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How You Can Help Your Pet Live Longer
Pets are a very important part of a pet owner’s life, and often the entire family gets involved in the care of their pet or pets. When a pet gets sick or has a problem, everyone in the family is upset and tries to help. In order to keep a pet healthy and happy, it is important to provide or satisfy certain basic needs.
Firstly, your pet must have a warm, safe environment that will keep it free from harm. Cats and short haired dogs should be kept indoors most of the time especially in cold weather. If they are taken outside in cold weather it should not be long enough for them to get cold. In warm weather they can be taken outside more often but controlled so they don’t get injured by other animals or by cars, etc.
Secondly, they must be given fresh water and a good quality food that supplies them with all the ingredients for good health. The pet retailers carry a huge variety of foods but not all of them are good for your pet. Learn to read the labels for nutritional information and buy foods and treats because of contents not by price. If you buy cheaper brand foods, you will usually get low quality foods and your pet will have to eat more of it to obtain enough nutrients daily. In other words, you get what you pay for. More expensive foods generally contain a better quality of nutrition. Don’t cut corners on this important aspect of your pet’s life. When an animal’s level of nutrition is kept at a high level, it will feel better, behave in a more positive manner and have more enthusiasm than a malnourished pet.
The ingredients in a pet food are listed on the label in the order of their concentration in the formula. The first ingredient listed is in the highest concentration, and so on. Most of the common foods on the shelves today have soybeans, corn, wheat, meat (or lamb, poultry, chicken, turkey, etc.) “by-product meal” as their main ingredient. They are often listed in the first three places on the ingredient list. This means that most of the food is made up of these products. Have you ever seen a carnivorous dog or cat voluntarily go to a bowl of corn, soybean or wheat and eat it?
Do you know what “by-product meal” is? By-products are the left over waste products after a food source is processed for the human food chain. Poultry by-products are the heads, feet, lower legs, entrails and sometimes even feathers that are left over after all the various chickens, ducks, and turkeys are processed for humans to eat. A “meal” is the result of all these by-products being ground up, cooked, dried and powdered, and this is what is put in a lot of pet foods today as the protein source. The cheaper the food is, the more grain products it contains as the main ingredient. This is how the manufacturers manage to keep the cost down. In other words, if you pay a low price, the quality is low. Is this what you should be feeding or want to feed your pets? Higher quality foods usually have meat (lamb, chicken, turkey or poultry, etc.) meal, as the main ingredient rather than by-product meal. This means that the meal is made up of the main meat source rather than the by-products of it. It is a much better quality food source and contains more nutrients. It will also cost more because it is not just the waste products from the processing plant.
Be more conscious and tuned in to what you are giving your pets to eat. Take the time to assess the contents of what you are giving them. Higher priced foods usually have better ingredients, are more highly digestible, and require less food per day to supply your pet with the nutrition they need. This will mean lower cost to you on a daily basis in the long run. Poor quality foods require a high volume of food per day to give the pets their required nutrition, and even though it is cheaper per pound to buy, the pet will eat more of it but the bottom line is that it will cost you more per day to feed your pet than if you bought a high quality food. Think quality, not quantity and buy a better quality food for the good health of your pet. Another consideration to remember is to not overfeed your pet. If your cat or dog is getting overweight, cut down on the daily volume of food and exercise it more. Food does not have to be in front of your pet constantly. Feed adult pets twice a day and allow them to be hungry for it, but always have fresh water available.
Preventative health care is also important. An annual checkup by your pet’s veterinarian is a must along with the required annual vaccinations. Controlling parasites is also very important because many parasites that infest your pets and cause them a lot of grief can also be transmitted to you and other family members. It is also good to provide your pets with good quality nutritional supplements to help compensate for the deficiencies of commercially prepared food. These supplements can include nutritional formulas to help improve their intake of vitamins and minerals, and now some manufacturers are producing all natural products specifically to help improve the immune system, improve bone/joint health, calm pet anxiety, and detoxify the primary organs of metabolism and excretion, the kidneys and liver.
Exercise is also very important to the health of your pet. Take your dog for a walk at least daily and play rambunctiously with your cat frequently and remember to leash your pet in high traffic areas. Follow these simple guidelines to maintain or improve your pet’s health and very likely you and your cat or dog will enjoy companionship for many years to come.
Dr. R. Dean Axelson has been a veterinarian since 1960 and maintained a practice in north Toronto. He has written for numerous professional journals and consumer magazines, has written seven books and has often appeared in broadcast media sharing his knowledge and expertise with animals.