MORE and more frequently we hear of dogs with cancer, with skin problems, ear problems, digestive problems, kidney or liver disease, and we casually wonder whose fault it is but the question on our minds is rhetorical - if only it wasn't!
First think of the genetic problems that are dominant in each breed - there is no doubt where the blame lies for all of those - they were not around in the days when wild dogs roamed the forests and scrublands. That one rests firmly on the shoulders of breeders who breed back and back and back to the same lines, making sure that any problem gene has a really good chance at developing into a breed characteristic!
But after that comes the illnesses that have nothing to do with genes and I am inclined to think that these also lie squarely on the shoulders of the human population too. Take foods for instance - most of the prepared biscuits, rolls, tinned foods etc have chemicals added that would make your hair curl (even some human foods would have these same qualities)! And most of the food content is waste from the human chain, already dead farm animals, occasionally even euthanised animals, fats that have been collected from restaurants after they have been used until they are loaded with old burnt food traces and going rancid, ground waste from animal processing (the mind boggles here), bleach, colouring, preservative ... the list goes on!
Next a look at vaccines. We have kennel cough - and since when was this one ever effective? I think we all know of at least two or three friends or relatives who have taken their dog to a kennel for a few days and it has come home with kennel cough despite being inocculated. Then we have distemper and leptospirosis and parvovirus and more. All these are given yearly, even though some are effective for only a few months and others for three years or more. I know some breeders who now vaccinate with homoeopathic nosodes because of the damage they see from the over-use of chemical vaccines.
On top of those we also have the worm dosing every two or three months or even more frequently in some areas, and then the flea soaps and shampoos and the hydrobaths with stronger shampoos and the flea and tick sprays or pour-ons for between shampoos (these are disaster areas waiting to happen), flea collars that dogs wear constantly and for farm dogs, sprayed paddocks to work in with no thought that they will rest later and lick their paws and fur clean.
Well - is everyone beginning to get the picture? It is a wonder that dogs are not an endangered species.
For solution you can look at each area of danger and assess its worth. Foods - do you really need to feed ready-prepared foods or can you serve raw or home-cooked foods to your dog? It will certainly appreciate a raw, meaty bone or a combination of raw or cooked grated or chopped vegetables, organ meats, fruit, cracked and soaked grains, and herbs.
Look at vaccinations separately - distemper is essential as it is potentially fatal, but it really needs a booster only every three years, not every year. Leptospirosis is necessary for farm dogs, but not for city dogs who are never likely to meet a cow or walk across a paddock where one has been kept. Kennel cough is a prerequisite for commercial kennels but unless your dog is going to a kennel shortly or you own breeding kennels, there is no way a pet dog in its own yard most of the time can catch it. Treat every disease with the caution required for your area and circumstances.
Fleas and ticks can be severe to no problem at all, depending on where you live. For severe areas you will need some form of repellent or killer but remember there are natural types that may be better (but be aware that even natural things can cause allergic reactions in your dog). If your area gets no more than the occasional flea then a bit of brush and flea comb work on your part will keep them away without chemical control and your dog will love the extra grooming.
Worm treatments are again essential, and more frequently in some areas than in others. Know your area and its requirements as to frequency and type, also look up the ingredients in each brand of worm pill suitable for your area and learn as much about them as possible. No need to give your dog heartworm tablets if you live in an area where there is no such creature (New Zealand is free of this worm but it is very common in Australia).
Keeping your dog healthy is all about making sure it consumes or has introduced to its inner or outer body a minimum of chemicals, rancid or spoilt foods, preservatives etc without putting it in any danger from illness or bad management. It is all about a safe minimum in every area of canine care so that your dog can enjoy the benefits of modern disease and parasite control, without the additional dangers posed by controls it does not need and can not use or foods that are no better in some cases than cooked up compost scraps with added chemicals to make it look good, smell good, and last for years on the supermarket shelf. - Elezabeth