Because some parasite medications made for dogs can be fatal to cats, talk to your vet about keeping your precious pets worm-free, flea-free -- and safe.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Many dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. And just like people, obesity in pets comes with health risks that include diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
Overfeeding is the leading cause of obesity, says Douglas, who adds that keeping our pets trim can add years to their lives.
Because pets need far fewer calories than most of us think -- as little as 185-370 a day for a small, inactive dog; just 240-350 calories daily for a 10-pound cat -- talk to your vet, who can make feeding suggestions based on your pet's age, weight, and lifestyle.
5. Get Regular Vaccinations
For optimal health, pets need regular vaccinations against common ills, such as rabies, distemper, feline leukemia, and canine hepatitis.
How often your dog or cat needs to be immunized depends on their age, lifestyle, health, and risks, says McGeorge, so talk to your vet about the vaccinations that make sense for your pet.
6. Provide an Enriched Environment
An enriched environment is another key to the long-term health and welfare of your canine and feline friends, says C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, a veterinary nutritionist and professor at Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center in Columbus.
Pets need mental stimulation, say the pros, which may mean daily walks for your pooch, and scratching posts, window perches, and toys for your cat. It means play time with you, which not only keeps your pet's muscles toned and boredom at bay, it also strengthens your bond with your four-footed companions.
7. ID Microchip Your Pet
Lack of identification means as few as 14% of pets ever find their way home after getting lost. Fortunately, "microchipping allows for the pet to be reunited with its family," no matter how far away it is when found, Burns says.
About the size of a rice grain, a microchip is inserted under the skin in less than a second. It needs no battery and can be scanned by a vet or an animal control officer in seconds.