We all probably wish that our pets could live forever and hopefully, one day, we can at least prolong their lives. But for now, it’s our duty to continue improving our pet’s wellness as much as we possibly can. The benefits of keeping your pet healthy are endless but some of those benefits include longevity, improved quality of life, lower risk of disease, and increased happiness and mental well-being. While this may seem like a daunting task to some, there are little changes you can make to your and your pet’s life in order to improve your pet’s wellness and the investment is well worth it.
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
One of the first steps to take to improve your pet’s wellness is putting a focus on their mental and emotional wellness as this seems to be a focus than some pet parents seem to realize and this can drastically decrease your pet’s quality of life if this is being neglected. Pets are just as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and more just like humans but there are steps to take to help improve this and even possibly prevent it if an emphasis is put on their emotional health early on. Enrichment is a key part of keeping your pet’s emotional and physical wellbeing at its peak. Enrichment comes in many forms including puzzles, sniffing time outside, and scent work. And yes, this applies to cats too. Here are some simple ways to increase your pet’s enrichment and emotional well-being:
- Puzzle Toys: Puzzle toys are available in a large variety for both dogs and cats and are actually fairly simple to make yourself as well. They are a perfect boredom buster while allowing your pet to work their brain. Puzzle toys are simple to DIY as well which is purr-fect for any pet parent on a budget or who just wants the ability to mix things up a bit more often.
- Scent Work: Taking the time to train your dogs to use their primary sense can greatly improve their emotional well-being and add enrichment to their routine by being an excellent source of physical and mental stimulation. If you find that your dog excels in scent work, there are even competitions out there as the concept becomes even more popular!
- Social Interaction: Social interaction with pets comes in the form of interaction with you and with other animals for both dogs and cats. When your pet does social activities with their pet parent, it can increase their bond and is as simple as daily playtime together.
Exercise and Physical Activity
One of the key parts of keeping your pet healthy is ensuring that they get enough exercise and physical activity to:
- Keep a healthy weight
- Maintain joint health
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Increase muscle tone
- Improve mental stimulation
A common trend to see on social media is overweight dogs and cats with the internet taking them by storm fawning over how “chonky” and adorable they are. But there is nothing adorable about a dog or cat whose life is at risk from the negligence of their owner. This can often be the result of both overfeeding and low to no activity levels. And yes, cats do need physical exercise just like dogs even if they don’t usually go for daily walks. Taking the time to plan out engaging in physical activities can improve your pet’s wellness and further their longevity. For dogs, consider activities like fetch, agility training, hiking, and swimming. For cats, the use of interactive toys, feather wands, and even running wheels can greatly increase their physical activity.
If your pet is already overweight then we highly recommend consulting with your veterinarian first to ensure that you don’t possibly overwork your pet and come up with a treatment plan to lower their weight. Remember that every pet is unique, so tailor their exercise routine to their individual needs and preferences and always prioritize safety.
Preventive Veterinary Care
Routine yearly check-ups are essential for both dogs and cats, known as "wellness exams." These exams serve multiple purposes, including growth monitoring, addressing concerns, and playing a key role in preventive care. Preventive care includes maintaining proper nutrition, ensuring adequate exercise, and sticking to regular vet appointments. These check-ups are crucial for early detection of potential illnesses and issues. Adult dogs should visit the vet once annually, while puppies and seniors benefit from biannual check-ups.
Preventive dental care is essential to ensure your pet's quality of life remains positive well into their senior years. Dogs and cats both face the risk of various dental diseases, which can potentially lead to tooth loss and severe health issues if left unattended. While daily toothbrushing is recommended, we recognize it's not a common practice for many pets. Nevertheless, it should be addressed at least once a week. If your pet is not fond of brushing, you can easily maintain their dental health using HICC Pet™ Dog Dental Finger Wipes and Dog Oral Care Spray. Additionally, consider incorporating dental chews or toys designed to promote dental health as a fun and effective way to supplement your pet's oral hygiene routine.
Parasite prevention and control, such as flea and tick medication, are vital in keeping your pet healthy and improving their overall wellness. Pets that are riddled with fleas suffer intense itching as well as run the risk of contracting several other illnesses which include tapeworms, cat-scratch disease, flea-borne spotted fever, and murine typhus as well as anemia from the blood loss. Ticks can result in Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, cytauxzoonosis, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rickettsiosis, and tularemia. Pets can even be allergic to fleas which results in even further constant suffering beyond the standard itching that comes from fleas. Both of these can lead to even further complications in your dog or cat’s health and wellness down the line. But remember that not all flea and tick preventatives are made the same. It’s essential to do your research in order to prevent further complications as a result of the medications. First, various types of preventative medications offer various benefits:
- Topical Medication: Topical spot treatment Solutions like shampoos may provide temporary relief but spot treatment will stay on the skin and just needs to be reapplied every 30 days. Examples of spot treatments include Frontline Plus, Advantage®, and Revolution.
- Oral Medication: Oral flea medications can often be more effective than topical spot treatments as it not only prevents new fleas but it also kills those that have already made a home in your pet’s fur. Oral medications also have different features and will usually target either adult fleas or eggs but not both. There are no oral meds for ticks, unfortunately. Some medications, like Comfortis, require a prescription in the United States but there are plenty of over-the-counter options such as Nexgard.
- Collars: Flea and tick collars serve primarily as preventatives, but some can treat infestations by releasing chemicals into your pet's skin. To ensure treatment, check for the term "kill" on the collar's package. These collars can last up to eight months and are particularly effective against ticks around the face and neck area. They can be combined with other treatment options and help prevent new outbreaks during infestation elimination. Always consult your vet before combining a flea collar, like Seresto, with other medications.
Nutrition and Diet
A pet's diet plays a fundamental role in their overall health and wellness, evolving alongside them from puppyhood to adulthood and beyond. We carry the vital responsibility of providing our furry companions with nutritious food. In a world saturated with dietary advice, numerous pet food brands, and an abundance of information, it's easy to become overwhelmed. What works for your pet may significantly differ from what's suitable for the pup next door. To aid in informed decision-making, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an independent organization that guides state, federal, and international feed regulators, offers essential guidelines for selecting the ideal food. These guidelines encompass label comprehension, determining "safe pet food," and ensuring all approved foods deliver a balanced diet.
The first step in choosing the right food involves checking for AAFCO certification, a mark of regulated ingredients, and adherence to standards. However, essential aspects like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water content must also be considered. Additionally, exploring various types of dog food, including fresh, dehydrated, and raw options, has become increasingly popular. Combining these choices is even possible. If navigating the diverse array of food options becomes challenging, veterinarians and board-certified veterinary nutritionists can offer expert guidance, ensuring your dog or cat’s dietary needs are met for a healthy and happy life.
Grooming and Hygiene
Grooming plays a crucial role in maintaining your pet's well-being, whether they are dogs or cats. It serves both as a preventive measure against potential health issues and as an immediate source of comfort for your furry companions. Regular at-home grooming not only strengthens the bond between you and your pet but also helps avoid the accumulation of costly grooming bills, especially when dealing with stubborn matting issues.
For dogs, the first step in a successful grooming routine is brushing, the frequency of which depends on their fur type. Short-haired dogs typically benefit from weekly brushing, while medium and long-haired breeds may require daily attention to ensure their comfort and minimize shedding. Dense undercoats, present in various fur lengths, may necessitate daily brushing as well. Grooming wipes are also a simple way to keep your dog fresh and clean. Consult your veterinarian or groomer for guidance on the appropriate brushing schedule and the most suitable brushes for your pet's specific needs. Trimming your dog's toenails is another vital component of grooming, typically required every one to two months.
Cats, known for their self-grooming habits, may still require your assistance in certain situations. Regular brushing helps prevent furballs, removes dead hair, and enhances your cat's overall wellness. Long-haired cats benefit from a two-step brushing process, starting with an undercoat rake or comb brush to reach the skin and followed by a slicker brush. Additionally, grooming wipes are useful for cleaning, odor removal, skin relief, and moisturization, particularly for seniors or overweight cats who may need extra care.
In conclusion, ensuring the wellness of our beloved pets is a responsibility we take to heart. While we may not have the power to grant them eternal life, we can certainly enhance their quality of life and extend their years through dedicated care. The advantages of maintaining our pets' health and wellness are immeasurable. These benefits include prolonged lifespans, improved overall quality of life, reduced risks of diseases, and heightened happiness and mental well-being. Although it may seem like a daunting task, even small changes in our daily routines can lead to significant improvements in our pets' overall wellness, and the investment is undeniably worthwhile. By addressing these aspects of pet wellness, you're taking significant steps toward ensuring a long, healthy, and happy life for your furry companions.