Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolutions in the new year can easily extend to helping our pets live healthier, happier lives

The prospect of a new year offers up a lot of possibilities, and as we are now into 2014, there are things that surely we would love to do better. Resolutions need not only apply to ourselves. We can apply that mindful intention to our pets as well.

There are things that could help your pet to be happier and healthier in the coming year and beyond.

A weighty issue

We love to feed our pets well. It shows with the growth of the pet food industry, and it's great to see that more care is being taken to offer pets a wider range of high quality diets, no matter the species.

But because of our affinity for feeding our pets, it's easy to feed them too much -- and they are all too happy to eat as much as we'll give them. Barring any chronic medical conditions (like Cushing's syndrome), the reason for weight gain in pets falls solely on our shoulders.

Animals that are overweight are at risk for many of the same diseases that humans are, like heart and respiratory disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. Too many pets are suffering from debilitating joint problems like osteoarthritis and cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCR) because they are too heavy.

Even a 10 percent weight loss can improve symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.

Not sure where to begin? A great first step is to keep a journal of what your pets eat for one week, and that means everything — kibble, canned food, treats and scraps. You might be surprised at the amount of food and treats that you give your four-legged friend. Then take that journal along when you have an appointment with your vet (or better yet, a veterinary nutritionist) to talk about the correct amount of food to be offering, and exercise.

Get moving

Walking is a fun and easy activity that most anyone -- dogs and humans alike -- can do.

Sure, this kind of exercise helps with weight loss, but it can be beneficial in other ways. It's a great way to stimulate the brain and the senses, not to mention a way to gain socialization. Socialization is more than just being around other dogs and people: it also means interacting with an environment that one is immersed in. An outdoor environment is teeming with opportunities to experience different smells, noises and the weather, and it's vital that dogs have exposure to all of that.

Cats can benefit from exercise and mental stimulation too, there are plenty of ways to engage your feline friends indoors. Click here for ideas.

Be ahead of the game

Pet insurance is gaining popularity, and is becoming an affordable option to offset the cost of ever-increasing veterinary care. With advances in technology and more options to successfully treat problems that weren't possible in the past, there is an inherent increase in cost. Many families find themselves unable to afford care that can greatly improve the quality -- or save the life -- of their pet.

Pet insurance can help avoid scenarios like that.

Some companies are even offering pet insurance as a perk in their benefits packages to lure desirable talent to their teams.

Take a bite out of disease

Along with recommended professional cleanings and exams for dogs and cats, regular brushing is being touted as a must, and for good reason. Oral health is crucial for the overall wellness of any animal, and poor dentition is a known contributor to health problems.

Unsure how to brush your pet's teeth? Click here for a tutorial.

Dogs and cats aren't the only ones who need help in promoting good dentition. Bunnies suffer from special issues of their own. Click here for more.

Don't be bugged

In study by Banfield, pets living in some areas of the country are more likely to be administered heartworm and flea preventative -- and in turn, they have longer, healthier lives. Northern states like Michigan ranked well in the study, and using preventatives seemed to be only part of the equation: pets that are typically kept indoors have less exposure to disease-carrying mosquitoes and fleas.

Heartworm and flea preventatives are an inexpensive and easy way to keep your pet healthy, so make a point to talk to your veterinarian about the right options for your furry friend.

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling when it comes to being more mindful about your pet's overall wellness. What rules of thumb do you live by?

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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