Basic Animal Care 101

August 24, 2015

Article written in collaboration with John Agionicolaitis, Animal Health Student, Asista Foundation

As a first-time pet parent, you will be presented with an abundance of information on how to care for him or her, on topics such as proper hygiene, nutrition and physical health. This information overload can become overwhelming, so we’ve narrowed down the basics to help you get a better grasp on what is necessary for your pet.

Regardless of where you start, a prevention plan is a good way to help keep illnesses at bay.

Here’s a short list of what should be considered:

  • Vaccines
  • Proper nutrition
  • Exercising
  • Grooming
  • Dental hygiene
  • Annual check-ups
  • Tests that could benefit your pet as per your veterinarian’s recommendation such as a blood, urine and/or fecal analysis

Why are these factors important?

Vaccines are necessary for both humans and animals in helping create antibodies towards specific viruses or diseases. Some illnesses and viruses such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia virus can be fatal to your pet. Ensuring your pet’s vaccines are up-to-date will help prevent being infected by such diseases.

Proper nutrition plays a significant role in your pet’s overall health.

A healthy and balanced diet will improve the condition of your pet’s skin and add shine and smoothness to his or her coat, while resulting in a higher level of energy.

However, poor quality food, such as a formula containing too many oils and grains, can result in dermatological problems such as dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin that can cause discomfort (characterized by excessive scratching due to itching, hair loss, red and irritated skin). While dermatitis is not solely caused by poor nutrition, it is often resolved on an improved diet.

In addition, poor nutrition can cause:

  • Weight loss and growth problems
  • Poor dental condition
  • Stool issues, such as diarrhea
  • A weakened immune system

Exercising should be part of your pet’s daily routine. Simple daily activities such as walks, letting your pet run in a dog park, or playing with an interactive toy can:

  • Reduce or eliminate behaviour issues by alleviating boredom
  • Keep their weight in check
  • Reduce digestive problems
  • Improve overall health and alertness
  • Allow your pet to relax and become tired by the end of the day

Grooming, specifically of your pet’s coat, eyes, ears and nails, should be performed regularly. Good ear and eye hygiene will help prevent infections, while brushing your pet’s fur regularly will help prevent skin problems and contribute to a healthy coat. Nails should also be trimmed from time to time to avoid ingrown nails, which can result in discomfort when walking.

Dental hygiene practices should be introduced as early as possible. Like humans, animals can develop tartar on their teeth over time, a yellow film that builds up and causes tooth decay. Therefore, preventive practices such as brushing your pet’s teeth, providing specific dental toys for play, and mixing special solutions into your pet’s drinking water will help with keeping their teeth healthy well into their old age. Doing so early on will ensure a higher rate of success, as your pet will be more accustomed to having their teeth cleaned.

Annual check-ups and tests as recommended by your veterinarian are ideal in keeping your pet up-to-date with routine vaccinations and necessary treatments, while ensuring that many diseases and medical conditions are prevented before they have a chance to occur.

Remember that prevention is key to keeping your pet healthy, and to consult your vet first and foremost if you have any doubts or questions!

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