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11 Steps to a Healthy Pet

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy throughout their Life

Like humans, pets can enjoy a long, happy life, one that’s filled with love, adventures and good health. But they can’t do it alone.

In addition to showering your pets with love and attention, you have a very important responsibility: helping them stay healthy. By doing your part to help your pets thrive, you’ll allow them to do their part — give you lots of kisses, tail wags and years of companionship.

Whether you’re thinking of adopting a cat, dog (or other animal), or are already a pet owner and want to make sure you’re doing all you can for the health of your pet, keep reading to learn ATX Animal Clinic’s 11 steps to a healthy pet.

Step 1: Visit the vet once a year.

An annual wellness check allows your veterinarian to evaluate the overall health of your pet and detect any problems. Catching and treating a problem early can prevent it from becoming a bigger problem down the road. Early detection also improves the chances of resolving the issue successfully and with less difficulty. Vaccinations, heartworm prevention or routine deworming, are important components that’ll also take place during a wellness visit. Annual appointments also give you an opportunity to ask your veterinarian any questions or to bring up any concerns such as behavior or diet issues.

Step 2: Keep up-to-date with vaccines.

Vaccinating your dog against potentially deadly diseases such as distemper, parvo and rabies is vital to his or her health. Cats should also be vaccinated against rabies and feline leukemia virus (the cause of severe immune suppression and death in cats) as well as other diseases. In addition to preventing diseases that can be passed between animals and also from animals to people, some vaccinations, namely rabies, are required by law.

Step 3: Keep an eye on your pet’s weight.

Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight goes a long way in preventing diseases and injuries. Certain large dog breeds, such as German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, for example, are susceptible to a condition known as hip dysplasia. This skeletal condition can result in the deterioration and eventual loss of function of the hip joint. Obesity puts significant stress on a dog’s joints, which can exacerbate the condition or cause it. Like humans, maintaining a healthy weight in pets also helps prevent the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, kidney disease and some forms of cancer. Did you know that excess weight can cut your pet’s life expectancy by more than two years?

Step 4: Get them moving.

Regularly exercising your pet does wonders for his or her physical and mental wellbeing (as well as yours!) Not only do daily walks and other outdoor activities help preserve muscle tone and joint health, they provide great mental stimulation for your pooch as he or she sniffs, sees, hears and investigates the environment around them. How much exercise a dog or cat needs each day depends on his or her age, health and breed. Belgian Malinois and border collies, for example, are high-energy breeds that require lots of exercise. Senior dogs and low-energy breeds such as bulldogs require less exercise.

Step 5: Keep your pet free of nasty parasites.

Fleas, ticks and mites are notorious for causing problems for pets, but with prevention on your part, you can keep these troublesome critters away. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian for an appropriate flea and tick prevention plan.

Also routinely check for fleas, ticks and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat. Be aware if your pet is excessively scratching, chewing or licking his or her coat, or frequently scratches his or her ears, which is an indication of a problem. Seek the advice of your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual.

Treating parasites immediately lessens your pet’s discomfort, decreases the chances of disease transmission to other pets and may reduce the degree of home infestation. Did you know that female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of selecting your pet as a host, producing up to 50 eggs each day?

Step 6: Spay or neuter your pet.

Pet homelessness is an ongoing crisis. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), millions of cats and dogs are sadly euthanized each year due to an overpopulation of animals and lack of adoptions.

In addition to helping reduce the number of unwanted puppy and kitten births, spaying or neutering provides several health benefits. By spaying female dogs and cats, you’re helping to protect them from uterine infections and cancer, while neutering male pets can lessen their risk of developing an enlarged prostate gland (known as benign prostatic hyperplasia) and testicular cancer.

Step 7: Keep up with dental cleanings.

Making sure your pet’s teeth and gums are healthy is another reason why it’s important to make an appointment with your Austin veterinarian each year. Dental health plays a vital part in your pet’s overall health. Periodontal disease — an inflammation of some or all of a tooth’s deep supporting structures — can cause pain and severe problems such as kidney, liver and heart muscle changes. In addition to annual dental visits, it’s important to routinely brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth at home — as often as possible.

Step 8: Socialization is important.

A puppy’s early months of life (about 7 weeks to 4 months of age) is an important time for socialization. Early socialization and exposure to people, places, sounds, smells and situations make a positive difference. Proper socialization can prevent a dog from being always fearful of children, for example, or of riding in a car, and decreases the odds of anti-social or aggressive behaviors as an adult.

Step 9: Microchip your pets.

Microchipping your dog or cat is a simple procedure that involves implanting a tiny microchip between the shoulder blades. No anesthesia or surgery is required; the chip is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. This rice-sized chip contains an identification number that’s linked to a registry database with your contact information. When this chip is scanned by a veterinarian or shelter volunteer, they’ll be alerted that you’re the owner.

Step 10: Feed your pets a healthy, balanced diet.

Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements over the course of their lives. Puppies and kittens, for example, require a different nutrient balance than their adult counterparts. Other factors to consider when selecting a healthy diet is your dog’s size and breed, and whether your pet has allergies, a sensitive stomach or dietary restrictions. Seek the guidance of your veterinarian to select the best diet for your pet’s specific needs.

Step 11: Groom your pets regularly.

In addition to helping your pets look their best, regular grooming helps remove dirt, loose fur, skin flakes and stimulates blood circulation. It also helps cut down on hairballs in cats, by removing as much loose fur as possible before it can be ingested. Routine grooming also gives you the opportunity to check for fleas, ticks, lumps or any other abnormalities.

For even more tips on how to raise a healthy, happy pet, contact ATX Animal Clinic today to make an appointment with one of our experienced veterinarians. We’re ready to work with you as a team to help your pets stay as healthy as possible so they can bring you many years of joyful companionship.