Canine and Feline New Year’s Resolutions
Get more exercise
We could all use more exercise, unless of course, you run your dog several miles per day. Dogs that have more exercise tend to be healthier, have joints that last longer and behave better when left alone. The side benefit is an increase to your own stamina and health. And for our feline friends, play with toys at least 20 minutes per day. Jumping, running and any vigorous exercise for your cat is beneficial. Make it fun!
Have your annual physical examination
You should see the doctor every year, and should your dog and cat. Your veterinarian is trained in performing physical examinations and seeing problems before they become evident. Early detection and treatment for many diseases and conditions can save your pet’s life and increase quality of being.
Learn a new trick every few months
If you sit and only watch television, your brain starts to slow and age more quickly. Several studies have shown the same is true with your pet’s brain – use it or lose it. Teaching your dog or cat new tricks will stimulate brain activity and will have health benefits for both the brain and the whole body. All dogs – and even cats – should be taught sit, stay and come. Try paw-shaking for both and other tricks, too. Also try using food puzzle toys. Make your dog or cat think and stay engaged.
Walk the dog more often
Dogs should be walked at least four times per day. When they hold their urine for long periods of time, it increases the likelihood of bladder infections and other problems. For your feline friends, be certain the litter box is always clean. Scoop daily and change the entire contents of the box weekly.
Brush your pet’s teeth
“You want me to brush the dog and cat’s teeth?” Yes. As with humans, good dental hygiene is essential in pets. Tartar build-up leads to bacteria in the bloodstream and can shorten life and quality of life. At your pet’s annual physical exam (see above), your veterinarian will inspect his or her teeth. If needed, your veterinarian will recommend a sedated dental cleaning with x-rays of the teeth. Having bad teeth in the mouth will cause problems beyond bad breath. Start the year with a minty smile.
Explore a new place every week
This is more for dog – get out and walk somewhere new once per week. Change up the routine. I’m certain your dog has checked every tree for pee-mail; give him or her some new surroundings. Walk along the George Washington Trail, explore the C and O Canal in Georgetown, greet visitors on the National Mall. New environments are stimulating for both you and the dog. And for cats, introduce new boxes or cat trees on occasion. They, too like to explore.
Be consistent with feeding amounts
When we doctors ask clients how much they feed their pets, we usually get the reply, “about a cup.” The problem is what is your cup? Is it a standard measuring cup or is it whatever vessel you have available at the time to feed the pet. Use the same exact cup / scoop for all feedings. This is so that if we recommend feeding more or less, it is easy to do! And you can keep feeding consistent between family members.
Microchip and ID tags
In the past we discussed microchips. If your pet does not have one, the New Year is a great time to resolve to have your pet chipped. It is also the perfect time to check that the address and phone number on file with the microchip registry is current. The best way to ensure a lost pet makes its way home is a current, active microchip.
Consider fostering a pet
Have space at home to help a homeless pet? Consider fostering through a local rescue organization. City Dogs Rescue, Washington Humane Society, Lucky Dog Rescue and a host of other rescues could use your help. What greater start to the new year than to help save a life!
From all of us at District Veterinary Hospital, have a healthy, safe, prosperous and love-filled New Year.
Dan Teich, DVM
Originally published in The Hill Rag, January 2016.