New Year New Pet Parent
Author: DVM cVMA Dana Hogg
Here we come 2024! With the New Year comes those hopeful New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions can be challenging to stick with at times, but the results are worth the effort! I’ve complied some resolutions you can add to your list for 2024 to help keep your pets happy and healthy.
Want to be a better pet parent? Here are some tips:
Routine Physical Activity and Exercise: Our day-to-day routines can be hectic and exhausting. After a long day you may be looking forward to melting into the couch and moving from your computer screen to the TV, but incorporating movement is important. But our pets need exercise, and it isn’t just for dogs. Animals of all ages need routine physical activity; it is just a matter of finding the right motivators for each species. Don’t let the fact that you have an older pet stop you from incorporating daily exercise. Just be mindful of the length of the activity and the environment the activity takes place in. Exercise aids in weight management, improved cardiovascular and joint health, mobility, and mental stimulation. Start with a small goal like 10-20 minutes a day and increase the time as it becomes part of your daily routine. It's a win for both parties involved!
Dental Care: Dental care is mportant to our animals health, whether it is a dog, cat, or even a rabbit or guinea pig. This year try to implement an oral health care plan at home like brushing teeth daily or using Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved dental products to prevent tartar buildup. Try to pick the same time each day to incorporate dental care at home. Consistency will lead to a new positive habit. During your pet’s routine veterinary visit, your veterinarian can also recommend if a dental cleaning is needed for your dog, cat, or ferret. It is much easier to use dental cleanings as a preventative care measure than it is to correct ongoing dental disease. Don’t forget about the small mammals and pocket pets too! While these pets don’t need their teeth cleaned, they can require a procedure called an incisor or molar trim if their teeth are overgrown. Their teeth can be assessed at their annual or biannual wellness exam. Staying on top of dental health will help control bad breath and also preserve oral health and comfort.
Book Appointments in Advance: The pandemic has brought a high demand to the pet industry. You may have noticed that it has been more challenging to schedule appointments with your veterinarian for routine wellness services or grooming services. To make it easier on you and your pet, I encourage everyone to consider booking their bi-annual or annual wellness exams with their veterinarian in advance. Sometimes things come up, and appointments need to be rescheduled, and that is ok. Advanced booking not only helps you plan and remember your pet’s upcoming services, but it will also help out your veterinary staff.
New Treats: Who doesn’t like spoiling their pet with new food and treats? This year try to add fresh foods to your pet’s daily diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a tasty surprise, and they are loaded with additional vitamins that provide excellent health benefits. Try to set an easily attainable goal, such as incorporating new fresh food at least a few times a month. For those of you with pet birds, fresh fruits and veggies are very important to their overall health. There is no better time than the present to try to convert any picky tendencies.
Training: Have a new trick you want to train? Or maybe your pet has some unwanted
behaviors. Now is the time to try new things and correct these behaviors! Every interaction
we have with our pets is an opportunity for training. They are constantly observing us, and
learning from our body language and cues (even when we aren’t actively giving them cues). I
used to think of training as this big, complicated task that I had to dedicate several hours
to per day.
The reality is, yes training can be challenging, but consistency is the key. Training sessions can be as short as 5-10 minutes a day. If you are consistent, your pet is sure to learn. They will probably enjoy those sessions! For challenging behavior problems such as aggression or severe separation anxiety, it may be beneficial to seek out the help of a trainer to develop a behavioral modification plan.
Keep up with prevention and other medications: Daily medications and supplements are a little easier to remember to give than those medications your pet may get once monthly. For daily medications, it may be more convenient to place all medications in a weekly pill organizer. For monthly medications like heartworm prevention, I recommend picking a day that is easy to remember such as the first of the month. I would also encourage everyone to place a recurrent reminder alarm on their phone. Make sure this reminder alarm is set at a time you are typically at home.
Incorporate More Enrichment: Enrichment is so important for our pet’s cognitive health. This year make it a goal to incorporate more puzzle or foraging toys for your pets. There are some great options out there for several species. Try to set a goal of offering enrichment activities one to two times a week. As your pet gets the hang of it, you can advance to more complex foraging techniques and puzzle toys. All animals can have fun with this type of enrichment. It is great for cognitive health and also helps fight boredom!
We hope you will take the New Year as an opportunity to introduce your pets to new experiences. It will keep them happy and healthy and can even improve your bond. Remember, the key is not to get overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. Start slow and simple, and stay consistent. You will undoubtedly be successful in incorporating new habits with your pet!
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Dr. Dana Hogg graduated in 2015 from North Carolina State University. She grew up in Wilson, North Carolina. Growing up with several animals, Dr. Hogg was drawn to the field of veterinary medicine at a young age. She completed her undergraduate degree at NCSU in 2009 and her master's degree in 2011.