The following article has been provided courtesy of Petplan pet insurance, who is also offering an exclusive 10% discount on policies to Adopt-a-Pet.com supporters. To learn more visit Petplan.

 

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As a pet parent, taking care of four-legged friends is your number one priority—and keeping pets fed, watered, exercised and happy is just the beginning!

Pets need more than tail wags and tummy rubs to stay in tip-top shape. Here are the basic necessities for keeping furry friends fit and healthy for years to come.

 

1  Make mealtime count

Feeding your pet a nutritionally-complete, balanced diet – and feeding him the appropriate portions of that diet – is one of the biggest keys to ensure a lifetime of good health. When choosing food, always read labels and steer clear of anything containing a lot of meat byproducts or ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment. Don’t be afraid to try protein sources other than the “typical three” (chicken, beef and pork). Fish-based diets are healthy, deliver inflammation-fighting Omega-3s and have a smaller impact on the planet. Remember: cats are natural carnivores and only cat food meets their nutritional needs—so no sharing food with the dog!

 

2  Snack smartly

Experiment with natural treats such as fresh veggies like carrots and celery. For a special treat, share an egg, chickpeas or plain yogurt to pack a punch of valuable vitamins into snack time. When it comes to chew treats, NEVER give a dog a bone – the fragments can splinter when chewed and cause serious damage to your dog’s intestines. Opt instead for tough rubber toys or Himalayan yak milk dog chews, and always supervise your pet while he’s chewing.

 

3  Keep both body and mind in motion

Not only does regular exercise make for a strong, healthy pet, but it also helps prevent obesity – one of the most devastating preventable conditions. Your vet can recommend a specific exercise regimen based on your individual pet’s age, breed and health. Being active keeps hearts healthy, aids in digestion and helps build confidence and curb bad behaviors. Boost brain function with mental gymnastics like puzzle toys, hunting for dinner or treats and obedience training (yes, even cats can be trained!). Keeping your furry friend’s synapses firing will ward off age-related cognitive decline and keep your pet sharp well into his golden years.

 

4  Take proper precautions

When you bring a new pet home, one of the first things you need to do is to make his first vet appointment. There, your vet will counsel you on the cornerstones of responsible pet ownership: spay/neuter, vaccines, microchipping and parasite prevention.

Altering your pet protects against infections and certain types of cancer.

Vaccinations are important for giving your four-legged friend a foundation of good health.

Microchipping provides a permanent method of identification in case your pet ever gets lost.

Parasite prevention like flea and tick preventatives and heartworm prevention pills help keep your pet healthy, protected from disease and itch-free!

 

5  Don’t forget about dental health!

Protecting pets’ pearly whites means more than banishing bad breath. Dental disease doesn’t just affect the mouth; kidney, heart and liver disease have all been linked to bacteria entering the bloodstream from a dental infection. It’s estimated that by the age of 3 years, 70 to 80 percent of pets already show signs of periodontal disease, so it’s important to commit to a dental health regimen early. Brush your pet’s teeth once a day, and use dental treats, oral rinses and plaque-prevention gels to keep pearly whites well. Preventing periodontal disease can add two to five years to your pet’s life!

 

6  Get pet insurance for the unexpected

No matter how much you plan for your pet’s health, you can never really predict it, so getting a pet insurance policy for accidents and illnesses can help cover the cost of unexpected veterinary treatments (like when your Lab eats a hamper full of socks!). Look for a plan that covers hereditary and chronic conditions and reimburses you based on actual vet fees (not a benefit schedule). Protecting your pet with a health insurance policy takes the financial burden of vet bills off of your shoulders, so you can make decisions about your pet’s medical care based on what’s best for him – not on cost. Adopt-a-Pet.com believes pet insurance is important for all furry friends. To give you a leg up on getting a policy, Petplan is offering a 10% online discount to Adopt-a-Pet.com fans. Learn more