A healthy lifestyle is one of the key ingredients to living a longer, happier life. Making health-conscious decisions should always extend to pets. Start with these five basics (and potential providers) your vet wants you to know about.
Buena Vista Park
Haight Street and Buena Vista Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94101
Often ranked as one of the top 10 healthiest cities, San Francisco’s population will bike, hike and walk its way to fitness if surfing is not an option for the day. It’s just as crucial that Fido get his daily dose of exercise. Extra weight can increase the onset of joint and muscle damage, and increase the number of skin and coat infections. Even more serious concerns include digestive disorders, liver failure, diabetes and heart disease. The Bay Area is full of great locations to workout with your dog. Buena Vista Park — the city’s oldest park, founded in 1867 — is a perfect off-leash romp option with steep hills that will keep everyone’s pulse pumping.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
There is no substitute for a well-balanced diet. Your dog demands different nutritional needs as he grows, develops and matures. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the organization that governs and regulates pet food labeling, there are only two true classifications: a formula for puppies and one for adult dogs. Generally speaking, puppy formulas have more calories and protein. A poor diet can cause diarrhea, weaken bone density and effect the immune system. Whether your path takes you down the traditional, organic, natural, raw or holistic aisles, be sure to go with quality ingredients from trustworthy companies. Shoot for foods whose primary ingredients are meat and whole grains or sweet potatoes instead of meat byproducts and corn. If you have the time to prepare a home cooked meal, well, extra kisses are sure to come your way. Be sure to provide a constant supply of fresh water.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is where your pet relies on you to be proactive. Dogs used to be vaccinated annually during their wellness checkup, but in 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association issued a set of vaccine guidelines, then revised them three years later, stating all dogs are different and vaccine decisions should be made on an individual basis. There are core and noncore vaccines depending on lifestyle or exposure. Kennel Cough, Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis vaccines are noncore, rabies is core. Booster shots are given out every one to three years, so it’s important to have trustworthy veterinarian and up-to-date vet records. In addition to vaccines, early detection of parasites such as coccidia and heartworm can ward off fatalities with successful treatment. Pet hospitals, including the San Francisco Pet Hospital, provide special diagnostic services such as ultrasounds, in-house blood analysis and X-ray for time-saving, pet-treatment plans.
Hours: Mon to Sun – 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Grooming is an excellent bonding opportunity that not only keeps dogs looking sharp, but prevents such problems associated with tooth decay, ear infections and shedding. Basic brushing helps rid dead hair from their coat, familiarizes you with your pet’s body, and alerts you to trouble such as parasites, injuries and lumps that could be cancerous. Gum disease is more common with older pets, so keeping teeth clean is a priority. If the tasks seem a bit too daunting, find a trusted groomer and commit to regular appointments.
Hours: call for appointments
A happy dog is a healthy dog, and nothing keeps your canine healthier than a little TLC. Love may not be all your puppy needs, but it sure is a great starting point. The benefits of petting and cuddling have been well documented, lifting the spirits of all parties involved. Playtime helps burn off your dog’s extra energy and is a wonderful bonding mechanism after a long day at the office. Work in massages, not just for tired muscles, but to address aggression, shyness, respiratory and digestive concerns, and lower blood pressure. Shelah Barr, a certified small animal massage therapist at Happy Hound Massage, has been in practice for almost 20 years and offers in-home service to those unable to make it to her Noe Valley office.
Related: Best Places to Pamper Your Dog
Robyn Chelsea-Seifert is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Creem, Hit Parader, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and International Musician. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.