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8 Ways to Keep a Pet Healthy

Most people view their pets as an extension of the family. Therefore, pet parents are interested in the best ways to ensure their dogs, cats, birds, or small mammals are healthy and happy.

It doesn't take much to keep a pet healthy, but these steps are essential for the well-being of the animal. An individual who is not able to provide the general care for a pet -- whether financially or emotionally -- should reconsider if it is the right time to bring a bet into the household. A pet that is well cared for can live many years and provide great rewards.

1. Choose healthy foods. Many commercially prepared foods are full of fillers and sugars instead of fresh meats and grains. Although it may cost a bit more, pet food that is primarily good quality meat and grains with minimal preservatives or artificial colorings can keep a pet in better form. Diet can effect health in a number of ways including energy levels and coat appearance. So good health begins with good food.

2. Keep fresh water handy. All animals should be given fresh water that is routinely changed. Bacteria and viruses can multiply in water that is left sitting around. Plus, there may be other contaminants in unfiltered water that's left stagnant. If a person wouldn't drink the water, it shouldn't be offered to a pet.

3. Exercise your pet. All animals need exercise to be healthy. Exercise helps to keep weight in check, banish boredom, and ensure that the systems of the body all get pushed to their potential. A dog who does not get to exercise may become destructive in the house when the owners are not home.

4. Consult with a veterinarian. Routine health checkups should be part of keeping a pet healthy. Not only does the vet give pets annual vaccinations that can prevent common diseases, but the vet will also examine the animal to diagnose or catch illnesses early. If a pet is not acting normally, consult the vet.

5. Groom the pet regularly. Some animals groom themselves. Others can use the help of nail clipping, bathing, and fur cutting to keep in top form. Matted fur can pull at the skin and cause irritation. Dogs and cats may lick or bite at a wound and cause more trouble. Long nails can impede a bird's ability to hold food or a perch. In general, a clean pet is a happy pet.

6. Know pet dangers around the house. Pet-proof the home just as one would baby-proof it. Keep chemical products locked up so they cannot be consumed. Certain products smell sweet and inviting to unsuspecting pets, but consumption can be deadly. Even certain houseplants can be toxic if eaten.

7. Avoid "people" food. Certain fruits and vegetables can be supplemented in a pet's diet (consult with a veterinarian). However, on the whole, limit the amount of human food that pets eat. It may not provide the nutritional value the animal needs and can contribute to obesity. Foods like raisins, grapes, onions, and macadamia nuts can be toxic to dogs and cats and should be avoided.

8. Show interest in the pet. A pet needs a certain level of interaction to be content. Discipline, affection, and exercise with a pet parent are key components of animal health.

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