Referral Center
210 Fullerton Avenue, Whitehall
(610) 435-1553

Wright Veterinary Medical Center
3247 Wimmer Road, Bethlehem
(610) 865-2611

Sara Vigneri, an experienced health journalist, has never owned a dog, but faithfully watches the Westminster dog show every year.

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