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Dr. Will Draper

It can be difficult to stay on top of what's best for your own health and well-being, so knowing what's good for your pet may seem a little confusing.

Keep your feline friends and canine companions healthy and happy by following these 10 pet care tips the pros want you to know.

1. Regular Exams are Vital

Just like you, your pet can get heart problems, develop arthritis, or have a toothache. The best way to prevent such problems or catch them early is to see your veterinarian every year.

Regular exams are "the single most important way to keep pets healthy," says Kara M. Burns, MS, Med, LVT, president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians.

Annual vet visits should touch on nutrition and weight control, says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM, as well as cover recommended vaccinations, parasite control, dental exam, and health screenings.

2. Spay and Neuter Your Pets

Eight million to 10 million pets end up in U.S. shelters every year. Some are lost, some have been abandoned, and some are homeless.

Here's an easy way to avoid adding to that number -- spay and neuter your cats and dogs. It's a procedure that can be performed as early as six to eight weeks of age.

Spaying and neutering doesn't just cut down on the number of unwanted pets; it has other substantial benefits for your pet. Studies show it also lowers the risk of certain cancers, Burns tells WebMD, and reduces a pet's risk of getting lost by decreasing the tendency to roam.

3. Prevent Parasites

Fleas are the most common external parasite that can plague pets, and they can lead to irritated skin, hair loss, hot spots, and infection. Fleas can also introduce other parasites into your cat or dog. All it takes is for your pet to swallow one flea, and it can to end up with tapeworms, the most common internal parasite affecting dogs and cats.

Year-round prevention is key, says McGeorge, who suggests regular flea and intestinal parasite control, as well as heartworm prevention in endemic areas.