Tags: pets | cats | dogs | healthy | veterinarian | LaCroix

8 Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Healthy

By    |   Tuesday, 07 April 2015 09:55 AM

Pets become members of our families, and studies have found they have a big impact on our health. Pet owners are generally healthier than non-owners, with lower levels of stress and blood pressure.

"We live longer, healthier lives because we have pets," says nationally known veterinarian Jeff LaCroix, DVM. "We help them keep healthy, and in turn, they help us keep healthy."

Here, are eight top ways to keep your furry friend in the best of health:

1. Help them maintain a healthy weight: Like humans, many pets are overweight, and too much weight raises their risk of joint pain, diabetes, and other health problems.

But also like human parents, pet "parents" often underestimate their pet's weight problem.

How do you know your pet is overweight? "If you put your hands around your pet's chest and can't feel the ribs without pressing, you've got a fat pet," says Dr. LaCroix.

Also, if your dog has lost its "waist" (the indention between the back of the rib cage when viewed from above) and its "tummy tuck" (the abdomen should go up towards the back from the bottom of the rib cage when viewed from the side) your pet may be overweight.

Make sure your pet gets the right number of calories by adjusting its diet, and also by making sure it gets sufficient physical activity. Your vet can help you determine the right number of calories your dog or cat should eat each day.

2. Buy the right food: "Most everyone feeds their pets dry food because of economic reasons, and dogs can be fed dry food throughout their lives," says Dr. LaCroix. "But with cats, feed them canned food when they're kittens, then switch to dry as adults. And Then as they get to be old cats, switch them back to canned food."

There are many choices with pet foods to meet your pet's needs, such as low-calorie for overweight pets and formulations for active pets and older pets.

"Feed dogs two modest meals a day," says Dr. LaCroix. "Most people leave food out for cats to graze throughout the day. That's fine for cats, but if dogs are allowed free-feeding, they'll eat too much and become overweight."

3. Always provide fresh water: Plenty of fresh water is essential for your pet's health, especially as the weather gets warmer, but it's especially critical for cats.

"Cats are descended from desert animals, and they often don't drink enough water and develop kidney problems," said Dr. LaCroix. "One of the reasons we recommend canned food for older cats is they are automatically getting water with the food."

4. Exercise your pet (and yourself): Pets need regular exercise for good health, whether it's running and playing in the back yard or going for a walk with their owners.

"The obese owner who takes his obese dog for a walk will benefit both of them," he said. "Let them run, throw balls for them ... anything to keep them active."

5. Get your pet vaccinated, but don't overdo it: "Vaccines used to be an annual event, but we've found that the immunity persists," says Dr. LaCroix. "As long as a kitten or puppy is immunized properly, boosters aren't necessary on an annual basis. But some states require rabies boosters, and you have to get them because of legal reasons rather than medical reasons."

6. Beware of household dangers: "Chocolate is overrated as a danger and so are poinsettias, " he says. "But two sticks of gum containing Xylitol will kill a small poodle. Grapes and raisins are very poisonous to some dogs.

"Antifreeze is a real killer. It tastes sweet and dogs love it. It doesn't take much to kill. Unfortunately, if a dog is in renal failure and no one actually saw the dog drink the antifreeze, the vet usually doesn't usually make the connection and give the right treatment."

Check your driveway or garage regularly for signs of leaking antifreeze.

7. Neuter and spay: Although reducing the number of homeless cats and dogs is usually given as the main reason for neutering, Dr. LaCroix says neutering also has three other important benefits. "Neutering cuts down on roaming, animal-to-animal aggression, and marking territory with urine."

8. Administer flea and tick medications: "Flea and tick medications can be very important depending on where you live," says Dr. LaCroix. "You get above 3,500 feet, and people don't know what a flea looks like. But especially in hot, humid areas, treating your dog or cat regularly with flea and tick medicines is essential."

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Pets become members of our families, and studies have found they have a big impact on our health. Pet owners are generally healthier than non-owners, with lower levels of stress and blood pressure. We live longer, healthier lives because we have pets, says nationally...
pets, cats, dogs, healthy, veterinarian, LaCroix
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 09:55 AM
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