Many fur parents adopt dogs or cats for companionship.

It is heartening to know that these days, more and more people looking to adopt will do research before they go to shelters, pick one out from friends, or visit responsible and reputable breeders. But in addition to providing love and comfort for your new pet, are you sure you aren’t making these common pet care mistakes?

The Pet Food Institute (PFI), which supports proper pet care with nutritionally-balanced and wholesome pet food that guarantees a fit and happy pet, is partnered with the Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines for the Well Fed, Well Nurtured campaign. Here, they share some of the most common pet care mistakes they have observed in many pet owners.

Big Mistakes!

Certainly it’s normal to want to bond with Fido or Fluffy immediately, but bear in mind that a sound body and good hygiene are the most important things that should be maintained for pets.

1.) Diet care: The diversity in breeds and sizes of dogs (and cats) means that there are unique nutritional requirements among them. If you fail to consult your vet and ignore the value of a well-balanced diet for your pet, you will cause your poor pet to suffer long-term harm to their health.

Chubby pets, for instance, are widely seen as “cute” when in fact, this is a dangerous and potentially deadly misconception. Obesity is prevalent among household dogs and cats due to inadequate feeding practices. Table scraps and homemade pet food created without the supervision of a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist are nutritionally dense and possibly toxic. These not only negatively affect your pet’s health, but also encourage them to be choosy regarding their preferences when it comes to food. Additionally, you may accustom their taste buds to human flavors—and who knows what damage that much salt, sugar, spices, and preservatives can do to them, given that their digestive systems are not predisposed to handle these things?

2. Visiting the vet only when your pet is sick: Vets play a crucial role in the welfare of your pet. Regular checkups become more important as your pet ages, and can help you catch diseases and crippling conditions before they can get worse. Remember, all too often, when any symptoms are starting to show, it is most likely that your furry friend has been sick for quite some time. Unlike people, most pets have a tendency to mask discomfort, particularly cats. If such conditions are not detected early, this can only prolong their suffering and have a negative impact on your pet’s longevity.

Don’t forget that vaccines are also necessary, particularly those against rabies, as are deworming and pest control.

3. Skipping training: This isn’t just for show or for bragging rights; training helps with your pet’s behavioral development. Even though canines and felines have their own innate characteristics to survive and adapt to their environment, leaving them untrained may lead to emotional, social, and mental complications. Training keeps them sharp and alert because it stimulates their senses and keeps them on the move. This is especially useful in solidifying the pet-owner relationship for dogs, as it can help fix unwanted behaviors and discourage them from aggravating other pets and people. Housebreaking, for one, is crucial because this will keep your dog from urinating or defecating in the wrong place.

Inexperienced pet owners can consider signing up for formal pet training classes, which are usually designed based on the age and skill level of the pet. It can be a good start to teach them basic obedience commands and, possibly, some fun tricks they would be eager to learn.

4. Skipping exercise: A good diet is complemented by appropriate exercise, which helps strengthen bones and muscles, reduces digestive problems, and enhances brain function. Without activity, bored pets can resort to destructive behaviors like digging and scratching or develop attention-seeking behaviors like excessive barking.

Exercise doesn’t have to be dull or routine. Dogs make great exercise buddies! They can tag along for morning walks or runs; just be sure to avoid the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, when UV rays are at their worst—both for you and your pet. Don’t like walking or running? Why not try swimming lessons, perhaps? You can ask your vet about the best exercise for your pet; they will be able to give you suggestions on how much activity your pet can handle based on its health condition.

5. Not reading pet food labels: Yes, you choose pet food because it’s more convenient than serving raw food. It can be overwhelming, what with all the choices on the market, but it is important to examine the label of pet foods and select the best product for your pet.

It can take some time to decipher the nutritional information, so ask a specialist if you need help. As a basic rule, look for certification labels for nutritional adequacy, such as the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) statement, which will help you determine that the food is safe and has been tested to meet the recommended nutritional profiles. Select a pet food that suits your pet’s age and size, one that is formulated to address its nutritional requirements, and also follow the feeding instructions. This will help you determine the amount of food that should be provided to your pet.

No matter how old your pet is, it’s never too late to avoid the pitfalls of pet parenting mistakes. Like a mother or father to a beloved child, pet owners must be committed to providing what’s best for their pet. Responsible pet ownership entails dedication in achieving your pet’s overall wellbeing. After all, is there anything better to give loving, loyal pets than love, good health, and a happy life?

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s July 2016 issue.