Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

10 Ways to Keep Your Pets Healthy in 2014

Well, it’s a new year, and we probably all have a slew of New Year’s resolutions we want to keep, or bad habits we want to kick.  May I suggest thinking of your pet’s health and well-being, too, if you haven’t already?  Below is a quick list I’ve compiled of things you can do to make sure your pet stays healthy.  Some of these are easy and obvious and yet they may never have occurred to you!  Just as in humans (and cars!), preventative maintenance goes a long way.  It can increase quality of life, reduce vet bills, and lengthen lifespan.  Plus, we love our furry friends, and we want them all to be comfortable and happy!

Spay or neuter!  This is a great idea for many reasons, not the least of which is it means one less dog or cat will be contributing to pet overpopulation.  Spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer, and it will often help with pets’ behavior, their tendency to fight or to roam away from home.

Regular veterinary care:  Your pet should have a yearly exam; often, veterinarians can spot problems that untrained eyes don’t.  Your pet will also receive vaccines and other preventative measures.  Also, make sure to keep your dog or outdoor cat on flea and tick medicine—Lyme disease is no fun, and neither are itchy flea bites!

Keep pets at a healthy weight:  this can reduce the risk of many diseases and increase pets’ quality of life and life expectancy.  If your pet is overweight, ask your vet for recommendations on a lower-fat food, and try to get your pet more exercise – it does every body good!

Feed them the highest quality of food you can afford.  The first five ingredients are key:  they should be meat and vegetables primarily.  And plenty of fresh water is important!

For dogs:  clip their nails regularly, especially if they spend very little time on surfaces that would naturally grind them down.  Letting nails get too long (if you hear them clicking on tile or hardwood floors, they are too long!) can lead to cracks and splits, which can be painful and become infected.  Nails that are left too long can become so uncomfortable that a dog will change the way he steps; this can impact his gait, causing arthritis and other musculo-skeletal problems!

Clean ears regularly, especially on dogs whose ears hang down. Moisture – and even long fur – can trap debris, germs, and yeast inside the ear, causing itching, bleeding and infection. You can buy ear cleaner or ear wipes at pet supply stores.  If your dog swims a lot, make sure to dry his ears gently every time.

Get teeth cleaned regularly.  You can train your pet to let you brush her teeth at least weekly, or take her to a groomer who can do it for you.  If worse comes to worse, you can take her to the vet and have her anesthetized, but this can be expensive—so preventative maintenance is better.  You can also use toys and treats that are designed to clean teeth, or purchase simple additives to put in her water.  If you need any more motivation, consider this:  Over 80% of dogs over age 3 have periodontal disease, which can lead to a host of other medical problems if left untreated.

Just like for humans, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation go a long way toward mental and physical health.  And it’s good bonding for you and your pet, too!  Even if your pet is an indoor one, there are lots of games you can play to stimulate and exercise him.  A simple Google search can yield plenty of ideas for a snowy or rainy day!

Check your pet’s fur, skin, and body regularly for any changes, abnormalities, growths or sores.  Just be well acquainted with your pet’s body by regular petting, gentle rubbing or massage, and visual inspection.  Make sure to check inside the mouth, in between the toes, around and in the pads, and on the belly.  If you notice anything that seems concerning, get it checked out!  Often times early detection can make all the difference.

Give your pets lots of attention and love—they depend on you for companionship and affection.  And providing a safe, loving home for them reduces stress, which – just like in humans – improves mental and physical health.

Other ideas or tricks for keeping your pets healthy?  Visit our Facebook site and share them!  Here’s to a great new year!

Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 13 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care.
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Written by: Ashley Denham Busse

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