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New Year's Furry Resolutions

For the health of your pets

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New Year's Furry Resolutions

This year, if making New Year’s resolutions, give some thought to your pets' health. Their needs - being healthy and happy - aren’t much different from yours.

This year, if making New Year’s resolutions, give some thought to your pets' health. Their needs—being healthy and happy—aren’t much different from yours.

Healthy, well-cared-for pets means fewer vet bills, a stronger bond with your animals, and a happier house for you and them. Pets do so much for us. This January, and all year round, do something for them.

Fat cats and chubby canines

“You are what you eat” is also true of pets. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association sees a proper diet as one of the most important things you can do for your pet’s health. The right food in the right amount helps prevent or manage medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and kidney problems.

With estimates ranging from 33 to 58 percent of pets tipping the scales as overweight or obese, diet tops your list of pet resolutions. To see if your pet is overweight, place your hands along its ribs: if you can’t feel them, then your pet is supersized.

To help your pet lose weight

  • Gradually cut down on the amount of food; the recommendations on many pet foods are overly generous, especially for older or less active animals.
  • Keep treats, which can be high in fats, to less than 10 percent of the daily calorie count.
  • Give table scraps sparingly or not at all.

While dry kibble is cheap and convenient, it may not be the best choice. Cats in particular, because of higher protein needs, tend to become overweight on high-carbohydrate dry diets.

Nutrition counts

Make good pet nutrition your next resolution. Consider switching to a more natural diet with fewer fillers, additives, byproducts, and grain ingredients. Many pet and health food stores stock a variety of natural, organic, or holistic pet foods.

Or go for raw, fresh, or frozen food. Some pet stores now stock fridges and freezers with products. Once home, be sure to refrigerate and thaw these products carefully to avoid spoilage or cross-contamination with other foods.

Since pets have different nutritional needs and likes, experiment with brands until you find one that suits your pet. To learn more about these products, check out the manufacturer’s websites, talk to your vet, or question staff where you buy your pet food.

Note: if you’re tempted to make your pet’s food, do your homework. The proper amount and types of protein, vitamins, and nutrients are vital to your pet’s health.

A is for activity

Your next resolution should be to keep your pets active. You don’t have to take out a gym membership for them. Instead, turn exercise into play. The extra exercise may also help you stay in shape.

For dogs

  • Aim for a daily walk.
  • Play toss with a ball or Frisbee in a park or your backyard.

For cats

Cats do better with smaller periods of concentrated activity.

  • Toss pieces of kibble down the hallway to get them moving.
  • Make or buy an interactive food dispenser that releases kibble when the cat pushes it along the floor.
  • The Ontario SPCA suggests getting your cat to jump and race around by devising feline forms of indoor sports. Turn bathtubs, hardwood floors, and stairways into places where cats can hit, chase, or bat balls and toys around.
  • Get double duty out of the exercise by tying one of your cat’s toys on a string and dragging it around the house yourself, with your cat in hot pursuit.

If you have the time, space, and finances, consider getting your pet a buddy. Two animals will keep each other company and play together, allowing for both mental and physical stimulation.

Grab a brush

Make grooming a priority. Brushing or combing your pet on a regular basis allows you to check the condition of its coat and skin and remove excess fur that it would otherwise shed or swallow.

Pay attention to

A dry coat with flaky skin or overly oily fur may mean your pet has a dietary imbalance, requiring a change in food or the addition of supplements to its diet.

  • Patches of missing fur or raw, red skin could indicate an allergic reaction, a parasite infestation such as fleas, or overgrooming due to an allergy or anxiety.
  • Use this time to check your pet’s eyes, ears, and mouth for tearing, discharge, dirt, redness, or any other signs of possible disease. Also check their paws and nails.

Don’t forget mental well-being

Pets, like people, need to spend quality time with those they love. Even cats, with their reputation of independence, like to have some people time. As work and family schedules get busy, it’s hard to carve out pet time. However, without regular interaction with their owners, pets are liable to become anxious and depressed.

Playing, grooming, or just cuddling with your pet creates a bonding experience and leads to happier and healthier pets and people. So make setting aside some daily doggie or kitty time one of your pet resolutions.

Even if animals have regular interaction with you, some are naturally more aggressive, shy, or anxious. A change in routine or a move can also lead to emotional or behavioural problems. Natural and homeopathic products may help animals adjust.

What the doctor ordered

For your final resolution: take your pet for an annual checkup. It’s easy to miss early symptoms in pets, so don’t wait until your pet is visibly sick. Regular wellness checkups allow the vet to know the animal, detect and treat problems early, and answer health or behavioural questions.

For holistic vets, check the Internet or get recommendations from pet and health food store staff.

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