‘Tis the time of year to make New Year’s Resolutions. In ringing in the new year, we vow to start the year fresh, energized and ready to enact change within our lives. Make 2014 a healthier, happier year for you and your pet by following this list.
10) 2014 will be the year we don’t tip the scales
It’s estimated that up to 50% of pets are overweight! Rather than adding your pet to that statistic, make weight loss a priority in 2014. Just like humans, pets that are overweight are more prone to health problems, like diabetes and joint disease/arthritis.
Do away with free feeding – having readily available food throughout the day encourages snacking and overeating. Measure out a predetermined amount of food for your pet, twice a day. Anything that’s not finished after 20 minutes gets taken away.
Keep in mind that the feeding guidelines on the bag are often too high for the majority of our furry friends. They are based on young, intact (un-spayed or un-neutered) animals – so keep in mind if you have an older, spayed/neutered pet, their feeding requirement will be much less!
9) Set aside more time for play time
This year, vow to spend more time hiking/exploring new frontiers with your dog or playing with your cat. In addition to strengthening the bond between you and your pet, your pet will be more mentally and emotionally satisfied.
8) It’s never too late to teach an old dog (or cat!) new tricks
Daily mental stimulation is just as important as daily exercise for your pet. By enrolling in obedience classes, teaching your pet new tricks or giving them toys that keep their mind active, you can help to prevent or slow the onset of cognitive dysfunction as they age.
Instead of filling up a food dish, try a food-dispensing toy instead, which makes your pet work for their food (try the Kong wobbler for dogs, or the PetSafe meal dispensing toys for cats). Benefits include enforced slower eating, less over-eating, and mental stimulation for your pet.
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7) Schedule that annual check-up
Prevention is the best medicine. Diseases are much easier to manage when they are detected early. Regular annual visits to your veterinarian (and in our geriatric pets, regular screening bloodwork) allow us to catch illness in your pet before it’s too late.
6) Make dental hygiene a habit
As we covered in last month’s Ask the Vet article, if you’re not already regularly brushing your pet’s teeth at home, now is a good time to start.
February, which is right around the corner, is dental month at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, featuring $50 off dental cleanings. If you know your pet needs a dental cleaning, but haven’t yet scheduled one, February is the time to do it.
5) Get rid of those bad habits
Whether it’s barking, chewing, begging or digging, make 2014 the year that you get rid of your pet’s bad habits. Consult with your veterinarian for solutions you can start instituting at home; in some cases it may be time to call in a local trainer or behaviorist for help.
4) Update your pet’s identification info
Have you moved recently? Make sure that your pet’s tags reflect up-to-date phone numbers and addresses and if they have a microchip, that your microchip contact information is current. If your pet is not already microchipped consider having it done - it is a simple and fast injection that can be scheduled with one of our technicians. That way, if they get lost, they will be able to find their way home to you.
3) Plan for a rainy day
If you don’t have pet insurance, it’s a good idea to set aside money each month to budget for unexpected medical emergencies that may come up in the future.
2) Give back
Open your home to become a foster pet owner, donate to a rescue organization or volunteer at your local SPCA.
1) All you need is love
Whether it’s giving more belly rubs, more ball throws in a game of fetch or more catnip, take a little extra time this year to give your pet time, attention and love.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for your pet? Please share them below!
Dr. Stefanie Wong is a graduate of the Veterinary School at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Prior to veterinary school she completed her undergrad at UCLA and graduated magna cum laude with a B.S in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. She spent time in the rainforests of Nicaragua studying the poison dart frog and also spent three months living and working in rural villages in Tanzania with the non-profit Support for International Change. Dr. Wong completed a rotating internship at VCA West LA in Los Angeles and her special interests include soft tissue and orthopedic surgery as well as emergency medicine and dentistry. She is a San Ramon native and loves to spend time outdoors running, surfing, snowboarding, hiking, and kayaking.