Every pet owner wants their pet to be at their best—but sometimes, pet owners aren’t fully educated on all the ways they can help their animals live longer, healthier lives. As much as we might love our furry companions, we may be doing things that are detrimental to their health and wellness without realizing it.
Luckily, the ways in which we can prolong and improve the lives of our pets are fairly simple! Even better, getting your pets into a healthier lifestyle not only helps them live longer, but it can also help you feel better in the long run.
According to the CDC, owning a pet can decrease your blood pressure, promote weight loss, and mitigate feelings of loneliness—not to mention, pet ownership gives you a great opportunity to go out and socialize with others.
So, to thank our pets for all they do for us, we compiled a list of the top 5 things you should be doing to ensure their overall health and wellness—and maybe you can take away a few pointers for yourself too!
1. Feed Them High-Quality Ingredients And Use The Correct Portions
When it comes to feeding our pets, the issue is twofold: pets are usually getting too much food, and they’re usually not getting the right food.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, up to 60% percent of pets are overweight or obese. All of this extra weight severely impacts their quality of life; you can expect to see arthritis, hypertension, and diabetes in overweight pets, leading to costly vet bills and a shortened lifespan.
So, what can you do to prevent this? The first step in addressing animal obesity is to feed your pet high-quality food with healthy ingredients in the correct portions.
If you’re not sure where to start, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. They’ll take your pet’s age and size into account before recommending food that covers the essential nutrients your pet needs. And if your pet has any underlying health issues—such as diabetes or allergies—your veterinarian can make specific recommendations based on your pet’s unique needs.
In general, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to purchasing food for your pet:
- Check the food label—you want to ensure your pet’s food has a healthy protein such as salmon, turkey, or chicken listed as one of the top ingredients
- Avoid food that is disproportionately made up of fillers like wheat, corn, and soy
- Purchase high-quality food that exceeds the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
- Follow the feeding instructions on the bag—doling out the correct portions based on your pet’s size is the key to maintaining a healthy weight
- Tailor your pet’s diet to their specific health needs with the help of your veterinarian
And if you’re going to give your pets table scraps (we get it, it’s hard to resist those eyes), at least make it healthy! Meats, rice, and fruits/vegetables are a healthy snack to give your pets in moderation. This list breaks down safe human foods for cats, and one for dogs as well.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about what is safe to feed your pets, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian first.
2. Get Daily Exercise With Your Pets
As we already mentioned, pet obesity is a huge problem, and it’s primarily caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. So, just because you switched your pet to a higher quality food doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods quite yet! You still need to make sure your pet is getting enough exercise to burn off extra energy and calories.
However, it’s important to note that the benefit of exercise isn’t just physical—this daily routine gives your pet a much needed mental workout too. Without consistent daily exercise, your pets may develop mood disorders and destructive behaviors—so exercise is definitely saving your furniture too.
Cats and dogs need different things when it comes to exercise and active play, so keep that in mind as you plan your daily routine. Generally speaking, dogs are more keen on being physically active for longer periods of time, whereas cats like to display their agility and prowess in smaller bursts.
Dogs generally need at least 60 minutes of active walking and/or running per day. Depending on their age and breed, your dog may need more or less activity to stay happy and healthy. Do some research on your breed and see what kind of activities they tend to enjoy.
As for cats, they need you to activate their hunting instincts. Unlike dogs, cats are active in small bursts, so carving out 10-15 minute increments of playtime a few times a day is a great way to keep them active and engaged. You can also try cat exercise wheels, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can harness train your cats for outdoor adventures.
Like we said, the benefits of exercise are more than just physical, so here are some things you can expect to see from exercising your pets on a daily basis:
- An enhanced bond between you and your pet
- Reduced anxiety and boredom
- More structure and routine
- Less unwanted and destructive behaviors
3. Provide Your Pets With Engaging Toys And Stimuli
As much as we might like to, we can’t be with our pets every moment of the day, so it’s important to ensure that their environment at home is full of enriching toys and activities to keep them occupied while you’re away.
Mental stimulation is essential for their overall health, and leaving a pet alone without meaningful stimuli can be detrimental to their overall well-being.
For cats, they need lots of areas to hide, climb, and survey their surroundings—just like they would do in the wild. Cat trees and shelves will allow your cat to feel safe and secure as they act on their hunting instincts. You should also leave out plenty of toys they can play with on their own while you’re away—anything infused with catnip can’t hurt.
As for dogs, treat toys and puzzle toys are a great way to keep them mentally sharp when you’re not around. Redirecting their attention on a new task will keep their separation anxiety at bay, and the challenge/reward aspect will keep them occupied for hours.
The only thing better than toys is a tired pet, so this is where exercise can be a huge benefit too! Make sure your pets have been thoroughly exercised before you leave the house for a few hours, and you can be certain that they won’t miss you too much while you’re gone.
4. Visit Your Veterinarian At Least Twice A Year
If you’re only taking your pets to the vet when it seems like something is wrong, then you may be putting their health at risk—by the time you notice an issue, it could be too severe to fully treat or correct.
Prevention is the key to keeping your pets healthy, so semi-annual check ups with your veterinarian are crucial to protecting your pet’s health and wellness. Animals oftentimes hide their illnesses, so getting them to the vet (even when they seem healthy) can prevent underlying diseases and conditions from becoming more severe.
At these check ups, you’ll not only get the essential vaccinations and shots that your pet needs, but your vet will perform a thorough physical exam to check for any conditions that might be missed upon first glance.
During your semi-annual visits, be sure to mention any changes you may have noticed in your pet, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. For example, if your pet is drinking more water than usual, that could potentially be a sign of diabetes. Any information you can provide to your veterinarian is helpful in diagnosing potential illnesses.
5. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth Every Day
Would it be a Petsmile blog if we didn’t talk about this? We think not!
One of the most routinely overlooked aspects of pet health is their oral health. Most pets will show some signs of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old, which could easily be avoided with proper at-home dental care. Just like exercise or a healthy diet, brushing your pet’s teeth at least once a day can prevent a slew of health issues.
It’s important to understand how oral health impacts the rest of the body—when you don’t brush your pet’s teeth, you’re not just putting their teeth and gums at risk, but you’re compromising their overall health. Periodontal disease can be absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream, meaning that their internal organs (such as the kidney and liver) can suffer serious, irreversible damage.
Luckily, Petsmile has a line of pet safe products to combat the tartar, plaque, and bad breath that plagues your pet! We’ve dedicated our time to creating tasty, healthy products that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), so you can use our products knowing that they are both safe and delicious.
In addition to brushing at home every day, you should schedule regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian. These comprehensive dental cleanings allow your veterinarian a chance to safely assess your pet’s overall oral health.
And while a new habit might be hard to adopt, studies show that brushing every day can help your pet live 3-5 more healthy years, so we think that’s a great reason to start right now (even if your pet doesn’t think so at first).
We hope these tips help you and your pets live longer, happier, and healthier lives! Let us know what you do to keep your pets healthy, and be sure to follow us on social media to get more healthy and happy pet tips from Petsmile.