The start of a new year is typically a time of new beginnings. The end of one year and the beginning of another has always been an occasion for looking back on the past, assessing what needs improvement and vowing to make positive changes for the future. However many people make their “New Year’s Resolutions” at other important times of the year. Annual events such as a birthday, wedding anniversary, or any other life event, for example, may serve as the date for many individuals to make their resolutions.
The most common resolutions involve taking better care of our health. Diet and exercise tend to be at the top of the list. A large percentage of our population struggles with obesity and our pet population follows suit. Over 50% of dogs in this country are overweight. While making your resolutions, set some health goals for your pet as well as yourself.
Starting with your pet’s diet, if you are guilty of this, eliminate feeding table scraps to your dog. Most of the food we eat contains too much salt and fat to be healthy for our pets and if table scraps are added to your pet’s routine pet food diet, rapid weight gain will occur. Excess weight contributes to many diseases in pets including diabetes, arthritis and heart problems. Just as people cut down on eating desserts to lose weight, begin rationing pet treats, change to a healthier version of treat or reward your pet with extra playtime rather than food.
Changing your pet’s diet is a good conversation to have with your vet. The recommended amounts on pet food packaging can be misleading. After all, the pet food companies are in the business of selling as much pet food as possible and may recommend more than is necessary. One type of diet does not fit all. A pet’s age, size, breed, activity level and medical conditions need to be considered. Your vet will be able to recommend specific types and amounts of food that will be appropriate for your individual pet. Once you have these guidelines, adhere to them carefully. Measure your pet’s food with an 8 ounce measuring cup to avoid guessing and inadvertently varying amounts from day to day. Even a few extra calories on a daily basis add up. For those of you who are more health conscious, some veterinary offices have pet nutritionists on staff and organic pet food is available in many pet stores.
After diet, exercise plays a big role in controlling weight and staying healthy. This is where the “more exercise” resolution benefits you as well as your pet. Add in some extra walks, slowly increase your distance, play in the yard and spend more time playing inside with both dogs and cats. Bring in some new toys to challenge your pet physically. As a result you and your pet will both be carrying fewer pounds and feeling healthier. If exercising outside is difficult for you due to time or health constraints, doggie gyms doggie day spas are a growing trend. Filled with exercise equipment designed for canines, you can buy a membership and enroll your dog in a class. Some have agility classes as well as doga (yoga for dogs).
Resolve to stimulate your pet mentally by teaching it a new trick. Think up a trick on your own, visit a pet store for ideas or purchase a book on pet training. Learning something new will be a stimulating challenge to both you and your pet.
As a pet owner, a good resolution is to pet proof your home. The beginning of January, or any time, is a perfect time to take on that chore. As you are packing away the holiday decorations, cleaning out old things and replacing them with new gifts, take a quick look around for safety hazards for your beloved pet. Be sure that products that are harmful or dangerous to pets are out of reach, particularly poisons; cleaners, antifreeze, plants or chocolate. Frayed electrical cords should be replaced and small toys or objects that can be swallowed need to be safely stored away.
Your annual resolution date is a good time to make an appointment with your vet for an annual check-up or to check your calendar to be sure you have one scheduled for later in the year. Routine visits are the best way to prevent major medical problems in the future. Be sure your pet is up to date on flea and tick treatments, vaccines and heartworm medications. Additionally your calendar should be earmarked with the date of your pet’s license renewal.
Another resolution is to update your pet’s ID information. If you haven’t done it already, microchipping your dog may be a good idea. Even the best trained dogs may run when excited or scared and become lost. Give your dog the best possible chance of being returned to you quickly if such an event occurs. It is also helpful to carry a photo of your dog with you at all times.
Daily grooming is a resolution that is very beneficial to the pet and is enjoyable to both pet and owner. Daily brushing removes old fur and debris and keeps the dog’s coat shiny and healthy. Your dog will love the stroke of the brush as it sits with you for this pampering attention and it is a time for the owner to connect with their pet.
A resolution to consider is to make a donation to less fortunate animals in shelters or rescue centers. A monetary gift, food, beds, blankets, toys or a few hours of your time are all welcome. Most animal rescue organizations survive on minimal funds and find it difficult to care for all the animals under their roofs. Most have a wish list of needed items and are grateful for any help offered in any form.
The most important resolution of all is to spend more quality time with your pet. With our hectic lives, it is often our pets that get overlooked in the rush to adhere to our overloaded schedules. Make it a point to take a second to give your pet a gentle scratch, stroke on the head or a kind word whenever passing.
Though well intentioned, most of our resolutions fall by the wayside very quickly. Including your pet in your resolutions gives you a better chance of successfully maintaining your goals. It is often easier for people to commit to the health of someone else than to themselves. Use your pet as an ally in keeping your resolutions this year and you will both be healthier and happier.