cat on its back playing with a pen with a sprig of holly in the background and a sheet of paper with 2021 on it

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Pet

If your pet could make New Year’s resolutions, what might your pet say?  Perhaps, something like this: “Take more naps in the sun.”  “Beg for more treats”. Or maybe, “Get rid of that squirrel in my yard!”

Well, we can’t know for sure what’s going on in their heads. But we can make our New Years’ resolutions. It’s great we can start the New Year with a clean slate for both ourselves and your furry loved ones. Here are some suggestions:

#1 Monitor your pet’s food consumption.

bowl of dry food on a scale

Obesity in pets is becoming a rising problem. Indeed, veterinarians are becoming more concerned about the problem because obesity in pets can increase their risk of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, 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. Here are some things you can find out from 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?

chart for dogs showing ideal body weight
chart for cats showing ideal body weight

#2 Use treats as positive reinforcement for good behavior.

person feeding dog a treat

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, we’ve heard of pet parents giving treats to their pets because they feel guilty for leaving their pets alone. Sometimes pets learn to beg for treats and the pet parents give in.

In any case, there are some things you can do to make sure you are not overfeeding 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 be allowed per day based on your vet’s recommended calorie intake for your pet. Pets, especially cats, like routine. Once you have worked out how many treats, you can schedule training sessions each day for your pet. You can also use treats when they do something you want. Just keep to their recommended calories.

#3 Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and playtime. 

person running on the beach with a dog

Exercise will not only keep your pet healthier but it is key to 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 which leads to more pet anxiety and bad behavior. One of the best remedies is plenty of exercise and playtime.

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 on the beach, 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! 

#4 Keep your pet well-groomed.

person combing a cat

Grooming helps remove excess fur from your pet and 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 Bring your pet in for a health check-up.

vet checking dogs teeth
  • You can be proactive in your pet’s health through scheduled health check-ups. These 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 are 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 chest 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, periodontal 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 oncoming 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. 

Summary

There is much you can do for your pet to keep them healthy and happy. And when your pet is doing well, that makes you happy too. Our team here at Nokomis Veterinary Service 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!

Stacey Funderburk D.V.M.