1. Invest time in training early on. Well trained animals are far more compliant and easier to handle. Additionally, a major benefit for the pet is that they tend to be far more confident and relaxed and are more able to cope with stressful situations.
2. Vaccinate. We still regularly see animals with diseases that are easily prevented through routine vaccination. Several of these diseases are expensive to treat and commonly fatal, so prevention is certainly more desirable than treatment.
3. Neuter if you don’t intend to breed. Aside from preventing unwanted pregnancy, being speyed or castrated has a number of health benefits - it helps to prevent or reduce the risk of several forms of cancer, prevent pyometra (which is a common and potentially fatal infection of the uterus), and reduces some behavioural problems.
4. Feed good quality food. A lot of research goes in to high quality food to ensure that it contains optimal nutrients for each stage of life. It is not hard to imagine that a fast-growing Labrador puppy would have significantly different nutrient needs to a geriatric Chihuahua or a high energy working dog. High quality foods are made for these different life stages using good quality ingredient sources (e.g. animal rather than cereal-based protein) with specifically added nutrients (e.g. glucosamine and chondroitin for large breed dogs) to ensure optimal health and wellbeing.
5. Avoid obesity. Unfortunately, obesity is extremely common in our pets. Just like humans, obese pets are more prone to a number of illnesses including diabetes (particularly cats), arthritis, heart disease and breathing conditions. Avoid overfeeding (especially with human food and treats) and make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise.
6. Look after their teeth. This is particularly important in small breed dogs and cats as they are far more likely to have dental issues than larger dogs, with many of them losing numerous teeth throughout their lifetime. Check teeth regularly for signs of tartar and gingivitis (brown discolouration on the teeth and red or inflamed gums). If this is developing you can substantially reduce it by brushing their teeth, or by feeding special dental diets or chew bones/toys.
7. Learn to recognise signs of pain. This is commonly missed or misinterpreted by owners and can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering. Limping, reluctance to exercise or jump into the car or onto the couch/bed, being slow to get going in the mornings, reduced appetite and just generally slowing down with age are all signs of chronic pain and can be treated.
8. Learn to recognise signs of illness. Any change to normal activity or appearance can indicate possible illness. This includes (but is not limited to) changes in eating or drinking habits, weight changes, coughing, excessive itching, vomiting and diarrhoea. Any of these signs should prompt you to get them checked out.
9. Consider pet insurance. Insurance may not be for everyone but there are several companies now offering pet insurance. Financial considerations are often one of the most stressful parts of having an unwell animal – taking this out of the equation can really make it easier on everyone when your pet gets sick.
10. Love them! Our pets are called “companion animals” for a reason – they love companionship and will give their owners a lot of love in return.
If you have any questions or would like any advice about any of these tips, please feel free to ring and talk to our vets. We hope you all have a very happy holiday season.