It's hard to imagine many life events as exciting and meaningful as bringing home a new pet. For first-time pet parents, learning the basics of pet healthcare and wellness is essential to providing your companion with a safe, comfortable, and loving home.
Vaccinations Are Key to Preventative Pet Health Care
Whether you've adopted a new kitty or a pup, vaccinations are vital to your pet's lifelong health. These preventative measures shield your pet from some of the most common and devastating pet diseases. By keeping your pet's vaccinations up to date, you can rest assured that your companion is protected.
Cat and dog vaccines are broken down into two categories: 'core' and 'non-core.' Core vaccines are necessary for nearly every pet throughout its life, and non-core or lifestyle vaccines are not always required because they depend on an individual pet's lifestyle.
The Rabies vaccine is the most well-known of the core cat vaccines, which protects your cat and your human family from the rabies virus. The FVRCP vaccine, which is an abbreviation for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia, is another core vaccine and is more commonly referred to as "Feline Distemper." While all cats should receive Rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, cats who spend time outdoors should also receive the non-core vaccination against FeLV or Feline Leukemia Virus.
In many ways, vaccinations for dogs mirror vaccinations for cats. Dogs must also receive their Rabies vaccinations. Just as there is a Feline Distemper vaccine, there is a Canine Distemper vaccine, which protects against Canine Distemper Virus, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, and Parainfluenza. Bordetella is an essential vaccine for dogs who spend a lot of time around other dogs, and dogs who spend time outside will need flea and tick prevention and an annual Lyme disease vaccination. Leptospirosis, Influenza, and Rattlesnake vaccines are also available for dogs, and your veterinarian can determine if any of these are appropriate for your dog based on your region and lifestyle.
Pet Health Starts With a Healthy Diet
Your pet's diet is often a significant factor in its overall health. Understanding the ingredients in the food you are feeding your pet is critical in ensuring they get all the nutrition they need and none of the harmful additives they don't.
All pet foods are regulated by the FDA and the Association of American Feed Officials, or AAFCO. While the FDA focuses on safety, the AAFCO ensures that pet foods adhere to established regulations. Before feeding your pet any new food, make sure you can spot the AAFCO logo on the pet food label and read the product's nutritional adequacy statement. Remember, what to feed puppies differs from what to feed adult dogs, so make sure you select a food appropriate to your pet's stage of life. Be sure to thoroughly examine the ingredients list, which is always listed in descending order of weight.
The ideal healthy dog diet includes a lot of protein, which means meat is key, and look for foods containing meat, nutrient-rich fats, and fatty acids. It's also important for your dog to get a moderate amount of fiber, consisting of corn, brown rice, and soy. Just like their human family members, dogs need vitamins and minerals, too. There has been much debate regarding the pros and cons of feeding dogs a grain-free diet; however, recent studies have shown that it is likely to do more harm than good.
The ideal cat diet is similar to a dog's because it requires a lot of protein, which can come from meat and meat byproducts. Cats also need taurine in their diets to fuel vision, brain, and heart function, as well as fat and fatty acids. Carbohydrates deliver an excellent source of energy for cats and may include corn meal, flaxseed, and ground whole-grain corn in addition to animal meat. Cats require far fewer carbohydrates than dogs.
Dog Obedience Training Makes Your Dog Happy and Healthy
Training your dog is almost as vital to their overall health and wellness as their diet. From puppy crate training to advanced tricks, there are benefits to dog obedience training at every level. A well-trained dog is a safe dog; commands like sit and stay can keep them out of harm's way.
It's never too soon to begin training your puppy. Starting with crate training is an excellent approach because it can help your puppy become house-trained faster and prevent them from getting into trouble while you're away. Over time, they will think of their crate as a safe space and may even feel most comfortable curled inside it.
Once you've begun house training, leash training is another important step. Regularly walking your dog is vital to their health, and they need to know how to walk on a leash so they can get exercise safely. Interactions with cars, bikers, other dogs, and other animals are just a few unpredictable situations your pet may encounter, and proper leash training will ensure all parties involved stay secure.
Socialization is another one of the basics of dog training. Your dog will be the happiest and healthiest when it is used to other animals, new people, and unfamiliar environments. Well-socialized dogs usually have far fewer behavioral issues down the line.
As you continue to learn how to train your dog, it's important to use positive reinforcement. Using rewards like food, treats, praise, and toys to encourage good behavior is incredibly effective as a training technique, and it also helps you deepen your bond with your furry friend. However, the benefits of training don't end there. Ongoing training keeps your dog physically and mentally stimulated, which is equally crucial to their overall health.
Proper Grooming Starts With Pet Dental Care
Just like humans require consistent grooming and oral care, pets are the same. Pet dental health is an essential part of their overall health and wellness. Gum disease, broken teeth, and plaque buildup can lead to painful and severe consequences if left untreated. It can be hard to monitor cat dental health because they are likely to hide any pain they may be experiencing, and dogs very rarely allow pain to keep them from tearing into their dinner. The best way to promote good cat and dog dental health is by scheduling year pet wellness checkups with your vet.
For dog parents, it's also vital to learn how to clean dogs' ears properly. Regular ear cleaning prevents infections and keeps your pup from scratching at itchy ears. It's never too early in your puppy's life to get them used to their ears being handled. However, the frequency of cleanings will vary depending on how susceptible your dog is to ear infections. Veterinarians recommend choosing a safe dog ear cleaning solution to keep your dog's ears squeaky clean. Follow an ear cleaning regimen based on your veterinarian’s recommendations; it is possible to over clean otherwise healthy ears.
Just Like Human Family Members, Sometimes Pets Get Sick
It's inevitable that, at some point, your cat or dog will get sick or injured. It's valuable to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of pet illnesses and the conditions most likely to impact your furry friend.
Health Issues in Cats
Many illnesses are common yet preventable in cats. Examples include flea allergic dermatitis resulting from flea bites, which is preventable with flea and tick medications; rabies, which is preventable with vaccination; and obesity, which can result from overfeeding or a poor diet. However, other common illnesses that may affect your cat cannot necessarily be prevented but can be treated. These conditions include cancer, diabetes, flu, liver disease, and kidney disease. Keep watch for your cat scratching, vomiting, or seeming lethargic, as they can all be signs that they are sick.
Health Issues in Dogs
There are a handful of health issues that commonly affect dogs. For many dogs, arthritis can be a chronic issue that can develop over time, usually as a result of aging. It is possible to see osteoarthritis in younger dogs, but it is most common in dogs over the age of seven. A dog’s spinal column is made up of many small joints that move constantly throughout a dog’s lifetime. Wear and tear to these tiny joints is unavoidable. Arthritis can be easily diagnosed from a simple x-ray, but the good news is that it can be managed to keep your pup happy and healthy for years to come.
Pet Health Care Extends to End-of-Life
As hard as it may be, determining when your pet is ready for end-of-life assistance is one of the most extraordinary acts of love. Cats and dogs cannot vocalize their suffering, so they rely on us to advocate for them. Just like people, pets sometimes need palliative care to ease their pain during their transition, and other times humane euthanasia is the most peaceful, painless option. BetterVet is equipped to guide you through the end-of-life journey with in-home pet euthanasia and quality-of-life counseling to help you better navigate difficult decisions.
Learning as much as possible about your pet's health care and wellness sets you and your furry friend up for a lifetime of happiness and health. For more in-depth information about all of these topics and more, download our ebook today.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions may help you learn more information about common issues or concerns that pet owners may face. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, contact your vet immediately.
What vaccines are needed for dogs?
Canine vaccines can be broken down into two categories: core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are essential for all dogs, and include vaccines for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Non-core vaccinations may be given to dogs based on their individual risk of exposure, and include vaccines for bordetella, lyme disease, and leptospirosis, among others. Consult your veterinarian to find out which non-core vaccines may benefit your dog based on your lifestyle and geographic location.
What vaccines do dogs need each year?
The most critical time to vaccinate your dog is during their first year of life. Beyond their initial vaccinations, it is recommended that they receive vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus annually, as well as rabies as required by law in your state. However, in many states, rabies vaccines are only required every three years.
What vaccines do cats need?
There are two main vaccines that are essential for indoor cats: the rabies vaccine and the FVRCP vaccine. The FVRCP vaccine protects cats from three very serious and life-threatening diseases: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Calicivirus, and Feline Panleukopenia.
For cats who spend time outdoors or around other animals, additional vaccines are also recommended. Cats should receive the vaccination against chlamydia, which may be included in the FVRCP shot, as well as vaccinations for feline leukemia and Bordetella.
What are veterinary diets?
For pets who are experiencing health issues, veterinarians may choose to prescribe a therapeutic diet that can help manage their conditions or prevent future ones. These diets contain nutrient variations from standard balanced diets, and as such require medical supervision.
What is the healthiest diet for a dog?
The healthiest diet for a dog varies. Dogs of different breeds at different stages of life will have different dietary needs. Whether you choose to feed your dog a fresh diet, raw diet, or a mixture of kibble and wet food, it’s important that your dog get plenty of protein as well as all of the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that are essential to their own individual needs. Speak with your veterinarian to determine what diet is best for your dog.
What age should a dog start obedience training?
For puppies with no known health issues, it is recommended that they begin participation in puppy socialization classes at seven to eight weeks of age. In some cases, poor socialization during the first few months of a puppy’s life can breed behavioral issues. After socialization classes are completed, which may take approximately six weeks, puppies are ready to begin additional obedience training. During this time, puppies should be kept up to date on all of their required vaccines.
Is dental cleaning worth it for dogs?
Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential to your dog’s overall health. Without dental cleanings, dogs can develop several dental and medical issues, including gingivitis, infections, tooth loss, periodontal disease, and difficulty eating.
How often should dogs have dental cleanings?
While it is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth at home daily, dogs will also benefit from dental cleanings performed at your veterinarian’s office annually. During these procedures, your dog’s teeth are cleaned and plaque is removed in places a standard toothbrush cannot reach.
What is the best dog dental treatment?
The best dental care plans for dogs require a multi-pronged approach. Veterinarians recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth daily and provide them with dog chews and dental treats to maintain their oral hygiene on a day-to-day basis. To optimize your dog’s oral health, annual professional cleanings are also encouraged.
What are the signs of illness in cats?
Cat parents know best when their cat isn’t acting as they normally would. Changes in your cat’s behavior, even if only slight, as well as changes to their eating and drinking habits may be indicators that your cat is not feeling well. Some of the most common signs of illness in cats include changes in mood, lethargy, changes in vocalizations, weight loss or weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, limping, wounds, not using the litter box, under or over-grooming, or hiding. If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
What is the most common health problem in dogs?
Common health issues in dogs can vary depending on the breed, however, there are a few health problems that arise more frequently than the rest. Obesity, ear infections, and gum disease are among the most common health problems that impact canines. All of these issues can be treated with the help of a veterinarian.
What are the signs of ill health in a dog?
It may not always be obvious that your dog is not feeling well, which is why it is important to keep an eye out for signs of ill health, no matter how subtle. Some of the most common cues that signal your dog may be sick or in pain include vomiting, gagging, coughing, diarrhea, sneezing, difficulty urinating, red or swollen gums, excessive thirst, or refusal to eat or drink for a prolonged period of time.
What do you do with your dog at the end of life?
When you determine that your pet is nearing the end of their life, it is recommended that you keep them comfortable, in a confined and safe space. They are likely to remain in one place, and you can make them feel protected and provide them comfort while you say goodbye.
How can I help my dog pass away peacefully?
If your dog is suffering and in pain, you may choose to help end their life in a way that is painless and peaceful, like euthanasia. Your veterinarian can provide a humane death by injecting your pet with a sedative that is accompanied by medication.