5 Quick Checks to Ensure Your Pet is in Good Health

5 Quick Checks to Ensure Your Pet is in Good Health

Pets bring us so much joy—they’re our best friends and companions, they help us remember to get out and exercise, and they’re part of our families. How can you tell if your pet is healthy?

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While the vet may have years of training and experience necessary to diagnose serious conditions, there are a few quick things that all pet owners can look for to make sure that your cat or dog continues to thrive. Here are our five top questions to ask when you do a quick pet check.

dog laying on the floor

#1—What’s in their food bowl? 

Take a quick look at the labels on their food and scan the first five ingredients.  They should make up the majority of the food and should consist of meat (not meat by-products) and vegetables. If their food contains large amounts of fillers (corn syrup, BHT/BHA, ethoxyquin, or propylene glycol), toss it. If your dog has diarrhea, vomits frequently, or has any skin problems, this might be a sign of a food insensitivity. Are you regularly feeding your pet human food? Keep an eye out for items that are specifically toxic to dogs, including grapes, raisins, chocolate, avocados, doughs made with yeast, nuts, alcohol, onions, garlic, chives, and sugar-free gum. Make sure to keep the human food out of reach of pets too—in 2014, 10% of pet poisoning cases were due to toxic food and 40% of these cases were due to chocolate. 

#2—Is your pet getting enough exercise? 

Depending on the breed, this could mean a 10-15 minute walk per day to a good hour or more of running around. Very active dogs like games such as frisbee or fetch, or accompanying you on a jog or bike ride. It’s also important to remember that pets also need enough room to roam at home. According to the Pet Advisory Committee, a household should have no more than one animal per 15 square meters, and that goes for cats as well. Even though cats sleep up to 20 hours per day, when they’re awake it’s time to play. Does your cat have enough toys? String, toy mice, catnip toys, laser pointers—are all great. Rotate your cat’s toys to keep kitty interested.

healthy pet

#3—When was the last time you took a trip to the vet? 

Are your pets shots up to date? Have they been spayed or neutered? A healthy animal should have a checkup at least once a year so that you can keep up with their flea treatments, annual injections, and wellness checks—dogs in particular need to be tested yearly for heartworm. If you have a new puppy or kitten, they’ll need to be vaccinated. 

#4—Does your pet have any warning signs of ill health? 

Is your pet overweight? If they’re carrying a few extra pounds, it can negatively impact the wear and tear on their joints and overall comfort. When looking at your dog from the side, you should be able to feel but not see their ribs. Your pet’s ears are also an important place to check for signs of illness. They should be pale pink, clean and not smell. If you notice any buildup or smells, then it’s time to head to the vet for a check. You should also take a look at your pet’s skin—it should be relatively even-colored and free from redness, bumps, flaking bits, or patches of moisture, as these can all be signs of an allergy or skin condition. 

happy puppy taking a nap on the carpet

#5—Is your home pet friendly? 

Do you have any flowers or plants in your home? Some kinds can be toxic to pets. If your pet accidentally eats any flowers or plants, check with your vet immediately. Plants that are toxic to pets include azaleas, daffodils, yews, lilies, and cherry laurels. Other major hazards to pets include electrical equipment. Tape down or hide electrical cables and cover electrical outlets to keep them from prying paws. Switch off the power supply to your electric appliances when not in use and make sure the stove knobs are protected from their paws. Ensure that bin lids cannot be lifted easily or are kept behind closed doors, and keep an extra eye out when you light candles or use a portable heater. Don't forget, you can use babyproofing products to make your home safer!