Preventative healthcare for your dog

If your dog needs to see a vet it doesn’t take long for the costs to add up. Although you can’t protect your dog from all diseases and illnesses, there are several preventative ways you can minimise the risk.

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Vaccinating your dog

You can vaccinate your dog against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, para-influenza and leptospirosis, many of which can be fatal if contracted and have no specific cure.  This is especially important as it’s estimated that more than half of all dogs in the UK are not vaccinated.

Your dog can start its vaccinations from eight weeks of age.  The primary vaccination course is carried out with two injections given three weeks apart. Your dog will also need an annual booster to keep immunity levels effective - if they miss this, they will need to be given the primary course again. All vaccinations should be carried out by a vet.

Flea treatments

Fleas are highly irritating and uncomfortable for dogs. To avoid getting an infestation you should use preventative flea treatment every 4-8 weeks. It’s important to use a veterinary product as these are much more powerful and effective than products sold in supermarkets. You can find these on the internet and in some pet shops in locked cabinets, as well as in vet practices.

If you have seen fleas it is important to treat your house as well as your dog. For every five fleas on your dog there will be another 95 living in your house. Fleas will only jump onto an animal to feed and lay eggs and will then live in the carpets, bedding etc. 

You should vacuum all areas your dog is allowed in, including any chairs, sofas, rugs they sit on. Wash your dogs’ bedding along with your own follow this by using a household spray, paying particular attention to nooks and crannies.

Some dogs are also highly allergic to flea bites, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), leading to skin irritations, bald patches, scabby skin or spots. This often makes the dog lick or bite at themselves, causing infection and a trip to the vets.

A severe flea infestation can also cause anaemia in puppies, and the cat flea (the most common flea found on dogs) can also spread worms. Make sure you give your dog deworming medication if fleas have been seen.

Worming treatments

There are two types of worms that can affect a dog, the tapeworm and the roundworm.

Tapeworms are made up of segments and these will be passed out of a dog's bottom. The segments can move – you may see them wriggling in the fur around your dog’s back end, looking like small, white caterpillars. Roundworms don't have segments and can vary in size – from threadlike types which are barely visible through to the size of a common earthworm. They are often seen in a dog’s faeces.

Some dogs may show no signs of an infestation but for those who do, symptoms include: diarrhoea, anaemia, foul breath, loss of appetite, general loss of condition, failure to gain weight and in the case of lungworm, coughing. Puppies with worms often have a distended belly.

Puppies can be born with worms as they can be passed on from the mother if she is infected. The mother can be treated while she is pregnant and puppies should be given regular treatment from 8 weeks of age – see the individual product information for the correct dosage. Adult dogs should be treated approximately every six months with a veterinary product.

Neutering your dog

As well as preventing unplanned pregnancies and unwanted litters, having your dog neutered has numerous health benefits. It can vastly reduce the risk of issues arising from aggression, roaming and hormonal problems.

The age that a dog can be neutered will vary between breeds but it’s a good idea to let your dog hit puberty first – and in the case of females, let them have their first season. If you’re unsure when you need to neuter your dog, visit our neutering page.

Insuring your dog

Vet fees can be very expensive, especially if your dog develops an on-going problem, needs long term medication or has a sudden accident. It doesn’t take long for the cost to mount up. Having pet insurance can ease the burden and give you peace of mind.

As with all insurance, premiums can vary significantly, as can what is covered. Make sure you shop around and read the small print carefully. For example, some companies will pay the vet directly but some will require you to pay them and will then reimburse you – this can be quite an expensive way of making a claim.

Most companies will not provide cover for any pre-existing conditions and there will be an excess to pay on claims you make. Each company will often have several levels of insurance, these will vary but the following is a rough guide:

  • 12 month cover: this will cover your dog for an accident or illness for a 12 month period up to a set amount (e.g. £3,000) per condition. If you make a claim for a condition within this time you will no longer be able to make a further claim for the same condition once the 12 months has expired. This type of policy is useful if you own an older dog or one with several pre-existing conditions that would not covered anyway. Also if you can’t afford a higher premium, some cover is better than none
  • Lifetime cover: this will provide cover for on-going illnesses throughout your dog’s life, provided you don’t take a break in your cover, up to a set amount each policy year (e.g. £4000-£7000). Often third party liability insurance will be included here. This type of policy means you can claim for the same problem more than once
  • Top lifetime cover: some companies offer a ‘premium’ lifetime cover that offers the same benefits as the standard cover but with a higher claim amount (e.g. up to £14,000)
  • Third party insurance: some companies offer stand-alone third party insurance, which covers veterinary costs and legal cover if your dog causes an accident or attacks another animal.