When you look adoringly at your new puppy or kitten, you see years of companionship and adventure together. You likely do not give a thought to how quickly the time will go by, and that you will wish for more time when your pet is nearing the end of their—far too short—life. While you cannot predict your puppy or kitten’s future or do anything to help them live forever, you can take steps to boost their health and longevity. Here are six tips from our Liberty Veterinary Hospital team that can help add precious years to your pet’s life.
#1: Ensure your pet has annual wellness exams
Preventive care is the easiest way to extend your pet’s life and good health, and annual wellness exams are an essential aspect of preventive care. These exams allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s health, establish and compare baseline values, and spot health issues early when they are easier to treat and manage, which improves your pet’s prognosis. Your pet’s wellness exam consists of a thorough physical evaluation and the following diagnostic screening tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC assesses white and red blood cell and platelet counts and can help detect conditions such as anemia, infection, and certain cancers.
- Chemistry panel — This test provides information about your pet’s electrolyte levels and many major body organs.
- Urinalysis — Evaluating your pet’s urine concentration, content, and appearance can identify health issues including kidney disease, urinary tract infection, and diabetes.
- Fecal check — A fecal check can reveal the presence of microscopic parasites that may otherwise go undetected.
- Heartworm test — This blood test can ensure your pet does not have heartworms, which can significantly damage their heart and lungs.
#2: Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations
Vaccines are an important safeguard for your pet against many serious diseases, including rabies and distemper, that can cut their life short. Your veterinarian can determine an appropriate vaccination schedule based on your pet’s individual needs and lifestyle. Ensuring your pet stays up to date on their vaccinations protects them from contracting or spreading a contagious disease, and is an easy way to add years to their life.
#3: Prioritize your pet’s oral health
More than 70% of pets experience early periodontal (i.e., dental) disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Many pet owners do not understand the importance of oral health, which can affect their pet’s overall wellbeing. Neglecting your pet’s regular dental care can lead to unnecessary pain, periodontal disease, permanent organ damage, and a shortened lifespan. Take control of your pet’s oral health by establishing a dental care routine that includes the following:
- Daily toothbrushing at home
- Pet-safe dental products and dental chews endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)
- Regular veterinary dental exams and cleanings
#4: Protect your pet from parasites
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms can have serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences for pets, but you can easily protect your pet with year-round parasite preventives and annual testing. Parasite prevention products are available in different easily administered forms (e.g., oral, topical, injectable), but consistency is key for optimal protection for your pet, so you should consider the best method to ensure you do not miss their medication.
#5: Maintain your pet’s healthy weight
Excess weight can enhance the effects on your pet’s aging body by placing extra strain on painful joints, and increase the likelihood of diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and liver and heart disease. To ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight:
- Regularly determine your pet’s weight at home with a body condition score (BCS).
- Calculate your pet’s energy requirements and measure their food portions.
- Ensure your pet has at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
- Schedule regular wellness exams to monitor your pet’s weight and overall health.
#6: Engage your pet with mental enrichment
Like people, pets can become bored, anxious, and depressed when they lack mental stimulation and enrichment to support their cognitive function, build confidence, release stress, improve their overall health and wellbeing, and prolong their happiness and good health. Easy ways to incorporate mental enrichment into your pet’s life include:
- Food puzzles and interactive toys
- Learning new tricks
- Daily walks, including exploring new routes
- Daily quality time together
Your pet may not outlive you, but you can extend your time together by proactively approaching their good health and wellbeing. If you have questions about your pet’s care, or need to schedule their annual wellness exam or dental cleaning, contact Liberty Veterinary Hospital for an appointment.
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