Eat, Bark, Love: 5 Reminders for a Healthy & Happy Pet


If you subscribe to the New York Times, you may have seen the special section they had in early June about the latest information as to the mutually beneficial relationship between people and their pets. Our understanding of this bond has deepened: we can get employer-sponsored health benefits for veterinary care; cats—and even goats!—participate in yoga classes; there are growing studies in empathetic responses between dogs and people; there are even reports that interaction with our pets can help boost our immune responses!

Our pets are more than just our friends: they are our family. As happy as they make us feel, we owe it to them to do the same.

Keep a Clean, Comfortable Home

Now that you’ve brought home your new animal friend, it’s up to you to make sure messes are mopped and spaces are kept tidy and accommodating.

The cleaning and maintenance of dirty dog beds or fish tanks can be time consuming, but it can make the difference in keeping your pet from developing horrible infections. A dirty bed or tank can become an incubator for deadly bacteria.

For the reptile terrarium, species and natural habitat of origin must be strong considerations in set up and maintenance. Whether you’re accommodating jungle snakes or desert horned toads, be sure you’ve got an enclosure that has the correct conditions: boas will need branches to wrap around and leaves to shade; turtles, such as red-ear sliders, will need a pond to splash around in and a shore to dry off.

Regular and Vigorous Exercise

For doggies, it’s more than just walkies: they’re pack animals and still like to run with, play fight and chase their kin. If you live in an area with wooded walking paths, and can find a walking service in your area that specializes in dog pack runs, this could keep your dog fit, and it’s also an excellent boredom fighter.

Cats, like dogs, are outdoor predators who enjoy running around and investigating their domain. With some exceptions, most cats are kept indoors and will tend to stalk around your rooms. It’s not a bad idea to invest in a cat condo system for them to leap and ramble about. If you’re trying to be cost-effective, arrange your living space to be as accommodating and stimulating with easy open emptied cupboards to roost in, book stacks for clambering, and high shelving without gravity-friendly objects for a vantage point.

For the cage/tank-bound, let them have a little time out from their confines by making obstacle courses in a controlled area. Unleash that budgie and let him have an acrobatic air show in your living room (just keep your furniture covered with a towel for easy clean-up).

Fight Boredom

That New York Times pet health insert included “The Lonely Pets Quiz,” with True/False questions and answers to such questions as “Prozac has been approved to treat separation anxiety in pets,” and “It’s illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland?” If you failed, you know you have some work to do.

Physical activity is great for physical fitness, but animals need to work their minds as well. In the wild, most animals tend to be members of herds, packs or flocks and have a social instinct. As much as they love to be around you, they may require additional companionship—particularly of their own kind, such as dogs in a pack, birds in a flock, and so on. To be left alone can be stressful for some, prompting them to act out in self-mutilation or loss of appetite.

Thus, the answer to the guinea pig question is TRUE: it is illegal to own just one guinea pig!

If there’s a talking parrot present, you can always teach them new words to learn, or a cool new move to make. With a little positive reinforcement, and patience on your end, that parrot will be able to move like Jagger while reciting “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”—maybe not, but they’ll have a variety of words and tricks that will keep the both of you entertained for a long time.

With the idleness of boredom, depression and anxiety disorders can set in for most animals. Profound emotional issues may call for medications, such as AmitryptilineFluoxetine or Clomipramine. CareFirst Specialty Pharmacy is a source for those medications and more should your veterinarian call for it.

Eat Right

Animal diets are affected by living among humans: they’re scheduled and parceled out according to what’s provided, as opposed to hunting or grazing in the wild. Make sure the food you’re feeding your animal friends is the right kind. Not all of what comes off your plate is good for them. Always check with your veterinarian or an expert as to what foods will be best for your pet’s health.

Cats and dog food companies cater to all varieties of breeds, their age and needs. The same applies to fish and even birds. As for reptiles, feeding may require more forethought and care because reptile diets vary between species. Be sure you know if the snake you get is more inclined to dead rats than live crickets.

If your pet should show signs of having digestive issues, ranging from lack of appetite to diarrhea, be sure to get them checked out for parasites or other issues. CareFirst makes medications to deal with digestive issues such as those caused by parasites or bacteria, or chronic constipation. Consult with your vet to find out what would be best to treat your pet’s condition.

Groom Regularly

Fur mats; claws grow; odor rises: it’s time to get clean. Dogs and cats will lick themselves; bird beaks are kept trim from nest building and food gathering; reptiles shed their skins. Once they’re domesticated, some instinctual behaviors can be neglected from underuse. Dogs and cats don’t have the wild to remove malingering odors, so they’ll end up in a tub with a shampoo that’s right for their fur or hair type—or at a pet salon (if you’re feeling indulgent). A regular, thorough cleaning can help fight off parasites and reduce the contraction of disease.

As for birds, growing beaks and claws will require more hands-on maintenance—occasionally of a professional caliber. You can get a cuttle bone or wood chew toys, or feed them hard nuts and crunch vegetables. But if the beak grows too much, you may have to plan a veterinary visit. As for claws, it can be done with a towel, a firm grasp and some clippers—but it could require some assistance.

A Happy, Healthy family

As members of your family, your pet deserves the same happy healthy environment. Regular trips to the vet for checkups are necessary, just as trips to the doctor are for you. If your pet gets sick, you know that CareFirst Specialty Pharmacy will have the medicines available to help your animal friend recover, regardless of species. If they need Azithromycin for a bacterial infection, CareFirst has it! Desmopressin for diabetes? Check CareFirst!

You can count on CareFirst Specialty Pharmacy to have the medicines you’ll need for your pet. But the best health care comes from you in the simple steps you take to provide a happy, healthy home for your happy, healthy pet.