We like to make sure we are taking the best care of our fuzzy little family members, and so doing what we can to keep them healthy, prevent any issues, and knowing how to spot signs of a problem when they arise are important to all pet parents. We asked a vet some of the things that are frequently on pet owners minds and this is some of the advice they offered. Of course, this is just a starting point, and based on general preventive health for pets that isn't meant to take the place of your own vet's advice on your individual pet. It is certainly advised to speak with your vet on these issues to find out what they think is best for your pet's unique needs and wellness factors.
1. On Flea and Tick Prevention:
For dogs, oral prevention is advised because you do not have to worry about a topical treatment being rubbed off or reaching the skin of the dog. For cats, a topical tends to work, because they are typically not outside as much so the risk of exposure is not as high. When picking a flea and tick preventative, getting the medicine from the vet is better than from the store, because store bought products are an older formula that are not as effective, since the fleas and ticks have developed a resistance to the preventative. The formulas given at the vets office are newer, safer (store ones tend to have a higher toxicity), and more effective.
Giving heartworm preventative is also very important for maintaining a pet’s health. Heartworm preventative is not as necessary for cats as it is for dogs, however, if the cat goes outside on a regular basis, a heartworm preventative would be a good thing to consider.
2. Feeding your Pet
When picking the best diet for your pet the most important thing to consider is if the diet is balanced. A balanced diet will provide your pet with all nutrients they require.
If you choose to go the raw diet route, it is important to make sure that your pet’s diet is balanced. This can be done by talking to a veterinary nutritionist. It is also important to be very cautious about contamination, especially if using ingredients like raw chicken.
In order to be sure that a diet provides all the nutrients that a pet needs, it goes through testing so that it can be guaranteed that the food is balanced and can provide your pet with its required nutrients. A good way to pick a dog food brand is to go with one that is nationally based, has veterinary nutritionists on staff, and does the nutrient testing for their foods. Providing your dog with a grain free diet is not necessary, unless they are allergic.
Diets that help keep your dog’s brain functioning properly are used to help minimize and prevent the development of more mental problems. Typically mental health problems start when dogs are about ten, so that is usually a good time to start using foods for brain health. They do not work to reverse symptoms, so in a dog who has severe brain problems, using the food is not going to reverse the problem, rather just prevent the symptoms from continuing and worsening. They work because of the high number of antioxidants in the food.
Glucosamine is a joint supplement. It can be used to help dogs with arthritis, but it is a supplement, so if your dog’s condition does not improve or worsens, it is important to talk to your vet about putting them on a pain medication, like Rimadyl. The best choices for glucosamine supplements are Cosequin and Dasaquin, they have been shown to have the ingredients in them that the packaging says. The FDA stopped monitoring natural supplements, so the ingredient list is not proven and the labelling on what the product does, is not necessarily true.
Probiotics are a newer and developing field, so the benefits of them are yet to be fully understood. Fortiflora is one option that is available at pet stores. At Boulevard they have Nutrimax Proviable, which comes in a powder and paste form.
Fish oil can be used in small amounts to help with coats and skin. In large amounts it has also been shown to be an antiinflamtory. The dosages depends on the ratios of the omega-3 and omega-6s though, so giving a dog with arthritis a lot of fish oil, is not necessarily going to help.
Digestive enzymes are not something that your pet requires, unless they are sick. The digestive enzymes can be supplemented to help the dog process their food. It is especially helpful if the dog has a pancreatic disease.
Talking with your vet about your pet’s anxiety is super important. Depending on the level of anxiety that your pet has, calming suppliments like Composure, may work. However for pets with severe anxiety, a prescription might be more effective at treating your pet. There are also pheromone plug-ins and collars available for dogs and cats. They work by mimicking the “happy pheromones” released by a mother. One downside to this option is that it tends to work better for cats than dogs.
4. Allergy Medicine
Antihistimines are safe to use on your pets if they have allergies, however, they are not a guaranteed fix. If an antihistamine is going to work at the recommended dosage it will not work at a higher dosage. They are a good start, however, Benadryl only works on 25% of dogs. It is an option to start with human ones, like Benadryl, claratin, or Zyrtec, and if those do not work, talking to your vet about allergy medicines made for dogs, like Apoquel, is an option. There is also a shot that typically last 4-8 weeks, but can work for up to 3 months.
5. Dental Health
Taking care of your pet’s teeth can be as easy as adding something to their water, giving them something to chew, and feeding your dog dry food. Water additives, like Breathalyser, work by killing the bacteria in your pet’s mouth. Giving your dog something to chew on, like Dentastix, Greenies, CTE rawhides, or Oravet products, helps them get the plague off of their teeth. Giving your dog bones or hooves can result in broken teeth, and are not a good option for your dog. Dry food works in a similar manner as giving your dog something to chew, however, the smallness of the kibble means it doesn’t work as a cure all.
The best way to guarantee that your pet’s teeth are cleaned is to brush them. In order for it to be effective, the teeth need to be brushed twice a week. Brushing only the outside of the teeth is ok, because 90% of the tartar develops on the outside of the teeth. Another way to care for your pets teeth is by taking them to the vet to get a dental. The best way to tell that it is time for your dog to get a dental done is by looking at their gums for gingivitis. You will be able to see redness along their gums. Unlike people, your pet may not stop eating even if they have broken teeth or abscesses, so assuming that their teeth are healthy, because they are eating is not necessarily true.
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