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13 important things veterinarians wish all pet owners knew

Published by Business Insider on Mon, 14 Oct 2019

Insider asked veterinarians to share important pet-care secrets that they wish all animal owners knew.Most of the time pet owners shouldn't be following the serving sizes found on pet-food packages.Dry kibble won't actually help keep your cat's teeth clean.Proper dental care can benefit your pet's overall health and even potentially prolong their life.VisitInsider's homepagefor more stories.Pets can feel like furry family members, so it's natural to want to keep them happy and healthy.That said, there are a few bits of information about pet care that experts wish was more widely known.Here are some important things all pet owners should know, according to veterinarians.Most of the time you shouldn't be following the serving sizes found on pet-food packages.As Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, told Insider, when it comes to pet food, less is sometimes more."The suggested amount on the back of the food bag is always too much. Feed your pet just slightly lower than what is on the bag of food," said Ochoa.Unless you've received special instructions from your pet's vet, it's normally fine to feed your animals slightly less than the suggested serving size, which can help stave off obesity.Read More: 3 signs you're feeding your pet too much, and how much they should really be eatingIf your dog isn't feeling well, it's oftentimes not related to a food allergy.With the increasing conversation around food allergies in humans, some pet owners may suspect a food allergy if their pup begins to show symptoms of illness.However, Ochoa told Insider that the problem is unlikely to be a dog's food."Dog health problems are rarely due to food allergies," said Ochoa, explaining that it's more likely for a dog to be allergic to something in their environment.In any case, you should not switch up your dog's diet without consulting a veterinarian, especially since abruptly changing your pet's food can upset their stomach.Read More: 17 things you should know about your pet's foodA chubby animal may be cute, but obesity can compromise a pet's health.Ruth MacPete, veterinarian and author of the children's book "Lisette the Vet," told Insider that allowing your pet to become overweight can compromise their health."Just like with people, obesity in pets can lead to diabetes, heart problems, and arthritis," said MacPate.If you suspect your pet may be overweight, bring them to the vet before making any major diet or lifestyle changes for them, MacPate told Insider. Along with providing an objective opinion about your pet's weight, a veterinarian will also check if your pet's obesity is due to excess calories or a medical condition.Crunchy, dry kibble won't actually help keep your cat's teeth clean.Some believe that crunchy kibble is important when it comes to a cat's dental healthbut in reality, dry food won't clean your pets' pearly whites.As Geoff DeWire, chief veterinarian at PrettyLitter, told Insider, dry food isn't actually doing much for your cat's teeth."Cats possess carnivore dentition and have fewer premolars and molars than dogs, which means they chew less and mostly swallow the kibble whole. Dry kibble does not act like a toothbrush," said DeWire.Coughing up hairballs isn't normal for a cat."Vomiting hairballs is never normal and is a sign of a problem," said DeWire. "The cat may be consuming too much hair through over-grooming due to an allergy, or there may be a gastrointestinal problem and the movement of hair through the intestinal tract is being compromised."If you are noticing that your cat is regularly hacking up hairballs, you may want to have your veterinarian assess your cat's dermatological and gastrointestinal health with a physical exam and diagnostic tests.Read More: 14 myths about cats that you need to stop believingSome pet vaccines can become less effective over time, so booster shots are important.Although many realize the importance of vaccines, some pet parents have the misconception that a single shot is enough to give their puppy or kitten lifelong immunity to a disease."The truth is that most vaccines need 'booster' shots in order to be effective. It is important that people don't make the mistake of assuming their new pet is protected just because they were vaccinated one time at the shelter," MacPate told Insider.Pet owners should keep track of their animals' medical records and regularly ask their veterinarian if their pets need any additional vaccinations.Investing in a quality pet carrier is worth it.The quality and design of a pet carrier can make a big difference when it comes to veterinary visits and your pet's comfort."Opt for a carrier that is hard plastic and is large enough for the cat to turn around and lay down comfortably," said Travis Arndt, veterinarian and director of the Humane Society of Missouri's Animal Medical Center of Mid-America."It is also important to choose a carrier that opens from the side and from the top," he added.Arndt said a two-door carrier can help nervous pets feel more comfortable at the vet since professionals can conduct parts of the exam without making the pet exit their carrierRead More: 11 surprising signs your cat actually likes youIn the long run, it's almost always cheaper to pay for preventative check-ups than it is to pay for major procedures.Although some pet owners may balk at the cost of annual vaccines or vet appointments, MacPate told Insider that preventive care can usually be financially savvy in the long run."Many pet parents try to save money by skipping annual exams or other preventive treatments," said MacPate. "It is far more cost-effective to vaccinate your dog against a virus than to risk having your dog become infected and then spend hundreds of dollars treating the disease."MacPate especially urged dog owners to vaccinate against parvovirus, which can be potentially deadly and expensive to treat.Exotic pets require specific environments and diets, so do your research and be realistic before adopting one.Ochoa told Insider you should do your research before buying or adopting an exotic pet such as a reptile, especially since they often require more than just food and water."Before getting an exotic animal, go see an exotic vet. The most common reason the most reptiles get sick is that something is wrong in their habitat. It is much easier to fix the problem before it starts," said Ochoa.Be sure to ask an exotic vet what you need to do before bringing your pet home and what signs of distress you should look out for. They'll be able to make recommendations regarding habitat temperature, diet, exercise, and cleanliness.Read More: 8 ways to get your pets to drink more waterPets should never take human medication without a prescription.In some cases, medicines that help humans can fatally harmpets. "Never give your pet human medication without a vet prescription. Although some human medications are fine to give a pet, most over-the-counter medication is not good for your pet," said Ochoa.Cat asthma can actually look like nausea.If your cat frequently acts like it's going to vomit but nothing ever "comes up," you may want to bring your pet to get a breathing checkup."Lots of cat owners confuse a cough with an attempt to vomit up a hairball. If your cat acts like it is vomiting by stretching its neck out, but nothing is produced, ask your veterinarian to assess your cat for lower-airway disease," DeWire told Insider.In many cases, these diseases and other causes of this behavior, like feline asthma, can be managed with special treatment or medication.Proper dental care can benefit your pet's overall health and even potentially prolong their life."Dental disease in pets can lead to serious health issues like kidney, heart, and liver disease. In fact, most pets have dental disease by the time they are three to four years old," Arndt told Insider.Dental procedures under anesthesia allow veterinarians to thoroughly inspect and clean below the gum line, where most dental disease is found.That said, regular brushing at home with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste can help minimize your animal's risk of dental disease and bad breath, but it shouldn't take the place of veterinary cleanings.Pets show pain differently than humans, so it's important to recognize the signs.Unfortunately, pets are extremely good at hiding their pain. This means pet owners should always keep a close eye on their animals' eating habits, behaviors, and patterns."When pets are vocal about pain, it is usually a sign that it is severe. Other signs of pain include behavior changes, excessive grooming, changes in eating and drinking, and guarding behavior," said Arndt.If your pet is showing any signs of pain or if they start behaving differently, consult your veterinarian right away.Many medical conditions that cause pain can be treated if caught early, but some can become life-threatening problems if ignored.Read More:From sniffing butts to getting the 'zoomies,' here's the explanation behind 12 weird things your dog does every day8 things you didn't know were poisonous to catsHow to tell if you're actually ready to have multiple pets15 signs you should bring your pet to the vet
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