by Carolyn Wisniewski

January is a time for a self-reflection and resolution, a time to set goals for the New Year; popular choices often focus on exercise, healthy eating or self-care. Including your pet in your resolutions can increase your chances of achieving your goals! Some ideas for New Year’s resolutions include:

Walk with your pet. A daily walk can be the perfect way to start a new fitness routine, helping both you and your pet stay active and maintain or reach a healthy weight. Daily exercise also strengthens the bond between you and your pet.

Update microchips and I.D. tags. Up-to-date tags and microchips are the best way to reunite you with your pet quickly if your pet becomes lost. Get a microchip for your pet, and if they’re already microchipped, make updates to your contact information. Outdated information on I.D. tags and microchips makes it hard, or even impossible, to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Regularly groom your pet. Daily brushing can keep your pet’s coat healthy and shiny, and it removes excess hair so you don’t find it around your house or on your clothes. It’s also another great way to bond with your pet. Remember to clean your pet’s ears to prevent infections, and trim your pet’s nails.

Schedule an annual exam. Your veterinarian can monitor your pet’s health and help you take preventive measures to keep your pet healthy. Over time, your vet will develop a comprehensive record of your pet’s health, allowing them to see symptoms that are hard for owners to catch on their own. This can help older cats and dogs that can have a higher risk of diseases that affect their organs like kidney or thyroid disease. These symptoms can be vague and hard for most pet owners to notice, but your vet is trained to recognize them as they start to appear.

Commit to year-round heartworm prevention. Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitos, and in Florida, mosquitos are a year-round pest. It’s easier to prevent a heartworm infection than treat it, which can be hard on a pet’s body and costly for owners. This year, commit to giving your pet a monthly heartworm medication to prevent heartworm infection.

Get your pet spayed or neutered. Schedule a time to get your pet spayed or neutered. It helps reduce pet overpopulation, and it also provides many health benefits for your pet.

Start an oral hygiene regimen. You know it’s important to brush your teeth. Dental care is an important aspect of a pet’s health too. Buy a toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste and brush your pet’s teeth once a day. Talk to your veterinarian about annual dental cleanings and ways to maintain your pet’s dental health through products like dental chews, water additives and a dental-friendly diet.

Enroll in training classes. It’s a great way you and your dog to bond, have fun, build confidence, and burn lots of mental and physical energy. Sign up for fundamental skills, or enroll your pet in fun classes meant to work its natural abilities, like K9 Nose Work through New Dawn Animal Behavior Training. Nose Work is designed to develop dogs’ natural scenting abilities by using their curiosity, desire to hunt, and love of toys, food, and exercise.

– Carolyn Wisniewski is the chief development officer for SPCA Tampa Bay in Largo, Florida, a non-profit, open-admission animal shelter that runs a pet training facility and public veterinary center in Pinellas County.