A dog chasing a frisbee flying through the air at a park.

Pet Wellness: No, It’s Not All Downward Dog and Cat Pose

The concept of “wellness” has become a hot topic in the human world. People are realizing that wellness doesn’t just mean being physically healthy, but that it encompasses other parts of their lives as well, including emotional, occupational, environmental, intellectual, social and spiritual wellness. So, what about your pets? What does “wellness” mean for them? Let’s take a look at some of the wellness categories that apply to pets and how they help your pets lead happy and healthy lives.


I Ruv You: Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness is a pretty easy type of wellness to foster in your pets — give them lots of love and attention and show them that they’re part of the family. Dogs are well known for their strong attachment to their owners but cats bond with their owners, too — although they may show affection a little differently than dogs do.

When you think about dogs and emotion, the first image that pops into your head is probably puppy-dog eyes. However, recent research suggests that those puppy-dog eyes aren’t actually trying to make you hand over your food. The researchers proposed that the inner brow raiser — the muscle movement that creates puppy-dog eyes — is just a part of a dog’s normal eye movement and isn’t involved in communication, as previously thought. Whatever their meaning, it’s certainly hard to resist those adorable puppy-dog eyes.

Brain Workouts: Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness doesn’t mean that your pet can name more than 1,000 items (although that’s really impressive). Instead, it’s making sure that they are mentally stimulated and not bored, which hopefully avoids unwanted behavior, too. Just as our lives can become routine, so can your pet’s. Providing them with ways to use their brain and solve problems can help them live a longer, happier life. You’ll stay calmer too if you’re not coming home to a scratched-up couch.

Positive Playdates: Social Wellness

Social wellness for pets covers both playing with friends and being calm and confident in social situations. The best time to socialize pets is while they’re young, but continued socialization throughout their life is also important for happy, calm pets who can handle new situations confidently. To improve your pet’s social wellness, take your dog for a puppy playdate with their BFF (best furry friend) or play fetch in the backyard or down the hall. Cats tend to socialize on their own terms, but when they do, take advantage of the opportunity.

Kitty and Canine Cardio: Physical Wellness

For pets, exercise (i.e., playtime) could fit into a number of wellness categories — physical, social, emotional and intellectual. Pets need exercise to stay healthy and help manage their weight, but exercise can also be a fun way to provide mental stimulation, and it’s a great way for your pet to bond with you. How much exercise your pet needs will depend on their age, breed and lifestyle. We aren’t just talking about dogs either — exercise and playtime are also important for your cat.

Regular Vet Visits: Physical Wellness

One of the most important ways of ensuring that your pet remains physically well is to take them for their annual checkup — and we mean annual. Even if your pet seems healthy, it’s important that your veterinarian examines them at least once a year to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues that you can’t see — pets are very good at hiding that they are sick. Some pets may require more frequent checkups depending on their age and health status.

Nutritious Food: Physical Wellness

For some dogs, their love of food could put eating food in the occupational wellness category — eating is my life’s work — but really it belongs with physical wellness. Life-stage appropriate food is an important component of physical wellness that provides enough of the right nutrients in the right amounts to keep your pet healthy. Even if the type of food your pet eats is appropriate for their life stage, the amount of food your pet eats is also important to maintain an appropriate weight. If you do have a fat cat or a round hound, your veterinarian can assist you with a weight management program, including a weight management formulation, if necessary.

Mindfulness Lessons Learned from Pets

A popular concept people use for improving their emotional wellness is mindfulness. It’s taking time out to be in the moment — not worrying about the past or the future — and tuning in to all of your thoughts, feelings, senses and the environment around you. Pets are natural practitioners of mindfulness, so we could learn some lessons from them: There’s always time to play, savor every morsal of food and take time to stop and smell, well… everything.


RELATED POST: Debarking Pet Myths: Pet Nutrition and Exercise Are Interchangeable

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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