Dr. Josh offers some suggestions for helping your dog or cat live their best life

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Pamper Your Pet special edition column! I am super excited to join Dallas Voice as a writer for the first time in this very special yearly edition.

Our topic for this column is “Ways to Pamper our Pets.” (You saw it coming, didn’t you?) With this column, I am going to share some thoughts on ways to make our pets’ lives even better than they already are.

These are meant to be guidelines, which means there are other things that can be done to pamper our babies. But I am sure you will get plenty of good ideas just from reading this column.

Let me start by breaking down the list of ways to pamper our babies into basic categories, which are what I consider to be the basic needs, even for ourselves: nutrition, relaxation, exercise and self care.

For the first category, it is very important, for many reasons, to make sure the quality of the food our dogs and cats eat is excellent. But that is just a part of “pampering.” I want to address the things that can make them even happier, like treats!

There are different kinds of approaches, from buying healthy treats for them to baking treats at home. I am a huge fan of giving our pets healthy fruits and veggies, like baby carrots, green beans, diced apples, watermelon and cucumbers. If you want to bake treats at home, there are some healthy recipes online that use peanut butter, oatmeal and/or pumpkin as the main ingredients.

Now be careful, because it doesn’t matter how healthy they may sound, portion control is also very important. Just because baby carrots are healthy doesn’t mean you can give your dog a whole bag in one day.

Cats can be very particular about their treats, but many of them love treats for sure! If you buy commercial treats, just make sure they are healthier and on the more natural side.

Our second category is relaxation. The first thing that comes to mind is sleeping, right? You can look into buying a brand new bed if your fur baby has been using the same one for a long time. You can also consider getting multiple beds, and they can be different types of beds, from fluffier to firmer, orthopedic bed styles. That way you can see what your baby may prefer.

Plus every room of our homes should have a space for them to relax, right? If you like having your baby sleep with you in bed, and he or she is a smaller one, you can get pet stairs so that your baby can get into bed easier. You may have to train him or her to use them, as some of them feel they are superman and try to fly off the bed.

Lastly, you can also consider getting them a professional massage — yes, a massage for your pet!!! There are businesses in DFW that offer pet massages, so look into that to offer your baby a new experience.
And the category now is … exercise! Many times we underestimate the importance of working out (for both dogs and cats!), but it is very important for our pets to stay healthy and in good shape. This gives them an extra tool to hopefully live forever.

But if you are going to exercise your baby in an outdoor setting, make sure you are careful with the heat. Dogs and cats can get heat strokes or burn their paws if the ground is too hot (which it is). Consider exercising early in the morning or quite a bit after the sun has gone down to try to avoid these issues. You can put your hand on the ground for at least 10 seconds or so to see if you can tolerate the warmth on the ground or not; if you can’t tolerate it, don’t expect your pet to tolerate it.

Dr. Josh and Yoda

Also be aware that spending time outside exposes them even more to allergens, and, in Texas, allergy season is almost year-round. If your baby is chewing, licking and/or scratching all the time, these can be signs of environmental allergies.

That being said, this should not stop you from exercising your baby. You would just have to consult with your veterinarian to see if he or she thinks that your furry one may have environmental allergies or not, and if allergies are present, there are quite a few options to help them with these issues.

When it comes to self care, I think one of the most important things to do is spend time with our babies. Quarantine has helped with this, but for those that work long hours and don’t work from home, it can be difficult to set aside quality time to spend with their fur babies.

Consider making a commitment to spend time with them multiple times per week. We only live once, and it is important to cherish our lives now.

These next two self care items may not be what dogs and cats want, but they are vital for their well being. The most important one is health check ups with your veterinarian. I recommend at least yearly checkups for the younger babies and at least biannual checkups for the more mature ones (usually after 6 years of age, based on size and breed). These checkups give your veterinarian an opportunity to perform a thorough exam and blood tests to make sure the liver functions, kidneys functions and glucose levels, among other things, are all within normal limits.

Also consider regular grooming/bathing or at least regular nail trims as part of this self care routine. These can help us avoid health issues associated with unkempt hair coats and long nails. Other things included with self care are getting toys for your dog or cat, and I am sure your cat may also appreciate a cool cat tower to have fun with. Just make sure the toys are safe and that they cannot be broken into small pieces that could be swallowed.

Let us assume you love animals, but do not have one at the moment. Do you think that is enough to stop you from pampering them? Not at all!

You should consider donating your time or money to a charity or rescue group. You can also look into potentially fostering a dog or a cat from a rescue group, as they always need help.

There are many ways to help and pamper all of these babies in need. Pampering does not stop here, as long as you are a creative person. But if you are not so creative yourself, this column should give you enough tools to make your fur baby’s life a bit more exciting.

Now have fun showing your pups and kitties how much you love them!!! As usual, abrazos, my friends!
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Ln. Ste. 110 Addison, TX 75001 (Next to Tom Thumb). Contact him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com.