When it comes to furry friends, their health and happiness are important to every pet parent. And because our animals can’t tell us what they require, keeping track of their needs and the steps to ensure their health can seem daunting. We all want to provide our pets with the best lives possible and have their companionship for many years to come, so keeping them well cared for is every owner’s top priority. Outside of visits to the veterinarian, any pet owner can follow some simple at-home tips to ensure their furry friends are safe and sound for many years to come.
Read on for the top seventeen ways to keep your pet happy and healthy!
Establishing a strong bond with your pet is good for both of you. Showing your pet love is so important—cuddles, belly rubs, petting, and brushing are all great ways to promote a bond and strengthen your emotional connection with your pet. Nurturing your pet with love also helps promote positive interactions with other animals and people.
Create a Safe Environment
Making your house into a sanctuary for your pets is essential for keeping them healthy. A safe home has household items, cleaning products, toxic plants, and dangerous objects stored well away from any prying paws. Once you research what things need to be stored away, keeping your home safe for your furry residents is simple. Also, it’s advisable to keep a list of everyday toxic items easily accessible—such as lilies, onions, and peppercorns—and the emergency numbers for vets and out-of-hours clinics, just in case.
According to the World Small Veterinary Association, an estimated 70 to 80% of cats and dogs over the age of two show signs of oral disease—everything from gum disease to oral melanomas. Even though your pet’s needs in professional dental cleanings and oral surgery will differ depending on your pet’s age, breed, and oral condition, it is important to have your pet’s mouth examined at least once a year. This can be completed during their routine checkup. It is also a good idea to book a second dental exam later in the year to help identify and proactively treat any potential oral issues.
Home Dental Habits
Outside of the veterinarian’s clinic, there are a few simple ways to keep your pet’s mouth clean yourself! Here are some suggestions for promoting a healthy mouth at home:
- Brushing at Home—Getting your pet into the habit of a daily or weekly routine of brushing their teeth at home is a great way to keep them clean. Ensure that you use a finger brush or pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste, as human dental products can be toxic to pets. Once your furry friend gets used to this routine, the task will be easier for all involved and extend the time between professional dental cleanings.
- Dental Chews—Edible dental chews can help reduce tartar accumulation up to 60% and plaque buildup by 10.33% when used once a day, according to the Greenies® company website. Dental chews come in many different sizes for your pet, depending on their jaw size. Check out this list of the best dental chews for more information on your options!
- Watch for Bad Breath—Even though a smelly mouth might not seem out of place for pets, keep an eye out for particularly bad or foul-smelling breath. This can indicate a serious problem with your pet’s mouth or a digestive issue, and will require a visit to the vet.
Regular walking, hiking, swimming, and playing are essential to keeping your furry friend fit and active. Mental stimulation is also important—puzzle toys, treat hides, obstacle courses, hunting simulations, and learning and practicing new tricks are great ways to keep your pet engaged, interested, and stimulated. Exposing your pet to new sights and smells, whether through taking a different trail or opening a screened window or door, is also good to keep your pet intrigued.
Brushing your pet a couple of times a week, giving regular baths, and keeping their nails trimmed are all ways to keep your pet well-groomed and happy. Grooming can be a great way to bond further with your pet. Grooming also allows you to monitor their skin and fur for any bald patches, dandruff, dry skin, fleas, mites, nits, ticks, lumps, or other dermal issues. You can always check with your veterinarian for the best grooming protocols and tips for your pet and their needs.
Keep an Eye on Your Pets
Allowing your pet to roam free might seem like a natural thing for them, but it leaves them susceptible to all sorts of dangers. An unsupervised pet is at risk from lit candles, poisonous substances, car accidents, and wild animal predation. Not allowing your pet to roam unsupervised is the best way to keep them safe. Plus, your pet will be less likely to go missing, relieve themselves on a neighbor’s lawn, or dig up a prized flowerbed.
To increase your chances of finding your beloved pet if they somehow go missing, microchipping is the best option. Microchipping pets gives owners a significantly increased chance of being reunited with them—up to a 238% increase in the chances of finding your dog and an incredible 2000% increase in reuniting with your cat.
Because the process is done at the veterinarian’s office and has minimal costs, it is a safe and cost-effective way to prevent your pet from going missing permanently. Then, all you need to do is register your pet with the microchip company’s online database and include your contact information in case they run away or go missing.
Having a healthy diet is critical for people and their pets alike. Because a pet’s dietary needs will change throughout their life, through birth, adolescence, adulthood, and old age, a tailored life stage diet is important to meet different nutritional needs as your pet ages. Discussing the best diet options with your veterinarian is essential for each stage of your pet’s life. While some animals might require special diets due to medical issues, good nutrition should include the following:
- A good fiber count for healthy digestive tract movement
- Essential fatty acids for healthy skin and fur
- Healthy grains for energy
- High-quality, animal-based protein for muscle maintenance
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for a healthy coat and skin
- Vitamins and minerals for the immune system
Even if your pets are indoor pets, it is recommended to keep them on year-round heartworm, flea, and tick control medications. Parasites can attach to your pets with shocking ease, even if you live in a cold environment or your pets don’t go outside. Preventing parasites is essential to keeping your pet healthy, especially when you can’t always see the lurking pests. For example, the large roundworm Toxocara is a very common parasite found in dogs and cats and can be transferred simply by feces. It is imperative that if you plan to travel with your pet, you make sure to protect them from parasites they aren’t normally exposed to at home.
Insurance is common for cars and houses, but your pets can also benefit from its protection! One way to curb the cost of veterinary bills is through pet insurance—for an average monthly cost, plans can cover accidents and illnesses for your furry friends. Because coverage can significantly reduce the price of veterinary treatments and surgeries, you can have peace of mind that if the worst should happen, your pet will be in good—and affordable—hands.
Preventative Medications and Vaccinations
Preventative measures are essential for a healthy pet. You can add preventative medications into your home routine to keep your pet free of health issues, such as flea-related diseases, heartworms, and tick-borne illnesses. Keeping your pet vaccinated is also key—you can vaccinate against potentially deadly diseases like distemper, panleukopenia, parvo, and rabies.
Routine veterinary examinations are one of the most important steps in keeping your pet healthy. Bi-annual exams should be booked without fail so that vets can perform a complete wellness exam. This includes physical examinations to check your pet’s health from nose to tail, including heart rate, breathing, mouth health, and skin condition. Taking preventative measures of catching problems early on means your pet will be healthier, and their care will be less expensive.
Your veterinarian might recommend some more specialized tests in addition to regular examinations. These can include:
- Blood Panels—A group of tests that help monitor liver and kidney functions and red and white cell blood counts. These blood panels can help in pointing out any abnormalities that you might not have noticed. And if your pet is a senior over the age of seven, your vet may suggest these tests be performed bi-annually.
- Fecal Test—A simple test that checks your pet’s stool for parasite eggs and other organisms that can be shed during bowel movements. In general, puppies are tested more frequently than adult dogs. Puppies are more susceptible to parasites which could also be shared with people and other animals in the household if not caught and addressed early on.
- Additional Tests— Other tests your veterinarian may recommend are urinalyses, X-rays, EKGs, blood pressure measurements, eye exams, and more. Your vet will take your pet’s individual history and needs into account when suggesting further tests.
During a puppy or kitten’s formative years, socialization is essential. Having enough human and animal interaction will decrease the odds of antisocial or fearfully aggressive behaviors later in life. For socialization, try visiting with family and friends, heading to the dog park or out for a hike, or spending the afternoon at a pet daycare after your vet has given them the all-clear.
One of the most crucial steps to ensuring a happy and healthy pet, spaying and neutering, has many benefits. In addition to preventing some cancers and diseases, your pet’s life expectancy can be increased. Males will be less hormonally aggressive, and females will no longer go into heat or have any associated unwanted behaviors. Removing the hormones associated with your pet’s sex drive means they will be better behaved without compromising their ability to play, learn, work, or show affection. While surgery always comes with risks, most doctors do agree the benefits outweigh the potential issues associated with spaying and neutering.
It can, unfortunately, be easy for your pet to become overweight for their frame and breed. Over-feeding portion sizes, too many treats, and people’s food are all unhealthy but easy traps to fall into. Make sure to keep the dialogue open with your vet about your pet’s weight and read the information on your pet’s food for correct portion sizes.
For more helpful tips on taking care of your pets, check out our blog comparing the pros and cons of pet boarding and pet sitting.