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We all love our pets and wish they could live forever but as we’ve still not found the fountain of youth, our best bet is simply keeping them healthy and happy. So, what is necessary for a long and fulfilling life when it comes to our furry family members, and how can we influence it? Following is a non-exhaustive list, yet it covers the key aspects, and some of them are surprisingly simple.

Society widely acknowledges the significance of human-animal relationships, as they encourage a level of responsibility, nurturance, and connection with nature, but are pets good for our health? You bet they are, and while some of the reasons are obvious, ongoing research is finding a range of other physical and psychological human health benefits about which you may be surprised. Following are eight good reasons to own a pet, but there countless more.

Being human means trips to the doctor from time-to-time and being a pet means trips to the vet, and no matter whether it’s for a routine check-up or a serious illness, they can be stressful. A condition that’s familiar to doctors is the “white coat syndrome” which occurs when patients who are feeling stressed about the visit have higher blood pressure than they might if they were relaxing at home. The same principle can apply to animals, and pets who are generally relaxed and easy-going might show signs of anxiety even during a standard check-up.

 

There’s no need for these visits to be overwhelming, and with practice and preparation a trip to the vet can be less stressful for everyone. Following are some tips on how to help your pets overcome the white coat syndrome.

One of the benefits of our growing use of online media is the availability of timely and important information, and over recent years there has been a general increase in awareness by pet owners of foods that are dangerous to pets - largely due to the attention they get in social media at times when the risks often increase such as at Easter and Christmas. Pets owners therefore generally know the dangers that foods such as chocolate, onions, garlic and raisins pose to their furry companions’ health, but less known is an ingredient called xylitol which is a serious concern year-round and is more common than many people think.

 

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a substitute for sugar in many human food products but can also be found in other consumer goods.  Xylitol consumption can be very dangerous for dogs but is less so for cats.

Not only do Australians love the great outdoors, sports, and living in one of the world’s sunniest countries, we also love pets! Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world and it is estimated that around 70% of Australian households have a pet and that there are more than 24 million pets in Australia.

 

A nation of animal-lovers

Dogs are the most common Australian pet and with an estimated 4.8 million pet dogs, there are 20 dogs for every 100 people! Cats come second, with 30% of households owning a cat, which equates to there being four million pet cats in Australia. Birds are also a popular choice of pet, and there are about 2.5 million other pets including companion horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and other small mammals.

Chances are that a dog is going to get hugged at some point

The other benefit of getting a dog to perceive hugs positively is that it may help to reduce their anxiety when other people try to hug them. In addition to interactions with children, dogs may find themselves in other situations such as grooming and handling where people try to hug them, therefore it can be beneficial for the dog to get used them.

 

Some dogs appear to enjoy being hugged which probably has to do with the dog’s personality, as well as the trust and depth of relationship the dog has with the person hugging it. If there is a loving and trusting relationship, then hugging may help to strengthen the bonds and provide comfort to the dog.

With the explosion of social media over the past decade, most of us by now have seen countless images of animals dressed up as people and funny objects. Whether it’s cats with witches’ hats at Halloween or dogs in Santa suits at Christmas, it seems that everyone is waiting for the next opportunity to put their pet in drag. Nobody could deny that there are some unbelievably cute and funny images out there, but how much fun is it – and more importantly - how safe is it for our pets?

All fleas want is a warm and moist home, access to a ready supply of blood, and to breed a very large family! Ideally, she would like to lay 50 eggs a day. And, there’s no place like home when it comes to fleas burying themselves into the fur of your pet. Unfortunately, you and your dog probably don’t feel the same way.

 

There are 2,200 types of fleas, some for cats, some for dogs, some for humans, some for all animals. In Australia, you need to be vigilant of flea infestations in your pet’s environment all year round, as well as have your dog on preventive medication. 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is the feline equivalent of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Once your cat contracts the virus, it may go undetected for years.

 

What is the health risk of FIV?

FIV compromises your cat's immune system so that everyday exposure to what should be harmless viruses, bacteria, and fungi can cause serious illnesses. FIV positive cats can live with the virus for approximately five years once diagnosed. 

 

Cats most at risk of contracting the virus are undesexed, unvaccinated cats who go outdoors. The most effective ways to transmit the virus is to be bitten by a cat infected with the virus. Indoor cats are much less likely to become infected.

In Australia, we have a number of snakes inhabiting areas where people (and their pets) live. There are a few ways that you can try to prevent a snake biting your pet and there are some tips that will help you identify if your furry friend has been bitten, and act quickly to minimise the likelihood of death or permanent injury. 

 

The good news is that most snakes want to stay clear of you and your pet. So, while you may have been near one, you would never know. The bad news is that dogs and cats (and other domestic animals) are very curious hunters and they may pursue a snake, which can result in a snake reacting and biting your pet in self-defence.

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