It’s National Pet Week and National Be Kind to Animals Week – two themes that can be easily intertwined for us as pet owners. Pets are most definitely worth celebrating, and as pet lovers, being kind to all animals can be a natural extension of our affections. As pet owners, we are all advocates for our pets. And ultimately, advocating on our pet’s behalf is an example of kindness to animals! But have you stopped lately to think about what our advocacy and kindness can look like on a daily basis?
Daily Essentials: While it may seem quite obvious, our pets depend on us for their most basic and essential needs – food, water, and shelter. How that looks from one pet’s home to the next might vary to some degree (e.g. one dog spends every second inside, while another has outdoor access on a regular basis). However, when we commit to owning a pet, we commit to fulfilling all of those needs in a responsible and appropriate way. By feeding age-appropriate nutritious food, offering constant access to fresh water, providing a clean, comfortable, weather-appropriate form of sheltering, and of course, access to an area to use the bathroom, we can successfully address these daily essentials for our pet.
Safety: Keeping our pets safe is a multi-faceted concept. One area of pet safety involves safety with household items. Pets are naturally curious and don’t always understand certain risks. From chewing on inappropriate items that could get stuck in the pet's stomach or intestines, to accidentally ingesting household toxins, pest control items, plants, human foods toxic to pets, or even medications, pet owners must constantly strive to keep their pet’s environment as “pet proof” as possible. Another area of pet safety relates to the environmental conditions in which our pets are placed. Pet owners should make sure their pet is safe and comfortable during both cold weather and hot weather, as well as around water or fire. Pet safety can also mean safety in an urgent or emergency situation. Being prepared and knowing who to call or where to go in a crisis or emergency situation will help everyone act quickly when there is a problem. We also keep our pets (and people!) safe when we use caution and pay attention to our pet’s body language, especially when unfamiliar people and children are interacting with our pet. Finally, make sure your pet is microchipped and/or has a collar with identification tags so that if your pet is lost he or she can be returned to you quickly.
Behavioral Health: “Happiness” in our pets can be difficult to measure and quantify. Although, an argument can be made that owners can recognize when their pet seems like they are having fun and enjoying the moment, or when they may seem indifferent or unhappy in a particular situation. Does your pet seem content to you? That’s fantastic! We would still encourage you to explore additional environmental enrichment options to enhance your pet’s “happiness” (e.g. training time, walks, interactive play time, puzzle toys, visual enrichment, etc.). On the other hand, perhaps your pet exhibits undesirable or frustrating behaviors that leave you wondering if things could improve? Behavior problems can interfere with our “human-animal bond”, and they can be contributing causes to pet relinquishment. If your pet has behavioral concerns, the first step is to have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Medical causes should always be explored or ruled out for any abnormal behaviors. Depending on the behavior, behavior modification techniques and/or medications may help correct the behavior. A key thing to remember is that the sooner an undesired behavior is addressed, the better for everyone!
Preventive and Wellness Care: A discussion about how to celebrate our pets and make sure we are giving them everything they need would not be complete without touching on preventive and wellness care. You hold the key to keeping your pet protected year-round. Remember to consider the following throughout your pet’s life:
- Nutrition / Healthy Weight: Are you feeding a high quality pet food and helping your pet maintain a health weight?
- Dental Health: Are you addressing your pet’s dental health with daily teeth brushing, dental chews, and/or a dental diet? Does your pet need a dental cleaning under anesthesia to get them back to looking healthy?
- Parasite Prevention: Are you protecting your pet from heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks year round? In addition to preventive products, we also recommend annual heartworm/ tick-borne disease screening as well as fecal testing to check for the presence of intestinal parasites.
- Vaccinations: Is your pet’s vaccine schedule up-to-date in case he or she were to be exposed to an infectious disease that can be prevented through vaccination?
- Wellness Examinations and Labwork: Even if your pet seems to feel great, we still recommend annual wellness exams (or more frequent exams if your pet is older or has chronic health problems) so that we can be sure to catch and address any problems early. These exams will also give us an opportunity to discuss any recommended labwork or changes in daily routine management based on life stages as your pet ages.
Wow! Did you realize you can do so much to advocate for and be kind to your pet? And don’t forget that the example we set for our families and friends will help to spread that message of advocacy and kindness to others!
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS