Owning a pet is an amazing and rewarding experience. The unconditional love and companionship our furry friends give us can have a truly profound effect on our lives and change them for the better. In return, it is our duty as owners to ensure they are as comfortable and healthy as possible.
However, for first-time owners looking to bring a new pet into their home, it can be daunting to know how to properly look after them. And, as our pets can’t exactly tell us if they have a problem, health issues can arise from improper treatment even if your heart is in the right place.
With this in mind, if you’re concerned about giving your pet the perfect environment and lifestyle, there are a few overarching factors for all pet owners to consider. Here we talk about some of the most important.
A healthy, high quality diet
The quality of the food we feed is key. Many cheaper foods will be of low nutritional value and require a higher volume intake to reach the correct plane of nutrition, potentially increasing calorie intake and certainly increasing the waste coming out the back end for you to clear up!
Begin by understanding what exactly your pet needs in order to maintain a healthy diet. Some breeds will have very specific dietary requirements; puppies and kittens need to meet the growth requirements, large breed dogs need to have the correct protein levels and highly active dogs need enough energy. Neutered pets need a lower calorie intake than entire pets and “energy efficient” cats need low calorie food. The scenarios are potentially endless and many breeds do fit nicely into a simple size category food.
If you need any advice on feeding your pets, please contact your local branch and our qualified nurses are happy to run free nutrition clinics to discuss the best options for you and your pet.
Also, and we know it’s hard, but try not to overfeed your pet. As one of the main ways to our pets heart is through their stomach, it can be deceptively easy to overfeed our pets. Indeed, pet obesity is becoming a worrying trend at the moment, so learning the correct dietary requirements for our pets is essential. Minimalise table scraps and high-calorie treats and try not to give into their sad eyes! Using low calorie snacks such as chunks of carrot or cucumber will also add crunch without adding love handles. It may also be beneficial to use a smaller bowl in order to reduce increased portion sizes if the guideline feeding amount looks low in the bowl you serve it.
Regular exercise and play
A balanced diet will only go so far to make sure that your pet is remaining healthy. Getting the necessary amount of exercise remains key for any pet and that goes for cats as well as dogs. Animals are much more likely to suffer from conditions like diabetes and arthritis if they are over weight or have incorrect exercise. Some breeds of dog will need a reduced or managed level of exercise as they grow, so this needs to be kept in mind with larger breeds.
However, it’s important to not only exercise your pet’s body but their mind too! Pets without sufficient levels of play can easily become bored, leading to destructive behaviour. Take the time to provide entertainment and interaction as well as just exercise to keep your pet’s mind active.
Keeping your pet well groomed
Keeping your pet well-groomed is not only important in making them look fabulous; it can be essential in checking your pet’s health.
Keeping your pets coat tidy will vary hugely between species and breed. Regular brushing is great for bonding time in many pets, giving a good chance to check your pet for sign of parasites, checking their skin, monitoring for lumps and bumps as well as keeping them tangle free.
Some pets will need a help keeping their bottoms clean or clag free and others will need a whole body trim to keeps coats manageable.
Matted fur can be more than an eye sore, it can be uncomfortable and a source of potential skin disease and breeding ground for everything from bacteria to parasites and even maggots in hot weather.
It can be necessary to bathe your pet. The tolerance level for this will certainly vary! Much like human hair it is useful to bathe your pet using the correct cleaning products that won’t damage the skin. Ideally cleaning products should be used as little as possible, just washing with water to preserve the natural oils. When cleaning products are needed, they should be specific pet shampoos. Medicated shampoos should only ever be used under veterinary advice.
Keeping nails trimmed can help to minimise the chance of tears or breakages, this can be done at home using the correct equipment and taking care to stay well clear of the quick. Professionals can be the safest way to have nails trimmed, but regular hard ground walking can keep nails short with no added trimming. Trimming pets nails incorrectly can be dangerous for your furry friend and you and should never be undertaken lightly or without some level of training in the pit falls of incorrect cutting. Handling your pets feet on a regular basis is always advisable to normalise the process in case of injury or concern.
Keeping your furry friends smile pearly white and minty fresh is never an easy task but is vital for good health.
Gum disease is rife in both dogs and cats leading to sore, infected teeth and potentially expensive veterinary care. Starting your pet with dental care from a young age can help preserve that smile and normalise what can be a strange activity to them. Brushing teeth using a pet specific, enzyme based tooth paste would always be the first choice method, but isnt always practical. In dogs and cats where this isn’t possible there are a variety of water supplements, food supplements, chews and toys that can work. Chews and toys always need to be used under supervision. They work based on abrasion (the chew/toys working like a brush), so making sure they are using it properly – safety is paramount. Manually checking your pets teeth from a young age will also normalise the sensation for any trip to the vets when required.
Being familiar with your pets ears is very useful. Many pets will never need their ears cleaning, but being familiar with what is normal is a necessity. Ears certainly don’t need to be over cleaned and cleaning should only ever be done with approved products in the manner described on the instructions. If you aren’t sure, ask. As with many body parts, if your pet accepts ear examinations/fussing can take the stress out of trips to the vets when needed.
Finally, make any grooming or checking rewarding for your pet. It doesn’t need to be an ordeal or a game of chase, but lots of fun interaction, small rewards and lots of fuss can make veterinary examinations just seem like another bit of fuss and reduce stress levels in consultation.
Our nurses can provide guidance on all of these aspects in clinic.
Speak to a vet
Sometimes, no matter how well we treat our beloved pets, they can still come down with an illness that could really affect them if left untreated. Making sure your pets are fully vaccinated is a great start but if you’re noticing any changes you wouldn’t expect, speak to someone at the vets for advice. No practice will mind people calling for a little piece of mind, advice or to check if you need to see the vet. Catching illnesses early makes life simpler all around and is also cheaper 99% of the time. You may even find you don’t need a vet appointment for minor ailments.
If your pet is suffering from an emergency situation it is important not to panic and instead ring your vet immediately before taking them to the clinic to find out the best course of action. All of our practices are covered by our own out of hours service, you simply call the normal number and you will be put through to the monitored voicemail number. Again, speaking to the vet for advice before rushing to the clinic can allow any advice to be given that may aid recovery, protect your pet from further problems or potentially avoid the need for an emergency visit.
Following these steps are a great start in ensuring your pets are as happy as possible. However, if you have any other questions, it’s always best to speak to your vet.