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New Years – Pets
As we enter into the next decade, many people have set new goals to accomplish for the time ahead. So, why not come up with a few to integrate into your pet’s life as well? After all, they aren’t the only ones who will benefit greatly from positive health routines and new enrichment. Below are some ideas you could implement in your pet’s life, and also yours!
Resolution #1: Schedule a yearly exam or wellness check-up.
Even if your pet appears to be healthy, it’s a good idea for them to see their vet at least once a year to catch any health issues forming early on to start preventative care. Taking your pet to the vet when they aren’t in pain or sick also helps to build a positive association with vet trips. This will aid in making the vet a “safe place” rather than a “scary place” for them. Less stress is always best!
Resolution #2: Perform a diet audit.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), in 2018, the U.S. pet obesity rates were 59.5% for cats and 55.8% for dogs. A simple way to minimize risk for overfeeding is to use an exact measuring cup for every meal. Consult your veterinarian for guidance about any necessary changes in food amounts or types due to your pet’s age, illnesses, etc. Consider switching to healthier kibble and treats that are just as yummy, if not more so! Here are links to a past blog of ours that discusses pet safe people food and to YHPC healthy dog and cat treats to get you started.
Resolution #3: Get more exercise.
Daily walks are an easy way to help to keep both you and your dog’s hearts healthy. The general recommended time spent exercising for dogs is one hour per day, and many don’t meet this minimum level currently. Try adding extra walks on top of your pet’s regular potty schedule, turning one of their normal walks into a jog, or integrating some stairs and hill-climbing to start out. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take your pup to a dog park agility course or create one in your own backyard! Another easy idea to implement is to hop in a lake and go for a swim together. Swimming is a great low impact cardio workout for both people and pets!
Resolution #4: Learn something new.
Try a new activity with your pet such as going to a new dog park where they can meet new furry friends, taking them on a local hiking trail to experience new sights and sounds, introducing puzzle feeders to their meal routines, or integrating new ways to play! Engaging your dogs and cats in interactive playtime is essential for their emotional well being and even helps curb undesired behaviors due to boredom or anxiety. Check out our enrichment blog for some solid ideas to get you started.
Training is another fantastic way to mentally stimulate and challenge your pet. Puppies can start learning tricks and behaviors as early as eight weeks old, and never say you can’t teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks! You can easily train your pet on your own without taking a class if you’re up for it! Three simple steps to get you started are as follows:
- Incentivize – Show your pet what they are working for, whether that is a highly desired treat or a favorite toy to get their attention.
- Command/Cue – Clearly give a verbal and physical command for the desired behavior. For example, you could say, “sit” with your hand in a fist holding a treat above the animal’s head. Remember to always stay consistent with any verbal and physical cues you give and do a lot of repetition.
- Reward – As soon as your pet performs the desired task, reward with a clicker as a bridge, and then their treat, or toy play immediately. This will reinforce the behaviors you are looking for. Reward with a treat or toy in addition to the clicker each time consistently. Over time, once they have the behavior down, you can wait longer and longer to reward them, and can eventually reward with treats/toys on a variable schedule, then transition to just the clicker reward. There are a lot of basic training videos online to help you get an idea of how to properly train your pet, so take some time to check them out if you need help!
Resolution #5: Toy overhaul – out with the old, in with the new.
Old toys can harbor bacteria, and small bits and pieces from shredded stuffed toys or ropes are tempting for pets to consume. Both of these situations are a health concern, so it’s best to just throw these toys away. Don’t leave every one of your pet’s toys out for them to access at all times. Switch their toys out every once in a while to boost novelty and to encourage more play interest. Introduce new and different styles of toys to your pet occasionally so you can discover new sources of enjoyment for them! Play preferences can change over time, so you want to make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut buying the same toys to replace their old ones.
Resolution #6: Bond with your pets.
Believe it or not, bonding time with your pets can improve problem behaviors and help to decrease stress for both of you! Grooming is a great bonding activity and is also important for your pet’s health. Brushing out your pet’s fur helps prevent hairballs in cats, and keeps the skin naturally lubricated by stimulating oil production for both dogs and cats. Plus, it can be a very relaxing and enjoyable activity for both of you. Dogs can sleep anywhere from 12-20 hours per day, and cats can sleep 12-16 hours a day. Take advantage of this built-in rest time to nap with your pets. Not only will you reboot your mind, but it’s also a great way to bond with them.
Resolution #7: Update ID info and emergency info for your pet.
Did you get a new address or phone number recently? Did you lose your dog’s ID tag, or is the information on it no longer legible? If so, keep your pet safe by updating your information and replacing their tags so if your pet ever gets lost, stolen, etc, it will be easier to track them down. If you go out of town, make sure your pet’s vet info is up to date should there ever be an emergency when you aren’t there. Have a credit card on file at your vet office so that care can be given right away in case you are not immediately accessible. It’s also a smart idea to have a go-bag ready for your pets when you’re out of town – this could consist of an appropriate transport carrier with their comfort item and towel/other bedding already inside, extra leash, and medication/allergy information easily accessible. Make sure to leave your vet info such as their address and phone number for caretakers to have on hand too.
Resolution #8: Brush your pet’s teeth.
According to the Drake Center’s webpage, “dental disease affects nearly 85% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age, and has significant health consequences.” While dental chews are great for promoting oral health for your pets, you should still brush their teeth on a daily basis to maintain healthy oral hygiene for them. A major consequence of not brushing your pet’s teeth is periodontal disease which leads to halitosis (bad breath) and eventually tooth loss, either by them falling out or requiring extraction later on. Consult the Veterinarian Oral Health Council (VOHC) website for a list of products that are proven to help prevent dental disease in addition to regular teeth brushing. Here are some instructional videos on how to brush your dog’s and cat’s teeth for reference.
Pets are valuable members of our families, so it’s important to keep them on track with positive mental and physical health routines. Implementing some or all of these simple ideas into their schedules will not only benefit them but will also make life better for you in the long run. Happy New Year to you and yours from the team at YHPC!
Credit: Robin Laclede