“Happiness is a warm puppy” – Charles Shulz
Why get a pet? The specifics may vary but the general reason seems to be companionship. Nothing feels better than when you come home from a rough day at work and your dog is there to greet you. Or you’re watching a sad movie and your kitty cat jumps up onto your lap to be cuddled.
Although most people pass off the comfort that your pet can offer you to the fact they normally feel soft and warm, scientific research has proven that stroking or patting a dog or cat can release hormones like serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) and also can relieve symptoms of stress by decreasing levels of cortisol – the primary stress hormone in people.
Wow! Your pet is your medicine – literally. But every relationship is a two-way street and do not make the mistake of thinking you and your pet do not have a relationship. Your pet is your companion and in some cases, your best friend and ally. So, since they contribute to your happiness and general well-being, what are you doing to contribute to their happiness and general well-being? Do you love your pet properly?
Below are a few of the major ways you can show your pet how much you love them since hugging and cuddling simply aren’t enough to keep them healthy and happy.
Since it’s the month of love, many people will be receiving chocolate. Chocolate hearts, chocolate-coated candy, chocolate slabs, boxes of chocolates; and while this is all fantastic for us humans, please don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a treat for your pet. “Chocolate contains a chemical that is a potentially fatal toxin to dogs,” says Dr. Russell Tucker, a Veterinary Radiologist from Washington State’s University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. So, unless you actually want to poison your dog, we strongly suggest keeping your chocolates away from them and giving them treats specifically formulated for them.
Just as stroking your pet calms you down and de-stresses you, so you should be returning the favour. The most calming positions for your dog are sitting and lying – for obvious reasons. By teaching your dog to sit or lie down, your dog is submitting to you and thus decreasing it’s anxiety as, just like children, your dog is looking for a commanding authority to make him/her feel safe and secure. When you instruct your dog to sit, he/she can relax, knowing that you will protect them and they are safe and calm in your presence.
Pay attention to your pet’s health! Just like humans, your pet also ages and gets ill and falls prone to a variety of potential health risks. Constantly be alert to changes in their diets, behaviour, energy levels, weight, etc. Many health problems are treatable today but the sooner you can treat them, obviously the better it is. Your pet cannot take himself/herself to the vet themselves. They are totally dependent on you to look after them if they get sick. Don’t neglect your pet’s health!
Brushing your dog or cat’s coat, bathing your dog, putting flea and tick controls on your pets and giving them worm medicine, etc. is fantastic. You wouldn’t go without a bath or shower for a week (unless you were lost in the wilderness) so why should your pet? Grooming is very important for looking after and loving your pet. It is quality time spent together and most pets love to be stroked and fussed over. Be careful not to forget to brush your dog’s teeth though. A lot of people over-look this but brushing your dog’s teeth every day will prolong the health of his/her gums and teeth. Chat to your vet about the best methods for grooming your pet properly.
As we are told numerous times from as many different sources as we can think of, it is common knowledge nowadays that regular exercise is absolutely essential in ensuring a healthy body and mind. The benefits of exercise go beyond maintaining physical fitness and strength; it also increases flow of oxygen to the heart thereby maintaining a healthy heart, exercise strengthens bones and muscle tissue and the endorphins that are released during exercise help maintain a healthy mind by reducing the risk of depression and alleviating stress and anxiety. So, what’s your excuse for not making sure your dog gets regular exercise or for not playing with your cat? Ideally, you should be taking your dog for a walk twice a day but once a day will suffice. Make sure you play with your pet every day as they miss you when you go to work or are busy with other lifestyle matters. They need your attention as much as you need theirs. Keep your dog active. “A tired dog is a happy dog,” maintains Karis Bryen, Animal Behaviourist and Dog Trainer from Happy Dogs. Never forget that dogs and cats are made to run and be active. Love them enough to ensure their natural abilities are nurtured, encouraged and practiced.
Even if you are a veterinarian, schedule regular check-ups for your pet with your vet. There are a number of things that can be happening inside your pet that you may not be aware of until the symptoms become too great and treatment may be useless. By taking your pet to the vet at least twice a year for a regular check-up, you may be able to avoid major health problems that occur later in your pet’s life.
Don’t give your pet human pain medicines! As much as humans and animals can have similarities, one must never forget that the digestive systems of animals are usually very different to our own. Rance Sellon, a Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist, warns us that, “Some of the pain relievers commonly used by people can be highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ibuprofen (Motrin®) can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding in dogs, and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can be fatal to cats, and occasionally dogs.” Veterinarians and Scientists have spent years and plenty of money working out and creating medicines specifically for your pets; ensuring that your dogs and cats are not harmed by these medicines. There is a reason for this. Only use medicine on your dogs and cats that is prescribed by a vet and after consulting your vet. Love your pet enough not to risk their life!
A very common mistake that pet owners make is to over-feed their pet and even feed them the incorrect food. No person wants to be overweight so why inflict this condition on your pet? Refer to your vet about the correct diet and quantity for your pet. If you see your cat or dog picking up weight, consult your vet to ensure your pet is getting the correct dietary requirements for its breed, size and age.
Going on holiday? You have two choices when it comes to your pets and your vacation. Should you wish to not take your pet with, don’t just leave them all alone at home with what you hope will be enough food and water to last them for the duration you are away. This is exceedingly cruel, and if you are doing this, strongly consider giving your pet to someone who will be able to care for them properly. The best option would be to have someone housesit for you. This means that someone else will be at your home to keep your pet company, to ensure their dietary requirements are being met and to look out for any health problems that may occur, such as an abscess on your cat because he/she got into a fight, weeping eyes on your dog due to allergies or an infection, etc. If you are not at home with your pet, someone needs to be in case something goes wrong and so your pet won’t be lonely. Allowing your pet to stay at his/her home will also avoid unnecessary stress.
If you cannot get a house-sitter, your next best option is to take your pet to a kennel or cattery where they will be under constant care and will receive consistent attention from other people. They will also be safe in the event of fireworks spooking them, or any other such disturbing event which may cause them to run away from home.
Should you prefer to have your pet come with you on your holiday, always first check with your vet regarding vaccinations, documentation, identification tags, medication to alleviate travel stress, etc. Also check with the airline, train, bus, etc. about the best way to travel with your pet. Remember that, although travelling to a holiday destination may be moderately stressful for you, it is more likely to be highly stressful for your pet. Make an informed decision before opting to take your pet with you.
These are just a few ways you can show your pet how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Their health and well-being is what makes them happy and keeps them happy. Love your pet enough to care!
Article by Delaney Carpenter aka Rogz Reporter