October is National Pet Wellness Month, which serves as the ideal time for pet owners to revisit their checklist of healthy habits for their beloved dogs and cats and make sure every effort is being made to help them live their best lives. It’s not uncommon to stray from the daily tasks that keep pets happy and healthy, despite the best intentions of loving pet owners. However, it’s never too late to restart those best practices and help them age gracefully with minimal health issues.
1. Annual Health Checkup:
Preventive care is perhaps the most important aspect of your pet’s wellness, as it helps to detect diseases and medical conditions early that are otherwise difficult to treat if they progress to an advanced stage. An annual check-in with your veterinarian provides an opportunity to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date, they’re maintaining a healthy weight, blood work is consistent with baselines, and organ function remains good.
Nutrition is of critical importance when it comes to your pet’s well-being and longevity. Proper nutrition is all about high-quality ingredients in the foods they consume, which should consist of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that all combine to create a well-functioning immune system that wards off disease. The old saying “you are what you eat” rings true for pets, just as it does for humans. Be sure to communicate your dog’s diet and food sources to your veterinarian during your pet’s annual wellness checkup to make sure you’re providing adequate nutrition for their age and lifestyle.
When it comes to your pet’s nutrition, it’s also important to address the use of supplements. High-quality pet food manufacturers leverage the expertise of veterinarians to ensure the use of quality ingredients that contain the right volume of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Adding supplements to your pet’s diet might seem like a healthy choice, but you could actually be doing them more harm than good. Certain fat-soluble vitamins—such as vitamins A, D, E, and K—aren’t easily eliminated from the body, which could lead to toxic buildup. Certain supplements can also interfere with each other, such as calcium, copper, and iron. Always discuss supplements with your veterinarian before starting your pet on them, as you might learn they aren’t needed or can instead be increased through a change in food.
3. Weight Management:
Related to the topic of nutrition, maintaining proper weight is critical to your pet’s overall wellness. Obesity is a major pet health threat, with 56 percent of dogs and 50 percent of cats considered to be overweight or obese. Obesity causes a host of medical issues in pets, including Cushing's Disease, skin issues, heart failure, cancers, joint issues, and ligament and disc issues. These ailments can lead to a diminished quality of life or a shortened lifespan, both of which are avoidable with proper nutrition, appropriate food serving size, and regular activity.
One of the best things you can do for your pets is to keep them moving. Exercise not only burns calories to help maintain a healthy weight, but it also keeps your pet’s muscles, tendons, and bones strong. In addition, it offers much-needed mental stimulation. Exercise can take many forms depending on the type of pet, including going for walks, having a few play sessions throughout the day, hiking, swimming, and playing with interactive toys.
5. Dental Care:
Dental care is an often-overlooked area of pet wellness, especially since both dogs and cats aren’t typically fans of the brushing process. However, if your pet’s breath is smelling offensive, there may be a more serious problem than just dislike for the toothbrush. Your pet’s gums should be pink and their teeth should be white without signs of tartar. Inflamed gums or loose teeth are a red flag for oral disease and should be addressed with your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your pet isn’t a fan of a toothbrush, try using soft gauze on your finger and gently massage their teeth and gums. Doing this on a regular basis will get them acclimated to the feeling and make them less likely to resist your oral health efforts.
6. Coat Care:
Regardless of the length of your dog or cat’s fur or hair, be sure to brush them on a regular basis. This will help to remove dead hair while also distributing their natural oils for a clean, healthy coat. Regular brushing also provides pet owners with an opportunity to examine their pet’s body for any skin issues, unusual skin growths, lumps, or other skin issues that might require a look by your veterinarian. Many pets enjoy the feeling of being brushed, so enjoy this bonding time together at least once a week.
7. Safe Environment:
Part of your pet’s wellness is dependent on their environment, specifically, dangerous items that might be accessible to them around the home. This can include certain poisonous plants, human medications, lawn care chemicals, household cleaners, and certain human foods such as grapes and raisins. Pets can be curious creatures, so be sure any household items that are potentially dangerous to their health are locked up or stored in rooms they cannot access. The ASPCA provides a handy list of plants that are poisonous to pets.
8. Bonding Time:
Your dog’s wellness isn’t just about their physical care—it’s also about their mental health and happiness. Part of your pet’s wellness journey should include quality time with their pet owner, which brings them immense joy and necessary mental stimulation. Without quality time with their owners, pets can become depressed, lethargic, and even destructive. Set aside time each day to interact, play, walk, snuggle, and give affection. They will return the attention with a happy demeanor and unconditional love.
National Pet Wellness Month serves as an annual reminder to reevaluate our pets’ lifestyles and pay extra attention to the daily steps that should be taken to ensure they’re living the healthiest lives possible. They are members of our families, and their care should include everything done for their human counterparts—regular checkups, healthy eating, exercise, dental care, companionship, and a safe living environment.