Make a New Year’s Resolution for Your Pet
Make a New Year’s Resolution for Your Pet
By Cindy McGovern
It’s a safe bet that many New Year’s resolutions fell by the wayside this year with all eyes focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. This January provides another opportunity to take stock, evaluate what you would like to change, and resolve to accomplish those goals. While you do that, take a few minutes to consider resolutions that might improve your pet’s life.
Just as losing weight is a popular resolution for humans, consider weight loss or weight maintenance for your pet in 2021. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, roughly 56 percent of dogs and 60 percent of cats in the Unites States are overweight or obese. Using body weight as a guide, dogs and cats are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10 to 20 percent above their ideal body weight. Both are considered obese when they weigh 20 percent or more above their ideal body weight. Extra weight can lead to health problems, such as heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Obese cats can also find it difficult to groom themselves, leading to more hairballs and skin irritation.
Increased exercise for your canine companion will usually do the trick for weight loss and can be a resolution all its own. However, overfeeding, rather than lack of exercise, is often the culprit in both overweight dogs and cats. Check with your vet on the best food for your pet, based on their lifestyle and stage in life: younger/older, very active, or a couch potato. Then, follow the instructions and recommended serving size; don’t just eyeball the serving size, measure it out at each meal. Limiting treats and human snacks will also help your pet maintain a healthy weight.
The Virginia Veterinary Centers estimates that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. Without proper dental care your pet can develop a wide variety of dental health issues, such as periodontal disease, which is caused by the build-up of bacteria. It forms a film over the teeth called plaque that can become hardened by the calcium in your pet’s saliva. This is called tartar, and can eventually lead to gingivitis, or gum inflammation, and even an infection in the root of the tooth.
A dental exam at the vet normally includes x-rays to check on the overall health of the teeth and ensure there aren’t any broken or damaged teeth. After putting the pet under general anesthesia, a dental cleaning involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth and then polishing the teeth to smooth out scratches in the enamel. Finally, a fluoride treatment or barrier sealant will be applied to strengthen and desensitize the teeth, and prevent more plaque from developing. Brushing your pet’s teeth is also recommended, but not always an option. There are a number of products on the market that can help kill some of the bacteria in your pet’s mouth, as well as toys and treats that remove plaque and tartar. Be sure to check with your vet before giving any of these products to your pet and remember, they are not a substitute for professional dental care.
Did Santa bring your dog or cat a new toy for the holidays? Playtime is great way to bond with your furry friend. Play also keeps your pet physically and mentally active and can keep them from getting bored (which often leads to destructive behaviors, overeating and other problematic issues). Make a plan to incorporate dedicated playtime into each day and vary your activities; chase a laser toy, play hide and seek, tug of war or let your dog explore a new area while walking.
In addition to play, make time to groom your pet, whether it’s brushing, bathing or trimming your pet’s nails. Not only does brushing remove excess fur from the coat, which means less on our clothes and furniture, it also helps to distribute oils from the skin to the fur, keeping the coat shiny and healthy. Most pets enjoy being groomed and having your undivided attention.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) cites statistics that up to a third of pets will become lost at some point in their lives. In addition to an ID tag with their name, address and phone number, consider a microchip for your pet. A microchip is a radio-frequency identification transponder, about the size of a grain of rice, carrying a unique identification number that is transmitted to the vet or shelter when the microchip is scanned. It is injected under the loose skin between the animal’s shoulder blades. This procedure can be done in your vet’s office and is no more invasive than a vaccination. Your vet can also ensure the microchip is appropriately registered in the national pet recovery database. According to the AKC, pets with microchips are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners, making the decision an easy one.
A safe home
Since our pets spend most time at home or in our yards, we should do our best to build them safe, entertaining places to rest and play. Make sure all potentially harmful substances (such as cleaning products and medications) are kept in cabinets that your pet cannot easily reach or access. It’s also a good idea to clean out your pet’s clutter. Take a fresh look at their toys and stop holding on to old, ratty, and often germ-infested toys. A new bed may also be in order and favorite blankets should go in the wash for a good cleaning.
We don’t yet know what 2021 will bring, but by making a few simple resolutions, it can bring happier, healthier pets.
About the Author: Cindy McGovern is a King Street Cats volunteer who works so her Siberian cat, Bella, can live a good life.