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How to help your pet live their best life

Pets enrich our lives in so many ways – they are our best friends, our family members, and they’re always there to cheer us up if we’re feeling down. Read on for how to help your pet live their best life, just like they do for you!

Do what makes your pet happy

We all wish our furry friends could live forever, however the lifespan of our pets is much shorter than ours, so it’s important we give them the best life we can whilst they’re around. Happier pets tend to live longer lives, so don’t forget to do things with your pet that they absolutely love!

If you took your dog to the beach one summer and she was having the time of her life, make a point to go more next year. Or if you bought a new toy for your cat, and you and him played with it for hours and hours, make the effort to do this more regularly.

Pet enrichment ideas

As well as basic needs, like food, water, and shelter, your pet needs mental stimulation, physical exercise, and time to engage in instinctual behaviours. By providing enrichment opportunities, you’ll strengthen your bond with your pet, reduce undesirable behaviours, and improve their quality of life.

Engage your pet’s brain

Mental stimulation can reduce your pet’s stress level, which ultimately keeps them happier. These activities will get their cogs turning, while providing mental exercise:

  • Interactive toys — Any toy that you use to play with your pet becomes interactive, but if you’re short on time, give your pet an engaging toy to play with independently. Look for toys that allow your pet to use their prey-catching instinct. Cats go crazy for anything that moves, while dogs are content with toys that reward them with a treat.
  • Games — A game of fetch engages your pet mentally and physically. For an added challenge, hide a favourite toy while your pet waits in another room, and teach them to “find it.”
  • Training — Your pet loves a job, and learning new tricks builds their skills while enhancing your bond. Why not enrol in some training classes? It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!

Activate your pet’s senses

Get creative and stimulate your pet’s sense by:

  • Blowing bubbles – Bubbles provide visual stimulation and exercise for pets, as they run and jump to catch the floating, pop-able balls!
  • Reading your pet a story – Whilst your pet may not appreciate the character development, they will love hearing your soothing, melodic voice as you read aloud. And taking time out is therapeutic for you too!
  • Stopping and smelling… everything! – Your pet uses their powerful sense of smell to learn about the world around them. On walks, try to resist the urge to cut short your pet’s sniffing session, and give them time and space to smell their surroundings.

Having a good diet

Your pet’s diet has a huge impact on their health and happiness. The wrong diet can lead to obesity and life-long health issues, so it’s important to feed them the right food to keep them at a healthy weight and make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.

What should I feed my dog?

It’s always a good idea to ask your vet which food they recommend*, but according to the vets over at PDSA, the top things to look for when selecting the right food for your dog are:

  • Complete – contains all the nutrients your dog needs, in the correct amount
  • Commercially available – don’t make your own pet food at home!
  • Life stage appropriate – puppy, adult, or senior
  • Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA) – manufacturers who are members of this organisation meet extra quality standards than the legal minimum
  • Tasty ingredients – while it’s nice to know what’s in your dog’s food, the ingredients list can be baffling. Rest assured that all ingredients need to legally pass a vet inspection, so it doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as your dog is happy eating it!

What should I feed my cat?

Feeding your cat the right type and amount of food is vital for their health and happiness. And with so many different foods and diets out there, it can be hard to know what’s right for your feline friend.

It’s always a good idea to ask your vet which food they recommend*. The vets at PDSA recommend feeding a high quality complete commercial pet food, as they contain all the nutrients cats need. The type and amount of food depends on your cat’s breed, age, health and lifestyle.

*Before making any changes, please consult with your veterinarian to choose the best food for your pet.

Dental care for dogs

Most dog owners never take a good look inside their dog’s mouth, as they might think that it will only lead to a stinky breath! But, just like us, dogs need their teeth brushing too, in order to prevent rotten teeth and gum problems.

It’s a good idea to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they’re young. They quickly get used to it as part of their routine. It’s never too late to start, though, and older dogs will soon get used to it.

Take things slowly and get them used to having their teeth cleaned over a few weeks:

  • Let them taste their new dog-safe toothpaste so they think of brushing their teeth as a treat, not a chore.
  • Get them used to having their mouth touched. You can do this by gently rubbing a soft cloth along their gums.
  • Gradually move on to using a brush that fits over your finger. This will get your dog used to the feeling of their teeth being brushed.
  • When your dog’s comfortable and ready, use a proper dog toothbrush. The longer handle will help you reach all of their teeth.

Dental care for cats

Just like dogs, cats need their teeth looking after too! To keep your cat’s mouth as healthy as possible, you’ll need to give them a bit of help with their dental hygiene. If your cat will allow it, brushing their teeth is the best way to keep their mouth healthy because it removes plaque. It’s easier if your cat gets used to having their teeth brushed as a kitten, but older cats can learn, too.

If brushing their teeth is a struggle, here are a few other dental care tips:

  • Cat mouthwash: Special pet-friendly mouthwash added to your cat’s drinking water may help reduce the build-up of plaque. Never use human mouthwash for your pets.
  • Dental gel: Dental gels contain enzymes and mild abrasives that can help to prevent the build-up of plaque. It can be applied by gently rubbing it directly onto the teeth and gums, but if this isn’t possible, you can try to encourage your cat to lick it off your finger/their own paw.
  • Diet: Feeding your cat the right diet can really help keep their mouth healthy. If possible, try to feed your cat a mix of wet food and biscuits, as the chewing required to eat biscuits helps to remove some of the plaque that builds up on their teeth throughout the day.
  • Check-ups: Regular dental check-ups with your vet will help prevent problems becoming serious. A good time for a check is at their yearly booster vaccination.
  • Dental treats: You can buy dental treats for cats designed to help keep their teeth clean. These are fine as an occasional treat, but you shouldn’t rely on them for your cat’s dental health.

Protecting your pet from parasites

An important part of being a responsible pet owner is to take measures to help keep your pet free of parasites. Being the host of unwanted friends can be uncomfortable for your pets and detrimental to their health, as well as rather annoying for you to see them constantly scratching, licking or nibbing their fur. Common parasites that can affect pets are fleas, worms, and ticks, but by taking preventative measures and treating them regularly, parasites won’t become a problem. Remember, prevention is better than cure. There are many effective parasiticide products available from good pet stores, but it is advisable to consult with your veterinary surgeon as they will give guidance on the best products to use for your pet, taking into consideration their current health and lifestyle.

To read more about Lyme disease, why not check our our blog post, ‘Keeping your pets happy and safe this spring‘.

Final thoughts

Not all pets are lucky enough to be living their best life. In a world where we can be anything we want, let’s continue to be kind and encourage others to do the same. Our pets look to us for everything. Cherish that feeling – you are your pet’s whole world, not just a part of it.

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