The start of a new year is a time to set goals to improve your life for the year ahead. It’s also an opportunity for you and your pet to bond, develop healthier habits, and discover new ways to live a full life.
Here are 10 easy New Year’s resolutions to help improve your pet’s health and happiness, as well as the relationship you have, in 2020.
Get More Exercise
We can all pack on pounds during the holiday season. Exercising is always more fun with a friend, so get your furry partner involved. Exercising together not only gets you both moving, it is a great time to bond and get some fresh air together.
Exercise is critical to maintaining a fit pet. Make a commitment to increasing both the physical and mental health of your dog by going on regular daily walks. A lot of mental stimulation occurs for a dog on its daily walk, and it also makes for a calmer pup.
In addition to keeping your pet’s weight in check, a long walk also offers behavior benefits. Lack of exercise can lead to separation anxiety or destructive behavior. Younger pets or certain breeds with endless energy can develop serious behavior problems if not allowed sufficient exercise.
A vigorous game of fetch is good for both dogs and cats.
Good Eating Habits
Make your pets’ health one of your biggest priorities going into the New Year. Part of this involves paying close attention to how much and what type of food you give them.
The majority of American cats and dogs are overweight or obese, and it’s a hefty problem. Excess weight can cause health issues ranging from arthritis, diabetes, and respiratory disorders to cancer, certain skin and liver diseases, and kidney dysfunction.
This year, focus on measuring your pets’ food every day so you always know they’re eating a healthy and appropriate amount.
Avoid table scraps—they can cause serious health problems in your pet, from diarrhea to pancreatitis.
Don’t overdo it on the treats. Instead, offer some healthier snack options, such as carrots, apples, or homemade pet treats.
Feed a good-quality kibble to your pet—the best that you can afford. The better the food, the better their health, skin, and coat, and the less mess to pick up!
Resolve to spend more quality, one-on-one time with your dog or cat, even if just at home watching some TV and cuddling or playing catch.
Play time can give more opportunities to challenge your pets, enrich their lives, and establish an even deeper bond. Make a resolution to play for even 5 or 10 minutes a day, every day; play with a favorite toy, toss a ball with your dog, or play with laser pointers, feather teasers, and jingle balls with your cat.
Boredom can lead to behavior issues. Play a game with your pets that encourages them to use their smarts. Mind-enriching toys and games can lead to a stronger bond between your family and your pet, as well as reduce the amount of mischief they may get into!
Does your pet have a BFF? Set up a play date. Interaction with other animals is great for your pet’s mental health, and helps pets improve their social skills.
Devoting more time to your pets will help them get the exercise they need and increase your bond with them. Your pet wants to feel loved; are you ever really THAT busy that you cannot spend at least a few minutes giving your kitty or pup dedicated attention? A little extra TLC goes a long way toward health and happiness.
Veterinary Care and Wellness
To make sure your pet is healthy, take your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year. Pets age much faster than we do; an annual vet exam is comparable to a human going to the doctor once every five or six years.
As much as we love our pets and pay close attention to them, there can sometimes be things that we can’t see going on underneath the surface. Regular exams will help catch potential health issues, often before they become a serious problem, and will increase the chances of successful treatment.
Veterinary visits are also the perfect time to ask for advice, update your pet’s food, or get an expert opinion on any behavioral issues that may be affecting your bonding with your pet.
Prevention is also very important to keeping your pet healthy. Protect your pet with a preventative for fleas and ticks, and, especially, heartworms. Heartworm disease is serious and potentially fatal. Not only is it painful for pets, but treatment is very expensive. Give yourself peace of mind, and protect your pet once a month, every month.
Another element of prevention is keeping toxic substances out of your pet’s reach. Thousands of pets fall victim to accidental poisoning from ingesting substances such as household products, medications, food, alcohol, and various plants.
Try Something New
Just as people get bored, our pets can get bored with the same old routine, day in and day out. Resolve to try something new with your pet in the coming year.
Choose a new activity that you can try together, like swimming, hiking, or camping. A visit to the local pet store with your dog or cat to check out the critters in cages and aquariums or to peruse the treats can be fun. Many restaurants are now offering dog-friendly seating areas, and during the off season, more recreation areas are open to dogs. Try pet agility, Canine Good Citizen, and other classes you can take with your pet. Or, you can simply learn a new game to play.
Either way, the new experience will spark their interest, and it will be good for their health, not to mention the quality bonding time!
Prepare for the Unexpected
Start an Emergency Pet Savings Fund. Just as parents save money for their children to go to college, pet owners should start a special account just for emergency pet-related medical expenses. You never know when your pet will have a severe injury or illness. Costs can add up quickly, and having some extra cash will ensure that you never have to compromise when it comes to getting your pet the best care possible; it can prove to be a lifesaver should your pet need an emergency surgery or treatment.
Many pet owners are now opting for pet insurance, which covers a variety of different injuries and illnesses. Policies come in a variety of plans to meet their needs and fit every budget. A CareCredit account, which can be used to finance veterinary expenses, can also be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Teach an Old (or Young) Dog New Tricks
Make your pet’s mental health—and overall behavior—a top priority. Stimulating your pets’ minds and challenging them is one of the keys to fulfillment and improved health. Just like humans, they can learn new behaviors and skills throughout their lives.
Create a regular training habit. Maybe your puppy breezed through kindergarten, or perhaps you have a cat who takes pride in ignoring your orders. Either way, spending just a few short minutes each day working on training with your pet (using positive reinforcement) is a simple way to help improve both your pet's manners and quality of life.
Attend training or obedience classes. Not only can they help put an end to various behavior problems, but many dogs also enjoy the challenge and the bonding time gained from attending these classes with their owners.
Teaching your pets new tricks and practicing those they already know are a great way to keep those neurons firing. New tricks aren’t just for dogs, either. Cats can also be taught tricks like sit, shake, and give kisses using reward-based training. Plus, consistent training can help boost your cat’s or dog's confidence.
Statistics show that one in three pets will become lost at some point in their lives. No pet owner ever wants to be in a situation where a beloved pet has wandered away, but you can at least be sure that your pets will be returned to you as quickly as possible by keeping their pet IDs up to date.
Over the course of a year, a lot can change—people move, get new phone numbers, and forget to update their pet’s tags. Sometimes tags wear out or become illegible. If any of your contact information has changed in the last year, don’t wait—update your dog’s information today, and make sure the dog wears it, along with a license identifying the dog and its owner!
A stronger line of protection is a microchip. The rice-sized chip is quickly and inexpensively implanted under the pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. When your pet is lost and is brought to an animal shelter or veterinarian, it will be scanned for a microchip. The microchip has a number that can be looked up in a database and can provide the owner’s name, phone number, and address. This is especially helpful if your pet gets lost and loses its collar and identification tags. It greatly increases the animal’s chance of finding its way back to you. However, that information must be kept up to date in order to ensure they get back home.
So many stray animals entering shelters every day have no ID, license tag, or microchip, which makes it tougher for them to find their way back home. By staying vigilant with current information, pet owners can help ensure being reunited with their lost pets.
Get in the Groom Groove
Keeping your pet clean through regular bathing is important, but try to groom your pet every day or as often as you can. Brushing your pet serves many purposes. It helps distribute oils from the skin to the fur, keeping the coat shiny and healthy. It removes excess fur from the coat, and reduces the amount you find on your clothes and furniture.
The key is to start early and often. Brushing your pet’s coat can be a calming activity if done routinely. Another good habit is to get pets used to their feet being touched. This makes trimming nails at home or at the vet or groomer that much easier and less stressful.
Not every dog or cat needs a thorough brushing every single day, but setting aside time to either brush your pet or just it a full-body rubdown has numerous positive effects. For one thing, cats and dogs with fur that mats or sheds heavily can benefit greatly from having loose fur removed on a regular basis. It is also a good way to check for any lumps, bumps, or other concerns. In addition, it’s a bonding activity that enables you to connect with them in a physical way.
One of the most overlooked grooming activities is brushing teeth. Dental disease affects nearly 85% of dogs and cats over three years of age and has significant health consequences. Inflamed and receding gums can occur if teeth are not brushed, causing your pet pain and leading to very expensive medical procedures. It can lead to infection and abscesses in the mouth, as well as affect the heart, liver, and kidneys. So proper oral hygiene is a must.
This year make sure their teeth are clean by brushing them on a regular basis. This will help prevent tartar and plaque buildup and reduce the risk of tooth loss as they age. Getting your pets used to teeth brushing will help this become a fun and delicious (with chicken-flavored toothpaste) habit for your pet.
Be a Good Neighbor
We’ve all been there. You are enjoying a walk with your pet, when SQUISH, you’ve got poo on your shoe. Besides this unfortunate mishap, not cleaning up after pets can lead to diseases spreading all over your neighborhood.
Worse yet, many people seem to think it’s perfectly fine to allow their pets to roam. Not only is it illegal for dogs to be at large, but thousands of strays end up in shelters. Be considerate—your neighbors may not want your dog, or even your cat, in their yard. Make sure your pets are properly contained in your own yard.
Strengthening the bond you share with your pet is good for you, too. Just having a pet in your home can reduce your stress and improve the quality of your mental and physical well-being. Show your gratitude, and resolve to make some positive changes in your pets' lives.