It’s the end of January, the classic time when you’ve already broken all your New Year’s resolutions, right? The last thing you want is someone nagging you about it. And the last thing you want is more work to do — resolutions that you have to make on behalf of your pet. Well, your pets deserve it. Pets love us unconditionally and seem to ignore all our faults, stress-attacks, and bad moods. And they make us better people.
So, it’s our responsibility as pet owners to afford our dogs and cats (AKA, family members) the emotional, financial and physical attention that they need — to make sure we’re providing an environment that is healthy, safe, and mentally stimulating to them. As a small token of appreciation to our loyal four-legged friends, here are five simple, veterinary-recommended pet resolutions we should all stick to in 2011.
1. Cut out 30% of the food
Loving your pet doesn’t mean feeding it more. In fact, your actions may reflect otherwise. I generally consider obese pets to be poorly cared for and studies have proven it — the skinnier your dog, the longer he lives. On average, you can extend your dog’s life by almost two years1 by just cutting out the calories. The same is likely true for humans (and cats!) too. Being that an estimated 40-70 percent of pets in the U.S. are overweight or obese, I can recommend to almost all of you to cut back on 30 percent of the pet food right now.
First, use a measuring cup when scooping out your pet’s dinner, so you know just how many calories you’re serving, and when in doubt, cut back on the snacks and table scraps. Find low-fat, high-fiber snacks to make your pet feel more full. Canned pumpkin, green beans, carrots, and low-salt, low-butter popcorn are great places to start. Finally, consider switching to a senior pet food, even if your pet hasn’t technically fallen into that age category yet. It’ll contain more fiber and bulk. So yes, he’ll poop more, but he’ll shed more weight too!
2. Take an extra walk around the block
After a long stressful day, the last thing you may want to do is take your dog on a time-sucking walk or run, but it’s important for you and your pet’s health. Take the extra ten minutes out of your day to take another loop around the block. For you cat owners, use a timer and laser pointer and dedicate a whopping five minutes of exercise time once a week with your cat. It doesn’t sound like much time, but it’ll help your cat to slowly shed the pounds. When you exercise with your pet, you release natural endorphins while burning calories, and it’s a great way for both of you to feel better.
3. Start a pet savings account
If you can’t afford — or haven’t had time to research — pet insurance, do the next best thing: Start a savings account for your pet, and don’t dip into it unless it’s for a pet emergency. Simply saving a dollar a day will help pay for those middle-of-the-night emergencies — which are costly — and as your pet ages, the more you need to potentially save. For each year after your pet's tenth birthday, set aside (and save) that amount each week toward his or her health care needs (e.g., $11/week for an eleven-year-old dog, and so on).
4. Skip the vaccines this year
Never thought you’d hear a vet say this, right? As your pet ages, the less vaccines he or she needs — typically only those that are required by law. Instead, save the money for blood work, which evaluates your pet’s kidney, liver and thyroid function, and white and red blood cells. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can detect metabolic problems (like kidney failure or diabetes), and the sooner you can treat them. Talk to your vet about making this switch.
5. Splurge on a good toy
If you can’t afford doggy day care or a dog walker, splurge on a good toy for your pet instead. Environmental enrichment (i.e., prevention from getting bored at home) is important for all species. For dogs, a treat-stuffed toy may provide hours of entertainment (just make sure to cut back on the dog food since you’re providing more calories this way!), while for cats, a sisal scratching post, feather on a string, or a laser pointer (human required) is a must. I also love cat window rests, so your cat can enjoy the great outdoors from the safety of inside.
Sound simple? Then let’s stick to these five resolutions … not just for our sake, but for our pets.
What resolutions did you make for your pet this year?
Dr. Justine Lee