Pet Smarts: Keeping Family Members of the Canine and Feline Variety Healthy

You do everything in your power to keep yourself – and your family – healthy, but is there more you could be doing for your four-legged friend?

The following is a list of tips on how to keep your pet in tip-top condition.

Let’s Get (a) Physical:

Just like humans, pets need regular check-ups! In addition to giving pets an opportunity to get their routine vaccinations, the check-ups allow vets a chance to record any subtle changes in appearance and behavior that may be indicative of a larger health problem, and allow them to take preventive action if it appears a problem is developing.

Insurance Assurance:
Anyone who has ever taken care of a sick pet knows that their medical bills can accrue at almost the same rate as those for humans! To keep costs down, invest in pet insurance. The plans, which are available through a number of reputable agencies (the ASPCA offers one!), vary in cost depending on the level of coverage, but will generally cover most, if not all, major medical expenses. If you’re not sure which plan would work best for your pet, consult your veterinarian.

Getting Canned:

Last march, controversy erupted over contaminants in various canned and dry pet foods (of both the canine and feline variety), sending many pet owners back to their kitchens to cook up broiled chicken and rice! Today, pet food manufacturers have stepped up their game and implemented more stringent quality and safety controls. The verdict? Pet food is now generally safe, although we recommend logging on to The Human Society of the United State’s website for tips on how to protect your pet, a complete list of recalled items, and other updates.

Menu Selection:

When selecting a pet food, ask your veterinarian what percentage of your pets diet should come from protein, veggies and grains (or other carbohydrates) and look for foods that meet those recommended ratios. Beware of food sources that list a lot of fillers (even if they don’t hold the number one spot on the ingredient list) or a lot of preservatives (specifically BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin), which some veterinarians warn might cause cancer. If in doubt, opt for holistic formulations, which contain “human grade” ingredients or turn to your own kitchen to rustle up homemade varieties. Popular ingredients include ground turkey or beef, organ meat (ick!) or eggs for the protein component, oatmeal, pasta, brown rice or potato rice, quinoa for the grains, and vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, celery, green beans and spinach.

Working It Out:

You wouldn’t advise your grandmother or your toddler to follow the same workout routine as you, and the same should go for your pet. When devising a workout plan, consult your veterinarian, who will factor in your pets age, expected range of physical activity and climate (with some pets, because of their coat or other factors, limited in how much they can workout in certain weather conditions) to come up with a routine that will keep your pet happy and healthy.

Shape Up:

Turns out it’s not just people that are getting fat – our pets are also piling on the pounds! To keep your pet in peak shape, combine a varied workout routine with a sensible diet and reserve treats for exceptional circumstances as opposed to regular snack intervals.

Puppy Proofing:
When a child first learns to walk, parents are quick to record the moment, shower their offspring with praise and then rush around like maniacs to “baby-proof” the house. But how many people can honestly say that they have puppy- (or kitty-) proofed their house? Some changes you should consider are removing or (simply moving out of reach) certain houseplants that can be poisonous if ingested (hyacinth and mistletoe to name a few), adding covers to electrical cords (which many puppies like to use as a chew toy) and closing the doors to bathrooms (where there’s a plethora of “tasty” bath and cleaning products!)

Purse Snatcher:

You might have forgotten about that candy bar, roll of antacids (or worse, bottle of pills) or other snack stowed in your backpacks, purse, or school bag, but your pet certainly hasn’t! Avoid having your pet come into contact with harmful substances (chocolate being a big no no) by stowing purses and other bags out of the reach of pets or (even better) behind closed doors!

Road Trip:

Yes, it’s adorable when you’re driving down a road and you see a puppy hanging its head out the window. But what happens when that same puppy (or rather, the owner of that puppy) gets into a car accident? The short (and not so sweet) answer? That puppy becomes a missile, a missile that, when frightened or injured, could lash out at the very people trying to help it (either you or another first responder). The solution? Invest in a pet harness that plugs directly into the seatbelt buckle, back seat barrier or other restraining device to keep them safe while riding in the car.

What are your tips to keep your furry family members in good health?

MR38, merfam, ebertek, TangoPango, *phototristan, Lasdary, Fillmore Photography Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Top 10 Reasons to Stay Healthy

Wisebread: Make Homemade Dog Food with Your Slow-Cooker

WebMD: Owning a Cat Good for Your Heart?

Natural Cat Diet

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