At this time of year, we reflect on the past and make resolutions to do better in the New Year. It is like starting the year with a clean slate. We usually think of things like our health, family, finances, etc. But if you have furry friends, it is a good idea to think of them too. Especially during stressful times, we may not always be able to stick to our usual routines. Perhaps there are some things you have neglected about your pets. This is a great time to have no regrets but set the stage for a better year. Here are some ideas we have about New Year’s resolutions for your pet:
#1 Make sure your pet is not overeating.
Obesity in pets can increase their risk of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. So we urge all pet parents to watch their pet’s weight and to not free-feed their pet. When you leave out a bowl of dry food you cannot control how much food your pet is eating. In regards to your pet’s weight, here are some things you can ask your vet:
- Is your pet overweight?
- How much food should they be eating a day? A veterinarian can tell you how many calories your pet should be eating daily.
- How often should you feed your pet?
- What is the best diet for your pet?
- Remember when your pet is less active, like during the cold winter months, they need fewer calories.
#2 Do not overindulge your pet with treats.
Treats are great for training your pet when you use them as positive reinforcement for good behavior. But sometimes treats can be overdone. For example, some pet parents give treats to their pets because they feel guilty for leaving their pets alone. Sometimes pets beg for treats and the pet parents give in.
In any case, you want to ensure you are not over feeding your pet treats which can lead to obesity. Firstly, check your treat bags for how many calories they contain. (Most treats provide this information on the back of the package.) Then, work out how many treats your pet can have per day based on your vet’s recommended calorie intake for your pet. Your pet should get 10% or less of their total daily calories from treats. (Don’t forget to consider the calories your pet is already getting from their meals). Once you have worked out how many treats your pet can have, you can schedule training sessions each day for your pet. Or, you can use treats when they do something you want. Just keep to the pet’s recommended calories. We recommend setting out the allotted number of treats each morning, and when they are gone, no more treats. This keeps other family members from over indulging as well.
#3 Make sure your pet gets exercise and playtime every day.
Exercise will not only keep your pet healthier but promote good behavior and well-being. Lack of exercise and play with your pet can lead to anxiety and unwanted behavior in your pet. This can create a problem where the pet parent becomes frustrated with the bad behavior and punishes the pet. Unfortunately, this usually leads to more pet anxiety and bad behavior. One of the best remedies is plenty of exercise and playtime for the pet.
For dogs, we recommend at least 20 minutes of exercise each day. And by exercise, we mean good, brisk exercise such as taking your dog on a good brisk walk, out to the park to play fetch, or out for a good run, etc.
Cats need playtime too. They are naturally active in short spurts. So you can play with them for 10-15 minutes several times throughout the day. Minimally, you should play with them at least twice a day, but more is better! Setting up active play time for your cats helps to eliminate unwanted behaviors as well.
#4 Keep your pet well-groomed.
Grooming helps remove excess fur from your pet. It also helps to distribute oils from the skin to the fur. This will keep your pet’s coat looking shiny and healthy. Also, grooming can be a time to bond more with your pet and give your pet the attention they crave. If your pet is not used to grooming, introduce grooming slowly in a positive manner. Do not force it on them. Positively introducing grooming allows your pet to build a nice association with you and the brushes, combs, clippers, and nail trimmers.
#5 Schedule your pet for a health check-up.
Yearly checkups are important because they ensure your pet is getting the proper care they need to stay healthy and live as long of a life as possible. Here is just some of the things veterinarians check when we do our physical examinations:
- Observe the general appearance of your pet such as:
- Bodyweight and body condition, muscle condition to check for any muscle wasting.
- The pet’s fur for excessive dryness, oiliness, evidence of dandruff, excessive shedding, or abnormal hair loss.
- The skin – looking for oiliness, dryness, dandruff, lumps or bumps, areas of abnormal thickening, etc.
- Listen to their heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
- Check the eyes looking for redness, discharge, evidence of excessive tearing, abnormal lumps or bumps on the eyelids, how well the eyelids close, cloudiness, or any other abnormalities.
- The ears – looking for discharges, thickening, hair loss, or any other signs of problems.
- The nose and face – looking for symmetry, discharges, how well your dog breathes, whether there are any problems related to skin folds or other apparent problems.
- Mouth and teeth – looking for tartar build-up, gum disease, broken teeth, excessive salivation, staining around the lips, ulcers in or around the mouth, etc.
- As part of a complete wellness examination, your veterinarian will usually recommend wellness screening tests. In younger animals without noticeable health complaints, relatively simple testing may be all that is needed. In middle-aged or senior animals more comprehensive testing is advisable.
With a very thorough examination, veterinarians can catch diseases in advance and begin treatment before they become emergency situations. This gives your pet a better chance of overcoming any health challenges. It also can save you costly fees from emergency care.
It is a new year and a fresh start. If you follow the tips above, you will help keep your pets healthier and happier. And when your pet is doing well, that makes you happy too. Our team here at Advanced Pet Care Clinic is here for you if you have any questions or concerns about your pet. We look forward to serving you in 2021.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Tammy Stevenson
Advanced Pet Care Clinic