By Benjamin Goodin
We all love our pets; they share our homes, our hearts, and sometimes our beds. It’s easy to get attached to them for the unconditional love they give and their entertaining, if sometimes frustrating, hijinks. So, during this season of opening our hearts and celebrating our love for significant others, family, and friends, don’t forget the four-legged residents of our hearts — our family pets.
The best way to maintain a human friendship is to put in face-to-face time. Although most of us spend plenty of time playing with and snuggling our pets, they require a bit more from the human side of the friendship as they rely on us for essential needs, including healthcare. This Valentine’s Day, consider some of the following advice from Laketown Animal Hospital to help keep your furry buddies here to love for years to come.
Even though most dogs love a good romp in fresh-fallen snow, many aren’t equipped to spend much more time out in cold than humans can. Winter gear, like coats and booties, can make play time a bit more comfortable for dogs and cats, but it doesn’t make them immune to the cold weather. Even dogs with a thick, winter undercoat that could seemingly spend days playing in the snow need to come in from the cold and warm up. If your pet lives outside, make sure they have a warm, dry shelter to sleep and relax in. For inside and outside pets, make sure that fresh, clean water is plentiful; they’ll need an extra drink after the hard but fun work of struggling through the snow.
Try to avoid large patches of salt and snow-melt laid out on surfaces, many formulations can cause chemical burns to the footpads of animals. When using snow-melt at your own home, find brands that are labeled pet-friendly, or utilize gravel or sand. Never let a pet lick road salt.
Good in, good out
One of the biggest health concerns facing pets is one that also faces humans: obesity. Carefully consult weight and serving-size indexes on pet foods to ensure appropriate portions. Also like humans, quality ingredients usually means better nutrition; choose a food that contains fewer grains, whole grains, a good protein source, and whole ingredients — “mealed” ingredients like “corn meal” and “chicken meal” usually consist of leftover tidbits and do not offer as much nutrition as whole ingredients. Generally, the first four or five ingredients listed on a pet food are what the bulk of the food consists of, so choose a food with quality, identifiable ingredients, the fewer additives the better.
Although they may plead for it with their eyes, avoid feeding your pet table scraps and greasy foods. Many pets will scramble to get a share of whatever you are eating, but be weary of food allergies: grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, and the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can be dangerous and even deadly to pets. As always, keep things that you don’t want your pets exploring with their mouths out of reach in high cabinets, at the back of the counter, or in a locking-lid garbage can. Make sure to store purses and coats out of reach from curious noses as well.
Tooth, nail, and fur
Getting all gussied up for a big day isn’t exclusive to humans; our pets require some routine grooming as well. Regular nail clippings are standard for both cats and dogs: if you can hear your canine companion clicking throughout the house, she could use a nail trim for her own safety and that of your furniture and floors. If your cat is snagging items unintentionally, especially while stretching, its time to snip back those claws.
Brushing and bathing should be a regular routine as well, even with felines. Brushing takes care of loose, stray hairs so you won’t find them elsewhere in the house and on your clothing, and it reduces hairballs for cats. Baths are a must for dogs, but generally not more than once a month to prevent the skin from drying out. When bathing pets, always make sure to use shampoo formulated specifically for pets and not humans, and opt for brands that use natural ingredients to avoid eye and skin irritation.
Dental care is also very important to pets, as they put many more things in their mouth than humans dare. Brushing the teeth should be a daily routine, with a yearly deep cleaning and polish at the veterinarian. Brushing at home is much easier if the animal is made accustomed to it from an early age. Make sure to use pet toothpaste, as fluoride is dangerous to house pets. Supplement brushing with dental treats and water additives that can help break down bad-breath causing bacteria.
Toys are great for physical and mental stimulation for house pets, and can help spare your furniture and you from possible late night awakenings due to an over-energetic companion. As always, exercise is the best way to bond and get your companion the activity they need. Many toys are perfectly safe for house pets, but avoid those with long, thin strings that are easily eaten. Always supervise pets when the toy is small enough to be eaten or could be torn or broken into pieces that could be swallowed. For dogs and unusually toothy cats, make sure the toy’s durability can withstand your pet’s chewing power. Be wary of rawhides and chew treats that claim they are digestible — often, they come out in the same fashion they went in, which can cause discomfort and bowel obstructions.
Dog parks can be a great way to socialize and exercise your pup, but consider your dog’s personality first. Most dogs love to romp around in a pack, but some dogs are less sociable, skittish, or even on-edge around other excited dogs. If you decide your dog can handle it, make sure that she is up to date on vaccinations and inoculations, as they can spread easily to both dogs and humans at a dog park. As always, make sure that you and other owners are cleaning up after your pups to help control the possible spread of contagious illness. Greetings are best done with your dog still on its leash, for the safety of all dogs involved.
In 2016, Laketown Animal Hospital was voted the best veterinary clinic in Springfield by the Illinois Times! Our facility has many amenities to ensure your furry best friend is comfortable and receives excellent care. We have separate areas devoted to examinations, hospital care, orthopedic and standard surgery care, dental care, grooming, boarding, ultrasound, digital radiography, and an in-house lab for quick results. We offer expert veterinary and grooming care, and have supplies for specialty diets designed to manage pet healthcare conditions. This Valentine’s season, let us help you treat your four-legged friends to the special care they deserve.
For more information contact Laketown Animal Hospital at 217-529-4211 or visit their website at www.laketownanimalhospital.com.
Laketown Animal Hospital is located at 1115 Stevenson Drive in Springfield, IL.
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