We Challenge You to Give Your Pet a Healthier New Year
Every year resolutions are made during the New Year season. Some are achieved, some are forgotten, and some are given up on altogether. This year we challenge you, not to make resolutions, but rather to strive to have a healthier and happy year. By making small adjustments and changes that only take a few moments of your time, you can provide a longer, healthier life for your furry companion.
Challenge 1: Contact Information Check-Up
This is an easy one. Take a moment to check your pet’s microchip and pet’s ID tag contact information. Phone numbers, emails, and addresses change and we tend to forget to update them on our pet’s ID tag or with their microchip company. ID tags and microchips are their lifeline to get back to you if they are lost.
Are you not sure if your pet’s microchip information is up to date? Are you having trouble finding the microchip information? We can help! We can scan your cat or dog’s microchip at your next visit, or you can stop in any time and we can give you the microchip company contact information. It is easy and free! On January 1st, North Carolina passed a bill stating that shelters with access to microchip scanners are now required to scan a pet for a microchip and utilize that information to help reunite the pet with its owner.
Local pet stores and many online companies offer stylish and affordable ID tags for pets’ collars. ID tags are also a great way to alert people if your pet has a medical condition or needs daily medications. Visit The ABC’s of Pet Identification for more information.
Challenge 2: Mealtime Tune-Up.
Measure your pet’s food at every meal! It is easy to overfeed by guessing the amount of food you’re giving. Here is a fun test: Take what you normally feed and measure it with a measuring cup. Is it the amount you thought you were feeding? If you need a measuring scoop or cup, stop in at Animal Hospital of North Asheville and pick up a free one.
Use the guidelines on the back of the bag as a starting point to help determine what amount of food to feed, and adjust the amount based on your pet’s activity level and weight. If your pet is on the heavier side feed the lower end of the recommendation on the bag (or less). An easy way to tell if your pet is overweight is to feel along the ribs. If the ribs are hard to feel and your pet has started to lose their waistline, your pet is getting too heavy. Your veterinarian is always happy to help assess your pet’s weight and help determine on how much to feed.
Feed appropriate life stage foods. Each life stage (growth, adult, senior) has different nutrient requirements. An “all life stage” diet is not a good choice of food. Pets with medical issues may have special nutritional needs. Choosing a diet specially tailored to your pet’s life stage is a great way to keep them in optimal health. Speak with your veterinarian about choosing the best diet for your furry friend.
Manage the amount of treats your pet receives. Always give small ones.We all like giving our pets treats. Giving them in moderation makes the treats that much more special.
Challenge 3: Make a Date with Dental Care
Dental care is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to extend your pet’s life. It only takes 20 seconds a day to brush your pet’s teeth. Brushing at least once a day with pet toothpaste (available at Animal Hospital of North Asheville) gives the best results. For many of us, the toughest part of brushing is getting into the habit of doing it. To help jog your memory, keep the toothbrush in an area that you will see. Keep it with your toothbrush, in a cup near the sink, or by the pet food. Once you’ve gotten into the habit, many pets will seek you out to have their teeth brushed because they love our pet toothpaste. Click Here for some great tips and videos to help you start brushing your pet’s teeth.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council has approved several products to help with home dental care. Click Here for more information on these accepted products.
Challenge 4: Unplug, Unwind, and Play
Incorporate more play into your daily routine. In this fast paced, high stress, gadget filled life with stimulus everywhere, take time to relax and have fun. Our pets, just like us, need to get back to the basics and play. It is a great way to strengthen your bond, decrease stress and help add to a healthier and happy life. Our pets are a daily source of smiles and stories. We at Animal Hospital of North Asheville are lucky to hear about your pet’s personalities and their latest “adventures” on a daily basis. Grab a toy, go for a walk, give belly rubs or spend time snuggling. Be sure to give your pet many interactions to look forward to each day. They do not have to be big or extravagant; just spending time together is enough. But remember, don’t substitute food treats for interaction!
Challenge 5: Be a Preventative Health Care Advocate for your Pet
You know your furry companion’s routines, behaviors, likes and dislikes the best. Speak up for them. Ask us questions if you feel that something is “off” with them. Take a proactive approach by scheduling an Annual Physical Exam to let us help you monitor for changes in their health. Annual blood testing allows your veterinarian to watch for and evaluate changes in organ functions, which helps us to detect and treat diseases earlier. For example, did you know that most cats do not show symptoms of kidney disease until the kidneys are about 70% compromised? Early detection through blood and urine tests can help us slow the process by changing diet, water consumption, supplements and more to extend or maintain a healthy life.
As your pet ages, think about having a semi-annual physical exam. As you get older, you wouldn’t wait 7 years (which is loosely equivalent to a year in a pet’s life) between visits to the doctor. A lot can change in a year! Plus it is a perfect time to ask for advice, monitor weight, check trends in blood tests, renew your supply of preventive flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite prevention and discuss any behavioral or health issues that have arisen.
Remember that cats need veterinary care too, even if they live entirely indoors.
Some alarming statistics from The American Association of Feline Practitioners:
- In the United States, there are 86 million owned cats and 78 million owned dogs.
- There are almost twice as many cats who never visit the veterinarian as there are dogs who never receive veterinary care.
- 41% of cat owners visit the veterinarian only for vaccinations.
- 39% of cat owners say they would only take their cat to the veterinarian if the cat was sick.
Challenge 6: Learn what Drives Your Dog
By learning what your dog’s breed(s) were designed to do, you can help enrich their life. Historically breeds have been designed for specific purposes. For example: dogs in the Terrier Group were originally bred to kill vermin and rodents (above and below ground level), as well as to chase small game.
Your dog may never be called upon to use the traits they were bred for in their daily life, but they still have these drives and instincts. By structuring their play or giving them outlets to use these drives, you can enrich their lives, decrease their stress and help them become a better adjusted dog. Need help starting? The Dog Door Canine Services offer an Organic Enrichment Program.
Pet Behavior Aid can answer questions about toy and play suggestions for different breeds.
Challenge 7: Clutter Clean Up
Take a moment to take stock of what shape your pet’s toys, beds, leashes and collars are in. Over the year they may have taken a beating and now are broken, chewed up, shredded or missing pieces that could cause a health hazard. Some toys may just need a trip through the laundry. Cloth toys can be washed in the washer and dryer and rubber toys can be soaked in a dilute bleach bath then run through the dishwasher or cleaned with mild soap. If there are toys that are never played with, think about donating them to a local rescue where they could be put to use.
Check bedding for tears, loose material or stuffing coming out. Be sure to wash the bedding regularly. Some dogs may need more supportive or specialized bedding due to a medical condition such as arthritis.
Leashes, collars, and harnesses should be in good shape and fit properly. Collars should not slip off the dog’s head but should be loose enough to allow one finger to fit comfortably between the collar and the dog’s neck. Cats should have a quick release collar, especially if they go outside. Collars can get caught when cats go under fences or through brush, causing a choking risk if the collar doesn’t release easily. Harnesses should fit properly. Leashes that are torn or frayed may break, allowing your pet to escape. Check out our What To Wear PDF for guidelines at the end of this article.
Challenge 8: Enrichment Envy
Be the envy of your neighbors and a hero to your cat. Take a look at your cat’s environment and think about how to satisfy your cat’s needs.
Basic Needs Provided by The American Association of Feline Practitioners:
- Provide a safe place. Cats need a space they can retreat to where they feel protected and safe. The cat should be able to enter and exit from 2 sides. It should be big enough to fit one cat, and most cats prefer it off the ground. Cat carriers, cardboard boxes, and raised cat perches are a few examples. If you have multiple safe places, be sure they are located away from each other.
- Provide multiple and separate key environmental resources. Key resources include food, water source, elimination area, scratching area, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas. Especially in multiple cat households, these resources should be separate from each other. Offer multiple stations so that if one station is in use, the other cats can go to an available station. Provide fresh water, food and clean elimination areas. In most cases, there should be separate resources for each cat, although some cats are willing to share.
- Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior. Using interactive toys and food puzzles allows your cat an opportunity to stalk and capture the “prey”. Food puzzles also provide a more natural eating behavior.
- Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat contact social interaction. Every cat has a preference of how much interaction they want. Some cats can’t get enough attention and others may prefer minimal or limited interaction. Playing, petting, grooming, sitting on or near your lap and talking are all interactions. Be sure you spend time each day with each cat separately, but don’t force interactions.
- Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell. Cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surroundings. Cats mark their area by rubbing their face and body on surfaces to establish boundaries. Avoid cleaning these areas especially when new cats are being introduced. Some smells can be irritating or threatening to cats. Harsh cleaners, scents from unfamiliar animals, scented cat litter, or scented sprays can sometimes lead to problematic behaviors such as eliminating outside of the litter box. Use of synthetic pheromones such as Feliway can mimic a cat’s natural pheromones and create a calming effect in a stressful situation.
We will be discussing more in depth about environmental enrichment for cats and dogs in our upcoming newsletters. Stay tuned!
We hope you are up for the challenge to give your pets a Happy and Healthier New Year!