I remember my Father once told me the story of the family boxer that lived in the garage. Mind you, this was way back in the 1950’s.
Despite its humble abode, my Father loved this boxer. He always wanted a dog and he was thrilled when his own Father finally brought one home.
My Grandmother, on the other hand, was less than thrilled. That’s why she banished the poor thing to the garage. That boxer lived out most of his time at my grandparent’s home in his own domain, only coming out when it was time to eat or play or go for a walk.
I’m sure my Father and my Grandfather and my aunts and uncles loved him in their own way, but it always struck me as sad that they never fought harder to win over my Grandmother’s heart and a spot on the couch for the old pup.
Of course, the 1950’s were a very different time and pets were not often seen as family members.
They were just, well, dogs or cats.
Back then, most families didn’t worry too much about proper medical care or nutrition. They didn’t know about the benefits of training your pet or the benefits of play and plenty of mental stimulation.
Our dogs and cats ate our scraps or the crappy kibble we offered and they took it gladly. They lapped up our love and affection when given and were content with the bits of our time or carpet we offered them. They laid on the floor and didn’t complain. Many of them lived a life outside. (I am happy to at least say that the boxer was never forced to endure that).
I laugh when I think about how differently my dog’s lives are than my Father’s boxer. They sleep on the couch, or the beds, or their beds, or wherever they deem fit.
They are absolutely showered and spoiled with love and affection.
We feed them some of the best food the market has to offer. They receive preventive care and yearly checkups, dentals, and shots. We try our hardest to make time each and every day for walks and play. My dogs even have their own drawers full of collars and other accessories. They truly live a life of luxury.
But just because I shower my pets with cute accessories and treats, just because they get to sleep on the couch, no questions asked, doesn’t necessarily mean my dogs or cats are feeling the love.
And just because I don’t force my pet to sleep outside, doesn’t mean I’m being the best Mom I can be. So how can I make sure that each day I’m making choices to be a better pet parent?
Well, I can try things like:
Taking care of my pet’s dental hygiene.
Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Dental hygiene is just as important in our pets as it is in humans and not nearly enough pet parents take it seriously.
And I get it, pet dentals can be expensive, but at the very least you should be brushing your pet’s teeth a few times a week.
If this seems daunting at first, try out dental additives for your pet’s water bowl or dental gels that you apply directly to the teeth.
Once you and your pet are both comfortable with your new routine, graduate to actually brushing the gel onto their teeth or purchase some pet safe toothpaste.
Taking care of your pet’s dental health keeps their breath fresh but it also keeps them healthy for a lifetime.
You’d be surprised at the ways that poor dental hygiene can negativity affect your dog or cat (think weight loss, inflammation, kidney and liver disease, and yes, even heart disease).
If you’re just getting started with a daily brushing habit, take a look at these awesome products for dental health.
Taking preventative care seriously.
Along with maintaining good dental hygiene, it’s important to take your pet’s preventative care seriously.
This means yearly trips to the vet for a physical examination as well as completing any necessary bloodwork.
Additionally, good preventative pet care includes staying up to date on any yearly or recommended shots as well as keeping your dog or cat protected from fleas, ticks, and heartworm.
Preventative pet care can be expensive, but the good news is that there are wellness pet plans you can enroll in to help cover yearly expenses.
Regardless if you choose to enroll in a wellness plan, preventative care will always cost less than treating any major illness, injury, or disease.
For example, treating heartworm can cost pet owners well over $1,000, while yearly prevention usually runs under $100.
You may also want to consider getting pet insurance, which will cover accidents, illnesses, and some heredity conditions. It’s best to purchase a plan while your dog or cat is still young and in relatively good health as this keeps the cost of your monthly premiums low.
Having pet insurance ensures that you never have to make the decision to euthanize your pet just because you can’t afford treatments.
Feeding them quality pet foods.
There are plenty of pet foods on the market that are chalk full of non-nutritious fillers such as corn, corn gluten meal, and soy.
Some of these products may even contain meat by-products or proteins from deceased, decaying, or sick animals.
Is this really the kind of food you want your pet to eat? Is this the type of food you would want to eat?
Of course not!
For this reason, another way you cannot keep your pet feeling healthier and happier for longer is to ensure they are receiving the best quality nutrition.
While raw and homemade diets are always recommended, these meals can be tricky to balance and dangerous to handle.
So for those pet parents not quite ready or able to make that leap, there are plenty of high quality kibbles on the market.
Check out products from brands such as Fromm, Canidae, Orijen, or Farmina.
While they do run more expensive than your typical grocery store dog or cat food, you’ll find that it pays dividends over time, as your pet will eat less of these dense treats and the better nutrition will improve their overall health.
Making a habit to exercise daily.
Exercising daily is an important daily habit to promote your physical health, but it’s also can improve health in your dogs and cats as well.
Did you know that as much as half of U.S. pets are overweight?
Obesity in pets is a major problem for pet owners and can cause plenty of health problems. Obesity also decreases the overall quality and span of your pet’s life.
In fact, according to VCA Hospitals, obesity in pets can lead to “an increased risk for: many types of cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypertension. osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints.”
I know it can be tempting to show your pet how much you love them by giving them their favorite treats, but trust me when I say your snacking habit is doing more harm than good.
So cut out the human foods and limit the amount of treats.
And start exercising!
For dogs, this might mean going for a walk around the block or running around the backyard and for cats, simply taking the time to play with their favorite toy can be a great way to get them moving.
Finally, never underestimate the importance of enrichment activities. You’ll find that these types of exercises will tire your pet out more than anything.
So change up their environment from time to time, add different sounds and scents. Create puzzles with items around the house such as a paper egg carton. Stuff a kong full of sweet treats and freeze it for later. Anything that gets your dog problem solving can be a great form of exercise.
Spending more time with them.
Of course, the greatest way to show your pet just how much you love them is by spending time with them.
With our busy lives, I know it can be hard to find the time to spend walking your pet, playing with them, or cuddling on the couch, but by making this time, you are fulfilling your pet’s need for love, attention, and affection.
And once you decide to spend more of your most precious resource with them, you’ll find that your bond with your pet will grow in leaps and bonds.
And the best part?
A strong bond between pet and pet parent will not only improve your physical and emotional health, but it can also lead to better health outcomes for your pet. Additionally, a strong bond makes it easier to train your dog.
Honestly, I love that more people see their dogs and cats as a part of their families. I love that we are making a leap to love, support, and provide for our pets in the same way we would for a sister, a child, or a friend.
So if you aren’t already doing some of the things on this list, give them a try, because when we take the time to show our pets how much we love them and just how much they mean to us, it ensures not only a happy life, but a long and healthy one spent together.