SHOW YOUR LOVE – Want a happy pet? Give attention, exercise and preventive care
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Study after study shows that people are not only crazy about pets, but they also love to spend money on them — even when money is tight.
We’re certainly not arguing against buying that perfect dog collar or cat toy, but we do want you to know that you don’t have to buy a lot of things for your pets to care for them well.
In fact, some of the best gifts you can give your pet don’t cost any money at all and require only your attention. In this week’s Valentine’s Day spirit of giving the best to those we love, we offer a few suggestions that will make you and your pet happier and healthier — and may even save you money in the long run.
The gift of health. Preventive veterinary care can spare your pet from suffering and may also catch little problems before they become life-threatening (and expensive). Develop a healthy relationship with your pet’s veterinarian, starting with regular “well-pet” examinations. These visits are no longer about “shots” — most vaccinations are no longer recommended on an annual basis — but rather about catching and correcting problems as they develop. A dental examination is part of that well-pet visit, and follow-up preventive care may require a dental cleaning under anesthesia. A healthy mouth not only keeps your pet free of pain — imagine eating with rotting teeth and infected gums — but also spares your pet’s internal organs from struggling to combat the shower of bacteria from an infected mouth.
The gift of fitness. By now we’ve all read the news that pets have their own obesity crisis. The reasons are similar to ours — too much food and not enough exercise. But pets can’t open the refrigerator on their own or hit the drive-through: They need our help to get fat. Cut back on the treats, and get your pet moving. You can use your dog’s enthusiasm for a daily walk to help get yourself in shape, too, which is the message of “Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together” (Three Rivers Press), Dr. Becker’s book with human physician Dr. Robert Kushner.
The gift of time. Many pets spend most of their lives alone, while our busy lives keep us from home. While much of this alone time is unavoidable — someone has to work for food and shelter, right? — some simple changes will give you more time with your pet. Skip some of your TV or computer time, and play fetch with your dog or get out the laser pointer for your cat. Look for opportunities to include your dog on family outings.
The gift of training. A well-trained pet has a better, closer relationship with his owner because they speak a common language and spend more time together. If your pet has behavior problems — from house-training to aggression, from leash-pulling to furniture-destruction — ask your veterinarian for a referral to a local trainer or behaviorist.
The gift of safety. Be sure your home offers a safe, secure environment for your pet. Inside the house, garage and basement, keep cleaning supplies and other troublesome household chemicals out of reach, and clean up spills promptly. Cats are drawn to warm spots, so make sure to keep the door on your clothes dryer shut. Choose plants inside and out that aren’t toxic. Finally, because your pet can become lost even with the most careful prevention, be sure your pet has a collar with current ID, and a microchip as a backup.
Got all the basics covered? Good for you! You can now celebrate by going out and buying your pet something special, just because.