5 Things I Wish Every Pet Owner Knew

Walking Dogs
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Dr. Marty Becker says obesity is one of the biggest problems vets see. If your veterinarian says your pet is carrying too much weight, cut down on the treats and schedule more walks.

I spend a lot of time with pet owners, and I love them and their animals. But there are a few simple secrets that will help them to have an even better relationship with me and with their pets.

Here are five things that can improve your life with your dog or cat a hundredfold — and make your veterinarian pretty darn happy, too.

1. Watch your pet's weight. Obesity is arguably the No.1 pet health problem we see. Fat cats and pudgy pooches are funny in cartoons, but in real life, they’re like tubby ticking time bombs. When pets are overweight, the extra pounds can stress the heart, making it pump harder than it needs to. Joints groan under extra weight, too, contributing to pain from arthritis, hip dysplasia and other joint problems. And obesity can play a role in development of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. If you love your pet, put your hands on him to gauge his body condition. If you can’t feel his ribs beneath a thin layer of fat and muscle, folks, it’s time to put him on a diet. Measure his food and offer it twice daily instead of leaving kibble out all the time, swap out treats for bits of apple and carrot, and schedule more or longer walks or playtimes.

2. Brush your pet’s teeth. I know I say this over and over, but regular brushing really will improve your dog or cat’s oral health — and, by extension, his overall health. After all, the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and if it's teeming with bacteria, well, they are going to spread to other organs. I have to admit, though, that many veterinarians and vet techs don’t brush their own pets’ teeth. If your pet resists brushing or you just can’t find the time to do it, provide other forms of daily oral care: Use an edible toothbrush, such as C.E.T. Hextra Chews, Greenies or Milk-Bone Brushing Chews.

3. Tell us if you’re having trouble giving your pet medication. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t give medications or follow through on a treatment plan outlined by the veterinary team. Sometimes it’s hard for those of us who work with pets for a living to give pills to certain animals, even when we are working as a well-rehearsed team. If you are having difficulty — and lots of people do — we can help you find an option that works better, such as having the medication compounded into a tasty liquid or treat, or giving your pet an injectable antibiotic that will last up to two weeks.

4. Consider getting pet health insurance. If I could wave a magic wand and do one thing that would benefit the most pets, I would magically guarantee that all pet owners have pet health insurance. When your pet is covered for emergencies or diseases that require expensive treatment, you are less likely to be faced with the heartbreaking decision that you just can’t afford the needed surgery, chemotherapy or hospitalization.

5. Reward your vet with a treat. Your pets aren't the only ones who love treats — your vet and his staff do, too! Bring the practice a plate of warm cookies or brownies early on a rough Monday or midafternoon on a busy Friday — or, heck, any day. You’ll be a practice favorite immediately.

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