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Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that you might find helpful.

Pet Food

Canned pet food has no preservatives in it. It’s the canning process that keeps it from spoiling just like our canned food. However, once you open the can, it should be consumed by your pet in a short time. On a warm day, canned pet food left out can go bad just like potato salad does and make your pet sick. Never put uneaten canned food back in the refrigerator.

Dry foods from a bag have preservatives to keep the food from spoiling. However, after the bag is opened, oxygen begins to interact with the food and will start to degrade the nutrients and cause the fats to turn rancid. Try buying only enough food for a month or so. If a bag of food has been opened for three months or more, toss it and get a new bag. To keep track, write the date on the bag when you open it.

Also, keep the food in its original bag. Place the bag into a food bin rather than dumping it in. Many food companies design their bags to help keep the food fresh. Some companies will flush nitrogen in the bag to remove oxygen. Keeping the bag intact prevents air from getting to the kibble longer. Dumping the food into the bin aerates it like decanting a bottle of wine and will cause the food to lose its freshness faster.

Another reason to keep the kibble in its original bag is that it will have the lot number and other information should you need it. If your pet has vomiting or diarrhea, check the food for any potential issues. You can look up pet food recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts from the FDA website. Look for the drop down menu under the heading “Filter by Recall Type” and click “Animal Health” to get to pet related recalls.

Doctor Visits

Remember to bring any medical records with you to your pet’s check up appointment. Keep a folder with information from any recent emergency visits. Bring all of your pet’s medicine, including flea and heartworm products so we can check the labels for dosing. Bring the name of your pet’s food and the name of any treats you give.

On some office visits, we will need to collect blood and urine from your pet. Check with your clinic, but in most cases do not let them urinate immediately prior to the appointment. You may be asked to not feed you pet as well. On annual appointments, collect a fecal sample from the morning, and keep it refrigerated or with an ice pack if possible. If your pet takes daily medicine, ask the receptionist if it should be given prior to the visit.

Random stuff

If your pet eats too fast, try putting a ball in the bowl with the kibble. They have to take time to move the ball out of the way to eat. Another option is to use a muffin tray and spread the food out amongst the wells. This works well for cats that binge.

Keep a current picture of your pet in case they get lost. That puppy or kitten photo won’t help much when they’re 10 years old.

If your dog has itchy feet after a walk, wipe them down afterwards with an unscented baby wipe or with a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and water.

Dogs can easily burn their feet on the hot surfaces. If you can’t stand barefoot on it, neither can your pet.

Pets bring us so much happiness. Keep them safe and enjoy the time you spend together.

Dr. Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach and is a commissioner on the Board of Health & Human Services.

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