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Diving into 2013 with a resolve to live better is an admirable endeavor that should include our furry friends. Here are our top ten resolutions for pets (and an important one for their owners):
1) Visit the veterinarian at least once this year.
Indeed, pets age more quickly than humans. Things may change so quickly in animals' bodies that if you wait until your pet is displaying signs of an illness, it could be too late to do anything about it. Pets younger than seven to eight years old should visit their vet once a year; older pets should make two annual trips. By going for wellness appointments, you can hopefully catch changes in your pet's health early on and prevent conditions from worsening or even reverse them completely. Even slight changes in weight, an inflammation in the oral cavity, or small lumps or bumps can all indicate more serious disease conditions. Early intervention could be lifesaving. If your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning, lab work, vaccinations, nutritional supplements, weight loss or medications to improve your pet's health, follow their advice.
2) Examine the quality of your pet’s diet.
If your pet has been eating the same food for some time, it is worthwhile to examine whether that brand remains the optimal diet for your pet. If they experience chronic ear, eye or skin issues, or are overweight, aging or plagued by bad breath, a change in diet could be welcome. Ask your veterinarian's opinion on what type of foods they recommend, read labels and ingredients, research companies online, and make educated decisions on nutrition based on knowledge, rather than advertising. Just because the bag says "organic," or the company has a compelling commercial doesn't mean that particular food will be the best one for your pet. Keep in mind that abrupt changes in diet can lead to serious issues. Make the transition gradual (over a period of 10 to 14 days) to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
3) Help pets tip the scales in their favor.
Obesity in Americans has hit an all-time high, and our pets are sadly no exception to the trend. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of household pets in the United States are overweight or obese. Just as in people, obesity predisposes our pets to numerous health conditions including cardiac disease, diabetes, joint problems, and even cancer. Consult with your vet to get a realistic estimate of your pet's ideal weight, and address any medical conditions that may have led to weight gain or that have arisen as a result of the weight gain. Together, you can come up with a diet and exercise plan to get your pet’s weight under control.
4) Give preventative medications year-round.
Flea, tick and heartworm preventatives are not just for dogs, and they're not just for the warm months. Dogs and cats should all be on preventative medications year-round. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that can be spread year-round by mosquitoes. Modern medications are highly effective, very safe, and most act as a monthly deworming agent to help prevent intestinal parasites. Flea and tick infestations can take hold even during cooler months, and they are not just irritating: they are carriers of deadly Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and many other deadly diseases.
5). Take steps to prevent the heartbreak of losing your pet.
A collar, current rabies tag, and personalized identification with a good phone number will get your lost pet back to you. Get your pet microchipped by your veterinarian in case the tags come off. Have photos of your pet, just in case.
6) Spay and neuter your pet.
Along with reducing the overpopulation that leads to far too many homeless pets, spaying/neutering offers numerous health benefits for both female and male pets.
7) Spend time interacting with your pet.
Our pets are social creatures who thrive on and respond to human attention. Ongoing socialization is one of the best ways to teach your pet manners and ensure that they are pleasant for others to be around.
8) Pet-proof your home and property.
Keep poisons of all kinds out of pet reach, watch out for poisonous plants indoors and outside, keep electrical cords out of reach, don't leave out strings or ribbons for a cat to swallow, and make sure there is no antifreeze leaking from older vehicles.
9) Learn more about your pet’s breed.
Read up on the traits associated with your breed so you can better understand what motivates your pet. Always do your homework on a breed or pet before bringing a new one home.
10) Be more like your pet!
As veternarian Dr. Katy Nelson (a.k.a. "Dr. Pawz") recently observed, we could all learn a few lessons from our pets. “When our pets are happy to see someone they purr, they rub on pant legs, they dance in circles, they wag their tails and they kiss them affectionately. If they don't like someone, they put up their hackles, they may even growl or bark, but they're always quick to forgive if the situation calls for it. If they're feeling good, they throw their ears back and frolick, not caring what they look like, just enjoying the breeze on their face. Pets know how live in the moment -- they lay in the sunny spots when they're tired, they stop and smell things that smell good, and they enjoy every meal and treat as if it may be their last. If people could be more like this, I can guarantee the world would be a much nicer place to live in.”