Each New Year we’re inundated with lists of things to do, buy, and become. We read these lists, make promises to ourselves, and then promptly forget it ever happened by February. This year I’m taking the opposite approach: Here are the things you definitely don’t want to do, purchase or aspire to be more like. It’s time for my New Year’s Don’ts for your pets.
1. Don’t buy junk food treats. You know what I’m talking about. Those tiny calorie grenades are killing your pet. This year, feed fresh crunchy veggies or treats with simple ingredients such as sweet potatoes.
2. Don't ignore pet food labels. If you can’t comprehend what’s in your pet’s food, imagine how your pet must feel. The most important decision you make for your pets each day is what you feed. Choose wisely. Their health depends on it.
3. Don’t make excuses to skip walks. You both need to walk more. Buy a coat, umbrella or even a pair of galoshes, but don’t miss your daily walks. You’ll both live longer and be healthier because of it.
4. Don’t avoid the animal shelter. Go visit your local animal shelter so you can see for yourself what’s working and what needs to be fixed. I hear too many complaints about animal shelters from pet parents who’ve never set foot in one. How can we make something better when we don’t know what’s wrong? I know it’s painful and you want to take all the animals home with you, but you’ve got to do it. If you’re truly concerned about the state of stray animals in your hometown, go visit, talk to shelter employees and decide how you can help.
5. Don’t put off your pet’s exam. I know money’s tight but that little lump, cough or limp may be the start of something more serious. Often I’m left with simply too little time to help an ill patient. If I had a quarter for every case I could’ve saved had I only seen it six months earlier, I’d be retired by now, or at least have an enormous jar of quarters. Add to this “don’t go to the vet only when your pet is sick.” My mission as a veterinarian is to preserve health and prevent illness. Going to the vet or physician should be an opportunity to learn how to stay healthier longer. You should leave each appointment with advice on how to improve your or your pet’s life. If not, ask for it. If you don’t get it, find it elsewhere. Life is for living, not recovering. Learn how to help you pet live an optimal life by working closely with your veterinarian on a regular basis.
6. Don’t forget your dog or cat’s heartworm preventive. Heartworm disease is fatal to dogs and cats. There is no treatment for cats and the medication used to treat dogs is costly, takes months to work, and carries potential health risks. Think your indoor cat isn’t at risk? Not according to research. Never gamble with your dog or cat’s heartworm protection. The stakes are too high and often end in death or serious damage.
7. Don’t ignore that pesky behavior. Little behavior problems turn into big troubles, quickly. If your dog is barking at passing cars, lunging on the leash, or jumping up on guests, talk to your vet (that’s our job). If you intervene with behavior problems early, you can often correct them easily. Wait until your dog is biting the delivery man, and it may take a while.
8. Don’t forget to hug your pet each day. And be thankful for all you have this year. Take time each day to reflect on one thing you have that you’re grateful for. We are so fortunate to live in this country at this time and to share our days with such wonderful, caring creatures. Happy 2016.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of PetHealthNetwork.com, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.