Every year we make resolutions to keep ourselves healthy and happy, but what about our furry companions? Often our dogs and cats are also our best friends and since they can’t make resolutions for themselves, it’s up to us to make sure we’re doing everything we can to give them the happiest, healthiest lives possible. Here are 10 simple things you can do to help ensure your best buddy stays healthy, active, and by your side as long as possible.
1. Outfit your dog or cat with a collar and ID.
No matter how careful you are there’s a chance your dog or cat may run out the door or get lost. Make sure your pet has an ID tag that includes his name as well as your name, address, and telephone number. A Microchip ID is also a good idea because it may be the only way to get your pet back to you if the collar somehow falls off.
2. Keep your pet up-to-date on necessary vaccinations.
Vaccines are one of the easiest ways to ensure your pet stays healthy. While every state has different laws about mandatory vaccines, you’ll also want to ask your vet about which vaccines your pet should have based on lifestyle and where you live.
3. Take your pet for yearly veterinary exams.
Don’t wait until your pet is sick to go to the vet. An annual examination when he’s feeling healthy is the best time for the doctor to look him over from head to tail and spot any potential illnesses before they’ve progressed.
4. Get your pet spayed or neutered.
Spaying or neutering your dog or cat is important for so many reasons. First, it helps curb the pet population and reduces the number of homeless pets. But also, neutered and spayed pets live longer. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a higher chance of developing cancers of the reproductive system while neutering male dogs and cats eliminates their chances of getting testicular cancer and lowers their rates of prostate cancer. It also curbs bad behavior like spraying, roaming, and aggression, which ultimately leads to a happier pet (and a happier you).
5. Protect your pet from parasites.
Whether it’s fleas, ticks, or heartworm, you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent parasitic diseases. Ask your vet which monthly preventives you should be using and then mark your calendar so that you’re not forgetting a dosage.
6. Cat and dog proof your home.
Puppies and kittens are going to get into mischief; it’s just a fact of life. But you can help them out by keeping breakables and small objects that could be swallowed safely stored. As they get older, you can be a little more lax about what’s out and about, but you never want to have anything toxic lying around, including poisonous plants or food that might make them sick.
7. Groom your pet regularly.
Cats handle most of the grooming on their own, but they still may need a bit of help from you to get rid of dead hair and dirt (via brushing), their claws trimmed if necessary, and maybe even the occasional bath.
Dogs, on the other hand, definitely need regular baths, though once a month is typically adequate. However, in between baths, they still need to be brushed regularly. And don’t forget to clean their ears, trim their nails, and tell them often how handsome they look.
8. Continue your pet’s training.
Even if your dog was socialized and trained as a puppy, it’s important to keep exercising his mind by teaching him new tricks and commands. A well-trained dog is actually a much happier dog because it usually means he is allowed more freedom and ensures he knows you’re the boss. Cats can also benefit from training, especially if it means you’re recognizing why bad behavior is happening and helping to correct it.
9. Give your pet plenty of exercise.
Exercise is the best way for your pet to stay healthy and avoid being overweight (which can lead to arthritis and diabetes). Every dog needs different levels of exercise, but you’ll want to make sure you’re taking yours on long walks, to the dog park to play with other dogs, or even on a run if he has that kind of energy. This can be hard during the winter when temperatures are cold and there’s snow on the ground, but it’s important to find a way to keep him active 365 days of the year. And it’s not just for dogs. Even though they have a high metabolism, cats also need physical activity to keep them from being sedentary. Scratching posts, laser pointers, and even just plain ol’ paper bags all make for fun activities.
10. Feed your pet a healthy diet.
A nutritious, balanced diet is so important to the happiness and healthiness of your dog or cat. Dietary needs will depend on your pet’s age, weight, breed, and lifestyle and you’ll also want to factor in activity levels when you’re deciding how much to feed your little buddy. Ask your vet if you’re not sure which type of food or how much you should be giving your pet.