One definition of “health” is “the condition of being sound in mind, body, and spirit”—a state that encompasses physical, mental, and social aspects to create an individual who is totally fit. Like their owners, pets experience the benefits of all wellness facets, and the following guide can help owners support their pets in achieving this optimal state of being.
Physical well-being in pets
When we think of pet health, many of us focus on the physical aspects, such as weight and bodily function. This is for good reason, as physical fitness is fundamentally important for overall well-being. But, preventive care, which includes examinations, screening tests, and preventive medications, also plays an essential role in physical health.
The first step in your pet’s physical assessment should be an examination by her University Veterinary Hospital veterinarian. Depending on her age, lifestyle, and health status, you should expect to visit your veterinarian at least every six or 12 months. During these wellness exams, your veterinarian will discuss a variety of topics, including the recommended immunizations and screening tests for your individual pet. Come prepared with information regarding your pet’s behavior, diet, and exercise, along with a list of any medications or supplements you are giving. Questions are encouraged for a dynamic and informative experience.
What can I do to keep my pet physically healthy?
- Give your pet the recommended flea, tick, and heartworm preventive medications.
- Exercise with your pet daily for 30 minutes, in the form of leashed walks, off-leash play, or agility.
- Feed your pet a nutritious, age-appropriate diet.
- Brush your pet’s teeth at least three times per week.
- Groom your pet regularly, focusing on hair brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trimming.
- Consult our veterinary team before giving your pet any dietary supplements.
- Monitor your pet’s behavior, appetite, and elimination habits closely, especially as she ages, and report any changes to your University Veterinary Hospital veterinarian.
If you have questions about your pet’s diet, appropriate exercise, or preventive medicines, consult our veterinary team, or ask your questions at your pet’s wellness appointment.
Mental well-being in pets
Mental health describes one’s state of the mind and how one is feeling or coping. State of mind is not static, in that feelings can change from minute to minute, or month to month. Studying mental health in pets has proven difficult, due to communication barriers between animals and humans. However, anxieties in animals are well-documented, and many affected pets respond well to human medications for certain similar conditions, suggesting some similarities. While debilitating anxiety cases, or other mental problems due to past traumas or events, will likely need professional care, pet owners can take an active role in keeping their pet’s minds healthy and sharp, mainly by preventing boredom with adequate exercise and mental stimulation.
What can I do to keep my pet mentally healthy?
- Exercise and play with your pet daily for at least 30 minutes, although some active, high-energy dogs may require longer or more vigorous exercise.
- Use puzzle feeders or toys that require pets to work for a reward, such as these or these.
- Teach your pet new tricks, or sign up for a training class.
- Take up a new hobby with your pet, such as agility, water rescue, or showing.
- Hire a professional to train your pet for therapy or guide work.
Social well-being in pets
Social health revolves around fostering relationships at home and in the community. As natural pack animals, dogs are naturally social creatures. Feral cats form “colonies,” or small social groups, based on food sources and population densities. Socializing helps us learn how to behave, and makes us feel helpful and that we belong. Keep in mind that certain windows during puppy- and kittenhood—generally between 6 and 12 weeks of age—are ideal for setting up your pet for social success.
What can I do to keep my pet socially healthy?
- Spend time with your pet every day, in the form of exercise, play, or cuddling.
- Caress and talk to your pet, which may seem unnatural at first, but she likely understands more than you think.
- When safely and legally possible, take your pet on an outing or to the office.
- Enroll your pet in a training or socialization course.
- Reward your pet when she experiences new social experiences with other pets or people.
At University Veterinary Hospital, your pet’s well-being is our top priority. Contact us for further information, or with questions regarding whole pet health.