Being a quality pet parent can be overwhelming. For one, a cross-species connection can be tough, meaning your dog or cat won’t always be able to tell you exactly what’s wrong if they’re feeling poorly.
So what do veterinarians and animal experts wish you knew about caring for your pet? We asked a few experts about some commonly overlooked pet care tactics that you can implement today. Here’s what they said.
Don’t put off those vet visits
“Your vet always wants to see you!” Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian and the Director of Virtual Medicine at New York City’s BondVet shared in an email to USA TODAY. “We will never judge you for coming for something perceived to be small. Always better safe than sorry,” she says.
Lippman thinks one of the most commonly overlooked tactics for pet care is a regular visit to the vet.
Owners sometimes don’t realize how important that bi-annual or yearly check-up is. Just like humans, dogs, cats, and any other creature you might claim as part of your family needs an expert eye to check in and make sure that everything is running smoothly.
“Catching disease early is critical when disease moves so fast in animals,” Dr. Lippman says, “We would always prefer that people come in sooner rather than later because it can make a really big difference in disease process.” She says in her own practice she often sees owners who come in and say, “I didn’t think something could come on so quickly.”
Dr. Jeffrey Levy, a veterinarian with a house call practice, deals in particular with animals in their older years, and has a unique perspective on how to prepare your furry friends for a longer, more healthy life. As your pet gets older, it’s wise to communicate with your Vet more often, Levy says, advising more frequent blood work to keep an eye on potential issues like diabetes, kidney disease, and obesity.
Dr. Yaron Schmid, the Director of Shelter Medicine at the Human Society of New York also worried about pet owners who are unaware that their animal needs to visit the vet once a year. “They may overlook the fact that their animals have poor oral health, are overweight, and need to meet other animals to socialize,” she shared in an email to USA Today.
Beware the holidays
Nancy King, the CEO of Pets Lifeline, a nonprofit animal shelter in Sonoma, California says there are a lot of new pet owner post-pandemic. Ahead of Halloween she encourages owners to remember that chocolate and most candy is highly toxic to both dogs and cats so it’s vital to keep it out of their reach. Dogs and cats can also get anxious during holidays if there is over-stimulation (see: frequent doorbell rings due to trick or treating) which is another factor to keep in mind during spooky-season and beyond.
Schmid also warns that gifting a dog or cat for the holidays should not be done lightly. “Every pet owner must recognize that caring for a pet is a full-time, lifelong commitment,” she reminds.
Train your pet early
“I wish more people would get their dogs into training early on” King also tells me. During the pandemic many owners were home with their dogs 24/7 and training was not prioritized by many pet parents. With life somewhat returning to normal, King says she has seen both a local and a national trend of large adolescent dogs with bad behavior that are being returned to shelters.
Levy seconds King’s sentiment advising more dog owners to invest in quality training. “There’s so many people that have uncomfortable relationships with their pets” Levy explains, “I don’t think they invested the time or effort or were aware that there are techniques to best train their pets to lead a long, and positive and quality life.”
Preventative care for your pet
Lippman cautions that in cooler temperatures fleas and ticks are “rampant.” So, as fall turns into winter and the summer heat burns off, it is increasingly important for pet owners to ramp up their preventative measures.
King also advises that advanced preventative care is very important, as there was a strain on veterinarians during the pandemic and it can sometimes be difficult to get a quick appointment.
Your pet’s mental acuity
Mental acuity is also an important part of your making sure your dog is remaining healthy as it ages, Dr. Levy says. One of the best ways to practice mental engagement with your pet is environmental enrichment, Levy says, making sure your dog or cat is challenged by their surroundings. “You have to start thinking how to keep your pet always vital, interested and active, because that’s part of quality of life as they get older” he explains.