The 7 Keys to great long term pet health

A well-informed, holistic approach to pet health is essential for achieving longevity and keeping your pets healthy and happy. In this article we give you the seven keys to optimal pet health that can keep you vet visits to a minimum and give you extra years of companionship with the animal members of your family. Most of what we will tell you here is directly applicable to taking care of dogs and cats, but the general principles apply to all kinds of animals.

#1 The Right Nutrition (and Supplements)

Pets live longer and healthier lives than they did a century ago, or even 50 years ago. A large part of the reason why is that science has come to recognize that nutrients which are essential for health in pets aren't the same as the nutrients that are essential for health in people.

For instance, the right kind of fiber for people and the right kind of fiber for pets are usually very different. Pets that thrive on high-protein diets tend to need fiber from animal sources, like the chitin found in insect shells, rather than fiber from plant sources, like Metamucil.

Cats need the amino acid taurine for eye and heart health. Their bodies have to get it from the food they eat. Dogs need diets that are highly digestible. They can eat a balance of foods of animal and plant origin, but they don’t need "filler" materials in their foods.

And none of your pets needs dry, industrially produced, additive-laced kibble (dry pellets). One of the most important things you can do for your pet's health is to feed foods that are as close as possible to their natural, raw or unprocessed form.

#2 Avoiding Toxins (the Wrong Foods)

Every year pet parents spend hundreds of even thousands of dollars treating allergies, digestive disorders, skin problems, joint problems and other serious diseases that could be drastically improved by eliminating toxic foods. Most commercial kibble or canned pet foods contain cheap grain fillers, protein alternatives, dangerous by-products, indigestible fiber, and chemical dyes, colorants, and taste additives.

If your pets are aging, ailing, and overweight, it's especially important to eliminate toxic foods from their daily menu. It's not hard to accomplish this, as long as you can balance competing facts about the animals in your life.

  • Pet's need people-quality food. It doesn't matter so much whether their food is fresh, dehydrated, or fresh-frozen, and it matters that their food should be free of chemical additives and unspeakable ingredients that pet food companies won't even dare to put on the label.
  • But pets aren't little people with softy, cuddly fur and four paws. Pets need food of the same quality as their humans eat, but they need a very different menu. You can't force an obligate carnivore like a cat, for instance, to conform to vegan principles. Their bodies simply aren't made for it. Similarly, you don't give meat to birds that naturally feed on fruit and you don't give the treats people love (like chocolate or salty snacks or artificially sweetened foods) - to your pets. Pets need their own menu to stay healthy.

On this topic, we need to say a further word about kibble. A few pets love it but mostly they eat it because it’s what is on offer. Not only is it not delicious for pets, but its a poor health choice. One of the most important things you can do for long term pet health is to get your pets off industrially produced dry pet food to a healthy diet they love and thrive on.

#3 Maintaining a Lean Weight

One out of every two pets is obese or significantly overweight. The biggest factor in canine obesity is over feeding and lack of exercise. By far the leading way to get your pet to an appropriate weight is through calorie reduction. Its easy to achieve, well supported by a proper exercise routine, and services like PetAssistant customize a specific plan for your pet that makes it very simple for you to implement.

Cats tend to gain weight because they are overfed. There's a simple way to help your cat eat the right amount of food. Measure it out. Make food available at regular meal times in the morning and evening. Don't leave a bowl of kibble out all day (or better yet, don't feed your cats kibble at all) for them to nibble all day long.

Older animals that have weight issues may have treatable thyroid problems. And animals that gain too much weight tend to become diabetic.

Obesity gives rise to a wide range of health problems including chronic inflammation, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart problems, respiratory disease, kidney disease and cancer. But getting weight problems under control early in a pet's adult life can prevent many of the health complications and give your pet a longer, healthier life.

#4 Enough Activity / Exercise

Dogs thrive on their daily walks. Cats love their play time. Daily physical activity is important even when pets are housebound due to inclement weather or civil emergencies. After all, the canine and feline ancestors of modern dogs and cats spend many of their waking hours exploring their worlds and hunting for food, and regular activity is just part of modern pet DNA.

It's a well recognized practice to walk a dog and as they simply will be unable to get sufficient exercise indoors. If your dog is not getting enough exercise, you may start to notice it showing up through destructive behavior in the home or hyperactivity as they seek to channel their excess energies. Other behaviors can include barking and whining, anxiety or being withdrawn.

On the other side of the coin, a proper workout stimulates the organs, joints, muscles and provides essential mental stimulation. It combats anxiety, it strengthens your bond with your animal and it provides a surprisingly healthy break from the routine of the pet parent too.

#5 Good Dental Hygiene and Care

Did you know that 80 percent of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease? Or that between 50 and 90 percent of cats have serious dental problems?

Cavities, tooth decay, and jaw bone loss are almost entirely preventable with regular dental care. Its not just the mouth that is affected too. Inflammation is the #1 cause of serious systemic disease and the leading source of inflammation in the body start in the mouth.

That doesn't mean that you need to take your pet to the veterinary dentist a couple of times a year, although that may be necessary for the health of some animals. It means that you can learn to provide your pet with regular oral hygeine at home several times a week by brushing their teeth.

Pets can be trained not just to tolerate but even to enjoy having their teeth brushed. It's important to introduce pets to tooth brushing gradually. First you let them get a taste of pet toothpaste (which comes in flavors like chicken and liver). Then a few days later you can let them play with a toothbrush, getting to know that it won't hurt them. Then you can practice putting a little pet toothpaste on your pet's teeth and finally, maybe two or three weeks after you begin training your pets for their tooth brushing routine, you can give them their first of many tooth brushing sessions.

But one of the more important things you can do for your pet’s health is to make sure your pet is free of serious oral health problems even in old age.

#6 Parasite Prevention & Vaccinations

The most important step in preventing parasites in pets is making sure they don't come in contact with other animals that have them. In multiple-pet households, that may mean quarantining a pet while it is undergoing treatment for fleas or ear mites or chronic tick problems. But even more important is keeping pets away from wildlife that may carry dangerous or even fatal parasitic infections such as roundworms.

Cats should not be allowed to catch and eat birds and squirrels. This is better for the birds and squirrels, and it also keeps them from acquiring intestinal parasites.

Dogs should not be allowed to come in contact with scat from wild animals. Fecal material is ground zero for parasitic infections that can be very difficult to treat and that, in rare cases, can spread to the humans in the family.

And all pets should get their required vaccinations against rabies and other viral infections on schedule. Sometimes booster shots are necessary. Don't neglect them. Vaccinations can prevent tragic, untreatable infections that can take your pet in the prime of its life.

#7 Periodic Checkups

Young animals need multiple trips to the vet for wellness checks and for the vaccinations that will protect them against disease for the rest of their lives. Every pet needs to be seen by the vet at least once a year. After all, your pet can't tell you when they aren't feeling quite right. Your veterinarian can catch early signs of disease and offer timely treatment that gives you more years to enjoy with your pet.

We're dedicated to helping people provide happy, healthy lives for their pets. Come back to our site often for the latest information you need to give your pet a great life.