Every day I’m asked by pet owners what they can do to help their dog or cat live a longer, healthier, and happier life. While there’s no single best answer, there are five simple things I think you should do today.
1. Examine your pet’s food and treats
The first, and arguably most important thing you can do to help your pet live a longer and healthier life is to feed him the best food possible. Start by reviewing the ingredient list on the food and treats you feed.
What’s the top ingredient? Is meat in the top three ingredients? Is protein in a recognizable form or is it a meal? Do you see any form of sugar, including glucose, fructose or sucrose, especially on your pet treat labels? What health claims does the label make? What about calories? Do you know how many calories you should be feeding your pet each day? Do you measure your pet’s food with a measuring cup?
By answering these basic questions, you’ll begin to discover that food is the best medicine, for people and pets.
2. Provide daily activity time
We live busy lives. We barely have time to feed and bathe ourselves and our families, much less exercise our pets. It’s essential for good health that we walk or jog with our dogs and physically interact with our cats each day.
Thirty minutes divided into two or three periods for dogs and two to three five-minute play periods with cats is sufficient for most. The key is consistency. When people ask me the secret to a long and healthy (and happy) life, I tell them to eat well and exercise every day. Put it on your schedule.
3. Offer emotional enrichment
Happiness is important for our pets. I treat far too many stressed out, anxious and otherwise unstable pets to ignore their emotional wellbeing.
The first step in correcting most behavioral problems is to provide ample daily exercise (see above).
The second step is evaluating their diet for too many calories and too much junk food (see tip number one).
The third simple step is providing adequate emotional and intellectual stimulation. This can include a new interactive toy, teaching a new skill or trick, moving the food and water bowls, reversing your normal walking route, or leaving an empty box out for your cat when you leave.
Emotional enrichment also means regular petting and playing, talking to your pet and spending quality one-on-one time together each day. Our pets crave our attention and interaction. Too often we only give them a quick pat on the head, scratch on the chin and a treat.
Make sure you’re providing a fun, stimulating and caring environment for your dog or cat each day. They’re simply not happy without you in their lives.
4. Help prevent parasites
Heartworms, fleas, roundworms, hookworms – these are a few of the nasty parasites I don’t like to spot as a veterinarian. Dogs and cats are susceptible to them all (and more) and roundworms and hookworms can be passed silently from our pets to our families.
Today pet owners have a wide variety of inexpensive, safe and highly effective preventives to choose from. I prefer tasty oral preventives that treat as many of these parasites as possible for dogs, and either oral or topicals for cats (their preference). This is a super simple way to keep your dog, cat and family safe and save you bucks in the long run.
5. Plan your pet's next veterinary visit
Is your next veterinary visit scheduled? Do you know when it is and what the visit is for? If not, call or email your vet today to find out.
Too many pet parents wait for the postcard or telephone call informing them that their pet is overdue before they schedule an appointment. Don’t be that pet owner. Be the proactive pet parent who stays ahead of disease, pain and problems. It starts with a collaborative working relationship with your veterinarian. Put that on your calendar, too.
These are five things I think you should do today for your pet. There are another 25 things you’re already doing that make you an incredible pet owner. The fact that you’re reading this also means you’re awesome. Now go read a food label, throw a ball, wave a feather dancer and take a hike. Go ahead, put it on your schedule.
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