Having a pet is about more than fun and games – you also have the responsibility to make sure your furry, feathered or scaly friends are as healthy as possible throughout their lives.
While certain health and wellbeing requirements vary across different species of animals, and even across different breeds, there are some universal pet care tips that are always good to follow.
1. Control portion sizes
Obesity isn't just a human issue – more Australian pets are being diagnosed as obese, and the fault usually lies with their owners. Avoid over-feeding your pet by serving only recommended portion sizes, and you'll also be reducing their risk factor for serious health conditions such as heart and liver disease, insulin resistance and osteoarthritis.
2. Minimise food rewards
Pets enjoy food treats as much as their owners, but if you always reward good behaviour with snacks, this can quickly lead to well-behaved pets becoming overweight. Save the snacks for special occasions and treat your pet to more active rewards, such as play time or a trip to their favourite park.
3. Stick to the routine
The more consistency there is in your pet's life, the easier it will be for them to stay in good health. Try to stick to the same daily schedule for feeding, exercise and sleeping.
4. Invest in active toys
Exercise doesn't have to be limited to walks. You can help dogs and cats get a great workout at home with active toys, from a simple stick or Frisbee in the garden to interactive toys that will keep them entertained even when you're at work.
5. Visit the vet at least once a year
Even if your pet seems to be the picture of health, having them checked annually by your local vet can be vital for detecting health problems and other issues at an early stage, before these become serious and more expensive to treat.
6. Follow your vaccination schedule
Your vet can also inform you which vaccinations your pet needs to be immunised against common infections. Young pets often require a series of vaccinations before they reach one year of age, after which they may need follow-up jabs annually, every three years or at other intervals.
7. Get ruthless with fleas, ticks and worms
These pests aren't just a nuisance for animals, but could affect your whole household if not properly treated. As well as administering flea and worming treatments to your pet, you can prevent infestations by washing or vacuuming their bedding regularly.
8. Don't forget dental care
One aspect of pet health care that many owners overlook is dental hygiene, but animal teeth need to be looked after just like human teeth. Certain types of pet food and treats are formulated to strengthen teeth, toys stimulate saliva that reduces plaque, and you can speak to your vet about brushing your pet's teeth – making sure you only use products designed for animal use.
9. Know your breed
Even if you've owned a dog or cat before, you should research the unique characteristics of your current pet's breed as they may have different health and wellbeing needs that you should be aware of, from portion sizes and exercise requirements to congenital diseases.
10. Respond to change
Animals don't age as visibly as people, but that doesn't mean your pet's physiology will remain the same as they get older. Pay attention to your pet's behaviour and habits so you can respond to any changes and ensure they are always comfortable, healthy and happy at every stage of their lives.
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