The American Pet Products Association reports that two-thirds (66%) of U.S. households are pet owners. Dogs are the most popular, followed by cats and freshwater fish. Not only are pets a great companion, but they can boost an owner’s health and overall well-being. Humans and animals can have a true symbiotic relationship. Proper pet care helps both the pets and their owners live happy and healthy lives.
TAKING CARE OF PETS
Pets bring new responsibilities for owners—and part of that is knowing how to take care of the animal. To ensure your pet’s optimal health and happiness, consider these pet care tips:
- Select proper food. Dietary needs vary for pets based on the type of animal and age. For example, puppies require different food than senior dogs. Like humans, pets may also have special diets (e.g., gluten-free, grain-free, and vegetarian) and nutritional needs. Improper feeding can lead to health issues (e.g., skin problems, malnutrition, and obesity), and some human foods and plants are even toxic to animals. A vet can advise on a pet’s ideal diet.
- Provide 24/7 access to water. Pets always need access to clean and fresh water to stay hydrated and healthy. Hydration can lead to organ failure and potentially death. If pets live in water, such as fish or turtles, cleaning aquariums and tanks regularly is essential so the pets don’t get sick. A contaminated tank can disrupt the balance of the ecosystem and harm the pet.
- Designate a safe, cozy shelter. Most pets need protection from extreme temperatures and weather conditions, so they shouldn’t be expected to live exclusively outdoors. Provide the pet with an appropriate environment to retreat to and feel safe. For example, cats may want a covered bed indoors.
- Socialize them early on. Pets can benefit from socialization, so it can be advantageous to get them out of the house or have guests over. For dogs, it’s important to socialize puppies with different sights, sounds, places, and people and reinforce positive experiences. Many owners overlook behavioral issues, so it’s critical to address any problems immediately so they don’t worsen.
- Exercise them regularly. Movement is important for your pet’s mental and physical health. Misbehavior is often a result of boredom when pets are left alone. A walk or exercise can be an opportunity to socialize with the pet further.
- Build healthy habits. Maintaining routine wellness checkups with a licensed vet, vaccinations, and teeth cleanings is important. Some pets also require regular grooming to stay happy and healthy. Many owners often neglect dental health, but this could result in periodontal disease and lead to tooth loss or systemic diseases. Similarly, if nails grow too long, they could cause health and mobility issues. With routine veterinary visits, you can stay on top of preventing health issues later.
Many necessities that people need to survive and stay healthy are the same that animals need. A licensed veterinarian can provide pet care guidance and recommendations.
Pet insurance is a voluntary benefit and provides coverage for most pet illnesses and accidents. It primarily focuses on unpredictable medical incidents rather than your typical routine preventive visits. Just as you would ensure your health or your car, pet insurance helps you prepare for unforeseen circumstances, ensuring that financial constraints will not stand in the way of your pet receiving the best possible care.
Having pet insurance will cover most unforeseen illnesses and injuries. Cancer, tumors, illnesses (e.g., unforeseen infections), and surgeries are examples in which a pet insurance plan may step in and help you out. However, pet insurance is generally not intended to cover preexisting conditions and routine care or medical visits.
A pet insurance policy will make it affordable and, thus, often easier to agree to a life-saving procedure or an emergency operation for your pet if an unforeseen medical complication arises.
If you already put time and resources into taking care of your pet, it might be worth it to consider how to prepare for the unexpected. As a pet owner, having pet insurance is a great way to ensure that you’ll be able to help your pet out for a reasonable cost if a surprise accident or illness occurs.
STAYING HEALTHY AROUND PETS
Everyday activities that are part of caring for your pet can spread germs from pets to people. Handling pet food and toys, cleaning cages, and kissing a pet can pass germs from the pet to you. Keep in mind that pets can spread germs even if they look clean and healthy.
The risk of getting a disease from a pet is low for more people, but some groups are more likely to get sick from the germs that pets spread. Those groups include young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs or diseases is to practice good hygiene. Handwashing can help people stay healthy around pets and protect themselves against diseases. As such, hand washing is important after playing with, feeding and cleaning up after a pet.
Pets can contaminate surfaces in the home with germs, which means owners may pick up illnesses that way as well. It’s best to keep pets away from food and areas where food and beverages are prepared, served, consumed, or stored. Proper hand hygiene is key to keeping animals and humans healthy.
STAYING SAFE AROUND PETS
Animals can feel stressed just like humans, so it’s important to understand the signs of stress in a pet and know when not to approach them. A common sign of chronic stress is reduced appetite, increased digestive problems, or lethargy. Dogs may growl, whine, bark, or pace when stressed out, and cats may excessively scratch, groom, or vocalize.
Pets can also sense an owner’s stress levels and take on any anxious feelings. If something seems off about a pet, it’s best not to dismiss it; address the triggers and take extra care of them.
Furthermore, a pet can help young children learn about compassion and responsibility, but they should be supervised while interacting with animals to ensure safety for all. Remember to teach children to wash their hands immediately after playing with animals or touching pet belongings (e.g., food and water dishes, beds, and cages). Children are often the victims of bites and scratches and are more likely to get ill from pets.
UNDERSTANDING THE LINK BETWEEN PETS AND WELL-BEING
The unconditional love of a pet can do more than offer companionship. Consider these benefits of owning a pet:
- Stress relief—Being in the physical presence of an animal can decrease the stress hormone cortisol, lowering your blood pressure and helping you feel less stressed.
- Boosted immunity—Pets can help lower blood pressure and the risk of developing allergic reactions (e.g., asthma and eczema).
- Routine management—Routines are good for humans and animals alike. The nudge to wake up and take care of a pet is good as it gets you going for the day and keeps the routine on track. Also, putting something or someone before you can provide a physical and mental boost.
- Increased socialization—Pets become companions, so developing more connections and socializing with others is beneficial. Animals can help an owner be more social and reduce loneliness. Going out in public with a pet often leads to more human connections.
- Active lifestyle—Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, and pet ownership can help people get moving. Movement not only supports physical health but also mental and emotional health. It can reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods. Physical activity is good for your mind and body—and your pet, too.
- Pet Insurance—A pet insurance policy will make life-saving procedures and emergency operations for your pet affordable and reduce your financial stress. Allowing you to focus on your pets health and recovery.
While these benefits focus on pet ownership, service animals can offer the same advantages. Service animals are trained to provide support for people with certain disabilities or conditions. This type of animal companionship can help those people feel less alone, guide them through outings or accomplish critical tasks.
Proper pet care is the core of responsible pet ownership. Pets depend on their owners for their health and well-being. It comes down to providing the necessities of life (e.g., food, water, and shelter), offering opportunities for exercise and socialization, and being ready financially with pet insurance. In return, pet ownership can positively impact owners’ physical, mental and emotional wellness. Pets can provide owners with a sense of belonging, happiness, and connection.
If you have any questions on pet insurance or how it can help your employees, or any other benefit questions, contact us to speak to a consultant. You can also follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn or here on the FBS Blog for more employee health and wellness trends.