As the new year approaches, we all resolve to make a few enhancements to our lives. Maybe it’s finally doing 30 days of yoga or participating in dry January or switching to Paleo. But you might also need to think about your resolutions for your pets — there are so many small, easy steps you can take to improve their lives, and by extension, yours.
We checked in with a few vets to figure out the best practices to make 2023 an excellent year yet for both you and your animal. Here are the five things you should add to your list for the new year to keep your pet happy and healthy.
It sometimes feels like a lot of work (and money) to just find out that your beastie is fine, but you really don’t want to miss this one. You never know when something might turn up that you need to take care of quickly to keep them in the best health.
While you’re there, Dr. Louis DelGuidice suggests annual wellness bloodwork. Of course, a physical examination will do the most good, but vets can’t see everything with the naked eye. Spotting changes to hormones and other critical internal measures can catch problems early.
Dr. Kelly Diehl points out that you should also use this time for your companion to get annual vaccinations, such as rabies, so they are up to date on that as well. Out of everything on the list, this item comes in at the top because it makes the most difference.
You probably already do this, and if so, keep it up! Set aside a certain amount of playtime every day and stick with it. Make sure it happens on top of walks and potty breaks. The goal here isn’t just exercise, but to bond with your pet and keep their mind entertained.
“Even older animals need playtime, and there’s growing evidence play is very important to a pet’s well-being and mental health,” said Dr. Diehl. She also mentions that as little as 10 minutes makes an enormous difference. So grab a tug toy, ball, or just gently roughhouse every 24 hours.
The good news is that not all playtime for your dog or cat has to involve you. They need things to do while you work or take care of the household. One surefire method to capture their attention is with a toy that provides the right type of canine or feline brain game.
The goal is to place a treat inside a little puzzle and let your creature take a good long time to get inside. A high-value snack works best since it provides the most motivation. You can buy a few different varieties and keep your little bud endlessly entertained.
We completely understand: Life gets in the way and everyone forgets these things sometimes. But staying on top of this care could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of your pet’s life and keep them around longer. Included in your regime should be flea and tick, heartworm, and other parasite preventatives. Most of these are easily available at the pet store or vet (though most heartworm and flea and tick meds do require a prescription).
Remember that vaccines can fit into this category, too. Ask your care team about others besides the basics, such as Lyme, kennel cough, and lepto, all of which can come in handy, depending on your environment.
Lastly, a few simple extras, such as teeth brushing, can make a huge difference in your animal’s quality of life (not to mention your wallet since cleanings and extractions can cost thousands over a lifetime). To keep track of everything, stick to a calendar on your phone or even on the wall.
The yearly visit will go a long way to discovering any underlying health conditions, but you should also keep an eye out for the other 364 days. Dr. Jamie Whittenburg advises taking it a step further and getting to know your vet so you can maintain communication and jump on any problems right away.
Dr. Diehl points out that the internet can be hit or miss, so you can certainly research any problems that arise on your own, but calling your vet will ensure accurate and personalized information. When looking online, “Use common sense and the sniff test,” she said. “If something seems fishy, it probably is.” Your pet’s doctor will set you on the right path. And while you’re at it, you might want a bit of a pet emergency fund. You never know when your little four-legged friend might sprain a paw or pick up a doggie or kitty cold. It’s good to have a little set aside for such an occasion.
As we move into the new year, your to-do list likely keeps getting longer and longer. A few simple things will help your pet have the best 2023 possible. The trick is to set a basic schedule and then stick to it — both health and play will just fall into place once they become part of your daily routine. With a little work, your pup or kitty will live a long and healthy life by your side.
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