We all know taking the best care of our pets means making wise choices. We take them to the vet and treat them when they get sick, but pet wellness involves so much more. Good pet care considers your pet’s mental, social, and other needs as well. We’ve put together a guide to help you develop an effective pet wellness plan to keep your pets healthy and happy throughout their lives with you.
Dental Health for Pet Wellness
Good dental care for your pet is all about prevention. What seems like innocent “puppy breath” (or bad breath in your cats) may be a sign of early dental disease.
Pets develop periodontal disease within their first few years of life. Without treatment, gum disease could cause inflammation, infections, and chronic pain. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends brushing your pets’ teeth with a pet-safe toothpaste, having regular dental check-ups, and providing dental chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
Pet Wellness Requires Regular Veterinary Care
Regular veterinary care helps keep your pets physically healthy and prevents disease. The ASPCA recommends spaying and neutering your pets to prevent unwanted litters and to protect your pet’s health. Spaying and neutering can help prevent uterine infections and breast tumors. Your male dog, once neutered, will be less likely to develop prostate issues or prostate cancer.
Your vet will also oversee other important factors to your pet’s health and wellness such as:
- Routine check-ups, fecal tests, and bloodwork
- Parasite prevention and treatment
- Vaccinations against diseases like rabies
- Dental checks
Grooming Care Supports Your Pet’s Health
Grooming plays an important role in your pet’s wellness. Lack of grooming could have serious health consequences such as skin infections or matted hair. A good groomer will know what signs to look for and how to treat for these conditions. Matted hair can also cause circulation risks, itchy skin, and discomfort. If your pet scratches and licks at their skin, they could develop “hot spots” which can be very painful for your pet.
Some good pet wellness grooming products are available at local pet wellness centers and pet grooming salons. Ask for recommendations on shampoos and other regular grooming care treatments to keep your pet looking and feeling their best.
Regular grooming involves hair brushing and trimming, nail care, cleaning out the ears, and keeping the eyes free from dirt and debris. Make grooming a regular part of your pet’s wellness plan for a happier, more comfortable life for your companion.
Healthy Diet for Your Pet’s Optimum Wellness
Your pet’s wellness will often reflect what you feed them. Many dogs and cats have sensitivities to food ingredients like humans do. Common pet foods can be as unhealthy for your pets as it is for you to have a diet of fast food or junk food. Quality ingredients in your pet’s food will offer your pets the dietary support they need for healthy bones, muscles, skin, hair, eyesight, dental and digestive health.
Find a good pet wellness food that will serve their dietary needs without the addition of common food irritants. Your veterinarian can make recommendations for excellent pet foods that keep your pet’s best health in mind.
Feeding Your Dog for Wellness
Dogs are not completely carnivorous. Give them a combination of meat, grains, fruit, and vegetables for a well-rounded diet that provides all the nutrients they need.
Your dog’s food should:
- Meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dietary guidelines and standards. The FDA also regulates some areas of pet food to help keep your pet’s food safe and to require adequate labeling.
- Be age appropriate. Foods that are for “all life stages” or puppy foods will contain extra ingredients needed for growth. “Maintenance” foods are better for older dogs who need to maintain their current weight or lose some weight.
- Be free from any known or suspected allergens your dog may have.
Feeding Your Cat for Wellness
Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn, and they will choose to eat during that time. Offer them healthy cat food that is suitable to their age and weight needs for optimal health.
Cat food is formulated very differently from dog food. Cat food supplies your cat with nutrients they need in a form suited for the digestive system of a cat. (This is why your dogs may get gassy or have gastrointestinal upset when they eat cat food—it’s not formulated for your dog’s digestive tract.)
Cats are notoriously picky eaters (unlike your dogs, who may want everything on your plate!) and often develop a taste for their favorite flavor and type of cat food within their first year of life. This is something to keep in mind when you are weaning your kitten off of their kitten food and onto adult food.
Pet Wellness Blends for Your Cat:
- High animal-based proteins: This will be the majority, but not all, of your cat’s diet.
- Low fat: to mimic their diet in the wild.
- Moderate carbohydrates: This gives cat food texture and crunch, and also functions as a dietary filler to keep your cat’s weight in check. Remember, in the wild your cat would eat only meat and fat—but would work very hard while hunting to capture their prey. Domestic cats’ diets reflect this drop in activity.
- Should also meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dietary guidelines and standards. You can look for a statement about the AAFCO on the packaging.
Regular Exercise for Dogs and Cats
Pets need daily exercise, but how much and by what methods will vary depending on the type, size, and breed of pet you have. Your dogs and cats will play on their own to burn off excess energy. To keep your pets healthy, they need more exercise than this.
In the wild, your pets would have been part of a pack, stimulating each other with play, and also hunting for food. Your pet’s bodies are designed to move. Domestication has its perks, but is a less active lifestyle for your pets.
To mimic the natural exercise their bodies need, encourage them with some interactive play each day or by taking them for walks. Regular exercise helps to maintain heart health, prevent obesity, depression, and anxiety, and keep joints flexible and muscles strong.
Exercises for Your Dogs:
- Ball play and fetching toys.
- Taking walks (shorter, more frequent walks for puppies; longer daily walks for adult dogs.)
- Swimming or hiking.
- Climbing and obstacle course activities.
- Fun at the doggie park.
- Tugging play.
- Jumping play.
Exercises for Your Cats:
- Chasing strings and feathers on a stick.
- A cat tower for climbing.
- Laser light chasing.
- Balls and toy mice to play with.
- Ball track toys.
- Some cats enjoy outdoor play under the right circumstances and training.
- Catnip is OK in moderation, but only if it has a positive effect on your cats. (Some get anxious or aggressive.)
Well-Living Is More than Physical Health
All that covers the basics of bodily health. But what about their overall wellness? Pets have other, non-physical needs – emotional, cognitive, and social. For example, your pet will have a happier, longer life if you give them your attention and affection, making them feel loved.
Cats and dogs both need a safe environment in which to eat, sleep, and play, which will relieve stress and make them feel content. For dogs and cats that tend to be more on the restless or anxious side, or who may have trouble feeling safe when you are away from them, consider CBD supplements as part of their pet wellness plan. Not only will it help their overall wellness, but it can help them feel more calm. CBD supportive tinctures and chews can help ensure your pets feel their best inside and out.
When you prioritize your pet’s wellness with attentive, thoughtful care and make smart choices about how you do that, your pet benefits. Pet wellness is a holistic approach to their health involving everything from diet to nail care to socialization with other people and animals. It is about more than taking care of your pets; it is about caring for your pets.