How to keep your pets healthy and happy

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Follow our expert advice on caring for your cat or dog, and protect their future with LV= pet insurance

Welcoming a pet into your life can make your house a home – but with the benefits come responsibilities. Our checklist will ensure you keep your pet healthy and happy.

Find your dog or cat a vet

First and foremost, register your new pet with a local vet. If you haven’t used one before, ask friends for recommendations or look at reviews online to find the right one. Hopefully your pet won’t need urgent care, but if they do you need to be prepared. You also need to make sure your pet gets regular vaccinations.

Some vet surgeries offer a care plan (separate from pet insurance), which, for a monthly fee, can include regular check-ups, vaccinations, flea and worming, and discounts on any treatments your pet might need. Regular, six-monthly check-ups are important for making sure your pet is in good health. Cats are especially good at hiding it when they’re unwell.

Microchipping your pet

Getting your cat or dog microchipped can mean the difference between being reunited and never seeing them again in the event that they get lost or stolen, so it’s not something to overlook. The tiny chip is inserted quickly and simply under the skin on the neck and contains a code that identifies the animal. If your pet is found and handed in to a vet or animal shelter, they can quickly scan the chip and find your name and address.

It is now a legal requirement to get dogs microchipped. If you adopt a cat or dog from a shelter or rescue centre then they will usually already be chipped – make sure you check if this has been done. If it hasn’t, you can pay to have this done by a vet.

It’s also important to make sure you update the information held about you if you move house or change your phone number. Information on how to do this will be provided when you get your dog or cat microchipped.

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Alternative and complementary therapies for pets

If you want to go above and beyond for your pet, or if modern medicine isn’t working for them, there’s a range of complementary and alternative therapies for dogs and cats that you could investigate.

Aromatherapy for pets

Good for general wellbeing, aromatherapy can be beneficial to your pet’s mood and behaviour. The charity Battersea Dogs and Cats Home uses aromatherapy sprays in its kennels and catteries to help calm worried dogs and cats. Some essential oils – such as tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender – can be toxic to dogs and cats so check with a vet or animal professional before you use any oils.

Acupuncture for pets

Humans have been using it for thousands of years, and some vets now offer the ancient practice of acupuncture as a more holistic treatment for many conditions in cats and dogs.  Conditions treated by acupuncture include chronic pain in the joints (like arthritis), muscles or spine. It is reportedly painless and relaxing. It involves needles being inserted into the skin at certain specific points to stimulate blood circulation.

Hydrotherapy for dogs

Dogs with injuries or existing conditions like arthritis could benefit from low-impact exercise like swimming, to strengthen joints and improve circulation. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your dog, swimming is great exercise and available at your local animal hydrotherapy centre. Experts will be on hand to advise you.

Pet care: taking your dog to the vet

How to take an anxious pet to the vet

Your vet should be experienced at dealing with nervous animals, but sometimes getting them there in the first place is half the battle. There are a few simple steps that can help when taking a nervous pet to the vet:

• Hold off on feeding before a visit. This can help to avoid carsickness or accidents – they are more likely to go to the toilet at an inconvenient time if they feel stressed.

• Try to transport your pet to the vet in a familiar carrier or crate, with bedding that will smell like home.

• They will pick up on your stress, so try to stay calm.

• Don’t tell your pet off or get cross, which will just make them more anxious.

Taking a cat to the vet

Cats are especially good at evading capture when they know a trip to the vet is coming. The mere sight of the carrier can be enough to send them under the bed and no amount of coaxing will draw them out. To keep stress to a minimum, try to keep the carrier out of sight until the very last minute, or, if you’ve got space, keep it somewhere visible all the time so they become used to it. Picking your cat up with a towel can stop them wriggling away and protect you against a swipe from their claws.

If they do become stressed, and it’s just a regular check-up and not urgent, sometimes it’s better to rearrange the visit and try again another day, rather than chasing them around the house and stressing you both out even more. If there’s a way of coaxing them into the bathroom, this is the easiest place to get hold of your cat as there is no sofa to hide behind, or carpets to grip onto with their claws.

Taking a dog to the vet

Dogs are more likely than cats to be soothed by your presence so try to comfort an anxious dog by talking gently to them. If possible, walk your dog to the vet instead of driving. If you live near the vet, try to pop in with your dog during quiet periods so that it doesn’t associate it with only negative experiences. And take some treats as a reward.

Try to limit your time in the waiting room – wait outside with your dog if it’s busy, and ask them to call you when the vet is ready for you. Try to settle any payment over the phone later, or see if you can go back and pay once your dog is settled back at home or in the car.

Grooming your cat or dog

The grooming that your pet requires will depend on what kind of breed you have. Consult your vet about the level of care that your pet needs – long-hair cats and dogs might need frequent brushing and regular clipping. Dogs and cats both benefit from regular grooming, and there are different brushes and combs available.

For pets that are resistant to grooming, a silicone brush that fits in your hand can be a good option, as it moulds to the shape of your hand and feels like you’re stroking them. It’s also good for their circulation and some pets love the sensation of being brushed.

You might also need to clip a dog or cat’s claws regularly, depending on the surfaces they often walk on for dogs, and how much they scratch posts, trees or other surfaces for cats. Ask your vet for advice.

Should I brush my dog or cat’s teeth?

Some people choose to brush their dog’s and cat’s teeth, if they are able, and vets recommend it if your pet is amenable. How successfully you can do this with a cat will be determined by how your particular cat reacts to it. For some it’s not an option. It can also be less necessary if your cat or dog has a diet of mostly dry food. Checking your pets’ teeth is another benefit of getting them regular check-ups at the vet and this will reveal whether brushing is required, as well as any other problems with their teeth and gums.

From canine companions to feline friends, LV= pet insurance has you covered

The benefits of LV= pet insurance

• Choose between Time limited and Lifetime pet insurance cover.

• Get 24/7 free access to video consultations with qualified vets, through FirstVet.

• Different cover limits available for veterinary fees. Our £10k Lifetime policy is rated 5 star by Defaqto.

• We can pay your vet direct.

Have more than one furry friend? Get a multi pet discount when you insure your pets together.