Guide to pet health and wellbeing
Damp noses, wagging tails and purring: There's little more you could
wish for in your four-legged friend than good health. They might be
unable to 'tell' us if they're bored, need grooming, are hungry or
feeling unwell, yet they will quickly let us know in other ways.
Pets are creatures of habit. And this guide outlines some habits you can adopt to help keep your cat or dog healthy and happy.
Obesity is prevalent in dogs and other pets, warns the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). On such basis, it is vital to feed your dog a correct and well-balanced diet according to its breed and exercise regime. The charity claims that feeding your dog a healthy diet can help increase its life expectancy by up to two years. There are dozens of feeding regimes from dry complete diets, semi-moist or tinned food, biscuit mixes to homemade food.
Keeping track of your dog
Around 60 pets go missing every hour, according to Sainsbury's Bank research. A vet can micro-chip your dog easily by inserting a microchip, the size of a rice grain, under the animal’s skin, giving your pet a unique code. If your pet is lost and found, the microchip can be scanned and matched to your contact details kept on a database such as PetLog.
Your dog should be walked daily to a distance suitable for their breed. Insufficient or over-exercise can lead to your dog being restless, less healthy and more susceptible to illness and ailments such as lameness. Other symptoms include destructive chewing, digging or scratching, together with night-time activity and attention-seeking behaviours such as barking and whining.
Depending on your dog's breed, frequent washing, brushing, trimming and parasite control is necessary. As a minimum you’ll need a brush, comb and shampoo. The type will depend on your dog’s coat. For example, a bristle brush is best for short coated dogs, whereas a pin brush is suitable for flowing coats.
Always supervise your dog, whether in public or out in the garden. Keep garden boundaries as secure as possible to prevent your dog from escaping. Make sure your dog has road sense and is streetwise by keeping it well-trained as per the guidance below. Taking out pet insurance for your dog can also provide cover in the event of illness or injury, for example when your dog requires emergency or routine treatments such as parasite control.
Encourage your dog’s problem-solving instincts with interactive chews and toys. These can be given as part of their daily food ration and exercise plans as part of a reward. Also try giving your dog toys it can roll around the floor, or create a scent-trail game by hiding dry treats for it to sniff out.
If you're travelling with your dog on public transport or in the car, ensure there is plenty of ventilation and shade, and fresh drinking water is readily available. Make regular stops to exercise your dog and allow them to answer calls of nature.
Going on holiday? Plan to leave your dog behind? If so, leave them with friends, relatives or people you trust. Another alternative is to find a kennel from boardingkennels.org or another directory.
Making sure your dog is trained is essential to help it leave behind bad habits and develop good ones. It can also be a great bonding experience. Take it one command at a time and persist. Even if you're struggling you'll get there eventually. Don't make your training sessions longer than around 15 minutes and try to do it in a familiar environment without too many distractions. You could also consider involving a professional and attending dog training classes.
Helping to foster good behavior is part and parcel of other health tips mentioned above such as exercise, diet and training. Remember most bad behavior symptoms start at home – for example stealing food from the table. Chewing on household items can be another issue; often caused by boredom and not getting enough attention, so make sure your dog feels like one of the family.
So, the principle is clear: adopting good care habits will hopefully make your pet a creature of happy and healthy habits too. After all, there's few other reassuring signs in a pet than damp noses and wagging tails.
A properly-fed cat is a content cat. Make sure your cat is properly fed and this means quality not quantity. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) offers some dietary tips to help keep your cat healthy. A cat’s age, weight and shape, alongside packet feeding guidelines and veterinary advice, should help decide portion sizes. The PDSA adds that it is preferable to feed cats pre-packaged cat food to achieve the correct balance of nutrients.
Keeping track of your cat
Make sure your cat has a collar attached with your name and address. Consider getting your cat micro-chipped; your vet can tell you more about this. Micro-chipping can be effective for identifying lost cats and can increase the chances of a lost feline being safely reunited with its owner.
Provide a scratching post to keep their claws sharp and free from debris; a bristly doormat securely fixed in an upright position is also suitable. Ask your vet for advice about measures you can take to ensure your cat’s health such as vaccination, treatments to control parasites (e.g. fleas and worms) and neutering.
Cats are adept at surviving yet can still succumb to the elements and other risks such as fights with other felines or road accidents. One option is to make sure you have insurance for your cat, which can cover aspects such as vet bills, treatment and, in some cases, advertising and reward costs if they go missing.
Cats are natural-born hunters; keep yours entertained by giving it toys to chase and play with. If you live in a rural location and, providing the environment is safe, make sure you let your cat out for exercise and fresh air.
Cat hair care is an essential responsibility for an owner. They depend on their coats to protect them from weather as well as to keep their skin healthy. Cats will do their bit to preen and clean their coat, however you can help too by brushing, washing and de-fleaing it regularly. Another duty could be keeping the coat trimmed, depending on the breed and therefore hair type.
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