No doubt about it, most animal owners are very devoted to their pets. A pet can help lower your blood pressure, lessen anxiety and even boost your immunity. To put it differently, your furry family member can add years of health and happiness to your life. Let’s return the favor by following these tips that can help add healthy years to theirs.

1. Don’t overlook oral care.

Cats and dogs are prone to dental issues like gum disease and tartar buildup. Over time, this can lead to bacterial infections that risk spreading through the kidneys, liver and heart. Prevention is the key here, so brush your pet’s teeth several times a week using fluoride-free pet toothpaste. You can introduce your pet to the habit by wrapping dampened gauze around your finger and gently cleaning their teeth.

2. Don’t dine together.

Since table scraps are frequently high in calories, these morsels can contribute to dangerous weight gain in your pet. An estimated 45 percent of U.S. household pets are overweight, putting them at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. In addition, common people-food ingredients like milk, yeast dough, garlic and onions can trigger toxic reactions. Resist the urge to share your meal with your four-legged friend. Also, don’t share your smoking habit – secondhand smoke is dangerous for pets.

3. Prioritize physical activity.

Grab your laser pointer or leash, because a portly pet is not a healthy pet. Although each breed’s exercise requirements are different, a general rule is 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day, meaning a cat should be running around and a dog should be panting. The benefits of exercise can’t be overstated, and our pets rely on us to reach their daily recommendation. If you walk your pet outdoors, make sure to use a leash. A large portion of pet emergencies would be prevented if the animal was on a leash.

4. “Fix” the problem.

Pet overpopulation isn’t the only reason to have your pet spayed or neutered. Getting your feline or canine fixed can help them live longer and calmer lives. Sterilization of your pet can increase the average life by 1-3 years in dogs or 3-5 years in cats. Immediately after being sterilized, your female pet’s risk of developing ovarian or uterine cancer is eliminated. While at the vet, you can also ask about what immunizations your pet needs, how often they need them and how often they need a vet visit.

5. Groom regularly.

Routine grooming can keep your pet looking sleek, but it can also become a time to survey them. From wet nose to tail, carefully feeling and looking for any abnormalities is important. Things to look for may be lumps, irritated skin, inflammation or any general discomfort. A weekly body check means you’ll know right away when something is out of the ordinary.

6. Consider pet insurance.

A little planning can help protect your pet in the event of an emergency. For example, if a cat or dog requires attention for a common procedure such as foreign body ingestion, it could cost you upwards of $1,500. For $20-$50 a month, you can purchase pet insurance, which can help lessen the cost of expensive vet bills. Similarly, you can set aside an emergency pet fund, which you can add to monthly. Also related — check your home for ingestion hazards like string, open garbage cans and poisonous plants.

Providing good preventative care can help you find illnesses and problems in your pet early on, before they become difficult and expensive to treat. Don’t rely on your cat’s nine lives for a longevity plan. Help your companion enjoy a longer life by being a proactive pet parent.

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