New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for people. They can be for our pets, too. Here are some great ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pets to help them live their happiest and healthiest lives.
If your pet is overweight, shedding those extra pounds is a great goal for 2021. Begin by paying close attention to what kind and how much food your pet eats every day — both meals, treats, and supplements. Armed with that information, consult with your veterinarian. She will recommend the best type and quantity of food for the age, health status, and lifestyle of your pet.
Puppies and kittens require more nutrients and calories for optimum growth. Older pets, living a slower-paced life, need fewer calories. Pets that are extremely overweight or have other medical conditions may require prescription food.
At dinnertime, measure food before pouring it into the bowl to be sure pets are getting the right amount. Stop feeding table scraps. While a nibble here or there may not have an impact, it is easy to lose track of how much extra food pets are eating. Offer only healthy snacks and treats — give apples and carrots a try.
Another important component of a weight loss plan is exercise. The benefits of a daily walk (or two) are many. Besides burning calories and increasing metabolism, dogs also get a change of scenery while spending quality time with their pet parents. And tired dogs are less likely to get into trouble! Many cats can also be trained to walk on leashes, but it may be easier to provide equipment for them to climb, jump, and pounce indoors.
Even if your pet is not in need of a diet and exercise plan, resolve to spend more time playing together. Play a game of fetch or tug of war in the backyard with your dog. Cats love chasing the light from a laser pointer. Pets will look forward to daily playtime.
Teach dogs some new tricks. Start with the basics — sit, stay, down, come, leave it — and work your way to more complex tricks. If you aren’t confident to do it on your own, sign up for obedience classes. Pets will not only learn some new skills, they will also meet some new friends. Remember to reward with lots of love.
It is OK to resolve to spend more time on the couch with pets, too. Cuddling while watching a favorite movie or snuggling in bed on a weekend morning are both good ways to strengthen the human-animal bond.
Make sure your pet’s environment is interesting even when you aren’t there. Purchase some new toys or rotate the ones you already have. Food puzzles keep pets busy. Give cats a perch by a window where they can watch birds at feeders and the antics of squirrels.
If you don’t already, make a commitment to brush your pet’s teeth regularly. A large majority of pets more than 3 years old have dental disease — a disease with serious health consequences. A daily brushing reduces the risk of dental disease by removing tartar. Your veterinarian will be happy to show you how to get started if you haven’t brushed your pet’s teeth before.
And speaking of your vet, one of the most important resolutions you can make for your pet is to be sure he sees his veterinarian for preventive care exams. Annual or biannual exams are critical to keep your pet in top-notch shape from the tip of his nose to the tip of his nail.
These exams also help discover health issues early when they are often easier and less expensive to treat. And, finally, they give you the chance to ask questions and get advice on any pet parenting concerns.
• Diana Stoll is the practice manager at Red Barn Animal Hospital with locations in Hampshire and Gilberts. Visit their website at www.redbarnpetvet.com or call (847) 683-4788 or (847) 426-1000.