Billy Rafferty and dogs
Photo: Sheri Berliner
Dogs give us so much: unconditional love, happiness, attention, a reason to laugh and smile. Even in difficult economic times, we have a duty to nurture our dog's body, mind and spirit. Cutting corners, however, doesn't require you to cut down on the love and care you provide for your dog. Regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and parasite preventatives, is critical. Don't skimp on the "routine" care. Flea prevention is cheaper than treatment for a flea infestation. Heartworm preventatives can save your dog's life and keep you from spending much more money to treat the disease.
Here are some things you can do yourself to stay within your budget:

Inspect Your Dog
A weekly inspection from snout to tail allows you to gather, track, monitor, and assess the state of your dog's health and cleanliness in a systematic and thorough manner. Moreover you'll discover medical and grooming issues well before they become painful to your dog and your pocketbook. The entire process takes about five to ten minutes, and your dog will appreciate the attention. If something isn't right, call your vet. The inspection may save your dog's life (and your bank account).

Brush, Brush, Brush
Brushing saves time, money, and is an excellent opportunity to bond with your dog. Brushing also extends the time between professional grooming appointments, loosens and lifts dirt, and keeps skin healthy. Brushing removes the dead coat before it can fall off your dog, (which increases cleaning costs) or cause mats, (which can increase professional grooming costs). 

Clean Your Pooch at Home
Properly and consistently caring for your pooch at home can increase the time between professional groomings. In HAPPY DOG, you learn how to brush, wash and care for your dog's skin and coat, eyes, ears, teeth and if you're brave, his anal sacs and nails too. Remember, though, home dog care supplements, but does not replace, visits to the veterinarian or the professional groomer. 

Be Smart About Products
Use only canine products and make sure you rinse thoroughly, because product left on the skin can cause painful and costly skin infections. Although they're fun to use, you don't need fancy spa products. Save money by purchasing one quality hypoallergenic shampoo and one conditioner. 

Ask for a Shorter Haircut
When your dog gets a haircut, ask your groomer to cut the coat a "step" (or slightly) shorter. The shorter haircut can stretch the time between professional appointments, but make sure the cut isn't too short since exposed skin is prone to sunburn. And because you'll extend the time between appointments, brushing becomes critical—the coat on some dogs can mat up overnight. 

Dog-Proof Your House.
Spending a few minutes a day clearing your counters, closing drawers and doors, and putting away medicine, cleaners, food, and small objects will safeguard your dog. It's easier to clean up than to pay a huge a vet bill or replace chewed or swallowed items.

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