Are you the best pet caretaker you can be?
It’s kind of a funny question, I know. Many of us who have had pets for most of our adult lives probably consider ourselves to be pretty knowledgeable about our pets.
We feed them, walk them and take them to the vet. You might be surprised, though, to find out that these days, just taking good physical care of your pet isn’t always enough.
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Consider the following five ways to strengthen your “pet parenting” skills.
1. Stay on Top of Recalls
Can you think of the last time you heard about a pet food recall? It probably wasn’t too long ago.
They happen fairly regularly — just last week, actually.
Many people with pets stay in the dark about new recalls, but not you.
Take a moment right now and sign up for Petful’s recall alerts. It’s a free benefit of joining our amazing community of pet lovers.
Manufacturers recall pet foods for a wide variety of reasons, from mildly serious issues to life-threatening contaminants. The FDA keeps records of past and current recalls, but if you struggle with navigating the federal agency’s website (no shame in it, it took me a while to get the hang of it), you’ll be glad to know we have our own recall center: Is Your Pet Food Brand on This List?
Bookmark the page and take the time to check up on your pet’s food regularly — you might be very glad you did.
2. Check Those Labels
Reading a pet food label can be a daunting task. Some regulations are in place that do their best to keep the pet food companies honest, but labels can look like gibberish to those not used to reading them.
The FDA, the federal agency in charge of enforcing pet food labeling laws, has a great breakdown on its website regarding the requirements that pet food companies must follow on labels.
The FDA also explains how to understand what your pet food company is really putting in the food it markets to the public.
The website gives detailed explanations, such as what the net quantity means: “The net quantity statement tells you how much product is in the container. There are many FDA regulations dictating the format, size and placement of the net quantity statement. None of these do any good if the consumer does not check the quantity statements, especially when comparing the cost of products.”
Take note of that last line — it’s important for us, the consumers, to be checking those sizes.
3. Understand Your Pet
By virtue of simply living with a pet, you usually have an excellent idea of what is “normal” for your animal in terms of behaviors.
For example, your dog might have a routine where she gets up with you in the morning, wants to go outside, eats breakfast and then wants to play.
Knowing that routine helps you see more quickly when something is amiss. As best stated by the American Kennel Club, “Any major variations in these patterns could indicate illness and should be reported to your veterinarian.”
So if you have a usually big eater who suddenly isn’t hungry or a normally energetic dog who just wants to sleep, this may indicate a health problem.
4. Plan Ahead for Disasters
Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea myself that this was a “thing.” I figured if a hurricane approached, I’d just toss my cat into the carrier and off we’d go.
What I didn’t stop to think about were all the things that could go wrong with my spotty plan.
Disasters can differ from one part of the country to another, but I remember when my area of the country was hit with a massive snowstorm a couple of years ago. The local shelters did not allow pets. So if I had to evacuate, I would have really been in a tough spot.
What I should have done is made an alternate plan in the event of evacuation to make sure that all my family members were safe. You need to create an emergency kit that contains things such as food, water, medications, dishes, leashes and carriers, photos and descriptions of your pets, and current veterinary information.
5. Know the Laws of the Land
Do you for sure know all of your town’s laws and bylaws regarding pet care? Most of us know that our dogs must be leashed, but there may be laws beyond that.
To take just one example, in Arlington, Massachusetts a bylaw states, “No dog under the age of 6 months shall be tethered outside for any length of time.” Even if your pup is a giant (and some are), if he is younger than 6 months and you live in Arlington, you can’t tie him up outside.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Make the effort to know and understand the laws pertaining to pet care where you live.