Pet New Year's Resolutions

Pet New Year's Resolutions: Photo of Bengal Cat sitting in the grass

Pet New Year’s Resolutions

This time of year, many people are making resolutions and lifestyle changes that can help them live healthier and/or happier.  But what about for our pets?  Right now is a great time to think about making resolutions to help your pet live a longer happier life. 

We would like to share some basic resolutions that have been proven to help pets live not just longer but happier too:

Healthy Weight:
With both pets and their people, maintaining a healthy weight is a keystone of health and longevity.  Obesity in pets has been linked to serious health problems including arthritis, heart disease, and even some cancers.  In fact, studies in dogs have shown that pets maintained at, or just below, ideal weight can live on average two years longer than dogs of the same breed who were overweight!

Helping your pet lose weight: While healthy exercise is helpful for weight loss, caloric intake plays a far bigger role.  If your pet is significantly overweight, consult your veterinarian before starting a weight loss program.  They can help rule-out medical causes of excess weight, while formulating a feeding plan to help your pet shed those pounds.

For more information on weight loss, Visit Our Website, HERE.

Healthy Exercise:
Appropriate, regular exercise (along with diet) can help your pet maintain a healthy weight.  It also promotes cardiovascular health and helps maintain healthy muscle mass.  A bonus to exercising your pet is that they usually LOVE it! Walks, hikes, playing ball, chasing toy wands, and other forms of physical activity are mentally stimulating to your pet and a great way to bond. If you are just starting an exercise program with your pet, start slowly and work up to the desired time, distance, and/or difficulty.  Don’t expect that your former “couch potato” pet is ready to run a marathon right away! Please note that brachycephalic dogs and cats (those with flat faces, such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Persian Cats, etc.) may have smaller breathing passages.  These pets may not be well-suited to strenuous exercise, especially when it is warm outside.

Mental Enrichment:
Most owners know that their pets are more than cute, they’re smart too! Providing mental stimulation can fire up your pets’ brain and make their day more exciting without even leaving the house.  Puzzle feeders, hiding toys in the house, hiding snacks in the house, snuffle mats, and “sniffaris” (slow walks where you let your pet lead the way by sniffing from one interesting spot to the next) are simple ways to make your pet’s day more exciting and can even be done in the rainiest of weather.  Just like starting an exercise program, enrichment games should start “simple” and work up to more challenging as your pet learns the game.  In addition, if you make use of any stuffable toys or puzzle toys, make sure to WATCH your pet while using them so you know that they are not breaking the toy or swallowing pieces of it.

Eating a Balanced Diet:
A healthy balanced diet is a key to a healthy life.  While this adage is as true for pets and it is for humans, it is important to note that dogs and cats do NOT have the same nutritional requirements as people.  That said, it is easy to make sure your pet’s diet is balanced.  AAFCO is a non-profit organization that has been setting pet food standards in the United States for the past 110 years.  When purchasing pet foods, look for the statement “is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles” to ensure that your pet’s food is providing balanced nutrition.  In addition, your pet’s food should be 1) designed for the correct species (dogs and cats do NOT have the same nutritional requirements) and 2) formulated for the correct stage of life (puppy/kitten, adult, senior).

In addition to providing a balanced diet, make sure to feed your pet the correct QUANTITY of food.  Underfeeding is rare, but overfeeding pets is a pervasive problem in the United States.  Do not count on the food container to give you accurate information on how much to feed your pet.  These volumes are often based on highly active pets with significant metabolic needs.  Since most pets are relatively sedentary, that means the food packaging is over-estimating your pet’s food needs by up to 30%!

The best way to ensure you are feeding your pet the correct quantity of food is to consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to look at your pet and determine whether or not they are overweight, then evaluate the food volumes fed and make adjustments, if necessary.

Oral Health:
Oral disease is one of the most common chronic health conditions in pets. Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene can lead to a myriad of health problems including pain, tooth loss, jawbone loss, reluctance to eat, and even heart, liver, and kidney disease.

Daily tooth brushing is the gold-standard of home health care.  It can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy while delaying the need for veterinary dentistry.  For pets who do not allow brushing, specially designed chews, dental health foods, water additives, and food additives can help maintain oral health.  When choosing an oral health product, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) label, which states that the product has been tested and shown to promote oral health. 

For lists of VOHC approved products, visit their website: HERE.

Even with good home care, most pets will build up tartar eventually.  Tartar is a hard bacteria-laden buildup that causes infection and disease in the mouth.  Brushing and supplements CANNOT remove tartar, meaning nearly all pets should have comprehensive veterinary dental care at some point.  During these procedures, the hard tartar is removed, full-mouth X-rays are taken, and your pet’s mouth and gingiva (gums) are examined for signs of illness and disease.

With regular veterinary dental care and a good home care routine, your pet’s mouth CAN stay pain and disease free; helping them live a longer, healthier life.

Regular Medical Care:
It shouldn’t be a surprise that regular, scheduled WELLNESS examinations are important to your pet’s health.  During these visits, your veterinarian and staff will perform a head-to-tail examination on your pet looking at observable organs and systems for subtle changes and/or signs of illness.  In addition, they will discuss your husbandry, your pet’s habits, and discuss any chronic conditions or relevant past medical history that your pet may have.

These visits are designed to confirm that your pet is healthy AND look for subtle changes that could be early signs of disease.  Additionally, your veterinarian will give you recommendations and suggestions to help prevent disease and illness, and to help your pet live a healthy life!

It is recommended that juvenile and “adult” pets (those UNDER 7-10 years old) see their veterinarian for a wellness exam once a year.  Senior and geriatric pets (those over 7-10, depending on the pet), and those with chronic health conditions, should see their vet for a wellness exam every 6 months.

All of us want our pets to live as long as possible AND be as happy as possible.  While some of this is “out of our hands,” there is a lot we can do to help our pets stay healthy, and to help ensure that they are comfortable and HAPPY in each stage of life!


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