As we put away our decorations, notice the extra couple of pounds that we have put on during the holidays and try get back into a routine, we start to think about New Year’s resolutions. Many of us pledge to eat healthier, to go to the gym, to lose weight, and so on. Instead of thinking of these resolutions as a chance to fail, try to view the New Year as fresh start and a chance to get back into good habits and good health, for yourself and for your pets! Here are a few good New Year's healthy habits for your pet:
1. Good Nutrition: Like in people, a poor diet can lead to obesity and other health concerns in pets. Learn to read pet food labels. Give treats in moderation. Measure your pet’s food. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions of what diet is right for your pet. Check out our articles about reading pet food labels and picking a healthy diet for your pet.
2. Drink More Water: Water is one of the most important nutrients for us and our pets. It maintains organ health, and can aid in weight loss. Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, which can lead to health problems such as urinary tract disease and constipation. For all of your pets, you should have fresh water available all the time. If you have multiple pets, offer more than one water dish in different locations, and if your pet goes outdoors, make sure to have water available outside. Cats typically prefer to have separate dishes for water and food rather than the divided dishes you may see in the store, and they often like lower-rimmed or wider bowls so their whiskers don’t touch the side of the bowl when they drink. Some cats like to drink running water, and will drink more if you provide them with a water fountain. Canned food has more moisture, and water can be added to canned food or dry food to increase water intake. Clean water and clean bowls are important; stainless steel and glass water dishes are not porous and are easier to keep clean. Changing water often may entice cats and dogs to drink more too. One important point is that if you are seeing a sudden change in your pet’s water intake whether it is drinking more or drinking less, this may be a sign of a health problem and should be quickly reported to your pet’s veterinarian.
3. Make Time for Exercise: Exercise can take many forms, long (or even short) walks, running, playing fetch with a ball or chasing a laser pointer dot. Even adding a couple extra minutes of play a day can help. Playtime with our furry friends can decrease stress in our lives too!
4. Visit Your Veterinarian: Regular annual comprehensive physical exams are the best way for you and your doctor to detect problems early or prevent them altogether. Routine vaccines can help protect your pet too. Physical exams and blood tests while your pet is well help your veterinarian collect baseline information about your pet, which can aid your pet’s veterinarian in recognizing problems early.
5. Parasite Patrol: Don’t forget your monthly parasite prevention (for cats too!). Monthly heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention is recommended year round. Don’t forget fleas and ticks as well, since external parasites can still be a problem even in the wintertime. Talk with your veterinarian about what product(s) is the best for your individual pet. Time seems to fly, life gets busy, and it can be easy to forget to give your pet’s medication. Did you know there are great ways to help remind you when to give the medications? Remind My Pet is a free reminder service for medications. You can go to http://www.remindmypet.com and enter the medication you're giving and when you would like to be reminded, and a reminder will be sent by email or text to your phone. You can set also set up email reminders through your Pet Portals account with AHNA. The reminder service is listed under the Tools section of your account with Pet Portals.
6. Good Grooming: Not only does regular brushing, cleaning around eyes and ears, bathing, clipping nails and brushing teeth let your pet’s outer beauty shine, they are healthy habits too! Do you know it only takes 20 seconds each day to lengthen your pet’s life? Click here to see how.
7. Hands on Attention: Regularly feel your pet! This sounds simple, since we all touch our pets. But giving your pet a good all-over feel can tell you many things. How’s the weight? You should be able to feel the ribs but not see them, and your pet's body should taper just behind the ribs to form a waist. If it starts to get harder to feel your pet’s ribs, then they are starting to gain weight. Check for lumps and bumps. Regular checking allows you to catch any new growths, and it helps you monitor previously checked growths for changes. Flip the lip. By flipping up the lips, you can check your pet's teeth and gums, and monitor for any bumps that may have formed in the mouth. Any new lumps or growths should be checked out by a veterinarian to make sure there are no malignant concerns. And if your pet's mouth smells bad when you flip the lip, it's not supposed to! Odor is an early warning sign of bacteria, gingivitis, tartar, and more. If your pet has a bad odor coming from his mouth, he or she really needs care by a veterinarian. Finally, regularly checking your pet's body, mouth, ears and eyes lets your cat or dog get accustomed to being touched, which helps make it less scary when they are examined at their veterinary appointments.
8. Household Safety Check: Take a fresh look around the house to make sure it is still pet safe. Are the chemicals kept in a pet free zone? Are the windows and fences secure - any broken or loose boards? Are screens securely in place? Composting areas secure and blocked from pet access? Broken fencing and fallen limbs can cause lacerations and punctures. Are rodent poisons put up? Are pets able to access rodents that may have gotten the poison?
9. Safety Equipment Check: This is a great time to check that leashes and collars are still in good shape. Adjust collars to fit correctly when they are worn. You should be able to comfortably fit 2 fingers between the collar and your pet's neck, but the collar shouldn't be able to slip over your pet's head. Double check and update personal information on pet tags and microchips. If you are unsure about your pet's microchip number or company contact information, stop in and we will scan your pet at no charge and give you the contact information for the microchip company.
10. It is Never Too Early to Spring Clean: A clean environment for your pet is a healthy one. Regular cleaning of your cat’s litter box and scooping the yard helps prevent issues such as litter box avoidance, feces eating, and spread of disease. Start routinely washing bedding and toys. Check for any broken or damaged toys and throw away any that may cause harm to your pet. Click Here for more cleaning tips.
11. It Is Never too Late to Go Back to School: Does your dog pulling on the leash drive you nuts or keep you from going for walks? Wish your dog would come when called? Or does your new puppy need a head start on socialization and manners? There are many obedience classes for dogs of all ages in Asheville. For more serious behavior issues, you can work with a certified dog trainer. Looking for something a little more advanced? There are many classes for agility, dance, and advanced obedience in Asheville too!
12. Most important of ALL is to give your pet love and attention! Don’t let busy schedules get in the way of spending time with your four legged best friends, or you'll miss out on the best source of unconditional love there is!