Much has been said and written about why pets are good for us—their presence in our lives has shown to decrease our blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and feelings of loneliness, while increasing opportunities for exercise and socialization, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But if pets are good for us, are we good for our pets? That is, do we enhance their lives the way they do ours? Here are five things responsible pet owners focus on to ensure their pets live a happy and healthy life:
Pet Checklist #1: Weight
That tubby cat or dog sure looks cute, but there’s nothing nice or healthy about those extra pounds. Obesity shortens your pets’ lifespan and puts them at risk for diabetes, hypertension, and osteoarthritis, says an article in greencrossvets.com.au.
Similarly, an underweight pet is a symptom of a number of possible health issues: parasites, stress, medications, food with low nutritional value, or illness—diabetes or cancer, to name a few, says a feature in petcarerx.com. (Read: 5 Prayers of Blessing for Beloved Pets and Animals)
Ask your veterinarian to help you determine the ideal weight for your pet. And take care about what you feed them. According to eatingwell.com, whether you choose to feed them real food (raw or cooked) or food made especially for them (like branded kibble or pellets), make sure you feed them a balanced meal.
Human food is okay too, says medicalnewstoday.com, but avoid chocolate, coffee, and caffeine (which contain methylxanthines, a highly toxic substance to dogs); raisins and grapes (also highly toxic, they may result in kidney failure); coconut water (because it contains a high level of potassium); ice cream (too high in sugar, it may also give upset stomach to a lactose-intolerant pet); and nuts (as they may choke).
Pet Checklist #2: Exercise
Like people, who need exercise to stay fit and healthy, so too do our four-legged friends. Make the time to walk your dog daily, spend 10-15 minutes playing chase with your cat, and provide your pets with stimulating toys that encourage activity. A hamster, for instance, will make the most of a running wheel. (Read: Play Ideas Perfect for Your Pet’s Personality)
“Make sure your pet has plenty of water before, during, and after exercising,” says wonderopolis.org. “If you have older pets, don’t push them as hard. And watch the heat! In the heat of the day, exercise can put a strain on them since they usually can’t eliminate excess heat as easily as humans can.”
Pet Checklist #3: Grooming
If you’ve seen those “Before” and “After” videos of dogs finding relief after a much-needed haircut freed them of the weight and discomfort of heavily matted fur, then you know the importance of regular pet grooming.
The benefits of grooming go beyond looks. “Adverse, serious side effects occur when we neglect to groom our pets,” says rspcavic.org. “If we don’t tend to our pets’ grooming needs on a regular basis, we encourage a variety of issues, which can lead to expensive vet bills and difficult or even aggressive behavior from your pet.” We’re talking eye, ear, teeth, skin, and nail infections here!
Take your pet to a groomer at least once a month. For dogs and cats, typical grooming services include bathing, drying, dematting, hair trimming, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. A veterinarian usually handles pets’ dental care.
Pet Checklist #4: Vet Visits
Don’t just take your pets to the vet when they’re sick. An annual checkup gives you a good picture of their overall health—and what aspects need more attention. Vet visits are also a time to avail of services like vaccinations, deworming, and spaying or neutering. (Read: 5 Homemade Dog Treats That Are Vet-Approved)
Pet Checklist #5: Accommodations
Bringing a pet into your life means making room for it—and we don’t mean keeping it locked all day in a cage or kennel. Create a comfy space for him to call his own, like a roomy crate with blankets or a soft dog bed, and make sure to clean the space of pee and poop. Live in a tiny studio unit? Consider getting a small dog instead of a medium or large one.