Bonding with your pet may not take long—in fact, it may be instantaneous—and before you know it, your pet will seem to have always been part of your life.
Love is easy, but commitment to your pet’s health and wellbeing takes effort.
Caring for another species can feel daunting, but with these eight essentials—along with some patience and a sense of humor—it will be as natural as the affection you have for your pet.
#1: Keep up-to-date on your pet’s preventive care
Routine veterinary visits at Loving Family Animal Hospital are the best way to ensure your pet’s health and longevity. Annual or semi-annual exams allow us to establish a baseline for their health, while routine screenings help us detect disease in its earliest stages. Vaccinations protect your pet against transmissible—sometimes deadly—viruses. Your veterinarian can also provide nutrition or behavior counseling, as well as expert guidance on how to better care for your pet.
#2: Spay or neuter your pet
Spaying or neutering your pet eliminates the risk for unwanted litters, reproductive health issues (e.g., uterine infection, heat cycles), and some cancers, and prevents or minimizes certain hormone-related behavioral issues, such as aggression and roaming. If you are not showing your pet, spaying or neutering them is the responsible choice, and will help ensure they will have a more enjoyable life.
#3: Feed your pet a high quality diet
Balanced, species-appropriate food fuels your pet’s body from the inside out. Select a diet based on your veterinarian’s recommendations, and feed your pet in measured meals, as instructed. Pets who are fed a high quality, portion-controlled diet are proven to maintain a healthy body weight, avoid obesity-related health issues, and live longer.
#4: Provide consistent exercise for your pet
Your pet needs regular physical activity to maintain proper health, digestion, and body weight. Having a reliable outlet for physical expression also improves your pet’s behavior by:
- Burning off excess energy
- Reducing mental and emotional stress
- Encouraging natural behaviors (e.g., sniffing, scent-marking, digging, exploring)
- Strengthening social bonds
Pets who receive appropriate exercise are less likely to demonstrate compulsive, destructive, or reactive (i.e., aggressive) behavior.
Your pet’s mind needs regular exercise, too! Provide your pet with something to think about by introducing new toys, smells, puzzle toys, or environments. For indoor cats, birds, or exotic or pocket pets, introduce safe, novel objects, toys, or healthy treats to their habitat.
#5: Groom your pet regularly
Basic grooming is a fantastic way to bond with your pet and monitor their health. As your pet enjoys a thorough “once-over,” you can assess their skin, hair, or scales for flaking, sores, irritation, or parasites. Focused physical contact, such as petting, brushing, or bathing, will help identify any bumps or growths that may require biopsy. To keep your pet in tip-top condition, regularly practice:
- Basic brushing or skin care
- Nail trimming
- Ear cleaning
- Tooth brushing
If you’re unsure about your pet’s specific care needs, Loving Family Animal Hospital can provide guidance and demonstrations.
#6: Train your pet
Pets are incredibly intelligent and eager to learn, but may develop unwanted habits when left to their own devices. Behavioral problems are the primary reason that pets are surrendered to shelters or euthanized. Successfully training and socializing your pet naturally extends their lifespan, by preventing problem behavior.
Positive reinforcement training is the most humane and effective method for teaching any species, by emphasizing correct behavior through strategic reward-delivery. Find a certified trainer near you, and empower your pet through learning.
#7: Identify your pet
Countless dogs and cats go missing every year after escaping their homes or yards, slipping their collars, natural disasters, or auto accidents. Protect your pet’s safety, and help ensure they return home, with a well-fitted collar and current identification tags. Check often to ensure the collar hasn’t loosened, and the tags are readable.
Microchipping your pet is the gold standard for ensuring their safe return. The microchip is a safe, easy, economical, and permanent way to identify your pet. Register your pet’s microchip with a database or registry, and regularly update your contact information.
#8: Keep your pet on year-round parasite prevention
External parasites cause pets discomfort and transmit disease.
- Mosquitoes transmit deadly heartworm disease, which infects dogs, cats, and ferrets.
- Ticks carry debilitating bacterial diseases.
- Fleas can infest your pets and your home, and cause your pets irritation, severe allergic reactions, and anemia.
Mild winters and parasite migration have made year-round parasite prevention necessary, to prevent disease transmission. Fortunately, many safe, effective, and convenient products are available, and annual screening can identify early stage heartworm and tick-borne diseases.
Pets are an invaluable addition to our lives—the least we can do in return is provide optimal care during the time we share together. Loving Family Animal Hospital is committed to your pet’s health at every life stage. If you have any questions about pet health, home care, or behavior, don’t hesitate to contact us.