7 Pet Care Tips Easily Overlooked by Pet Parents

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM
By Rhiannon Koehler, DVM on Mar. 11, 2024
woman with dog and cat

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Your pet’s care is important to you, but there’s so much to keep track of. You already know your pet should be on parasite prevention, get their vaccines regularly, and do more than sit on the couch. But caring for a pet is more complicated than simply checking a couple of boxes.

We’re here to help! Make sure you’re not overlooking these important pet care tips.

1. Pet Obesity Prevention Starts at a Young Age

Pet obesity is unfortunately a common health issue for dogs and cats. About 59% of dogs and 61% of cats in a 2022 survey were overweight or obese. Obesity makes your pet prone to health conditions like arthritis and diabetes.

Start monitoring your pet’s weight at a young age. Your veterinarian can show you how to “body condition” score your dog or cat, which is the best way to monitor their weight.

Dogs and cats have different nutritional needs as they move through their different life stages. A puppy or kitten has higher caloric requirements for their size than a healthy adult dog or cat does.

They also require food that is specifically formulated and labeled for growing animals due to their particular nutritional needs. Underlying health conditions and activity level also impact your pet’s nutritional requirements.

At all times, make sure you’re feeding a high-quality food that’s approved for the stage of life your pet is in. Your adult animal shouldn’t eat puppy or kitten food unless your veterinarian recommends it.

2. Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth Can Prevent Dental Disease

Don’t forget about your pet’s dental care! Your pet’s teeth might be shaped differently from yours, but they still feel dental pain.

Veterinary dentists recommend brushing your pet’s teeth with a pet-safe toothpaste daily, as well as getting regular dental cleanings done by a veterinarian. If you can’t brush every day, even once or twice a week is better than not doing it at all. Your vet can also help you figure out the best pet toothbrush and dental plan for your dog or cat.

Some pets may not tolerate the toothbrush, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on at-home pet dental care.

Other options for caring for your pet’s teeth include:

3. Arthritis Can Be Spotted Early in Pets

Arthritis is a common issue in pets, particularly in senior pets or those with developmental conditions like hip dysplasia. Earlier intervention may slow progression and improve quality of life for your pet.

For almost all health conditions, your pet will do better with an earlier diagnosis and earlier intervention.

More obvious signs of arthritis in pets include limping, swollen joints, and muscle wasting. Both dogs and cats have other signs, sometimes subtle, which usually occur ahead of the more noticeable limping.

Subtle signs of arthritis in both dogs and cats include reluctance to engage in activities like jumping onto furniture or climbing stairs, decreased energy levels, and reluctance to play. Both dogs and cats may also experience challenges with basic movements, such as getting in and out of cars or lowering their head to food or water bowls.

If you’re noticing signs of arthritis in your pet, speak with your veterinarian. Two ways you can help slow arthritis include keeping your pet at a healthy weight and looking into joint supplements for dogs or cats.

4. Say Yes to Screening Tests

It may be tempting to decline the recommended lab work at your pet’s wellness appointments as a cost-saving measure.

Just as your own physician recommends bloodwork and urine testing to monitor your health, your veterinarian will recommend monitoring your pet’s lab work. In young adult dogs and cats, this is usually done annually, while in senior pets, your veterinarian may recommend lab work twice a year. Some health conditions may necessitate more frequent monitoring.

These lab tests allow your veterinarian to detect health conditions early, including diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. For almost all health conditions, your pet will do better with an earlier diagnosis and earlier intervention.

5. Mental Health Matters, Too

We can’t ask an animal how they feel, but we have evidence that dogs and cats experience anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, traumatic stress responses, phobias, and dementia.

Ways to protect your pet’s mental health include:

  • Following a routine: Feeding your pet an allotted amount at the same times each day can reduce anxiety around feeding times.
  • Providing an enriching environment: Regularly swap out the toys your pet has access to. Consider how you could incorporate new experiences into your pet’s regimen.
  • Exercising your pet: Take your dog for frequent walks. Try playing fetch with your cat.
  • Familiarizing yourself on your pet’s body language: Gently redirect them when you notice something may be overstimulating or stressful to them.
  • Keeping up on training: Don’t be afraid to teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks.

Speak with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist if you’re noticing changes in your pet’s behavior, such as increased aggression, difficulty sleeping, or increased destructiveness.

6. Follow an Exact Schedule for Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Protection

Veterinarians recommend year-round parasite prevention for your pets, even indoor-only cats. The ranges and active seasons of parasites are expanding, with many of these pesky bugs out to bite even in the middle of winter.

Missing a dose puts your pet’s coverage at risk. Some of these preventatives only treat parasites at certain life stages, so if you miss a dose or two, the medication may not kill the parasite once you remember to administer it. Your vet can help you determine the best flea and tick medication your dog or cat

Set reminders on your phone or calendar to ensure your pet’s schedule is tracked and completed.

7. Pet Insurance May Save You Money

Purchasing a pet insurance plan may help you save money on your pet’s healthcare.

Insurance plans for dogs and cats come in three main forms: accident and illness (comprehensive), accident-only, and wellness/preventative.

Accident and illness plans will usually cover any disease or injury that isn’t pre-existing or congenital (present at birth). Accident-only plans cover injuries and illness that occur due to an accident, such as being hit by a car or eating a foreign object. Wellness or preventative plans are typically add-on plans that help spread out the cost of vaccines, dental cleanings, and other recommended wellness care.

Insurance plans for dogs and cats come in three main forms: accident and illness (comprehensive), accident-only, and wellness/preventative.

Some insurance plans will have other add-on plans available, such as for alternative treatments or end-of-life care.

With pet insurance, you usually pay the veterinary bill up front at the clinic. Then, you submit a claim and are reimbursed a certain percentage of the cost. You’ll still have a deductible you’ll need to meet. You usually pay for insurance plans in the form of a monthly premium.

If you’re considering pet insurance, make sure to look at what different companies cover. Keep in mind that these plans usually don’t cover pre-existing conditions and have required waiting periods before a new condition is covered.

Getting insurance for your young dog or cat before chronic health conditions have developed may be especially advantageous. Some insurance companies will “lock in” your premium for your pet’s life rather than increasing the rate as your pet ages. However, if you purchase the plan when your pet is older, they’ll have a higher premium than one for a healthy puppy or kitten.

Staying mindful of these simple, yet important pet care tips will ensure that your keep your pet's health and their well-being top of mind. 

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Dr. Rhiannon Koehler is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public...

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