Tuesday, January 05, 2010

PET PRIORITIES: Five Musts for the Furry Ones in Your Life

(Published in the January 2010 issue at www.westvalleyhealthandliving.com - page 41)

By Heather Chin

The beginning of a new year has been a chance to start anew for families around the world for thousands of years. Losing weight, eating healthier foods, getting a promotion, studying more, saving money – the list goes on. Some resolutions are easier than others. This year, resolve to take care of the whole family – pets included – with these easy-to-do goals for the creatures who bring warmth and love every day of the year.

However big, small, clean, lean or furry your pet, he or she must be given the gift of you keeping them healthy via regular checkups with the veterinarian. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, pets should undergo a comprehensive annual exam that includes a lab analysis, heart check and dental exam. Annual vaccinations for things like rabies and flu are recommended, as are once-a-month tablets or spot-on treatment to prevent flea, tick and heartworm infestations. If you haven’t already, schedule a vet visit for the new year.

Combine good health with play by walking the dog and encouraging him to exercise. Invest in a running wheel for Pete Hammster and let Chairman Meow scamper and pounce more often on playthings. Add daily walks in the backyard or at a local park that will keep both of you fit besides being a good habit to develop overall. Invite fellow pet-lovers to make it even more fun in the sun – you get relaxing conversation and the dog gets a new friend to play with. When it gets cold outside, also remember to let dogs and cats stay warm indoors.

Don’t forget to make sure the princess looks her best before running outside. Grooming can be as basic as cleaning behind her ears daily (to avoid odor and ear mites), washing her feet and shampooing her hair. Check your pet supply store for cleaning products that provide dry/itchy skin relief. You could also try mouth cleansing pet chews and bones that will help her both charm the neighbors’ pets and prevent tooth loss.

While resolving to focus on a healthy diet high in calcium and other nutrients, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid treats. Brand name pet foods have many options that combine taste and health, but you can also make your own treats, such as popsicles or hollow squishy toys with a dap of catnip, tuna or other favorite treats in the middle.

Last, but not least, is the easiest resolution of all: spending more quality time with your pet. Love and affection is something that everyone enjoys and can relax the whole family. Blow some bubbles, toss a ball and hide treats or toys around the house. Dogs and cats often suffer from depression, stress and anxiety just like humans do, so simple gestures like petting, walking and making them feel loved is the perfect way to start the New Year.