The basics for keeping a healthy pet may seem obvious, but “best practices” change at a frightening rate nowadays. It can be difficult to keep up with the constant onslaught of new information and even more difficult to separate the good advice from the bad. We caught up with our resident veterinarian, Dr. Julie Towle, to ask about some things pet owners can do to keep their pets healthier in 2018.
More Wet Food
Pet owners should transition to 50% or more wet food vs. dry kibble. Raw food is best, but canned food is still a huge step up from dry food. Making commercial dry pet food your pet’s staple diet is akin to feeding them fast food for every meal. It’s just not healthy. Dry food is low in nutrients and high in preservatives. Wet food is lower in calorie density, more easily digested, and less processed. It also allows you to more regularly switch up the food your pet is eating and expose them to a wider range of nutrients.
Mental and Environmental Enrichment
“Enrichment” is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately in relation to pets. It’s the process of enriching your pet’s living area to provide them with a sense of engagement, decrease boredom, and keep them mentally stimulated. For dogs, this can be accomplished through toys, exploring new locations, hiding treats in new places, or adding some new scents to their play space. Cat enrichment ideas may include food puzzles (also known as foraging toys or treat dispensers), vertical cat furniture or other vertical play spaces, self-play toys, or aromatherapy. There are even tablet apps that let your cats chase virtual mice now. Enrichment options are everywhere, and they are very important to the long-term wellbeing of your pet.
Regular Exercise and Weight Management
Yes, exercise is a no-brainer health suggestion for your pet, but hear us out on the details! Dr. Towle recommends that all dog owners should strongly consider implementing core conditioning into their dog’s normal exercise routine. Core conditioning can decrease spinal pain and the risk of several injuries common to dogs, such as those associated with osteoarthritis and other soft tissue disorders. Other exercise recommendations for dogs and cats vary by age and body type, so check with your vet for suggestions. Obese pets have a shorter life expectancy and increased risk of joint diseases, diabetes, and respiratory diseases than pets of a healthy weight, so weight management through diet and exercise remains of utmost importance.
Pet owners are pretty good about taking their animals to the vet when they might be sick, but preemptive visits to the vet could help to keep your pet healthier throughout the year and reduce the need for emergency visits. Dr. Towle recommends visiting the vet 1-2 times yearly for regular examinations and to make sure your pet is covered for parasite prevention. Recent weather changes have led to an increase in serious tick and parasite-related diseases, so parasite prevention is more important than ever.
Did you know that 70% of dogs have gingivitis by the age of 3?!! Neither did I, but Dr. Towle sure did. She suggests at home dental care, professional cleaning, and dental evaluations are important parts of maintaining good dental health for your pups. Most dogs aren’t keen on the idea of you poking around in their mouths at first, but they’ll warm up to it over time. Pair the process with a treat and some affection. It’ll be part of their normal routine in no time!
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