One of the most common questions that pet parents ask from their veterinarians is how they can keep their respective pets healthy and happy. This is understandable. After all, we have yet to meet a pet parent who doesn’t want the best for his or her pet. As such, we’ve taken the liberty to ask our veterinarian friends the pieces of advice that they give to their clients to promote the wellbeing and optimal health of pets. Here are 10 health tips to ensure the optimum health and wellness of your pet.
1. Bring Your Pet to the Vet Every Year for A Wellness Examination
In addition to nutrition, affection, and love, all pets need a veterinary wellness examination every year. The reason is simple. As dogs, cats, and other pets age, their state of health undergoes changes that may be so benign to the untrained eye. Only the skilled clinical eye of a veterinarian will be able to pinpoint any change in the health status of these animals. Hence, an annual pet wellness examination is a must to keep tabs with the health of a pet.
Unfortunately, many pet parents only bring their dogs or other pets to the vet when they are sick. This should not be the mindset of responsible pet parents. They should bring their pets to the vet for a wellness vet examination at least once a year. However, there are pets that may require more frequent trips to the vet. For example, puppies and kittens, older pets, and those with medical problems will have to undergo more frequent vet examinations.
During a wellness exam, the vet will perform a head-to-tail assessment of the pet. This is to help determine if the animal is within the norms of a healthy pet. Vets also look at the immunization history of the animal, making sure they’re up-to-date. This also includes other preventatives.
Annual vet checkups can be a more cost-effective way of caring for your pet. It also saves you from heartaches, knowing that your beloved dog or cat is sick. You get to protect the animal from preventable diseases while also detecting health conditions early in their stage. These are easier to treat than diseases in advanced stages. In short, having your pet undergo an annual wellness exam can help ensure a long and healthy life for the animal.
2. Adhere to Vaccination Schedules
If you are the type of parent who values vaccinations or immunizations in your children, then you should feel the same way for your pet. Immunizations may not protect our pets from ALL known diseases but it sure can provide them ample protection from the more common and more serious ones.
Vaccinations give pets like dogs and cats protection against certain diseases that may be due to bacteria and viruses. Many veterinarians feel sorry for pets that they have to see every day that present with otherwise preventable diseases.
For instance, parvovirus infections and distemper are two very common and very serious health conditions that can affect dogs and other pets. There are vaccines against these conditions, providing ample protection for the dogs. At the same time, it is a more practical approach than treating an actual distemper or parvovirus infection.
Veterinarians can provide you with the best possible information on the vaccines that your pet should have. He can also discuss with you the different benefits of having your pet receive its regular scheduled shots. The best thing about this is that vets can present you with a pet vaccination schedule that suits the lifestyle and risk factors of your pet. You will also gain an idea when the animal needs to go back to the vet for a booster shot. This is to help ensure the continuity of its protection.
3. Subject Your Pet to Screening Tests
Like humans, pets also need to undergo routine screening tests. These are different from an annual wellness exam, although it can be an important part of the examination. What screening tests do is that they detect the presence of disease before any of the signs and symptoms of such disease start to appear.
Screening tests are specific for certain diseases. For example, in humans, there is a screening test for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the like. If the doctor determines that the patient has some of the critical risk factors, then there’s a chance that he might get the disease in the future. The good thing about such information is that the doctor can devise a plan to help minimize the impact of these risk factors. He can then reduce the likelihood of the disease occurring.
In like manner, screening tests for pets can also help determine the current health status of the animal. It also helps identify risk factors like canine or feline obesity and high blood pressure, which can play a role in the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many more.
Suffice it to say, having your pet undergo screening tests will give you a better chance at caring for the animal a lot better. You can avoid things that may lead to the development of the disease. You will also have a better understanding of what you need to do in case the symptoms of the disease start to appear.
4. Make Sure Your Pet Receives Proper Dental Care
Dental care is not only for humans; it’s for pets, too. For example, dogs have to brush their teeth every day. Of course, you should brush their teeth with the correct toothpaste and toothbrush. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that may be detrimental to the health of dogs. They can get stomach upset, at the very least. This is because they have not learned the art of gargling, rinsing, and spitting.
Like human dental care, pets also need to visit a veterinary dentist at least once a year. You may think that regular brushing is enough to take good care of your pet’s teeth. However, there will always be issues wherein the specialty tools of a pet dentist are crucial.
A case in point is the removal of tartar. No brushing will ever remove these calcified deposits on the surface of the teeth. A dentist can use a dental scaler to remove these deposits and keep the teeth clean. Pet dentists can also assess the current state of dental health of the animal. Tartar and plaque buildup can already be signs of a beginning gum disease. There may already be some teeth that are starting to decay. A pet dentist can clean the animal’s teeth and provide appropriate treatments for any problems.
In between visits and brushings, pets can also benefit from dental chews. Dogs, in particular, can benefit from these contraptions because of their natural tendency to chew. However, be careful in picking the right dental chew for your dog.
5. Protect Your Pets Against Parasites
There are many parasites that can wreak havoc in the health and lives of the animals that we love. There are two types of parasites that we have to be concerned about. These can be external such as ticks and fleas. The other type of parasites is internal like protozoa, intestinal worms, and heart worms, among others.
For most of us, the mere sight of worms is enough to make us cringe. More than its yucky and icky nature, however, parasites can bring serious illness in pets. In some cases, it can also cause the death of these beloved animals. For example, many dogs die because of Lyme disease and heartworm disease. In worst cases, these parasites can also affect our very lives, but most especially our children.
The good news is that there are now preventatives that you can give to your pet. However, it is crucial to always work with your vet regarding the choice and administration of the correct preventative. For example, there are preventatives that work only on dogs and are toxic to cats. Giving such a product to a cat can bring more trouble.
Preventatives are available in different presentations. There are those that come as topical applications, shampoos, collars, sprays, and others. There are also tablet formulations. As always, it’s best to have a chat with your vet to learn the most appropriate preventative for your pet.
6. Have a Professional Insert a Microchip in Your Pet
Thousands of dogs and other pets get lost every year. Most of them end up in animal shelters, hoping that their owners will claim them. Unfortunately, many of them don’t. This is despite the fact that they may have some fancy collars and ID tags on their necks.
One thing that pet parents should realize is that having a collar on your dog is not a guarantee that it will get returned to its owner in case it gets lost. Microchipping can help increase the chances of recovering a pet should it get lost. One of the vital information that a microchip contains is pet ownership. However, do understand that this only works if you also keep your information up-to-date.
Aside from pet ownership, a microchip can contain other information that is vital to the pet’s care while waiting for its owner to claim it at the animal shelter. Volunteers and shelter veterinarians can provide the animal with the most appropriate care if they have access to the information on its microchip.
7. Neuter or Spay Your Pet
Pet owners who are in the business of breeding may not like the idea of spaying or neutering their pets. This is understandable. But for the other pet parents who are keen on keeping these animals healthy and happy, then neutering or spaying them is a must.
Aside from the obvious benefit of addressing pet overpopulation, spaying or neutering a pet can also bring other health benefits. For example, neutering or spaying dogs and cats can reduce the risk of certain diseases. These can include testicular cancer, breast cancer, and pyometra, which is the infection of the uterus.
Spaying or neutering pets can also address a number of behavioral problems. Dogs that get neutered are more docile and peace-loving, minimizing aggression towards other dogs and other pets. The same is true when spaying cats. It reduces their sexual drive, eliminating problems inherent in such behaviors.
If you want to spay or neuter your pet, it is always best to plan it with a vet. He can advise you on when you can have your dog or cat neutered or spayed. He’ll also discuss with you in greater detail the various benefits of such a procedure.
8. Pet-Proof Your Home
All animals that we bring to our homes with the purpose of making them a member of our families deserve a safe place to grow and thrive. Pet safety should not only be a concern whenever you bring them outside the house. Instead, it should start right in our very homes.
One thing we all need to understand is that pets have the curiosity of a toddler or a preschool child. They would like to learn more about the things that make their “world”. Unfortunately, they may not understand the “skull and cross bone” sign on a can of chemical. They may not know that the sweet, green liquid dripping from under our car is poisonous. We may not also be aware that some of the plants that we have in our garden can be toxic to pets.
We make our homes as comfortable and convenient for us. However, the moment we bring home a pet, we may have to rethink the way we design our houses. In other words, it is important to pet-proof the very same house that we’ve lived for many years.
What this entails is making sure that the spaces and places in our homes are safe for our beloved dogs and cats. Learning the different toxic chemicals and hazardous objects in the home is a critical first step. Knowing how to store them in the proper way is another.
9. Provide Adequate Exercise
We all know that exercise is a great way to stay healthy and fit. If we can derive such a benefit from exercise, then so should our pets. It is important to understand that pets are always susceptible to obesity. Some dog breeds, for instance, may be bred for work. But if you do not give it plenty of exercise, then it can also turn obese. This is in addition to showing its destructive nature because of boredom.
The best exercise for dogs is walking. You may think that your Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier is too small to walk. Indeed, it is small but it can also benefit from a 15-minute walk two times a day. This is because they have a much faster metabolism. Going on longer walks may be too much for them. The same is true for dogs with arthritis and other health problems. Walking is beneficial as a form of exercise. However, don’t push it too far.
Working dogs will benefit from longer walks, treks, and hikes. Take them for a run or go ride your bicycle and they’ll run along with you. Let them pull you on your rollerblades. The thing is for you to give them something to do to keep them fit.
As for cats, large breeds can also benefit from walking every day. For other breeds, playing with them using a laser pointer can be a great way to exercise them. This way, they don’t have to become the next Fat Cat.
10. Provide Mental Stimulation
All pets have brains that need stimulation for them to continue to thrive. As such, physical exercises are not the only activities that are important in ensuring the optimum health of pets. Mental exercises are important, too.
While dogs are a lot easier to train, cats and other pets can also be easy to train if one only knows how. Perseverance and patience are two key ingredients in training any pet. From dogs to cats to birds and rodents, it is possible to teach these animals a trick or two.
One also can use interactive toys and other playthings that will entice the pet to use its brain. Food puzzles and other similar toys offer a unique way for animals to sharpen their cognitive skills. And while this may not land them in the Guinness World Records right away, training can bring a lot of benefits to them.
Dogs will always do better with obedience training. And if you think your pet is up to it, you can sign it up for an advanced course in agility. Whatever activity that you may have in mind, make sure to understand that stimulating its brain is one of the keys to ensuring optimum pet health and happiness.
Pet parents need to understand that veterinarians are their partners in ensuring optimum health for their beloved pets. As such, should there be any concerns or issues about the dog or cat or any other pet in the home, then the vet is the best person to consult.