10 Unexpected Ways You Could Be Hurting Your Dog or Cat

Puppy looking at food
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No matter how much your pup begs for a bite of your dinner, don't give in. Those extra bites can add up to extra weight.

We know you love your pet unconditionally and strive to take good care of him, but even the most experienced owners can sometimes harm their cats or dogs and not even realize it.

Here are a few mistakes you might be making, but don't worry, we've also included advice and links to more detailed articles to help you fix them. 

You Feed Your Pet From the Table

Giving your animal a few scraps from the table may seem harmless enough, but human food can cause a host of problems in cats in dogs. For one thing, those extra licks and bites of your food add up and can cause your pet to pack on the pounds. Also, too much rich and fatty food can lead to pancreatitis — a painful and potentially life-threatening disease. Finally, some human foods are dangerous or toxic for pets. Household staples like onions, grapes and chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach or worse.

If those risks don’t deter you, consider this: Feeding your pet from the table encourages begging, which is one of the more annoying and undesirable canine behaviors around.

Dachshund wearing harness
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Make sure your dog's collar or harness isn't too loose or too tight.

You're Using the Wrong Collar or the Wrong Size Collar

Finding the perfect collar or harness for your dog or cat will benefit both you and your pet. There are many types of collars and harnesses, and the different kinds can help with issues like pulling, lunging and escaping. Dog trainer Mikkel Becker has great advice on choosing the right collar or harness for your dog. Some dogs are prone to tracheal collapse and might be better off with a harness instead of a collar. Steer clear of corrective collars like choke collars and prong collars. They can cause neck injury, pain and even strangulation. Do your research to find the collar or harness that’s right for you and your pet.

Once you've determined you have the right type, make sure you get the right size. According to Dr. Marty Becker, if a collar fits correctly you should be able to slip one finger between the skin and collar of a small dog and two fingers between the skin and collar of a large dog. If it’s too loose, your dog could wiggle out of her collar or harness and escape. If it's too tight, the collar or harness could rub against her skin and hurt her. 

There are also collars that are more safe for your cat to wear, including collars that break away if she gets stuck on something.

You Don’t Take Care of Your Pet’s Teeth

More than 85 percent of cats and dogs over 4 years old are affected by dental disease. But daily brushing and regular professional dental cleanings can help keep your pet’s teeth and gums in good health and, best of all, his breath won’t smell so awful. If you continue to ignore your pet’s teeth, he could develop periodontitis, which is the most common cause of tooth loss in cats and dogs. Not to mention that his breath is going to reek.

You Leave Food Out All the Time

If you always keep your pet’s bowl filled, you may be contributing to his obesity. Dogs and cats are quite skilled at acting like they’re hungry all the time, but don’t fall for their begging and whining. The fact is, many of us feed our pets way too much — and it’s killing them. An estimated 54 percent of cats and dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. This increases the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, some types of cancer and many other health issues.

Next time your animal looks longingly at his empty food bowl, don’t fill it up right away. Stick to a mealtime schedule and ask your vet how much and how many times per day you should feed your pet. And then use a measuring cup to make sure you are giving the right amount. If your pet is a finicky eater or wolfs down his food, he might benefit from a food puzzle or different kind of feeder.

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