There’s no such thing as a perfect pet parent! There are so many things to know. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wealth of information available and struggle to come up with a short list of your furbaby’s essential needs. Health, hygiene, play and exercise, and diet and nutrition are just a few of the items most pet owners aim to consider. But how can one prioritize relevant information and narrow the focus to a manageable amount?

Tipp City Veterinary Hospital has paired down the Top 5 Things to Know About Your Pet. These key tips are designed to promote your pet’s ongoing health and wellness, and will have you on your way to becoming pet mom or dad of the year!

1.) Learn Your Pet’s Body Language

Speaking the same language as your pet can be a daunting task. Beyond the meows and woofs, our companion animals have an impressive array of behaviors that indicate their emotions. Body language can be a sign of anything from excitement to illness. Learning to “speak” their language is key when it comes to promoting positive social interaction, good manners, and detecting early signs of distress.

Your pet’s overall health and happiness is greatly improved through appropriate research and understanding. It’s not uncommon for even the most well-meaning pet parents to misread signs. For example, many owners misinterpret the manner in which dogs shrink away from a raised tone as a look of “guilt.” It’s easy to impose human reactions onto our furbabies — especially when we’ve told them a thousand times not to rummage through the trash! In reality, most dogs react in fear or insecurity to raised tones and thrive in environments of positive reinforcement. Understanding this dynamic is a great thing to know to switch from ineffective yelling and hollering to a more tried and true method like clicker training.

Tail wagging is another prime example of the many ways a dog can express his or her emotions in a simple gesture. Most owners associate a tail wag with happiness. This may be true the majority of the time, but a tail wag can actually range from afraid, to submissiveness, to anxious, in addition to the pure excited wiggle we all know and love. A low tail wag can be a sign that something is wrong and it’s a good time to check your pup for injuries or illness.

Cats present a truly unique challenge with their wide variance of expressive mannerisms. Don’t be too quick to pass off your kitty’s quirks! Ears, eyes, gait, and tail can tell us a lot about a cat’s mood. Translating feline feelings is helpful when bonding with a new cat or simply socializing any kitty in need of a little extra TLC.

All cuddly couch potatoes come from wild ancestry. As such, pets often hide their illness or injuries well. Avians and exotic animals in particular are very good at concealing when something is wrong. Birds, chinchillas, sugar gliders, and many other small friends have a unique set of personality traits that can clue owners in to their health and wellness before any issues arise.

Spend a little extra time researching your pet’s quirks, manners, and oddities. Understanding the nuances of body language can be a great help when it comes to connecting with your pet.

2.) Decide On A Diet

With so much information on diet available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the things you need to know. Fillers, additives, and junk food are no good for your furbaby’s digestive system. One factor remains certain; commercial pet foods are no good. A low quality diet can lead to a slew of health problems from obesity to joint inflammation.

It’s important to seek out high quality food that suits your pet’s individual needs. Like people, every pet is an individual. There’s no one size fits all solution; although natural and grain free options are often the best way to ensure your dog or cat is getting appropriate nutrients that best mimic their natural diet.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine a diet that best suits your pet. Be prepared to adjust throughout each stage of your pet’s life.

3.) Be Health Aware

Be aware of common health issues for your pet. Many breeds are especially prone to specific ailments. Keep a short list in mind so you can catch early warning signs and speak with your veterinarian to come up with a preventative care regime. For example, many large breed dogs such as German Shepherds are susceptible to hip dysplasia and may benefit from glucosamine supplements. Small breed dogs may be less prone to hip and joint problems, but often face their own breed specific health risks that diet and proper care can mitigate.

Cats are unique in being particularly skilled at hiding illness and injury. Things to know include the signs of a sick or injured feline so you can quickly address any situations that arise. One common occurrence in cats is dental issues. Tooth decay and enamel wear can happen with both hard and soft food diets. Catching signs of decay early is the best way to prevent extractions down the road by managing your kitty’s teeth with routine cleanings.

Avians and exotics are perhaps the most challenging of all with a high degree of specificity in their health and hygiene. Always research a new furry family member prior to adding one to your home and stay aware of any changes in behavior or eating habits.

It’s never too early to be proactive about your pet’s health! Puppies and kittens can benefit from a wellness plan that takes breed specific care into account.

4.) Become a Behavior Expert

Note your pet’s behaviors. When do they like to eat? What’s a typical energy level for your furbaby? How often do they drink? Making a mental check of these habits can quickly alert owners to sudden changes that may indicate stress or illness.

Understanding your pet’s behavior is also an excellent training tool. If your pet has separation anxiety, prepare him or her beforehand if you’re planning on going away for the weekend. If you’re socializing a new puppy, keep a vigilant watch on any behaviors that indicate fear or aggression so you can intervene as needed. Remember; consistency is key. Encourage positive behaviors by rewarding your pet with plenty of praise!

5.) Have an Emergency Plan

Emergencies can happen to even the most attentive pet parents. Have a plan for what to do in case of an urgent situation. Compile a basic first aid kit that will get you through until help arrives. Next, put together a list of emergency vet numbers and be sure to note distance and hours of operation. It’s a good idea to identify your nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic, just in case you’ll ever need to utilize their services.

It can be challenging to find an emergency vet who is willing to treat exotics. Have this information ready beforehand so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

Looking for more great tips for Ohio pet owners? Check out 5 Reasons to Take Your Dog for an Annual Vet Visit. With a little time, patience, and plenty of love you’ll be on your way to becoming a pet parent superstar! Contact our friendly, knowledgeable veterinary staff today for all of your pet’s health and wellness needs.