Our animal companions give us all the time, attention, and affection that we want, and in return, they deserve the best care that we can provide. Here are the top six ways to return the favor:
Just like people, animals need high-quality, nutritious food, which is the basis for good health. They also benefit from having moist food, which is more palatable and helps prevent urinary tract infections. If you are concerned about supporting factory farms when you buy pet food, check out PETA’s factsheet on feeding dogs and cats vegetarian or vegan food. And, of course, we wouldn’t want to drink out of a dirty glass, and our animals don’t want to drink out of a dirty bowl, either. So give them fresh water daily in a clean container.
2. It’s Potty Time
Have you ever walked into a public restroom stall only to turn around and walk right back out? Cats prefer a clean bathroom, too, so scoop at least twice a day. Similarly, a backyard filled with “land mines” is no fun for people or dogs, so be sure to scoop regularly. And dogs shouldn’t be expected to “hold it” all day (not only is this painful, it’s also harmful to their kidneys), so if someone can’t go home at lunchtime to let the dog out, hire a dog walker or, if you have a yard with a secure privacy fence, install a doggie door.
3. Don’t Keep the Doctor Away
An annual veterinary visit for a check-up is a must, but if your animal shows any signs of not feeling well, be sure to schedule an appointment right away. Fleas and ticks torment dogs and cats, so they must be controlled (try using natural, nontoxic products), and heartworms and intestinal worms can be easily prevented with once-monthly medications. Additionally, spaying and neutering not only eliminates the risk of reproductive organ cancer but also prevents females from suffering through heat cycles and reduces the risk that animals of both sexes will contract contagious diseases. And why not take an animal CPR class to make sure that you’ll be ready in case of an animal health emergency?
4. Looking Good
Dogs need regular brushing to keep their coats clean and to prevent matting. Avoid giving them too many baths, though. Dogs need to retain the oil in their coat to keep it healthy, and if your dog has a chronic “doggie odor,” that usually means that a change in diet is called for.
5. Tiny Chip = Safe Animal
Tags are a great way to I.D. your dog or cat, but they can fall off or be removed. However, a microchip is permanent, as evidenced by the recent story of a woman who was reunited—thanks to a microchip—with the dog who had been stolen from her seven years earlier.
Hannah and I have found our favorite activity: enjoying the sun and surf at the beach.
6. Play Ball!
While health care is important, what our animals appreciate most is quality time—playing fetch, taking a walk, chasing a piece of string, or having a cuddle session. You and your dog could even enroll in a fun, rewards-based agility class. Our animals depend on us for their exercise and enrichment. By trying out various activities and toys, even simple items like balled-up paper or an empty paper towel roll, we can discover what our animal companions really enjoy and have a lot of fun in the process.