1 Encourage playtime. Play helps pets release mental and physical energy and strengthens the human-animal bond. Mix it up with new toys, games, and activities.
2 Get out and explore. Don’t just take the same walk around the block every day. Keep your dog excited about exercise by regularly changing up the route and checking out forest preserves and beaches.
3 Give preventatives on time. Give your pet their flea/tick and heartworm preventatives on time, every time. This includes cats.
4 Stay up to date with vaccinations. Don’t neglect your pet’s vaccination schedule. If you think a particular vaccination might be harmful or unnecessary, talk to your vet.
5 Check-in with the vet. Take your pet to the vet at least once a year for a full wellness exam.
6 Feed healthy foods. Learn how to read pet food labels so you can be sure you’re giving your pet the healthiest option possible. If your pet is having tummy trouble, talk to your vet about the food you’re giving and see if there’s a better option.
7 Let in the fresh air. In addition to making sure your pet gets lots of fresh air, let the air in too. Fresh air is good for both body and mind, and especially necessary for indoor cats who never make it outside. Just make sure you have a sturdy screen in place on your window.
8 Rest up. Pets need plenty of rest. Always make sure there’s a comfy spot for them to lay in, and don’t keep waking your fluffy one up if they’re taking a snooze.
9 Cultivate a good relationship with people food. Pet-safe people foods are good in moderation, but shouldn’t be given all the time. Refrain from giving rich or heavily-seasoned foods, which can upset your pet’s stomach.
10 Choose safe indoor plants. Curious pets will investigate and/or nibble house plants, so do a Google search of all your greenery to be sure they are not harmful to animals.
11 Create pet-friendly landscaping. Speaking of plants, your yard can pose health hazards too. Stay away from dangerous herbicides and pesticides, cocoa mulch, and plants that are toxic to animals.
12 Pet-proof your home. Your home should be the safest place in the world for your pet. Secure down loose cords; keep medications, cleaning supplies, and other potential toxins far out of paw’s reach; and close off access to any small places or areas with exposed electric cords, such as the area behind the washer/dryer.
13 Express anal glands. It doesn’t sound appealing, but it does have to be done. If you’re not sure how, ask your vet or groomer to take care of it at your next visit.
14 Keep it clean. Regularly clean your pet’s things, including bedding, harnesses and leashes, and often used toys. For the latter two, a rinse in warm water with a mild detergent is sufficient. Hang them to dry after.
15 Offer smart social interactions. Some pets are more open to being social than others. Don’t force it if your pet isn’t into it, and always introduce new human or pet friends slowly and with care. Poor socialization can negatively affect your pet’s behavior in the present and down the road.
16 Crate train. Crates give dogs a safe and cozy place to hang out While not all dogs need them, many do benefit. If you have a new puppy or an anxious older dog, crate training can be good for their emotional health (and will help keep puppies out of trouble!).
17 Sign up for pet health insurance. Pet health insurance is a lifesaver if your animal companion gets seriously sick or injured, and can make the difference between being able to get your pet the care they need or not. Get health insurance early on in your pet’s life, since preexisting conditions are not covered.
18 Don’t leave pets alone in the car. In Illinois, it’s illegal to leave pets in the car during extreme heat or cold. Use common sense all year round, even in temperate weather, when it comes to leaving your pet in the car alone.
19 Trim those nails. Untrimmed nails impede your pet’s balance and movement. Plus, it hurts to snag them on things! Trim your pet’s nails whenever they get long, or take them to your vet or groomer for a professional paw-dicure.
20 Feed prebiotics and probiotics. Both help balance your pet’s gut flora and keep her digestive system balanced. Supplements, fermented veggies, and raw goat milk are good sources of probiotics, and you can find prebiotics in supplements, bananas, apples, and asparagus.
21 Know when to call the vet. Don’t let problems fester. If you notice something might be wrong, call the vet—it’s better to be safe than sorry.
22 Brush, brush, brush. Poor dental hygiene can cause pain or illness. Brush your pet’s teeth regularly and follow it up with a dental treat to take care of plaque.
23 Always provide fresh water. Replace water at every meal, plus anytime you see something floating in there. Your pet’s water should always be clean, cool, and accessible.
24 Help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight on your pet isn’t cute—it’s dangerous. You almost always have complete control over your pet’s weight, so if you notice extra pounds, cut back on treats, increase exercise, and talk to your vet about providing a healthier diet.
25 Ditch the rawhide. Chewing is fun for your dog and great for their teeth. But did you know that rawhide is only about 80% digestible? Save your pup the tummy ache and go for high-quality antler chews instead.
26 Spay/neuter. Spaying or neutering cats and dogs doesn’t just prevent litters; it’s also proven to reduce their cancer risk. If your pet isn’t fixed, make an appointment today.
27 Treat anxiety. There are more options than ever before for pets who suffer from anxiety. A combination of medications and/or CBD plus behavioral training can greatly improve your pet’s quality of life so they don’t have to deal with constant stress.
28 Learn the signs of pain. Animals—especially cats—are pros at hiding pain, so it’s up to caregivers to be on the lookout for even the subtlest of symptoms. Lethargy, limping, excessive licking, hiding, hissing, and changes in appetite are all good reasons to go for a check-up.
29 Hold back on treats. Treats are a good way to show love, but they’re not the only way. Be conscious of how many treats you give your pet in a day, and if necessary, replace some snacks with cuddles, playtime, or affirmations instead.
30 Have a pet first aid kit on hand. Make sure you’re always prepared. Click here for all the details on what your kit should include.
31 Provide brain games. Exercising your pet’s mind is as important as exercising their body. Agility, hide-and-go-seek, nosework, and puzzle toys are all fantastic ways to engage your pet mentally and keep them sharp and entertained.
32 Hide household cleaners. Even pet-safe cleaners have ingredients in them your pet shouldn’t have access to. Keep all household cleaners in a closed cabinet. If your pet can get in there, move them up high or install a cabinet lock.
33 Clean the litter box every day. Cats love cleanliness, and cleaning the litter box every single day makes for a happy cat. Plus, there’s less risk of them tracking anything gross onto the floor.
34 Avoid extreme weather. If it’s too hot or cold for you, it’s too hot or cold for your pet. Frostbite and heat stroke are two very real, very serious problems, so when the weather is extreme, limit your pet’s time outside.
35 Get your pet a friend. Not everyone can welcome more than one animal into their home, but if you have the time, space, and resources, animals are social creatures who crave companionship. Having a partner in crime can help their overall well-being, provided it’s a good fit.
36 Address boredom. Boredom can lead to health and behavioral issues. If your pet seems bored, take them for a walk, play with them, or provide them with a chew or puzzle to keep them busy.
37 Bathe and groom. A shiny, healthy coat starts with regular baths and grooming. If you can’t do it yourself, find a trusted groomer and schedule a few appointments at a time so you don’t forget to stay on schedule.
38 Don’t give cooked bones. It’s fine to give your pet fresh cooked lean protein, but it should always be boneless. Cooked bones can splinter, posing a choking hazard.
39 Try alternative therapies. Older pets, arthritic pets, active pets— all of them can benefit from alternative therapies like Reiki, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic. If your pet needs a health boost, look into one of these holistic techniques.
40 Moisturize paws. Keep paws well moisturized, especially in the winter. Rub a bit of petroleum jelly or coconut oil onto paw pads, or use a specialized pet wax to lock in moisture and prevent cracking.
41 Watch for food allergies. Food allergies can appear at any age and usually show up as itchy skin, hot spots, and/or digestive issues. You’ll have to find and eliminate the allergen from your pet’s diet, so talk to your vet at the first sign something may be off.
42 Try out essential oils. Essential oils can help with a wide range of health issues, from promoting a healthier metabolism to rejuvenating skin and balancing mood. Make sure to research any essential oil before you use it to ensure it’s safe for pets, and only use those that are pharmaceutical grade.
43 Dive into data. Pet fitness trackers and innovative smart collars can tell you everything from how far your pet walks in a day to whether their heart rate is regular. If you want assurance your pet is living their healthiest life, consider tracking and analyzing the data.
44 Pick the right food bowl. Only feed your pet from a non-plastic bowl to avoid possible chemical contamination, and pick a size and shape that works best for your pet’s size and shape. And of course, don’t forget to keep it clean—dirty food bowls are breeding grounds for bacteria.
45 Prevent hairballs. Your cat should only have about one or two hairballs a year. Any more is a cause for concern. To prevent them, brush your cat regularly, keep them active, and always make sure they drink plenty of water.
46 Stock up on superfoods. Superfoods boast a ton of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your pet’s health. Add yummy superfoods like berries, carrots, and spinach to your pet’s bowl to see the benefits.