Many people find the New Year an inspiring and hopeful time. Nearly 40% of Americans make a resolution to declare—either publicly or privately—their intentions for the year.
This year we surveyed the Juanita Hills Animal Hospital team to find out what kind of resolutions their pets would make. Suggestions included taking down that sneaky neighborhood squirrel, getting more sleep (i.e., 22 hours a day instead of 20), digging a bigger hole in the yard, and finally determining who’s a good boy.
Jokes aside, the New Year is a great time to establish proactive health habits that can improve your pet’s quality—and perhaps quantity—of life. Here are five pet-centric resolutions to start their year off right.
#1: Your pet wants to lose weight
Overweight and obese pets may not experience body image-related shame, but they do suffer from the physical challenges of excess weight. Dogs and cats are naturally athletic and social creatures, but obesity can impact daily activities, and obese pets can tire more quickly, experience painful movements, and struggle to keep up with household activities. This inevitably leads to depression, frustration and, in some cases, self-isolation.
While pets truly enjoy their extra treats, large food portions, and sleeping in on weekends, they do not benefit from being overweight. Instead, obesity destroys pet health and can shorten their life by up to 2.5 years.
If your pet is overweight, schedule a consultation with your Juanita Hills Animal Hospital veterinarian, who will evaluate your pet’s health, and design a safe and effective weight loss plan that combines balanced fat-burning nutrition and low-impact cardiovascular exercise.
#2: Your pet wants to exercise more
Pet owners often complain that their pet is not motivated to exercise or take part in physical activities. In these instances, you must determine why your pet seems unmotivated, which may include:
- Body condition — Movement may be painful or uncomfortable for overweight or arthritic pets. If necessary, your veterinarian can prescribe pain medication or pain management therapy until your pet’s physical condition improves.
- Health — Numerous medical conditions can alter your pet’s stamina, strength, and mobility, and they may experience pain, stress, or fear (e.g., the inability to breathe) when they try to exercise.
- Interest — Like us, pets have preferences and do not always enjoy traditional activities, such as walks or playing with toys. Introduce your pet to new games, activities, and experiences until you find what appeals to them most.
- Pace — Many owners expect too much too soon from their pet and overwhelm them physically and mentally. If your first walk is a five-mile hike, your basset hound will probably be less enthusiastic the next time you pick up their leash. Start your pet’s exercise plan gradually, slowly increase one aspect at a time (e.g., pace, intensity, duration), and always ensure they have adequate rest and recovery days.
For more help with goal-oriented motivation, check out the American Kennel Club’s FIT DOG titling program that is designed to promote pet and owner exercise.
#3: Your pet wants to learn something new
Pets enjoy learning’s novelty and challenge, especially when they learn through positive reinforcement or reward-based training. Unfortunately, after basic obedience and socialization classes, most pets don’t get an opportunity to “go back to school” and learn something new.
In addition to traditional in-person classes, numerous high-quality online training tutorials, courses, and programs that use humane science-based training techniques to produce reliable results are now available. Training not only improves your pet’s behavior, but also teaches owners effective, appropriate communication with their pet, which deepens the pet-owner bond.
If your pet has already mastered the basics, consider trying a new sport or skill, such as:
- Rally obedience
- Nose work
- Dock diving
- Trick training
#4: Your pet wants to predict their future
Preventive care can change your pet’s life by providing powerful insights about their present health. By noting patterns, trends, and subtle differences in their results from previous testing, your pet’s veterinarian can diagnose serious health conditions months, or perhaps years, before they are outwardly visible. Early detection typically improves the pet’s prognosis and allows less aggressive, less costly treatment, and a complete cure in some cases.
Preventive care uses your pet’s physical examination and diagnostic testing, including annual blood work, to either establish a baseline reference or diagnose disease. Although you cannot imagine that your outwardly healthy pet is sick, keeping up with routine exams and testing ensures that any abnormality will be identified as soon as possible, and you can make informed treatment decisions that will positively influence your pet’s outcome.
#5: Your pet wants fresh breath
Can you imagine not brushing your teeth for a day, a week, or ever? Undisturbed plaque and tartar can create visible and invisible damage that leads to dental pain, infection, inflammation, tooth decay, and bone loss. Sadly, most pets do not receive appropriate dental care so they can avoid this completely preventable fate. As early as age 3, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have dental disease signs.
Bad breath is one of the earliest dental disease indicators, along with irritated gums and visible tartar. If your pet has these signs, schedule a dental health assessment.
Start the New Year with a promise to your pet. Select one or more resolutions from our list, and then contact Juanita Hills Animal Hospital to schedule your four-legged friend’s next appointment.