With the holidays behind us and the new year ahead many people will be making diet and lifestyle changes for a happy and healthier 2017. These changes don’t need to be made for only the humans in the family, but for all family members… pets included! Everyone knows that our pets are really a part of our family. We love our pets and want them to lead long, happy, and healthy lives. Whether Fido has been part of the family for many years or you are just beginning the adventure of caring for a new addition dropped off by Santa’s sleigh, beginning a safe and healthy lifestyle for your pet will have huge benefits in the future. A healthier pet means not only additional years with your most loyal best friend, but also the financial benefit of less veterinarian bills and medications. So as we ring in the new year, let’s keep our pets and a commitment to their continued health in our resolutions!
1. Make sure your pet has a safe space of their own.
Bringing a pet into your home can be a fun and exciting experience, as many people love the companionship and attention pets provide. Although pets are social creatures for the most part, they also need to have a safe space of their own where they can retreat, relax, and recuperate from the stimulation of everyday activities. Whether a crate, pet bed, dog house, or specific bedroom is the spot you choose (or your pet chooses) for their special “area,” make it a rule in your house that when your pet retreats to their area they are allowed sometime alone to rest. Pets – cats, dogs, or reptiles – like people need to be able to remove themselves from tiring or stressful situations, and creating a safe space for your pet allows them to do so when they become overstimulated, there is too much noise, or you are entertaining.
For families with children this is especially important because pets can easily become overstimulated, just like children, when there is a lot going on. Teach your children that when the family dog retreats to his crate, he needs a time out and needs to be left alone for a few minutes.
This also gives you an area where you can train your pet to go when you want some time alone or want to ensure their safety. This is essential during family gatherings or holiday parties where you are hosting and not focused on your pet, but need to know they are safe and not getting overwhelmed or escaping through an open door. Alternatively, when you need a few minutes to breastfeed without a cat in your lap, or have a sleeping toddler and don’t want the dog barking at the door, your pet will have a space to occupy.
Although you will want to allow yourself or your children to enter into the pet’s area while occupied occasionally so as to not allow your pet to become aggressive or too possessive over the space, for the most part try to allow your pet to have this time to themselves.
2. Provide toys for your pet that are theirs alone.
The majority of domesticated animals are very intelligent requiring stimulation and entertainment to thrive. Providing toys for your pets is a necessary part of their overall well-being. Toys can entertain both you and your pet, stimulate your pet, engage their curiosity, and prevent boredom. Certain toys may even become a favorite and a source of comfort to your pet. According to the Humane Society of the United States, toys can even prevent your animals, especially dogs, from developing certain behavior problems. Dogs and some cats will turn just about any object into a toy, so providing your pet with their own play things can prevent a lot of accidents especially when it comes to furniture and your children’s toys.
When selecting toys for your pet make sure you are purchasing items appropriate for their size and activity level. Older animals may not require as much stimulation as a puppy and are less likely to tear up your couch when the toy you provided was not interesting enough. Make sure the toys do not contain pieces and parts that can be swallowed, or filling that is poisonous if ingested. The Humane Society recommends that several of your pet’s toys be interactive as well, meaning balls, ropes, frisbees, or other items that require active people play as well. Your pet is a social creature who needs to spend time being actively engaged in playful activities with you and your family on a regular basis. If you have small children in the home, providing your pet with their own toys will also decrease the likelihood of them chewing, eating, or taking your kid’s toys.
Don’t let bored pets get into something that can harm them. Lots of houseplants are attractive to animals but are not safe. We’ve got the information you need for Houseplant Safety for Pets.
3. Invest in your pet to ensure proper training and socialization.
Deciding to become a pet owner is a big decision. This is not a feat to be taken lightly as you are committing to caring for a creature other than yourself (it’s kind of like having a kid) for the rest of its life. Pets can be demanding and expensive, but they can also provide companionship and immeasurable loyalty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to pet owners.
For example, cats are credited with providing emotional support, improving moods, and promoting socialization among elderly and disabled people. However, the benefits of pet ownership come with the responsibility of properly training and socializing your pet so that you can enjoy one another’s company for many years to come.
The type of training required varies by the type and temperament of your pet, and the environment in which you will be living. Cats and reptiles may simply need to be petted and held frequently to remain friendly and relaxed, where as dogs may require more formal training and socialization to remain calm and non-aggressive.
Training your pet builds confidence in the animal themselves and allows you to feel more comfortable with your pet when entering into new situations, going out in public, or trusting your pet with your kids. According to the SPCA, a trained dog is six times less likely to be surrendered or returned to a shelter. Properly trained pets are safer and less likely to run into the street, escape from fenced yards, become aggressive, be hit by cars, or lost. Properly socialized pets are friendlier and easier to get along with, introduce to other animals, and even allow around other people. There are a variety of training options available from DVD’s and books, to apps and in-home instruction, so there is no excuse for having an untrained, unsocialized pet.
4. Feed your pet a safe and healthy diet.
One of the most important factors in keeping ourselves and our pets active and happy is to eat a safe, nutritionally balanced and healthy diet. Whether you choose to feed your pet commercially produced dog food, live critters and fresh veggies (reptiles), or homemade food and treats, make sure the diet your pets are consuming is appropriate for their size, weight, and breed. Older dogs may need less fatty food, while younger, more active pups can use the additional fat and carbohydrates to run off in their active lifestyle. If your cat spends all day indoors at a window his diet will be different than your outdoor, farm-raised feline who spends her time hunting in the great outdoors. No matter what, make sure the food you are feeding your pets is nutritionally balanced and full of the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive so as to avoid skin disorders, behavior issues, obesity, and other more serious health concerns.
Diet is only a portion of your pet’s health and safety when it comes to their mealtime environment. Pets can carry germs and bacteria just like humans, can bring additional germs in from the outside environment, and transfer those germs into their bowls when eating. Occasionally germs and bacteria harmful to humans can even be found on dry and wet pet foods as well. Pet bowls and feeding areas should be cleaned after each meal to prevent the spread of germs to both your household humans and your pets. Feeding your pets from a clean bowl at each meal significantly decreases the risk of germs and bacteria growing in unclean bowls and causing health problems for your pets.
In the United States, 45% of pet-friendly households have one or more types of bacteria including E.Coli, Salmonella, Staph, yeast, or mold. Bacteria is the cause of three of the leading six pet illnesses in domesticated animals, and is the reason the CDC so strongly recommends hand washing after all contact with your pets. Dishwashers, and even hand-washing pet bowls, does not sufficiently eradicate all types of bacteria, as 67% of pet bowls still contain traces of Salmonella after dishwasher cleaning because the water does not get hot enough to kill several forms of bacteria. As if that wasn’t reason enough to keep a “kleaner” bowl, because of our pet’s heightened sense of smell, they can taste the germs left behind in their food and water bowls after multiple feedings. You didn’t just imagine that your dog was giving you the side eye when you pour another serving into that same old dish. Your dog is trying to tell you it stinks.
Kinn has designed an eco-friendly, recyclable, compostable food/water bowl to meet the needs of all your pets. With options for small and large breed dogs, cats, and even reptiles, Kinn’s Kleanbowl promotes a healthy lifestyle and whole-body health for your pet. With easy-to-use inner food/water bowls that simply rest beneath a stainless steel outer frame, feeding your pet while ensuring their health has never been easier. Simply switch out the inner food and water bowls with each meal and wipe down the stainless steel frame to eliminate germs associated with pet food and mealtimes that can lead to diseases and organ failure affecting your pet’s heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, and liver. For a happier, healthier pet this year, and a simplified feeding experience, invest in Kinn’s Kleanbowls (and don’t forget the refills) to ensure the continued well-being of your furry (or scaly) friend.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
5. Teach your children to respect your pets.
Who came first? Your pet or your children? For many of us we may have embarked upon the adventures of parenthood after already spending several years with our loyal canine or feline companion. For others, the decision to get a pet came after our children were in their toddler years and we felt they could use a friend. Either way teaching your children to respect your pets is essential to having a happy, healthy, and safe household where pets and children co-exist.
Children can unintentionally be quite rough resulting in your pet becoming anxious and afraid around kids which can cause turmoil in the household. It can turn your previously sweet-dispositioned cat into a biting, scratching animal who runs and hides every time your child enters the room, or your fun-loving canine friend into a fearful and aggressive pup around the kids who are likely at their eye-level and thus in a dangerous position.
Depending on the ages of your child and your pet, you need to make sure to teach appropriate boundaries. A toddler is able to understand that he cannot place his hand into the dog’s mouth or play in its water bowl. A crawling baby may not be able to comprehend this, and will obviously require greater supervision, but can still be taught how to nicely pet the cat without smacking or pulling its tail. By taking your child’s hand and showing them how to nicely pet the dog, the two will establish respect and a bond early on.
The age of the pet will also factor into this mix; where a puppy might be more playful and willing to tumble around with the kids, an older cat might perch itself on a windowsill and enjoy the day outside the grasp of tiny fingers. According to the CDC, studies have shown that pets have an impact on nearly all stages of life including influencing the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children, so bringing a pet into the family can have a positive impact. Your pet will most likely become your child’s best friend and biggest defender, and your child will learn about companionship and responsibility, but in order for that to happen you need to make sure to foster an environment of respect for your pets.
6. Make sure to find a quality veterinarian your pet can trust.
Animals of all breeds and species, cats, dogs, and reptiles are intelligent and sensitive creatures with feelings and emotions, including fear and trust. A scared or anxious pet can become aggressive and skittish in new environments especially when traveling to and from the veterinarian’s office.
Veterinarian visits can be stressful for people and animals alike, and when you are nervous taking your pet out of the home he or she will sense your emotions and become even more anxious themselves. Researching and finding a veterinarian’s office where you and your pet can feel comfortable is essential to making these visits as simple as possible.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends evaluating and choosing an animal hospital before an emergency exists. Get recommendations from co-workers, friends, or neighbors on vets in your area. You can also tour the practice or call and ask questions. Most veterinarian offices will even allow you to schedule a visit before making an appointment for your pet. Choosing the right vet and preparing yourself for visits will make the experience much more enjoyable for you and your pet. Since your pets cannot talk, establishing a trusting partnership and good communication between you and your veterinarian is key to ensuring a long, happy, and healthy life for your furry friend.
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Remember, you chose your pet and thus the responsibility for their well-being falls on you and your family. Your pet will be the most loyal companion you’ve ever encountered if raised and treated with dignity and respect. Dogs and cats alike are intelligent, sensitive beings that only aim to please their owner. These animals will adore and protect you and your children, but you must set boundaries and limitations so that they understand and learn to appreciate their surroundings. Much like children, pets thrive in a structured and uncomplicated environment where they know what is allowed and expected of them on a daily basis.
Ensuring your pets are leading a happy, healthy, and safe lifestyle will benefit not only your pet, but your entire family. Many recent studies are claiming that children raised with pets are more likely to develop a strong immune system and less likely to develop certain illnesses. The CDC publishes a list of the health benefits of pets to include decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and feelings of loneliness and depression. Pets tend to get people outside and exercising on a more regular basis, along with the obvious emotional bonds and companionship pet’s provide. Your pet is an integral part of your family, and their overall well-being will lead to a long and loving relationship, so when making a commitment to your cat, dog, or lizard make sure to commit to keeping them healthy and safe in this new year!
If you have recently lost a pet or you fear your pet’s time on earth is drawing to a close, here is some information for Helping Kids Understand the Death of a Pet.