- INSIDER asked a group of pet experts about some of their best advice for those who have animals.
- Socializing your pets is great for their mental and physical health, according to animal expert Larissa Wohl.
- It’s fairly common for dogs and cats to become obese, so it’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s diet and weight.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility and although it can be rewarding, it’s not always easy. Fortunately, there’s a lot of handy advice out there that can benefit you and your pets.
Here are some useful things for pet owners to know, according to experts.
All pets should be seen by their veterinarian at least once per year, even if they seem healthy
You may be tempted to skip your pet’s annual exam if they seem healthy, but Katy Nelson, host of “The Pet Show TV” on WJLA in Washington DC, said she recommends staying on top of wellness check-ups to ensure your furry friend is as healthy as they appear.
She told INSIDER that annual check-ups can help you catch health issues “early on while you still have time to intervene,” which can save you money and keep your pet feeling as well as possible.
Obesity is quite common in cats and dogs, so it’s important to keep an eye on what your pet eats and how much they weigh
“Being overweight is devastating to our pets and overlooking it by calling them cutesy names like ‘Chunky,’ or ‘Fluffy’ is doing them no favors,” she said. “Adipose cells, known as fat cells, are hormone factories, producing dozens of inflammatory cytokines that increase your pets risk of diabetes, heart disease, joint disease, and even cancer.”
She said she suggests individuals speak to their veterinarian about their pet’s diet, their eating habits (including treats), and exercise patterns. She also encourages owners to try to keep their pets active.
“Find creative ways to exercise your pets like hunting feeders for cats or doggy daycare [or] anything that you can do to get them moving is a move toward getting healthy and fit,” she told INSIDER.
Instead of telling your pet what not to do, try to direct them toward engaging in proper behaviors
Many of us forget that our pets don’t understand things as we do – so sometimes it’s helpful to guide them to proper actions, especially when they are doing something you’re trying to discourage, Kim Paciotti, an experienced dog trainer and pet expert from Charlotte, North Carolina, told INSIDER.
“Your dog may be chewing on something inappropriate, like a piece of furniture, and you quickly tell them to stop. They do for a short time but then they go right back to that same undesired behavior,” said Paciotti. “Why? Because you told them what not to do, instead of telling them what to do. The appropriate action would have been to give the dog something they were allowed to chew on.”
If your dog is pulling on its leash, you may need to change how you act before and during a walk
Paciotti said one of the main behavior issues many dog owners complain about is that their animal pulls when it is on a leash. She said that sometimes owners are the cause of the problem, not the dog.
“Stop and see if you are actually setting your dog up to do this. Are you one who gets your dog all excited to go? Or are you one who knows your dog is distracted by other dogs and you proceed to walk them when everyone in your neighborhood walks their dogs?” said Paciotti.
“Or, maybe you have a puppy and want them to walk with you. A 6-foot leash and a new puppy are two things that should not go together. The pup must learn to focus on you and not the surroundings,” she added.
Whenever your pet’s behavior changes, you may want to go see a veterinarian as it can be a sign of something more serious
As tempting as it may be to use the internet to diagnose changes to your pet’s behavior, Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant and host of several pet radio shows, said that a veterinarian should always be consulted to rule out a possible medical explanation for behavioral issues.
“Don’t assume, don’t wait, and don’t depend on [search engines]. Until a time comes when [the internet] can do blood work or heart your pet’s heart online, seeing your veterinarian is the right thing to do,” added Dale.