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New Year's resolutions for pet owners and their furry friends

by CONTRIBUTED REPORT/TEXAS A&M VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
| January 9, 2023 1:30 AM

With the new year comes the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. While most resolutions are aimed at improving your life, pet owners should also consider making a resolution or two that will benefit your pet’s health.

Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that many resolutions pet owners set for themselves can also be extended to their pets.

Dietary resolutions aimed at improving your physical well-being are an example of this.

“If you are focused on eating better and making more nutritious choices in the coming year, then take the time to make sure your pet is on the appropriate diet as well,” Teller said. “This is a great time to chat with your veterinarian about how to best meet your pet’s nutritional needs.”

Teller also suggests exploring healthy treat alternatives for dogs, like blueberries or green beans, and introducing cats to homegrown cat grass and catnip.

Increased exercise is another popular resolution that can benefit both owners and their furry friends.

“Most pets benefit from a walk around the neighborhood, so consider gifting your pet with a new leash for the holidays and then make a resolution to go for a daily walk,” Teller recommended. “You can also play fetch in the yard or resolve to take trips to the dog park for those with more socially inclined dogs.”

In addition to resolutions aimed at improving physical health, Teller said pet owners should consider resolutions that improve our pets’ mental health, too. Because new experiences are mentally stimulating, consider introducing your pets to a new section of the neighborhood during your regular walking routine to boost their mental health.

Other unique experiences include food puzzle toys, the introduction of new sights and smells, or learning new tricks.

“Both dogs and cats can be trained to learn new tricks, so teach your pets to give a ‘high five’ or bust out the latest dance moves,” Teller said.

Teller also recommends making resolutions aimed at preventing medical emergencies, such as keeping choking hazards and harmful items hidden or out of reach from pets. Some items to keep away from pets include electrical cords, poisonous plants, rodent bait, raisins, grapes, any food containing xylitol, and trash.

“It is always helpful to puppy - or kitty-proof your home,” Teller explained. “Having a first aid kit at home to manage minor problems can also be helpful.”

Another way to prevent unwanted medical concerns is to routinely visit the veterinarian, which can also help pet owners save money over time.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; this adage is as true today as it was decades ago,” Teller said. “When veterinarians can detect and intervene early in the course of a disease, we can help the pet and the owner’s pocketbook.”

Teller recommends taking pets at least once a year for a physical exam and talking to the vet about parasite prevention, dental health, and vaccinations against diseases that are costly and potentially deadly. Some diseases to include in your discussion include parvovirus, leptospirosis, distemper, feline leukemia, and rabies. Kennel cough and canine influenza should also be vaccinated against for dogs that stay in doggy daycare.

Whether your New Year’s resolutions are aimed at improving physical and mental health, preventing future medical emergencies, or monetary savings, including your pet in those resolutions, will help the whole family start 2023 happy and healthy.

Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to vmbs-editor@tamu.edu.

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