Eat right and get plenty of exercise. How often have we heard that from our doctors?
The same advice holds for the four-legged members of our households.
“People in U.S. have a tendency to overindulge ourselves and our pets,” said Dr. Lori Ross, a veterinarian at North Central Veterinary Emergency Center in Highland. “Nutrition, portion control and physical activity are just as important for dogs and cats as ... for humans.”
Though it’s always important to consult your veterinarian about individual diets, Ross recommends healthy treats for dogs, including carrots, fresh green beans (canned may have too much sodium) and ice cubes. She notes that many store-bought treats are laden with calories, and it's best to avoid fatty or processed meats.
Proper portions also are important based on the metabolism of the breed.
Like humans, cats and dogs need exercise to burn calories.
“Exercise is breed-specific,” Ross said. “Long, stable walks are helpful, and swimming is beneficial if your dog can swim. In fact, some veterinary clinics have pools or rehabilitation facilities with underwater treadmills used for motion exercises and physical therapy. This is helpful for joint health for pets with arthritis and maintains the pet’s physical mass.”
Dental hygiene is important. Without it, your best friend could develop periodontal disease, which can lead to serious infection and illness.
The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends that pet owners:
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- visit the veterinarian regularly so that along with a thorough physical examination, the pet’s teeth can be monitored.
- establish a dental routine, including brushing your pet’s teeth properly (don’t use human toothpaste — it can be toxic) and removing plaque. Some specially formulated foods can also help reduce plaque and tartar from teeth.
- Look for signs of pet dental decay or gum disease, including bad breath, yellow/brown crust at the gum line, or pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when you touch its gums.
Dr. Andrea Carlson at Southlake Animal Hospital in Merrillville offers holistic, as well as conventional, approaches to pet wellness.
“Holistic medicine is a great alternative to conventional medicine, as it looks at the pet’s whole body and focuses on making sure the pet is in optimal health, both physically and mentally,” she explained. “Holistic medicine focuses on preventing disease instead of treating diseases. Our goal is to create a foundation of wellness through proper nutrition and a strong immune system.”
Southlake Animal Hospital offers a number of integrative treatment options, including titer blood testing that measures the antibody levels for a particular vaccine virus. A positive titer indicates that the animal is protected against the disease and vaccination is not required.
Other treatments include Chinese medicine, comprising acupuncture (needles inserted into key points in the body to restore energy and healing), food therapy (using different types of food to treat various symptoms and ailments), herbal medicine (using herbs to treat chronic conditions by relieving pain, restoring proper organ function and strengthening the immune system to return the body to a state of balance and wellness without medications’ side effects) and Tui na (a Chinese therapy that uses manipulations applied to acupuncture points and/or limb-stretching movements to soothe joints, promote circulation, balance the organs and strengthen the body’s resistance).
Whether you choose conventional medicine or holistic, it’s important to have your pet examined regularly and keep up with vaccinations.
General vaccines, as well as those for geographic-specific illnesses, are necessary. Heartworm medication and spaying and neutering your pet can help prevent diseases and some cancers.
“It’s important to have your pet vaccinated for the parvovirus, leptospirosis (spread by rodents’ urine), rabies and Lyme disease,” Ross said. “Many of these diseases have surged in Northwest Indiana, and prevention is far better than having to treat a sick animal.”