Ask any pet owner and the majority will say that their pet is a beloved member of the family. So it's only natural to want the very best for our furry friends to be happy and healthy. And studies show animals provide many benefits for human health too!
There are many ways that pets can actually contribute to human wellbeing by decreasing stress, improving mental health and even supporting cardiovascular health by motivating (or obligating) us to exercise.
It's no wonder offices and universities are starting to bring animals such as dogs inside of the workplace to improve productivity and mental health. Studies show the benefits that animal interaction can have emotionally and physically on human health, supporting the claim that pets can make humans happier and healthier (1)(2)(3).
Research has shown that pet owners experience improved mental health and even decreased rates of anxiety, depression, and social isolation compared to non-pet owners.
So we owe it to them to keep them happy and healthy too!
How can you support your pet's health? Today we are sharing some of our best health tips for your furry companion:
We aren't the only ones who should be getting regular check-ups, our animals should be as well. Health checks are important to ensure optimal health and prevent the risk of illness, infection, or disease. Many times we may not notice anything wrong with our pet until it becomes a more serious issue. Though it may seem like your pet has no visible problems, being proactive with their health will ensure they avoid bigger problems later on such as infections.
Your veterinarian will be able to best assess your pet's overall health status during regular check-ups.
What health checks should you be paying attention to?
Yearly dental checkup
Think your pet's oral health is no big deal? Think again! Dental disease is the leading cause of health issues among pets, affecting about 80% of dogs and cats (1) (2).
A minimum of yearly dental checks will help keep your pet's mouth clean and healthy while preventing the risk of dental diseases. The process is similar to a dental checkup for humans, involving cleaning, scaling, polishing, and an overall evaluation. However, a fully anesthetized dental cleaning with x-rays is often performed at a dental exam, especially if your pet's teeth aren't taken care of at home. Older dogs are more prone to dental infections and gum disease thus will need more frequent check-ups.
Parasite and flea control
Parasites, ticks, and fleas are very common among pets, and particularly cats and dogs. The warmer months from Spring to Fall represent a higher risk of being exposed to these creepy crawlies so regular check-ups are key. These bugs and diseases they may carry can be transferred to humans. Parasites can cause digestive problems but also affect the growth and development of your pet. While fleas and ticks can cause irritation on the skin and transfer certain diseases like Lyme Disease. Fleas and ticks are easier to spot however worms and parasites, not so much, so checking in with your veterinarian regularly is a good idea to address the safest and most effective treatment and prevention strategy for your pet.
Young animals like puppies and kittens will require more vaccinations however as your pet ages it will still likely need certain shots every 1 to 3 years.
You may be wondering if it's really that important to vaccinate your pet. Vaccinations are meant to protect your dog, and you, from various illnesses. Not all vaccines are necessary, however, depending on where you live there are certain ones that are mandatory to protect against extreme illness and diseases.
Core vaccinations will be recommended for every pet however non-core vaccinations are usually only recommended based on your pet and their specific risk factors (3). Core vaccinations include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus (4). Vaccination regulations will vary depending on your province or country. Consult a trusted veterinarian to determine which vaccinations are best for your pet and the frequency of their administration.
You may be using vitamins and supplements for yourself, but are they useful or necessary for your pet?
Depending on your animal's nutrition, a supplement could come in handy. However, alongside a balanced diet and lifestyle, they are not always necessary and could even be damaging. Always check with your veterinarian before supplementing to determine your pet's needs and make sure you are buying from quality brands, just as you would do for your own supplements!
Commonly used supplements for pets include:
Multivitamins: particularly useful if you are feeding your pet homemade food without fortification, a multivitamin may be helpful in addressing nutritional deficiencies.
Fatty acids: Omega 3 fatty acids can be helpful in reducing inflammation, supporting joint and heart health, and promoting healthy hair and skin health, particularly for older cats and dogs.
Probiotics: just as in humans, probiotics help improve digestion, immune function, and overall wellbeing by supplying beneficial bacteria to the digestive system.
Joint support: supplements including glucosamine and chondroitin have been shown to help reduce pain and improve mobility for arthritic conditions especially in older pets (5).
How to support your pets' health at home
Your pet's health will be determined by how well you take care of it on a daily basis. It's up to pet owners to provide a safe and healthy environment for their animals and to provide shelter, food, water, and exercise for them to reach optimal health.
So what can you do to support your pet at home?
Just like you need good nutrition to strive, so does your pet. Look for real whole food ingredients and avoid pet feed with additives or unrecognizable ingredients listed on the label. Always aim for the highest quality feed you can get your hands on and ask your veterinarian if you need help with finding a good quality brand.
Regular physical activity is crucial for optimal health, not just for your pet but also for you! Having a pet is a great motivator to get outside in nature which helps improve mental health, decrease stress, improve blood sugar, and support cardiovascular health. No more excuses to be lazy on the couch!
A no brainer, water is critical for optimal health, supporting energy, digestion, body temperature, and overall bodily functions. Ensure your animal has fresh water that is replenished throughout the day, especially during those hot summer months.
Daily tooth brushing is recommended with a pet-safe toothpaste. This will help keep your pet's teeth clean from bacteria and reduce plaque formation, also giving your veterinarian less work to do at your pet's dental checkup. Please do not use human toothpaste for your pets!
Another way to support your pet's overall health is with dog chews! These may target dental health and even arthritis. Always choose dog chews that are free from fillers and artificial ingredients. Check with your veterinarian for recommended products.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.