7 Healthy Habits to Start During Pet Wellness Month

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October is Pet Wellness Month, a national educational campaign that reminds us of the importance of yearly wellness visits and screenings with your veterinarian.
french bulldog looking sassy in fall leaves

Fall weather with attitude” by Don Hankins, cropped and used under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Here are 7 ways you can make sure your pet is healthy:

1) Regular check-ups

Did your dog or cat have a complete physical this year?

Yearly check-ups are an imporant part of preventative care. Your dog isn’t going to tell you he’s not feeling well. Some problems, like dental disease and arthritis, appear so slowly over time that you may not notice – but your vet will.

Older pets, just like older people, need to come in more often. Vets suggest twice-yearly checkups for older pets.

2) Shots, shots shots… EVERYBODY!

Pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases.

Not every pet needs every vaccination. Your pet’s lifestyle, such as whether you travel to other geographic locations and how often your pet comes into contact with other animals (such as exposure at kennels, obedience classes, shows, and dog parks), determines your pet’s risk of exposure to certain diseases. Your veterinarian will consider your pet’s risk and can customize a vaccination program just for your pet.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet about any vaccines you’re not familiar with. Also, don’t discount vaccinations just because your pet is “low risk”. Treatment can become very expensive and many of these diseases can be fatal, even if your pet is treated right away. Rabies vaccination is required by law in many states and counties.

3) Keep those teeth clean!

Dental disease can cause your pet to lose teeth, can cause significant pain, and can also cause even more serious health issues, such as kidney disease or heart disease.

How can you prevent dental disease? The same you do for humans – by brushing your pet’s teeth!

They may not like it, but most dogs and even many cats can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed with a little time and patience on your part. Always use toothpaste that is made specifically for dogs and cats because human toothpastes can have ingredients that can be dangerous if swallowed by your pet. You can also find specialized doggy and kitty toothbrushes that make the job of brushing a bit easier.

4) Have your pet spayed or neutered.

If your pet isn’t already, you’re missing out on major health benefits. According to the ASPCA, female pets that are not spayed have a much higher chance of getting uterine infections and breast cancer. The ASPCA also recommends neutering male pets before they reach 6 months old for protection against testicular cancer.

5) Get prepared.

Put together an emergency plan to keep your pet safe in case of an emergency, like an evacuation or natural disaster.

The best way to keep your pets safe during an emergency is to keep them with you, but you should never assume that shelters or evacualtion centers will be pet friendly. Doing research and making arrangements ahead of time will save you and your pets lots of stress.

6) Read the Label

Not all pet foods are created equal. It takes research and practice to make sense of pet food nutrition labels. Sometimes it feels like pet food companies seem to go out of their way to make ingredient labels confusing!

Here are a few things you want to see on a food label

  • USDA Approved ingredients. This is about as close as you can get to determining whether the ingredients in the pet food are considered “human grade.”
  • A whole-food protein source as the first ingredient. When we say whole-food, we mean an one word meat source, like chicken, lamb or beef, not something ambiguous like ‘poultry’, ‘animal’ or just ‘meat.’
  • AAFCO guarantee. The Association of American Feed Control Officials sets minimum standards for complete and balanced pet nutrition. If you read these guidelines, there’s obviously room for improvement, but it’s a good place to start.

7) Start supplements.

Who here wasn’t a Flintstone kid? It stands to reason that pets would benefit from supplements that are formulated specifically for their needs, just like people do. Just remember – too much of anything, even something that is otherwise healthy, can be a bad thing. Talk to your veterinarian before starting your pet on any kind of supplement regiment.

Preventative care allows for early detection of problems and often saves money on overall veterinary costs by treating problems before they become serious, which helps pets live longer and healthier lives.

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