January 12, 2021

Kirkendall: 10 New Year’s resolutions for your pets | Features

By haziqbinarif

The New Year is a convenient time for many to make resolutions to better ourselves. Whether or not we keep those resolutions is a different story.

Why not take a different approach this year? How about making resolutions for our pets? You might be surprised on how that might help with your ideas for self-improvement.

Connect with your veterinarian. Do you have a veterinarian for your pet? Have you moved and, if so, have you updated your address, phone number and email address with your vet? Due to COVID-19, many veterinary clinics are scheduling several weeks or even months in advance. Scheduling early for your pet is recommended. This is especially important if you have an older pet or one with a chronic medical issue.

Schedule a wellness exam. How long has it been since your pet had an exam? The oft-quoted saying that one human year equals seven dog years is inaccurate, but it is correct in the basic observation that pets age faster than we do. Many things can change in your pet’s health in a relatively short period of time. It is recommended that dogs and cats get annual wellness exams in order to evaluate their health and catch problems in the early stages, when intervention is more likely to make a difference.

Make sure the care of your pets fits their lifestyle. Not all pets need the same things to keep them healthy. Depending on your pet’s breed, size, genetics and lifestyle, there might be different recommendations from your veterinarian related to everything from food to vaccines, preventatives and exercise.

Familiarize yourself with your pets’ daily routines. Do you know what food your pets are eating? How much are they eating? Are they taking any medications or supplements? Are their bathroom habits normal? These are questions we ask each pet owner when they come into the clinic. These important questions can help in making sure your pets are getting the medical care they need.

Improve your pet’s dental hygiene. The leading health issue we deal with in pets is dental disease. Make sure dental care is on your radar as something to review with your vet. Preventing dental disease can help enormously when it comes to your pet’s quality and quantity of life.

Update your pet’s identification. Do you have updated identification tags for your pet? Is your pet microchipped? Have you moved or gotten a new phone number since your pet was microchipped? Your veterinarian can help determine your pet’s microchip number and whether it is registered appropriately.

Check your pet’s body condition. Body condition scoring is a way that you can determine if your pet is at a healthy weight for their size, frame and breed. This is something you can learn to do at home and one of the topics to cover at wellness exams with your veterinarian. Many pets could benefit from shedding a bit of weight.

Go for a walk. Getting turned out into the yard a few times per day does not take the place of a walk. We often take for granted how acute pets’ senses are and how much more of the world they see compared to what we are able to realize. Having your dog outside in the same yard, in the same surroundings, day after day, is boring. Make a resolution to grab that leash, some baggies and your walking shoes. It will do you both good to go on even a 15-minute walk a few times per week. If you do go on walks and always go the same route, change it up.

Learn new things. Your pet’s mind is just like ours — use it or lose it. Pets benefit from learning new things. When was the last time you worked on a new trick with your dog? What about your cat? Learning new tricks together with your pet is a great way to bond with them and keep their minds sharp. There are countless videos online to help with the step-by-step methods in teaching your pet something new.

Enjoy your pets. Spend quality time with your pets. Make time to play, groom, explore, learn and grow together. Get them new toys, and retire older ones. Move cat trees so your cats can explore their world in different ways. See what small changes you can make around your home and yard to make it a more fun and dynamic place. In our chaotic and busy lives, it can be easy to forget how to have fun and relax. That is where our pets can come in and remind us how to play, how to unwind and how to help reduce stress.

The New Year is a great time to resolve to make some positive changes in your life. Our pets give us joy and positivity. This year, make a resolution to be the person your pet thinks you are.

Kirkendall, DVM, is veterinarian with Colonial Terrace Animal Hospital in Dubuque and with the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

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