Any loving pet owner would want to improve the life of his or her pet, but exactly how to do that can seem mystifying to most. For clear-cut strategies, we turn to the professionals.
Barbara Royal, a Chicago-based veterinarian, has worked with people's four-legged companions for decades, and she's full of advice for creating happier, healthier animals. Here are four things she says you can do that not only benefit your pets, but also benefit those who treat and care for them.
Randomly take your dog into the vet clinic.
The panting, the pacing, the cowering -- many times, pets panic as soon as they arrive at the vet. So, Royal suggests making quick stops into the clinic and rewarding your pups with a treat each time to get them more comfortable ahead of their next appointment.
"Part of the problem as a veterinarian is that we're always examining animals in a state of stress," she points out. "It really makes a difference for heart rate, for getting appropriate blood values, things like that, if you can get an animal to relax."
Treat minor stomach issues with pumpkin and white rice.
If your pet is experiencing stomach issues -- like diarrhea -- and your vet doesn't believe it's something serious, you can treat your pets at home by making them a simple meal.
"Dogs and cats both can do pretty well if you can give them pumpkin and then rice," Royal says. "White rice -- you overcook it, you add extra water to it, make it really goopy. It's very absorptive; it really can help with diarrhea."
Play "rough" with your animal.
Every so often, set the cuddling aside and get down on the floor for some intense playtime with your dogs and cats, Royal suggests.
"It's really important to get out that sort of instinctual urge of 'wolf games' or 'wild cat,'" she says. "You can really play sort of rough -- not really rough; you don't want to encourage biting or things like that -- but let them get wild a little bit."
Prevent pets from biting.
Cats and dogs each give warning signs before they bite, and it's a good idea to know what those signals are, particularly with felines.
"Cats sort of get a little bit quieter. Their eyes get really wide, the tail starts to wag, their ears get a little flatter," Royal says. "Keep a big, thick towel around to cover the cat to keep them from biting."