August is National Wellness Month, yay!  ... but what does that really mean? There's a lot of media and topics telling you to eat better, work harder, and exercise more, but is that really all wellness is? In short, the answer is no! Wellness for you and for your pet is such a wide topic and is so important to maintain. In this article, we will talk about what wellness means for both you and your pet and how your pet can help improve your overall wellness!

What is General Wellness?

“The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” - Global Wellness Institute

The “active pursuit” phrase is an important part of that definition, which means the choices you make and the way you live all contribute to your overall wellness. As an individual, you are always making that pursuit to some state of wellness, whether it be favorable or not, and accidental or intentional. It is not simply the absence of diseases, but the growth of continuing good health. Wellness is made up of many categories and a large number of things contribute to the overall state of wellness. The base six categories normally stay the same, but they can be made up of up to nine and even twelve contributing dimensions. These include Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, and Environmental. A couple of other categories could include occupational, financial, cultural, and intellectual. In an article by Yvonne Caputo, MS, MA, “Wellness: What is it Really and What Works?”, she more thoroughly explains these different dimensions of wellness." 

Wellness and healthcare are different in the sense that one is reactive and the other is preventative. Wellness is focused of improving overall vitality and lifestyles in a way that prevents further illnesses and maintains your health. A reactive healthcare method is to focus on diagnosing preexisting illnesses and treating them accordingly. Both are necessary in having and keeping in good health. 

What Does Wellness Mean in Your Pets?

Here at Family Pet, we recommend biannual visits, or an exam every six months. This is because a lot can happen in six months, and your pet is not always going to show you they are in pain or needing medical attention. At biannual visits, we run routine bloodwork, intestinal parasite tests, and heartworm tests, as well as monitor the condition of the heart, lungs, eyes, ears, teeth, gums, skin, coat, and abdomen. Puppy and kitten exams start as young as possible until they reach their adult phase where they have their adult biannual exams, and then eventually their senior exams when they get older. Large dogs should come in sooner for senior wellness exams, around five years of age, and small dogs and cats should come in at around eight years of age for their senior wellness exams. At the exams, we have the opportunity to discuss topics such as flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, diet and food options, behavior, vaccination schedules, anxiety or stress management and so much more. We are here to give you the best medicine for your pet we can, and that means helping them improve their Wellness in all dimensions. 

We use both Preventative and Reactive Wellness at Family Pet Veterinary Centers. It is so much easier for both you and for your pet to prevent something before it starts rather than try to treat something that already happened. For example heartworms. Heartworms are a very deadly parasite for any pet, and the cost and stress of treatment are so high for both you and them that prevention is crucial. For heartworm prevention in dogs, we recommend Proheart. ProHeart is an injection that lasts 12 months helping to ensure you don't forget or your dog does not 'hide the pill behind the couch'. It offers continuous protection and has been shown to be safer than vaccinations. In Cats, we recommend Revolution Plus. Cats with heartworm disease can mimic other diseases like asthma or can have no symptoms until it is potentially fatal.  Diagnosis is more difficult and there is no drug treatment to cure feline heartworm disease, so it's better to prevent the infection as opposed to treating it. Revolution Plus also prevents fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites. Prevention is necessary for all pets, and Heartworm Prevention should be applied or given year-round to ensure your pet does not contract this dangerous disease. 

 An article from the Food and Drug Administration states the following “Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs. Treatment is expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, blood tests, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections.” This article is awesome and talks you through all the information you’ll ever need to know about Heartworms in dogs. It is titled, “Keep the Worms Out of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts about Heartworm Disease

Below I have attached a very informative video from the American Heartworm Society:

Heartworm Disease is one of the many diseases that have prevention measures. It shows that prevention is so much easier and better for your pet's overall wellness than taking a reactive approach. Again, both a reactive and preventative approach are necessary for maintaining your pet's health and wellness. If you notice anything wrong with your pet, please contact us here.

How Can Pets Improve Your Physical and Mental Health?

Physical and Mental health are some of the first dimensions you think of when recognizing wellness. It’s important to keep both mentally healthy and happy and provide your body with good physical activities. So, how does your canine companion or feline friend contribute to your wellness? Well, here’s all you need to know. 

Physical health is a key component of having generally good wellness, and having a pet can help in so many ways! The most common one you would think of would be exercise! Dogs give people a reason to get out, be social, and get moving, although a leash-trained cat can be quite a walking buddy as well! Studies have been shown to link having pets with many improved physical health benefits such as a better cognitive function for seniors, decreased cholesterol levels and blood pressures, lower risk of obesity, better heart function, and raising your overall activity level. This blog from our furriends over at Zoetis describes all the different benefits having pets can bring you! The article is titled "Benefits of Having a Pet." Different dog breeds will require different activity levels from their owners, so make sure to do your research when adding a new member to the family!

We can’t forget about the ever-important Mental Health side of things as well. It is widely seen that having any sort of companion animal can drastically decrease feelings of depression and loneliness. Playing with your pet also boosts serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain (those awesome feel-good chemicals). Taking your pet out on a walk helps you meet some new people because who doesn’t like petting the sweet-eyed Golden Retriever on their daily walk? Increased socialization widens your social circle, and provides you with even more feelings of companionship and less loneliness. Additionally, a routine for your pet will help add structure to your life that might otherwise be lacking. Sometimes when you feel that you may not need to do basic self-care, the constant (but cute) meowing from Boots the kitty will give you the kick in the butt you need to get going. 

Let's Wrap it Up!

So before you go and get a pet or take a nice walk outside with them, try to reflect on all you've learned in the article. We talked about how Wellness is a very wide topic and extends to multiple dimensions including Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, and Environmental. Pets also have specific Wellness needs that are made of up both Preventative and Reactive care taken by you, the owner. Both are so pertinent to maintaining your pet's good health and wellness, and should be discussed at every visit to the Veterinarian! Finally, we saw how your pets can actually help you with your wellness improvement! They can give you physical boosts with exercise and mental boosts with their loyalty and companionship. Overall, focus on your wellness this month, and make sure to bring your pet in for their Biannual visit! If you have any questions, contact us here.