9 important things veterinarians want every dog owner to know
Bad breath is often a symptom of canine dental disease.
Yolanda Ochoa, veterinarian and regional veterinary director of Fetch My Vet, told Insider that a dog's bad breath should always be checked out by a professional.
"Bad breath or halitosis can mean your pet has dental disease, which needs to be addressed by your veterinarian," said Yolanda Ochoa. "Dental disease is treated with dental radiographs, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and scaling and polishing the teeth under anesthesia."
And, notably, even if your dog has stinky breath you should never give them breath mints that are meant for humans. Sugar-free mints and other breath fresheners often include the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs and other animals.
You need to wash their food and water bowls daily.
Rover veterinarian Gary Richter told Insider that pet owners should give their dogs' belongings frequent scrub downs.
"Food and water bowls should be cleaned with hot water and soap daily. Toys and bedding should be washed at least monthly, and even more often depending on how quickly they get dirty," said Richter.
Laundering dog beds, blankets, and soft toys will not only remove odors, but also can help control fleas, as the eggs and larvae can frequently end up in bedding.
Breeds with flat faces are prone to breathing problems.
They may be cute, but Brachycephalic breeds (those with pushed-in or flat faces) are highly prone to breathing difficulties and other medical problems.
These breeds include the Boston Terrier, pug, bulldog, and Pekingese.
"Brachycephalic dog breeds have impaired airways due to their anatomy and therefore may have issues breathing, especially when hot, under stress, or recovering from anesthesia," said Yolanda Ochoa.
It's important for owners with short-faced dogs to monitor them for breathing struggles, especially in hot weather or after heavy exercise. Always talk to your vet if you detect any recurrent wheezing or shortness of breath.
Your dog regularly needs to receive vaccines — they're generally not a one-and-done deal.
If you've had your dog since puppyhood or adopted them from a shelter, your pet has likely been through a couple rounds of vaccines already.
However, dog owners should know that regular vaccinations and booster shots are an important part of ongoing pet care.
"Vaccines are not simply administered once. Your dog needs boosters for their vaccines. Depending on your local laws, your dog will need vaccines every year," said Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and consultant for DogLab.
For dogs, eating poop isn't always a sign of a medical problem.
Sara Ochoa told Insider that even though it's a stomach-turning habit, dogs usually eat poop because they like the taste, not because they have a medical condition or are lacking in certain vitamins.
"When a dog eats their own poop, it's not because of a lack of nutrition in their diet. Dogs are just gross and like the taste of other dogs' stool," explained Ochoa.
If the sight of your pup chowing down on feces makes you queasy, Ochoa said that there are products you can apply to their stool to help them learn to stop eating it.
There's no such thing as a fully hypoallergenic dog.
Amanda Landis-Hanna, veterinarian with PetSmart Charities, told Insider that all dog breeds spread allergy-causing proteins through their saliva, urine, and skin.
These proteins are often carried on the fur, which means a large, fluffy dog that sheds constantly may trigger a strong reaction in an allergic person.
"Though no dog is fully hypoallergenic, you can consider getting a dog that doesn't shed as much. You might even want to get a hairless dog like a Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican hairless dog," said Landis-Hanna.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise.
"Regular physical exercise and good nutrition is important, but pet parents can often forget that dogs need mental exercise just as much as physical to keep them mentally sharp," said Landis-Hanna.
Certain toys and games can be used to give your dog a healthy brain-building session. For example, playing hide-and-seek with your pup can help them exercise their memory.
Landis-Hanna also suggested dividing up your dog's meal and hiding it in different places to encourage them to look for it, instead of just placing their meal in a bowl.
Dogs of all ages crave structure and routine.
As much as you may want to spoil your newly adopted puppy or relax the house rules your longtime pet, vets recommend sticking to a regular schedule and clearly defining your expectations if you want a well-adjusted dog.
"Many new pet parents don't realize that dogs crave structure, routine, boundaries, and rules. When dogs don't understand, they feel uncertain — and some dogs might hide until they feel a little more comfortable," said Landis-Hanna. "Sensible rules help dogs feel secure in their environment."
Being consistent with training helps your dog understand what behavior you want, and providing a solid routine will help your new pet know what to expect at home.
Different breeds have different needs and care requirements.
All dogs need love, care, and a safe environment in which to live and explore — but each dog breed has distinct physical requirements.
"Different dog breeds have different needs, and different personalities have varying needs as well. All dogs need exercise, but how much and for how long depends on factors such as age and breed," explained Landis-Hanna.
For example, she explained that most dogs need a minimum of two 15-minute leash walks daily, but more active breeds will likely do better with additional physical activity.