Britain is a nation of pet lovers. Last year, it was estimated that 44% of households owned a pet of some kind.
However, looking after an animal can come with a lot of responsibility, and you should always make an effort to ensure your pet is as fit and healthy as can be.
What steps can you take to keep your furry friend healthy and happy?
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, you have a duty of care to provide fresh, clean drinking water and a well-balanced, healthy diet for your pet. The amount your dog needs to eat will be dependent on its size and breed, but Pedigree have created some handy Feeding Guidelines so you can work out the exact amount your canine friend requires.
For cats, you can choose whether to feed them wet or dry food, or a mixture of the two. Similar to dogs, the amount a cat should eat is dependent on its size, but you should take note of the food packaging directions as a rough guide.
The correct diet is vital to keep your furry friend happy. Cats Protection note that cats are “an obligate carnivore, and must have amino acids such as taurine that can only be found in meat” – so completely veggie diets are not recommended!
Exercise is a fundamental requirement for most pets. Not only can it help to keep them at a healthy weight, it can also reduce further health risks and make for an all-round happier animal.
All dogs require regular walks, but the amount they need differs depending on their size, breed and age. The government notes that young dogs should have their exercise restricted during periods of rapid growth in order to avoid any complications.
They also recommend keeping your dog indoors and limiting outdoor activities during episodes “of extreme weather, or during events which they may find frightening, such as firework displays”.
However, it’s not just your canine friends that should be having a regular run around. Unlike outdoor cats, indoor felines can easily miss out on vital exercise. But there are things you can do at home to help them along their way.
Give your cat the exercise it needs by encouraging it to play with you indoors – consider investing in toys such as balls of string, scratch poles or laser pointers. Cats are mischievous creatures, so you will probably find that they’ll release their energy by running around the house of their own accord, anyway!
Grooming your pet can have much more than just aesthetic benefits.
According to Purina, keeping your pet brushed and clean can also aid in circulation, improve muscle tone and act as increased insulation.
While cats look after themselves most of the time, you can help them along their way by giving them a brush down once in a while.
In fact, a cat’s shedding season falls at the beginning of spring and autumn, so it can be beneficial to give them a comb-through during this time using a specialised cat brush.
Dogs need a much more regular grooming schedule, whether that be at a professional dog grooming salon or at home. All breeds can get matted fur without a regular brush-through (although long-haired dogs will matt more easily), and you should make sure you research into the requirements of your dog’s breed when you first get it.
The Blue Cross note that you should get your dog used to regular grooming from as young an age as possible: “It’s important that dogs are happy and comfortable with grooming, whether this is done in the home or by a professional dog groomer.
"By getting into a regular grooming routine with your dog, it also gets them used to this type of handling, and should make visits to the vets much easier.”
It is your duty as a pet owner to ensure that your animal is visiting the vet at least once a year, or when you notice any changes to its physical health or behaviour. However, the 2017 PDSA Animal Welfare Report indicated that 15% of animal owners are yet to register their pets with a vet.
Registering is usually free, and can give you peace of mind that should something go awry, you can take your fury friend to see a specialist as soon as possible.
RSPCA Cymru told us: “Taking your pet for regular check-ups provides opportunities for a thorough health check from your vet, to discuss routine preventative healthcare for fleas, ticks and worms as well as any concerns you may have about your pet’s welfare. Your vet can also advise on issues like neutering, microchipping and vaccinations, which play an important role in keeping pets safe and healthy.
“Sadly, some serious cases of animal neglect encountered by RSPCA frontline officers could have been avoided had an animal been taken to a vet sooner – highlighting the hugely important role they play in keeping our pets safe and well.”
"You should always make sure to follow the instructions your vet gives you – including only administering antibiotics when told to do so. British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said: “It is incredibly important that pet owners follow veterinary advice and trust their vet’s clinical judgement.”
However, worrying about vet bills should not mean you compromise on your pet’s well-being. Take the pressure off and look into Admiral’s Pet Insurance. This can give lifetime cover for both accident and illness claims up to your total policy limit with no time restrictions.