It’s important to look after your pets properly. On our blog – Ruffle Snuffle’s Life with Pets – we have written guides on cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, tortoises, axolotls, bearded dragons and more.
Keeping your pet healthy relies on you having a basic understanding of 5 key areas in pet health. These are
1) breeding & genetics,
3) physical exercise & proper housing,
4) disease prevention and management,
5) mental enrichment.
Breeding & Genetics
Dog breed standards
In the UK, the Kennel Club sets the standards that breeders must adhere to when it comes to the genetic traits of the dogs they breed as well as the procedures that must be followed. Breed standards include the physical appearance of a breed as well as the temperament and behavioural characteristics of each animal.
Cat breed standards
The GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy) is the UK’s premier registration body for cats and cat breeders. Like the Kennel Club, it sets the standards that cat breeders must follow.
Many other animals also have governing bodies which uphold breeding practices ensuring that pedigree animals adhere to the expected standards.
This is important because when a pet owner chooses a specific breed, they will do so because that breed will work with their lifestyle. When you buy a puppy, especially, it is important to know how big it will grow, what sort of behaviour traits to expect and to have an appreciation for the sorts of health issues that are common to that breed.
Over time, breeders have adjusted the fundamental qualities of breeds such as changing the shape of the head, the length and thickness of the coat and so on. As a result, dogs may be more or less susceptible to health issues.
Your pet’s diet
Your pet’s diet is vital to their health. Just like humans, if pets consume the wrong foods or too much of certain foods, then it is harder to keep them healthy.
What can I feed my dog?
You can choose between raw, tinned or dried food for your pooch. Whatever you decide, it is important to ensure that you use food which is labelled as ‘complete’ which means that the food contains all the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet for your dog.
You should therefore not need to give them any other food. Dogs often prefer wet food to dry but dry food lasts longer once opened and can be left out for longer without it going off.
Adult dogs typically need around 1-1.5 cups of dog food per 10kg of body weight, but this may be adjusted if your dog is especially active or sedentary.
As dogs age they tend to need less calories. It’s a good idea to weigh your dog every few months to check that they aren’t becoming overweight.
You can also give your dog little treats but not too many as these can cause weight gain or an imbalance in nutrients.
Certain foods are toxic to dogs so be careful that your dog does not gain access to these.
Dogs can eat:
Apples, almond, banana, blueberry, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, eggs, lettuce, liver, mango, melon, orange, peanut butter, pear, pineapple, popcorn, potato, prawn, rice, salmon, strawberry, turkey, watermelon, yoghurt
Dogs can’t eat (* or only in tiny amounts):
Do not give your dog anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol as this is toxic for them.
Be careful when walking your dog to ensure that they do not eat things such as acorns and conkers as these are toxic and can cause vomiting and stomach pain.
Joint supplements for dogs can help your furry friend maintain mobility as they get older. Glucosamine is the most commonly used supplement for dogs and can be purchased at your vet, online or in a pet store.
What can I feed my cat?
Your cat also needs to have a balanced diet to maintain optimal health. Cats require high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates.
Commercially produced complete cat foods can be either dry or wet and are nutritionally balanced to provide everything your cat needs to stay healthy.
You can also give your cat the occasional treat which could be home cooked protein such as chicken or salmon or a commercially produced specialist cat treat.
How much exercise does my dog need?
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on its age and breed. Some dogs require twice daily walking whereas others will be happy with a run around the garden instead of a proper walk occasionally.
Larger dogs can require up to 2 hours exercise per day so you must take this into account when deciding which breed of dog to buy.
If dogs do not get sufficient exercise, this can lead to debilitating health conditions and more expensive vet bills, so take care! It’s better to split the exercise up into 2-3 walks (plus toilet breaks) per day. So, you can see that you need to be a committed pet owner to have a dog.
Puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs will require differing amounts of exercise with puppies having around 5 minutes of walking per month of age twice a day.
A six-month-old puppy would therefore need 2 x 30 minute walks per day on average, but larger breeds may need a little less. Senior dogs’ exercise requirements may also reduce especially if they have joint problems or other mobility issues.
Does my cat need walking?
Cats generally do not require walking, although you do occasionally see owners taking their pets out on a lead. Cats, especially kittens, like to play with toys, light pointers, balls of wool etc. and these can give them short bursts of activity.
Around 30 minutes of activity per day is a decent amount to aim for. If your cat likes to go outside, then they may be getting additional exercise from running and jumping in the garden or surrounding area.
Large pets such as horses require significant exercise which will require the owner’s involvement such as being ridden or led for around 2 hours a day.
Small pets such as rabbits, hamsters etc can be provided with a run and toys such as a hamster wheel which enable them to get sufficient exercise.
Caged birds require a stimulating environment too, but be careful not to overstimulate.
Disease prevention and management
Common diseases in dogs
It is important to ensure your dog receives its vaccinations on time to prevent health issues such as parvovirus, distemper and infectious canine hepatitis which are commonly given in the UK. There may be other vaccinations that your vet may recommend for your dog.
Common puppy diseases include:
- Intestinal Parasites such as roundworm, hookworm or lungworm
- Canine Distemper
- Kennel Cough
- Fleas and ticks
In addition, older dogs can suffer from heart problems, kidney problems, cataracts and arthritis.
If you believe that your dog is suffering in some way, you must take them to the vet as soon as possible. It’s good practice to get pet insurance so that your pet can get the veterinary treatment they need should they fall ill or suffer an injury.
Cats and disease
Your cat will also require vaccinations, particularly for cat flu, feline infectious enteritis and feline leukaemia virus. Kittens need 2 injections given a few weeks apart and a booster a year later. Adults need cat flu boosters annually and enteritis boosters every 3 years.
Common health issues for kittens and cats
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)
- Eye Problems
Again, it’s recommended to get a comprehensive pet health insurance policy to protect your feline friend in the event of illness.
On top of ensuring that your pet gets adequate good-quality food, sufficient exercise and the required vaccinations, don’t underestimate the important of affection, mental stimulation and socialisation in helping your pet to stay healthy. Animals need love as much as humans do, so go ahead and give your pet your undivided attention at least once a day.
Stroking and grooming are great ways to boost your pet’s immune system and give you a feel good hit at the same time. Studies have shown that stroking a pet can substantially reduce your blood pressure, so it’s a win-win situation for pet and owner.
Teaching tricks is easier than you think and provides great bond for both you and your pet. Check out this list of 100 tricks you can teach your pets, it covers all kinds of pets.
Over winter horses often spend more time in their stables, so you can provide them with enrichment too. Try our Stable Pop Horse Ball.