Caring for a four-legged friend ensures a life full of unconditional companionship, cozy couch cuddles, and lots of purrs or wet noses. However, owning a pet involves much more than simply feeding and playing with your furry pal— you are responsible for your pet’s lifelong health and happiness. To honor Responsible Pet Owner Month, our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team has compiled five ways you can show your love for your pet, and that you take your responsibility seriously.

#1 Pet proof your home

Many common household foods and products are the culprit for emergency veterinary visits. Schedule time to thoroughly go through your home and remove pet dangers, or ensure they are out of paws’ reach. Food items such as raisins, dark chocolate, onions, and raw dough are toxic to pets and, if ingested, can be deadly without treatment. Ensure that all garbage cans are covered with a pet-proof lid to prevent nosy snouts from digging for food scraps, such as discarded bones or raw meats. Other common household dangers include:

  • Human medications
  • House plants (e.g., holiday plants such as lilies, which are particularly deadly for cats)
  • Cleaning supplies and chemicals
  • Electrical cord outlets and batteries
  • Small children’s toys 

Pet gates are a great way to keep your furry friend out of areas that contain toxic or dangerous items. Additionally, ensure you keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control number readily available in case your pet ingests something that may be dangerous.

#2: Ensure your pet has proper identification

The American Humane Association estimates that approximately one out of three pets will go missing in their lifetime, and 80% will never be reunited with their families. A more heartbreaking statistic is that 90% of lost pets who have no form of identification will not make it home. Fortunately, you can ensure your pet does not become a missing pet statistic with a microchip. Your pet may spend most of their time inside, but they can easily sneak outside and become lost. Microchips are the only permanent, unalterable form of pet identification, and can be quickly and easily implanted in your pet’s shoulder by your veterinarian. Once your pet receives their microchip, you must keep your contact information current with the microchip registration company. Always ensure your pet wears a secondary form of identification, such as embroidered collar or tag with contact numbers, as well.     

#3: Schedule your pet for a wellness examination

Regular veterinary exams and wellness care are key components of responsible pet ownership. From puppyhood to their gray muzzle years, ensuring your pet’s health is regularly monitored and maintained is vital. During your pet’s wellness visit they will be examined from nose to tail to evaluate their overall body condition and health. Additionally, your pet’s wellness veterinary visit may include:

  • Vaccinations — A vaccination plan will be recommended based on your pet’s age and lifestyle. 
  • Parasite control — Flea, tick, and internal parasite prevention is essential to ensure your pet does not become sick from pesky parasites. 
  • Breed-specific preventive health — Certain breeds are more prone to diseases—for example, large-breed dogs are more prone to bloat or stomach twisting after large meals.
  • Age-related needs — Older pets have a higher risk of developing age-related problems, such as arthritis. Your veterinarian may recommend supplements or medications to support their joints.
  • Disease screening tests — Heartworm tests, urine tests, thyroid screening, fecal screenings for parasites, blood chemistry, and complete blood counts may be recommended to monitor your pet’s health. 

#4: Feed your pet a high quality food

Feeding your pet a high quality commercial pet food will ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients to maintain their overall health and weight. However, choosing the right diet can be confusing, because so many options are available. Always choose a pet food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials standards, and ensure the food is labeled as complete and balanced for your dog or cat’s life stage. Additionally, use caution with the amount of treats, which should not compose more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie intake. Always consult with your veterinarian before changing or adjusting your pet’s diet.

#5: Purchase pet insurance

Caring for a pet is not only a large time commitment, but also a financial investment. Pet insurance is a great way to alleviate some veterinary expenses, and ensure you are prepared for unexpected emergency costs. Some pet insurance policies have limitations on pre-existing conditions, so consider taking out insurance when your pet is a healthy puppy or kitten to avoid lack of coverage when they are older. Research pet insurance plans and choose a policy that includes: 

  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Dental procedures
  • Imaging (i.e., X-rays, ultrasound, MRI)
  • Laboratory tests (i.e., blood work, urine, cultures)
  • Behavior consultations
  • Emergency care

Responsible pet parenting is a lifelong endeavor that requires time, planning, love, and medical care. Our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team looks forward to providing your pet with veterinary care throughout their life, and helping you fulfill your responsibilities. Call our office if you have any questions about your pet’s health, or to schedule a wellness visit.