Being a good pet owner | ‘They’re a source of endless blessings’

Patting, according to our columnist, is important for both you and your pet as it reduces the stress hormone. Picture: REUTERS

This article refers mostly to dogs as pets but could equally apply to cats.

A definition of “pet” is interesting: – noun: a domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship; and – verb: stroke or pat (an animal) affectionately.

Words such as companionship and affection are important components of the meaning.

Patting is important for both you and your pet as it reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and increases oxytocin, known to be associated with trust, lowering blood pressure and a feeling of wellbeing.

On a more practical note, the more often you pat your dog, the greater the chance you might detect an unwelcomed parasites such as ticks or fleas or detect a change in the dog’s body such as an abnormal lump.

A good pet owner is in tune with their pet to meet their particular needs.

A good rule to go by is to treat your pet as one of the family.

Fulfil their basic needs for water, food, shelter and love.

Paul, in The Bible, will argue (Corinthians 13:13) “the greatest of these is love” but if the other more physical needs are not met, according to Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs such as food and shelter, the higher order of needs will not be satisfied.

If you could serve up your dog total rubbish as food, how can you expect that dog to love and respect you?

Water — Seventy per cent of your dog’s body is made-up of water.

As for humans, water is also vital for your dog’s survival.

Ensure they have access to fresh water.

A water bowl needs to be cleaned regularly as slime can build-up on the inside and this can be toxic.

In a hot climate, have several bowls available.

Food — Your dog deserves fresh, tasty food.

If s/he’s a puppy, then several small serves a day is required but if an adult, morning and evening is sufficient.

Remember, a dog cannot live on bread alone.

It is important to provide food that you know your dog likes but is also nutritious.

Dog food need not be expensive.

Add some vegetables such as cooked pumpkin and greens to the dish.

Raw chicken necks and chicken feet are tasty and most dogs love them.

Be sure to cut the nails off the feet, though.

A big raw bone every day or so can keep a bored dog busy for hours.

Don’t feed your dog fish or cooked chicken bones.

They can be very dangerous, indeed, perforating the digestive tract.

Don’t give leftovers or food scraps.

A good rule of thumb is not to give your dog what you wouldn’t eat yourself.

Junk food is out for dogs.

It’s usually high in fat, salt, sugar and carbohydrates.

You may not be able to live without a peperoni pizza but your dog certainly can.

Your dog’s body — If your dog seems skinny where the ribs are protruding, it may have intestinal worms.

There may not be visible evidence, but on the other hand you may see worms or eggs in the poop like rice grains or thin noodles.

It is important to de-worm your dog as worms can enjoy the nutrition from the food you are giving your dog and your dog is being deprived of this.

Likewise, a secret killer is heart worm.

It is only in the later stages when the worms reach the lungs that it is evident.

A simple test at the vet can reveal this.

If untreated, especially for a mature dog, heart worm can be fatal.

Check that your dog has no fleas or ticks.

If so, there are several approaches: shampoos, powder and dab-ons.

Check bedding as it might require cleaning.

Vaccinate your pet annually.

This is extremely important.

You value the importance of your children being vaccinated, so why not your pet, too?

An unvaccinated dog can die very suddenly from parvovirus or other diseases if not protected.

Exercise — What dog doesn’t like exercise?

This can be in the form of a walk in a park, along the beach or playing with a ball outside at home.

There are several rewards: your dog experiences a new environment acting as stimuli for mind and body but it contributes to a stronger bond between both of you.

Try leaving your mobile device at home.

Dogs hate those things.

Bedding — Bedding must be as comfortable for your dog as your bed is for you.

It must be protected from hot sun, wind and rain and needs to be kept dry and clean.

Wash bedding often.

A dog’s bed must be inviting and a pleasant place for them to want to go to rest or sleep.

Care and protection — You must have a fenced compound so your dog cannot wander onto a road or go missing.

No dog, for any reason, should be chained.

This is a form of animal cruelty.

You need to speak to your dog with kindness and respect.

Reward, not punish.

They seem to love being taught tricks and performing.

Teach your dog some fun tricks.

They will enjoy the attention you give them.

Love — Love your dog and they will shower you with endless blessings.

As Oprah Winfrey said: “Over the years I have felt the truest, purest love — the love of God, really, I imagine that’s what God’s love feels like — is the love that comes from your dog.”


• JULIE SUTHERLAND is a regular contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed in this article are the author’s.

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