3 cornerstones to a longer, healthier, happier life for your pet

(BPT) - Your pets are members of the family. They are the source of some of your best memories, they are your travel companions, your confidantes and your evening snuggle partners. You love them and you want them to live the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible.

Like it is for you, achieving the healthiest, happiest life for your pet is directly tied to the cornerstones of preventive care, nutrition and exercise. To provide insight into how each of these can benefit your pet, Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer for Purina, offers this advice:

Regular veterinary exams

Your veterinarian and his/her team are the experts when it comes to the health and well-being of your pet. Prevention is a key component of regular vet visits; the earlier a potential problem is identified, the easier it is to treat and the greater the chance of success. The physical examination, routine diagnostics, vaccinations, heartworm prevention and parasite control will help keep your pet in tip-top shape. You can also work with your veterinarian to create a tailored health plan for your pet that takes into account their age, activity level and any medical considerations.

Nutrition

In a recent Purina survey, three in five dog and cat owners (60 percent) would consult their veterinarian for food safety and quality advice, while just about half refer to their pet food companies’ websites. Furthermore, when it comes to nutrition, it is important to work with your veterinarian to select the ideal diet for your pet that is appropriate for their life stage (i.e., puppy vs. adult) and lifestyle (couch potato vs. sporting dog). It is also important to look beyond just the ingredient list and marketing claims on the bag.

The nutrients inside should also meet or exceed AAFCO, USDA and FDA standards. Many pet owners are unaware of the rigorous process that goes into ensuring quality and safety in pet food, with three in five pet owners admitting they didn’t know about the process after learning more about what goes into the pet food quality-checking process. For pet owners, it’s also important to take the time to look at the company’s manufacturing reputation, along with safety and quality standards. Ask these key questions when evaluating different pet foods:

* Who formulates the food and what are their credentials? Look for brands with nutritionists and veterinarians on staff to formulate the diets. Purina has over 500 pet experts globally, including nutritionists, veterinarians, behaviorists and immunologists who use their expertise to improve pet nutrition and care.

* What are the company’s quality and safety standards? Purina conducts more than 30,000 quality checks involving ingredients, packaging, receiving, processing and packing in a typical 24-hour production period.

* Where is the food produced? Does the company own their manufacturing facilities? At Purina, 99 percent of our food sold in the U.S. is made in our own facilities.

Exercise and enrichment

An appropriate amount of daily exercise can help reduce the incidence of common behavioral problems in pets. This includes excessive barking, inappropriate chewing and general hyperactivity. In addition, exercise — combined with appropriate diet quality and quantity — can reduce the incidence of obesity and associated health conditions, such as osteoarthritis in dogs and diabetes in cats.

Physical exercise can take on a variety of forms, from leash walks to ball fetch to playtime at the local dog park. For those dogs with a predilection for the water, swimming can offer a fun and effective alternative. And don’t forget that mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Obedience training, food puzzle toys, chew toys and trick training — such as roll over or paw — are all beneficial for pets.

Before starting any exercise regimen with your pet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian to find answers to your questions and learn what activities would best support your pet based on their breed, age and needs.

Taking steps to improve your pet’s health today

Your pet gives you so much and you naturally want to return the favor. You can do so by following the three simple suggestions above. Do so and you and your pet will be able to live a longer, healthier, and happier life together.

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