By: Dr. Hilary Slaven
Happy New Year’s Eve!
Get out your disco ball, your party hats and your bubbly drinks. It’s time for you and your furry friend to welcome the New Year in style.
But hold on now; it’s not all party, party. The New Year calls for some reflection too on habits and attitude and becoming the best-version-of-yourself.
(Your furry friend loves you no matter what, don’t you worry.)
But we can all improve our characters in some way, and this is a great time of year to think about these deep philosophical things. Right, Buddy?
(Buddy likes to think with his eyes closed.)
Today we all tend to spend some time reflecting on the past year, perhaps remembering events that have happened or relationships that have evolved, successes that we have had or even situations that we wish had gone differently. Often we think about our own characters and what we’d like to improve. Setting goals for the future is important as we move through life; if everyone took time to reflect upon their weaknesses and developed plans to overcome them our world would be a better place.
Hang with me. We are getting to how this affects you and your relationship with your furry friend. Stop and get a sip of bubbly, and come back.
Choosing to change attitudes and behaviors can positively impact your human friends and your furry ones, too. Here are a few things that you can do to improve your pet’s health and your relationship with him as well. I challenge you to pick one or two and tackle those full-force. Make new habits that last all year long, and perhaps beyond.
1. Spend time with your pet every day. Even 15 minutes of undivided attention from you playing a favorite game or getting a rub-down can really enhance your pet’s life and yours, too. Every successful relationship requires time spent together, including yours and Fido’s.
2. Take time to exercise your pet. Many pets that we see are overweight, which puts them at risk for some serious health problems. Set aside time every day for a walk, run or to play fetch. Even cats love to chase a laser light or wadded up pieces of paper or plastic milk jug rings. 30 minutes a day is ideal, but varies between species and age/health of the pet. Talk with your veterinary professional to help develop a plan that works for you and your family to keep your pet fit. (This might end up being part of your own personal fitness as well!)
3. Plan a yearly check-up with your veterinarian. Fido and Fifi can’t tell us when they feel uncomfortable or off-balance or painful. At home, we can monitor our furry friends and spend time with them so that we can pick up on unusual behaviors or changes in food and water consumption. Another important key is to have a veterinarian examine him or her once or twice a year to assess weight, general health, and changes to the body. Expert recommendations about diet, lifestyle and care come from these visits, along with vaccinations and a thorough physical examination. Prevention and early detection is the best medicine.
4. Keep your dog and cat on monthly heartworm disease prevention. Much of the USA is in an endemic area for this deadly parasite that is spread by mosquitoes. Every veterinarian has seen a dog die a painful death due to this nasty worm. Thankfully, we now have several drugs available to us that have an excellent success rate in stopping the worm before it grows and settles in the lungs and heart to cause permanent damage. These medications, when used monthly, prevent illness in thousands of dogs and cats each year. Most of the products also deworm for internal parasites and may even treat fleas too.
5. Flea control. Anyone who has dealt with a flea infestation in their home will tell you what a trial it is; it is truly a nightmare to live with these tiny bloodsuckers and also a nightmare to get rid of them. (see our blog “The Fight Against Fleas“) In the last 15 years, there have been significant advances in the treatment options out there for fleas, most markedly in monthly chewable pills and topical skin products that kill fleas and prevent problems in the home. If you can religiously give a veterinary-approved flea product once monthly, you can protect your furry friend and your home from these disease-carrying pests. Ask your veterinarian what product would be best for your friend and family.
6. Feed your pet a healthy, well-balanced diet with limited snacks. Like us, pets feel better and live longer when they eat right. For most furry friends, this means a good quality dry kibble with very occasional treats. We tell folks to buy the best food that they can afford and discourage table scraps as a significant part of the diet. This may take significant self-control on our part, much like when we decide to change our own diets for the better. Stick with it, it’s worth it in the end! See your veterinarian for recommendations for diet changes.
Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions! We at WCVS toast you and yours and hope that we can help and you your furry friend ‘fetch’ your goals this year.