Every year, 38.5% of U.S. adults make New Year’s resolutions—most of which focus on health, diet, and personal wellness. Unfortunately, your pet doesn’t share your lofty ambitions, nor do they have any concept of wellness. So, you’re responsible to help build your pet’s healthy habits, effect positive change, and provide them with the best care possible. Read our Wellness Animal Hospital team’s five paws-itively awesome resolutions that you can implement to improve your pet’s quality of life, and make this year their best yet.
#1: Schedule your pet’s preventive care
When life is busy and finances are tight, you may be tempted to postpone your pet’s annual wellness care visit. Or, perhaps your pet is simply difficult to transport, so you’ve decided to wait, and have them examined if they exhibit illness signs. We understand that a veterinary visit isn’t high on your pet’s priority list, but delaying routine veterinary care until they are visibly ill or injured can actually lead to more stress, heartache, and expense.
Preventive care (i.e., wellness care) services, such as an annual examination, parasite screening, and blood work, help your veterinarian identify your pet’s pain, illness, and disease before a condition becomes a serious threat to your furry pal’s health—or life. In addition, vaccines, parasite preventives, and nutritional guidance may altogether prevent many problems. If your veterinarian hasn’t examined your pet during the past 12 months, invest in your four-legged friend’s health by scheduling an appointment.
#2: Solve your pet’s behavior problems
Pets’ behavior-related problems, such as anxiety, destructiveness, jumping, barking, and reactivity (i.e., fear-based aggression), can be frustrating to manage and damaging to the pet-owner bond. Unfortunately, many owners end up coping with—rather than addressing—their pet’s undesirable behavior, which can lead to pet surrender or euthanasia. Resolve to improve your pet’s behavior this year by treating the cause—rather than the signs. Try the following:
- Visiting the veterinarian — Your veterinarian can help resolve behavior problems caused or worsened by an underlying medical condition.
- Consulting with a veterinary behaviorist — If your pet has complex behavior issues, you may need to consult a board-certified veterinary behavior specialist.
- Working with a certified trainer — Pet training is an unregulated business. Ensure you find an experienced trainer who has completed a professional training program, and has successfully helped pets who have issues similar to the ones your pet has.
- Complying with the training or medical plan — To help ensure your pet’s behavior issues are resolved, comply with all veterinary professionals’ treatments and recommendations. Commitment and consistency are essential for resolving unwanted behaviors.
#3: Administer your pet’s parasite prevention
Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm preventives only work if they’re administered to the pet as directed. Simply missing one dose can leave your pet vulnerable to fleas or vector-borne disease, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, or life-threatening heartworm disease. This year, ensure your pet receives all their parasite prevention medication doses by establishing an effective reminder system, such as:
- Setting a phone reminder — Recurring reminders with push notifications are sure to grab your attention.
- Signing up for monthly emails —Preventive medication manufacturers offer free online reminder programs.
#4: Assess your pet’s body condition once a month
Pet obesity is a matter of health and longevity. Overweight and obese pets are more likely to experience chronic health issues, and have shorter life spans than healthy-weight pets.
This year, commit to supporting your pet with an appropriate diet and exercise plan. Take the first step toward change by assessing your pet’s current body condition score (BCS), which is a quick and easy four-step process that includes:
- Palpating your pet’s ribs — When you place your hands flat—using light pressure—on your pet’s rib cage, you should easily feel their ribs. If you must press with your fingers, your pet is overweight.
- Looking for a waist — When viewed from above, your pet should present a figure-eight appearance, with a natural waist between the ribs and pelvis. Smooth any thick hair to visualize the area accurately.
- Looking for a tuck — Look at your pet from the side. You should see a gradual upward slope from the last rib to the groin.
- Scoring your pet — Use the information you’ve gathered to calculate your pet’s score on these BCS charts for dogs and cats.
If your pet’s score is less than four or greater than six, schedule an appointment with our Wellness Animal Hospital team for a health assessment and nutrition consultation. If your pet is at their ideal weight, maintain their food and exercise regimen, reassessing their BCS monthly.
#5: Care for your pet’s dental health
By 3 years of age, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs show dental disease signs. Left untreated, these signs can progress to serious issues including pain, tooth loss, infection, and systemic inflammation throughout their body. If you haven’t been diligent about your pet’s oral health, don’t worry—you can always make these pawsitive changes:
- Schedule a dental consultation — Your pet’s mouth may be painful, so don’t attempt at-home care until they’ve had a professional veterinary dental exam.
- Schedule a dental cleaning — Your veterinarian may recommend your pet have a dental cleaning and X-rays under anesthesia to optimize your furry pal’s oral health.
- Create a care routine — Our team can help you learn how to care for your pet’s teeth at home, including daily tooth brushing and dental health products such as diets, chews, and water additives.
The best New Year’s resolutions for your pet focus on preventive care. In addition to establishing good habits, each goal creates a lasting positive ripple effect on your pet’s health, potentially extending their life span. Contact our Wellness Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s annual wellness exam, vaccines, or professional dental care.