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Healthy Pets

How Your Health Habits Affect Your Pet

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By Linda Formichelli
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by William Draper, DVM

The same bad health habits that affect people can affect pets, too. Knowing this can be a real motivator to make over your lifestyle. Which unhealthy human habits harm your cat or pup the most? Hands down, our expert says, these are the top four:

Secondhand Smoke

While lung cancer is rare in dogs and uncommon in cats, breathing smoke can cause your pet to develop allergies and chronic respiratory disease, says Douglas Aspros, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and partner at Bond Animal Hospital in White Plains, N.Y. And cats have been known to develop mouth cancer from licking smoke particles from their fur.

If you or anyone in the household smokes, rub down your cat regularly with a damp towel to remove smoke particles from her coat. (Maybe the prospect of trying to wipe down an angry cat will inspire you to quit!)

Riding Sans Belt

Riding in a car without buckling up is a bad idea for humans and for pets. "Whether it's you or your dog, abruptly going from 60 to 0 mph in the length of a car without proper restraint isn't a recipe for good health," says Aspros. In fact, legislators in New Jersey are considering a pet seatbelt law.

Cats should be in carriers, not roaming free in the car. Keep your dog safe with a seat belt harness, available online and at some pet stores.

Snack Attacks

Overeating causes humans to pack on the pounds -- and sharing goodies with your pets puts them on the path to obesity, too. Some foods, such as chocolate and raisins, can be toxic for pets.

Aspros says to never offer Fluffy or Fido food from your table, and resist snacking when you're not really hungry. That way your pet will have nothing to beg for.

Living on the Couch

Is your idea of exercise a walk to the mailbox? If so, chances are your dog is inactive as well.

Regular exercise helps keep your dog's weight in check, builds muscle mass, and improves lung capacity, says Aspros. Active breeds should get 45 minutes of activity per day. Smaller dogs don't need as much but still should get out every day.

If you're inactive, chances are your dog is, too, leading to health risks for both you and her. 

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine." 

Reviewed on January 15, 2013

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