- INSIDER asked a group of pet experts about some of their best advice for those who have animals.
- Socializing your pets is great for their mental and physical health, according to animal expert Larissa Wohl.
- It's fairly common for dogs and cats to become obese, so it's important to keep an eye on your pet's diet and weight.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility and although it can be rewarding, it's not always easy. Fortunately, there's a lot of handy advice out there that can benefit you and your pets.
Here are some useful things for pet owners to know, according to experts.
All pets should be seen by their veterinarian at least once per year, even if they seem healthy
You may be tempted to skip your pet's annual exam if they seem healthy, but Katy Nelson, host of "The Pet Show TV" on WJLA in Washington DC, said she recommends staying on top of wellness check-ups to ensure your furry friend is as healthy as they appear.
She told INSIDER that annual check-ups can help you catch health issues "early on while you still have time to intervene," which can save you money and keep your pet feeling as well as possible.
Obesity is quite common in cats and dogs, so it's important to keep an eye on what your pet eats and how much they weigh
"Being overweight is devastating to our pets and overlooking it by calling them cutesy names like 'Chunky,' or 'Fluffy' is doing them no favors," she said. "Adipose cells, known as fat cells, are hormone factories, producing dozens of inflammatory cytokines that increase your pets risk of diabetes, heart disease, joint disease, and even cancer."
She said she suggests individuals speak to their veterinarian about their pet's diet, their eating habits (including treats), and exercise patterns. She also encourages owners to try to keep their pets active.
"Find creative ways to exercise your pets like hunting feeders for cats or doggy daycare [or] anything that you can do to get them moving is a move toward getting healthy and fit," she told INSIDER.
Instead of telling your pet what not to do, try to direct them toward engaging in proper behaviors
Many of us forget that our pets don't understand things as we do - so sometimes it's helpful to guide them to proper actions, especially when they are doing something you're trying to discourage, Kim Paciotti, an experienced dog trainer and pet expert from Charlotte, North Carolina, told INSIDER.
"Your dog may be chewing on something inappropriate, like a piece of furniture, and you quickly tell them to stop. They do for a short time but then they go right back to that same undesired behavior," said Paciotti. "Why? Because you told them what not to do, instead of telling them what to do. The appropriate action would have been to give the dog something they were allowed to chew on."
If your dog is pulling on its leash, you may need to change how you act before and during a walk
Paciotti said one of the main behavior issues many dog owners complain about is that their animal pulls when it is on a leash. She said that sometimes owners are the cause of the problem, not the dog.
"Stop and see if you are actually setting your dog up to do this. Are you one who gets your dog all excited to go? Or are you one who knows your dog is distracted by other dogs and you proceed to walk them when everyone in your neighborhood walks their dogs?" said Paciotti.
"Or, maybe you have a puppy and want them to walk with you. A 6-foot leash and a new puppy are two things that should not go together. The pup must learn to focus on you and not the surroundings," she added.
When teaching your dog a new command, try speaking in plurals and using a high-pitched voice
Another tip that Paciotti shared is that you should try to be mindful of the tone and pitch in your voice when talking to your dog. She said that speaking in plurals and even changing the tone of your voice can help you train a puppy in a lot faster.
"For example, if you want your dog to sit, say 'sitting,' and if you want your dog to lay say 'laying,'" she said. "Dogs hear tone and pitch in our voices. The tone of our voice will change and peak the dog's ears to pay attention."
Whenever your pet's behavior changes, you may want to go see a veterinarian as it can be a sign of something more serious
As tempting as it may be to use the internet to diagnose changes to your pet's behavior, Steve Dale, a certified animal-behavior consultant and host of several pet radio shows, said that a veterinarian should always be consulted to rule out a possible medical explanation for behavioral issues.
"Don't assume, don't wait, and don't depend on [search engines]. Until a time comes when [the internet] can do blood work or heart your pet's heart online, seeing your veterinarian is the right thing to do," added Dale.
Declawing a cat is considered to be inhumane and it's not necessary
"A declaw is an amputation no matter how you slice it ... the veterinarian amputates the end section of the last bone which contains the growth plate along the nail," explained Dale. "It's a procedure that we now know may cause long-term pain, including phantom pain."
Socializing your pets is important to help keep them happy
Most pets enjoy getting out and playing with other animals, Larissa Wohl, a pet expert on Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" show, told INSIDER.
"Socializing your animals, particularly dogs, is so important. We get so busy with our own day-to-day responsibilities that oftentimes [we forget that] our animals sit at home for the entire day," said Whol. "The dog may get a walk in the morning or night, but socializing the animal with other animals helps them mentally and physically and helps them play nicely with other animals."
She suggests dropping your canine off at a doggy daycare location a couple of times a week or scheduling a play date with a friend who has a dog. And, if you have a social cat and are prepared to adopt more pets, you may want to look into adopting another feline for it to socialize with throughout the day.
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