Many of us consider our pets to be almost family, so it makes sense that we would do what we could to ensure a pet’s health—just as we would for a child. Here are some ways to ensure that your cat, dog, or other small pet is healthy, helping it to live a long and healthy life with your family.
Take your pet to the vet regularly. This one is a no-brainer, of course, but it’s worth the extra reminder. Taking your pet to the vet regularly will ensure that it’s getting the vaccines it needs, as well as regular screenings for common diseases. Your vet can also tell you how you might improve your pet’s diet, employ better grooming practices, or give your pet more effective regular exercise.
Restrict the ‘people food’. Yes—it’s so much more convenient to let your dog be the ‘garbage disposal’ of the household, cleaning off plates right before putting them in the dishwasher. The trouble with this, however, is that so much of the ‘people food’ we give our pets is detrimental to their health. In addition, those extra bits of food quickly add up and could lead to obesity in your pet. Try to avoid giving your pets people food as much as possible; at the very least, refrain from feeding them those foods that are known to be harmful, including alcohol, avocados, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, citrus, coconut, dairy, grapes, nuts, onions, raw meat, snack foods, yeast dough, and anything with bones in it.
Refrain from overfeeding. Many pet owners have a habit of keep their pets’ food bowls filled continually; and this is easy to do considering that our pets are great at acting like they’re hungry all the time. But with an estimated 54 percent of cats and dogs in the United States being overweight or obese, risk levels of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and some types of cancer in our pets are higher than ever. Talk to your vet about how much food your pet truly needs on a daily basis, and make it a point to stick to this amount.
Give your pets regular exercise. On a related note, it’s important not to underestimate the physical and psychological benefits that regular exercise can have on your pet’s health. How much exercise your pet needs will depend on its size, age, and whether it’s a dog, cat, or other small pet, of course. In general, dogs need anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours of physical activity every day; this might mean going on a walk, playing fetch, or playing at a dog park with other dogs. Cats, meanwhile, often don’t get enough exercise if they are indoor cats. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity is a good starting point for your cat, and how your cat gets to play with a laser pointer, and others even like to go on walks. Small rodents, meanwhile, often take care of themselves when given ample space and perhaps an exercise wheel. exercise will depend largely on its preferences. Some cats like to chase feathers, some like to chase feathers, some like to play with a laser pointer, and others even like to go on walks. Small rodents, meanwhile, often take care of themselves when given ample space and perhaps an exercise wheel.
Groom your pet regularly. Grooming isn’t just a matter of appearance; it can have major effects on your pet’s health, as well. First, if you groom your dog or cat yourself, this gives you an excellent opportunity to examine your pet’s skin and fur up close. You might, for example, notice a mysterious rash or parasite, allowing your pet to get the attention it needs in a timely manner. In addition, regular grooming, especially with medicated shampoos, can discourage parasite infestation. Don’t forget about tooth brushing, either. With more than 85 percent of cats and dogs over 4 years old being affected by dental disease, dental hygiene for your pet is an excellent topic to bring up to your vet at your next visit.
Consider a pet trust. Many people do not consider creating a pet trust when they sit down with an attorney to do their estate planning, but a pet trust is a great way to ensure that your pet will be cared for as you wish in case something happens to you. In a pet trust, you can designate a caregiver for your pet, allocate money to be used toward the care of your pet, and outline specifics on how you would like your pet cared for (such as what food it should be fed, how often to take it to the vet, etc.) This page contains more information on pet trusts.