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.


Dog diet


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


Exercise


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.


Grooming


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.


Safety first


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.


Entertainment


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.


Travel


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.


Holidays


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 a kennel directory.


Training


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.


Behaviour


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.

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