Routine pet care is crucial to keeping our furkids in tip top shape right from the young puppy and kitten stage. Much like people go for dental check ups and take our vitamins to keep us healthy, keeping on top of your pet’s medical wellbeing helps ensure a healthy and happy life.
From tick and flea prevention to grooming, here’s the routine care that you should commit to for that new addition to your family.
1. Flea and tick prevention
Fleas aren’t just a summer problem! Even in winter, buildings and houses are often kept warm. That’s great news for us and our paw-tners in crime, but equally good news for those pesky fleas. They love heat.
Although flea eggs (often found in carpets and furnishings) can hatch and irritate your pet in winter, in summer the problem worsens. And they’ll irritate you too. Fleas know no bounds between human and pet ☹
Other than them being a bit gross, fleas can cause significant health problems. Firstly, there’s the itching, scratching, and skin conditions associated. But did you know they can also cause anaemia in pets? It might surprise you that flea anaemia can even be fatal.
Although ticks pose less of a problem here than in Australia, cattle ticks can still attach to your pet and cause dermatitis and discomfort. On rare occasions, paralysis ticks have been found on dogs in NZ too.
While ticks are a lower risk, tick and flea treatment in NZ is often bundled together – it doesn’t harm to take preventative action for both. There are loads of these treatments available nowadays and they come as tablets or liquids; take your pick. The drops to be placed on the back of the neck are especially easy to administer. Adding such treatments to your routine pet care is key to stopping these pet pests.
You’ll probably find you’re administering a treatment every three months or so. When doing so, be very careful to give the correct dose for the size of your pet.
Make sure your dogs and cats are on an appropriate tick and flea schedule for their region. Best talk to your vet about what’s appropriate for your fur baby’s individual circumstances.
2. Dental care
Regular dental care isn’t just for humans. Routine pet care should definitely include dental health and check ups.
Most pet owners don’t do this, but plaque and tartar build up can cause problems. What problems, you ask? Well, you know that stinky dog or cat breath? It might be caused by bad dental hygiene!
Pets can also develop gingivitis, tooth decay, gum disease and even abscesses. Gum diseases can lead to infections which have wide reaching effects from liver problems to heart murmurs.
Pet owners should clean their pets’ teeth at least once per day with a toothbrush and pet-friendly toothbrush. In addition, dogs and cats should have their teeth cleaned professionally at least annually (but sometimes as often as every 3-6 months, depending on your pet). It’s important to start this early in life, to prevent avoidable dental problems from cropping up. Your vet can guide you on when to start these treatments, as well as how often you need to do them.
3. Vaccinations are as key routine pet care
Vaccinations are what most people think of when routine pet care is mentioned. They’re essential for puppies, kitten, dogs and cats. Even horses need annual vaccines.
There are many conditions pets and farm animals need to be protected against. For example, kennel cough in New Zealand is a big one for dogs and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a big one for cats.
When puppies and kittens are born they usually get some protection from infections via drinking milk from their mothers. As they get older though, they need vaccinations to help them along.
Puppies and kittens will need more regular trips to the vet when they’re young to make sure they’re fully vaccinated. The schedule is normally two to three vaccines given at three to four week intervals initially.
As they grow, you still need to keep up their regular vaccination schedule. They’ll need a booster a year after initial vaccination. From there onwards, your vet can help you plan your dog vaccination schedule and cat vaccination schedule.
The frequency of vaccinations will depend on a lot of factors. For instance, your holiday pet care situation might dictate vaccine schedule. Or, your pet’s lifestyle might. This would all have to be considered in conjunction with how long any given vaccine offers protection for your pet.
Read more about pet vaccinations and schedules in NZ here.
Phew, that’s a lot of things to think about… Managing your vaccine schedule is just another reason to book a yearly check up with your vet! Dr Melanie Bowden says that taking your pet for an annual check up to proactively manage their health is one of the biggest steps you can take to help protect vet mental health.
Worms are a common problem for cat and dog owners. Both are prone to picking up these parasites and there are usually no obvious symptoms. It’s important that you worm your pet regularly as these parasites live in the intestinal tract and can make your pet very sick if left untreated.
The most common types of worms are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, lungworms and whipworms.
These parasites can be picked up quite easily by your new puppy or kitten, and it can take a bit of time for you to notice them. Sometimes, the initial symptoms can be very hard to spot so worms may go unnoticed even if your pet is suffering from them.
If worms are left untreated, your pet can get very sick. To be sure, the best way to handle worms is to keep on top of treatment as part of your routine pet care.
Puppies and kittens normally need worming every three weeks until they are six months old. After six months old, they can usually be treated every three months. If your cat regularly catches mice or birds though, you might need to worm them more often.
Most wormers nowadays can treat both roundworms and tapeworms at once. You’ll find them in topical (applied at the back of the neck usually) and oral (given to your pet to eat) forms. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best choice for your pet.
5. General grooming and maintenance
Your dogs and cats need a bit of beauty care too! But not just for vanity. Though, could you blame their beautiful faces for wanting a bit of sprucing up from time to time? Some grooming might be for aesthetics, but basic grooming is usually necessary for your routine pet care.
Your pet’s nails for instance, need to be regularly inspected. Some pets have lifestyles which require minimal trimming and clipping of their nails. For example, if you have indoor cats (your cat-scratched couch is probably cringing right now), dogs who don’t go outside too often, or older pets, they might need to have their nails trimmed.
Smaller dogs also tend to be more likely to need their nails trimmed than larger dogs. Keeping nails or claws short and well-maintained will keep your pet comfortable.
It’s also good to keep an eye on your pet’s coat condition. Both cats and longer haired dogs usually enjoy a good brushing, which will stop them from getting matted hair which could cause skin problems.
Unlike cats, dogs can have regular baths, which is also a good time to check them over thoroughly for any sores or lumps and bumps. Tempted to bath your cat? Find out why we suggest you don’t give your cat a bath most of the time. And while you’re at it, speaking of beauty care, check out our 10 ways to pamper your cat.
Pet insurance can cover routine pet care
Pet insurance doesn’t just have to be for accidents. Our comprehensive pet insurance offers you the option to take out cover for things like non-routine vet visits, allergy medication, illnesses and dental treatment so that you’re always up to date on your pet’s medical care.
Plus, if you sign up with us online you’ll get one or more months of pet insurance free!