Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy This Winter

A New Year has begun, and with its dawning come resolutions by people to eat healthier and get into better shape. Although many often break those declarations before month-end, perhaps you and your pet can become healthier together, thereby sticking to your resolution and helping your pet stay healthier and happier in the process.
Just as people need nutritious foods to keep them healthy, so do our pets. Just as there are a wide variety of foods we can choose to eat or not, so, too, are there many types and brands of foods from which to choose for our pets. Whether you go to your vet’s office, shop at a grocery or big box store, or buy your pet food from a pet supply store, you are bombarded by the many flavors, brands and special diet foods. With the numerous options, it can seem overwhelming to tackle the question, “What should I feed my pet?”
The best decision is to research. Look at the brands in the store and discuss with the store staff. Inquire of trusted friends who are pet owners what they feed their animals, and of course, talk with your vet, especially if your dog or cat has a health issue, such as diabetes. Then, get on the Internet and read about the company from their website as well as learn more about pet food from the Association of American Feed Control Officials ( Ask your pet food supplier for samples to try as you learn what food is best for your furry friend.
You can read the labels, however, the order of ingredients on a pet food label is often based on the precooked weight (water and its contributing weight), not on the finished product weight. For example, if chicken is listed as the first ingredient, which we all think is good thing, how much chicken is really in the kibble? Processing chickens to create dry dog and cat food takes the moisture out of the meat and carcass. What is the percentage of chicken actually in the product – 10 percent, 25 percent, 40 percent, more than that? How much corn meal or wheat does the product contain? Some pets are allergic to wheat and corn. Are there synthetic vitamins and minerals in the food? Pets cannot always completely digest synthetic materials. And where is the food processed? Remember the pet food recall involving melamine and China in 2007?
In addition to food selection, here are a few other tips to keeping your pet healthier and happier this year:
1. Provide your furry friend with exercise. Perhaps you and your dog can take more walks together, become running partners, or get involved with the local agility club – or simply conduct agility in your own backyard. Cats, too, need exercise, so provide tunnels, climbing posts, and toys to help keep them active. Wiggling a feathered “fishing pole” may not seem like much exercise, but having your feline chase the feathers around the room keeps your kitty alert and agile. Animals need stimulation, and exercise not only stimulates them physically, but mentally as well.
2. Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations. If your animal encounters another dog or cat that is not vaccinated against distemper, for example, you may end up with a much larger vet bill than if you had kept your Fido or Fiona’s vaccinations up-to-date. Plus, the emotional stress on both you and your pet should your friend become ill is also a significant factor to consider.
So, as the New Year sets in and thoughts of resolutions sprout, if you’re pondering a healthier you, also think about a healthier pet. Together, you just might keep that resolution to be healthier, and therefore, happier!