Pet Health and Wellness: A Veterinarian’s Perspective
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Pet Health and Wellness: A Veterinarian’s Perspective

by Wes Chang

Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services Veterinarian, Wild Earth

Your pet is a part of the family, and I have no doubt that you have given much thought to how to improve their health and wellbeing. The truth is that preventative care is at the forefront of wellness, and as pet parents we play a huge role in keeping them healthy.

Here are some tips to help you maintain your pet's health and wellness:

Feed a Healthy Diet

It should not surprise you that diet is on this list, as nutrition is the cornerstone of health. What we feed our pets not only impacts their gastrointestinal tract but has effects on the immune system and the body as a whole. Choosing a diet with healthy ingredients that is appropriate for their life stage is of utmost importance. Puppies, pregnant and nursing pets should be fed a food formulated for “growth and reproduction,” while adults should be fed a food formulated for “adult maintenance.” The best diet is one your pet enjoys, supports its health, fortifies the immune system, and you feel good about feeding. In general terms, for adult pets that need to shed a few pounds or struggle to maintain a healthy weight, I typically recommend a high-protein, high-fiber formula. Our Wild Earth dog food is the world’s first high-protein plant-based dog food. Our unique blend of yeast proteins and fibers, especially beta-glucans, supports healthy digestion and enriches the gut microbiome. All in all, our nutritionally complete and balanced plant-based diet can meet the nutritional needs of dogs in a sustainable and cruelty-free way.

Help Them Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is a growing problem for humans and dogs alike, and in North America, obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that more than 50% of dogs are overweight. Not only are overweight pets predisposed to a variety of chronic health issues such as joint disease, respiratory disease, and certain types of cancer, but they are also found to live on average 2 to 2.5 years less than dogs of ideal body weight. For dogs, this equates to about 18% of their lifespan. While plant-based diets have not been clinically studied for weight loss in dogs, they have been studied in humans, and have been shown to be associated with a decreased BMI and decreased visceral fat.

How do you know if your pet is overweight or obese? In order to answer this question you need to understand how to assess your pet’s body condition score. Body Condition score guidelines can be found here for dogs and cats.

dog body condition chart

Take Them to the Vet Regularly

Take your pet to their veterinarian every 6-12 months to ensure they are in good health. Remember that regular check-ups can help identify any potential health issues before they become a bigger problem. Puppies and kittens should be seen by a veterinarian for the first time around 6 to 8 weeks, and then about every 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Your vet will likely want to see them again around 8 months, and then pets should be evaluated by their veterinarian yearly throughout adulthood. Senior pets should be seen twice a year as they are more prone to developing health issues as they age.

Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations

Vaccinations have been a hot topic in light of the recent pandemic, however it is important to remember that vaccines are important for pets as they help protect them from a range of infectious diseases. The specific vaccines recommended for your dog may depend on factors such as their age, breed, lifestyle, and geographic location. It's important to talk to your veterinarian about your dog's individual vaccination needs and to keep their vaccinations up-to-date. Regular vaccinations can help keep your dog healthy and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Spay or Neuter at Ideal Time

Consider spaying or neutering your pet as it can help prevent health problems, unwanted behaviors, and helps to reduce the number of unwanted pets in shelters. As for its specific role in health, spaying reduces the risk of mammary cancer and uterine infections, and neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer and prostatic disease. It's important to consult with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet, as ideal timing will depend on their breed and health status, but is usually around 6 to 18 months of age. By neutering or spaying your pet, you can help improve their quality of life and prevent unwanted health and behavioral problems.

Prioritize Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Exercise and environmental enrichment is essential for your pet's physical and mental well-being. In addition to strengthening bones and ligaments, improving cardiac and respiratory function, and boosting immunity, exercise and play provide essential mental and behavioral stimulation for dogs and cats. It can also help prevent obesity, which can lead to health problems. It is recommended to walk or play with your pet at least 30 minutes per day. You can also provide your pet with mental stimulation through interactive toys, food puzzles, and games to keep them mentally active and prevent boredom. For example, to make meals more mentally stimulating and engaging for your pets, I recommend using a food puzzle. These feeders can be as simple as a maze-like plate, mouse-like indoor hunting simulators, or even complex puzzles with drawers and sliders. It is also a great idea to rotate their toys every week or two.

Provide Routine Dental Care

Routine dental care is important for pets as dental issues can lead to sequela such as tooth root abscesses and other health issues. Pets should have a dental exam once per year in order to identify any dental issues and determine whether a dental cleaning is necessary. Regular dental cleanings, just like for humans, can help prevent more serious dental problems down the line and contribute to your pet’s overall health and well-being. It is important to mention that “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings have become popular recently because pet owners fear the risk of anesthesia, however these are not recommended by The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association as “general anesthesia with intubation is necessary to properly assess and treat the companion animal dental patient.” General anesthesia does carry some risk, but your veterinarian will assess your pet's overall health and determine if they are a good candidate. Lastly, regular brushing can help reduce the need for frequent dental cleanings.

Choose Appropriate Treats

We all know we can’t resist giving our fur babies treats - so it is important to know how to choose the right treats and the right amount of treats to feed. I recommend a low-calorie (less than 15 calories per treat) treat made with healthy, functional ingredients that can be easily broken into smaller pieces so you can reward your pet even more for their good behavior. It should come to no surprise that our Wild Earth Superfood Dog Treats with Koji check all these boxes. These koji-based dog treats provide gut-healthy probiotics and fibers in a low-calorie yummy baked treat that dogs love. Keep in mind, treats should not exceed ten percent of the total daily calories, less for pets trying to lose weight.


Give Year-Round Parasite Prevention

Protect your pet from parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms by using preventative medications recommended by your veterinarian year-round.

These are just a few of the first steps on your pet’s wellness journey. Before making any dietary changes or beginning an exercise program, be sure to check with your veterinarian first. Optimal health is a journey made up of small daily steps and thousands of tiny decisions. I hope this article helps you be a better informed pet parent and allows you to make more informed – and healthy – decisions for your pet.

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