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We all know the back-to-school season can be hectic. We have endless checklists to complete as we try to get our kiddos back on a normal school routine, preparing for the early mornings and later days coming soon. And we run around last minute filling out all the correct forms, signing kids up for after school activities, and preparing for the new school year. I don’t know about every other parent, but for me, back-to-school feels a lot like the New Year. I set new resolutions, get more organized, cook healthier meals, and set up for a whole new year of events and activities. But with all this chaos, back-to-school for your pets may mean being overlooked.
This time of year is a busy one at my animal hospital with emergencies and illnesses. Our pets rely on us for everything. It’s important to give them the best care we can to ensure they live long, happy lives. As we do with children and ourselves at the beginning of each school year, it’s helpful to reflect on the last year in our pets’ lives and figure out what we can improve upon in the coming year. To help with this process, I created a list of my top tips to start your pets off on the right paw for back-to-school.
Back-to-School Tips to Keep Your Pets Healthy and Safe
1. Pack a Healthy Lunch
Feed your pet a high quality diet with the best ingredients.
Every year when my children start the new school year, I make a pledge to prepare healthier meals and snacks for them. We know the importance of feeding ourselves and our children high quality foods. So why not do the same for our pets? Especially given the recent warnings released by the FDA regarding pet food, it is so important to choose a high quality diet for our pets.
Side By Side Pet Food is a whole food based diet that sources the highest quality ingredients. The food is cooked at the lowest temperature and for the shortest amount of time so that it does not lose the inherent nutrients from the ingredients. This method is unique from traditional kibble-based diets where ingredients are run through an extrusion process for hours at very high temperatures to create the kibble. Kibble-based foods lose their inherent vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the cooking process. The kibble is typically sprayed with synthetic nutrients to replace the nutrients lost in the cooking process. Side By Side Pet Food does not use any artificial additives, preservatives, colorings, or added nutrients. All nutrients are derived from the inherent ingredients. Best of all, their foods meets all AAFCO requirements for complete and balanced nutrition.
2. Update Immunization Forms
Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date according to AAHA regulations.
We all know the stress and headache of getting our children’s immunizations up-to-date and forms submitted to their schools. Well, vaccinating is just as important for our pets. Protect your pets against easily transmittable and deadly diseases. We diagnose diseases such as parvo, distemper, feline leukemia, and rabies daily. These diseases are easily preventable with vaccinations that are safe and effective. Speak with your veterinarian regarding your pet’s lifestyle to keep your pets healthy and protected this back-to-school season.
3. Shop ’til You Drop
Go back-to-school clothes shopping for your pets!
I prefer harnesses over collars for dogs. A harness causes less strain on airways and makes breathing a bit easier. Puppia harness is a great product and one product I always suggest to my patients.
4. Just Say No…to Parasites
Practice proper parasite control is imperative.
Monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention is safe and easy. Fleas and ticks pass along many diseases. Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic disease which targets the heart a potential cause of death. Make sure to speak with your veterinarian to put your pet on the proper parasite control.
5. Let’s Get Physical
Take your pet to your veterinarian at least once per year.
I cannot stress this tip enough to keep your pets healthy. Animals cannot tell us when they are not feeling well. Dogs will communicate a little, but cats will not show any signs that they are sick until they are very ill. Unfortunately, when my pet parents realize their cat is not acting right, it is generally at the end stages of a disease with not much else to do. Make sure your pets see your veterinarian at least one time per year, if not twice. We may be able to detect things that pet parents do not notice.
Annual bloodwork is important for catching and treating disease early. A veterinarian’s physical examination gives us an overall idea about your pet’s health, but bloodwork will better detect organ function and certain diseases. At my animal hospital, I recommend a junior blood profile one time per year for my younger pets, and a senior blood profile one time per year for pets over 8 years old.
6. Heavy Duty
Control your pet’s weight.
Overweight pets are more prone to diabetes and other diseases. In addition, our aging pets tend to have a difficult time moving around and can develop degenerative joint disease. To keep your pets healthy, make sure they maintain a healthy BCS (Body Condition Score). Maintaining a healthy diet, preferable a whole food diet as discussed above, proper feeding quantities and then exercise. They depend on us!
7. Take Your Vitamins
Use natural supplements for joint health, skin health, and cardiac health.
I love glucosamine chondroitin sulfate and omega 3 fatty acids and recommend my pet parents start their pets on these supplements at a very young age. Speak to your veterinarian regarding the specific health benefits and what dose your pet needs. In this category and others, Side by Side pet offers some wonderful supplement options. For glucosamine and chondroitin, their So Hip product includes ground Bison trachea, a species appropriate ingredient that suppots absorption of these important nutrients.
8. Brush Those Pearly Whites
Maintain your pet’s dental health, and have their teeth cleaned professionally.
Periodontal disease is the most overlooked disease in pets and can cause significant health problems. Imagine if you never brushed your teeth… Our pets are no different. Although I highly recommend it, most pet parents do not actively brush their pet’s teeth. Pets are susceptible to the EXACT same diseases caused from poor dental hygiene as humans, such as cardiac disease, diabetes, and systemic illness. So take care of your pet’s teeth in order to keep them happy and healthy!
9. Emergency Contact
Know the common emergencies you should never wait to be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Often, people cannot distinguish when their pet needs to be seen immediately by a veterinarian or if an issue can wait. As always, I tell my clients to go with their instinct. If you are worried and not sure, never hesitate to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.
10. Focus and Routine
Stick to the same routine with your pets until the school year is well under way.
This is a busy time for parents. Our minds are so focused on getting everything ready for our kids’ back-to-school. Try and stick to the same routine with your pet during this time to avoid emergencies and accidents.
Final Thoughts on Keeping Pets Happy During Back-to-School
It is up to us to give our fur babies the healthiest lives possible. Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and to keep them healthy and strong. They give us so much love, devotion, and loyalty, so let’s give them the benefits of health, happiness, and a long wonderful life!
I wish you all a smooth transition into the new school year.
Dr. Alison Birken is a small animal veterinarian in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. She owns Victoria Animal Hospital, is the co-founder of Forever Freckled, wife to her amazing husband Rob, mom to her 3 greatest accomplishments Luke, Leah & Hayden and dog mom to her Saint Bernard Dory