By Rizal Lopez, DVM
New year, new you! You likely make resolutions for yourself during the New Year, but how about for your pet? January is the time to commit to routines you want to practice all year long. Take a look at these actions you can take to make 2021 your pet’s happiest, healthiest year yet.
1. Schedule a wellness exam. Once a year your pet should have an annual exam to test for heartworm, parasites and check their overall health. Being proactive is key to preventing disease. For senior pets, checkups twice a year might be a good idea.
2. Start or refill a monthly parasite preventive. Heartworm infection is prevalent in Florida because it’s transmitted through mosquitos and we have a LOT of them. It’s easier to prevent a heartworm infection than treat it so make an investment in your pet’s future health by filling up on monthly preventives. Remember, you’ll need a heartworm test before starting preventive, and once a year thereafter.
3. Update microchips and I.D. tags. Outdated information on I.D. tags and microchips makes it hard, or even impossible, to reunite lost pets with their owners. It’s easy to forget to call when there is a change, so it’s a good idea to make an annual update part of the New Year. If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, make an appointment to get one.
4. Exercise with your pet daily. Not only is it good for your health, but a daily walk or other activity together also strengthens the bond between you and your pet.
5. Measure your pet’s food. Many owners “eyeball” or estimate how much food they are giving their pet, which can lead to overfeeding and weight gain. Overweight animals can face health issues like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Talk to your vet about your pet’s diet and start using a measuring cup to stick to it.
6. Switch to a better quality food. Have you been thinking about switching to a medicated diet to help manage or prevent future pet health issues? Or maybe your pet hit senior status last year and could benefit from a senior formula with added nutrition. Talk to your vet and make the jump at the beginning of the year for better digestive health all year long.
7. Start an oral hygiene regimen. Pets can get tartar buildup just like humans, so it’s important to brush their teeth regularly with toothpaste made specifically for pets. You can also find treats and water additives available to assist with dental health. Work with your veterinarian to plan for regular cleanings.
8. Enroll in training classes. Training is great mental stimulation for your pet whether you are working on problem behaviors or just looking for a new way to bond.
For questions about your pet-related New Year’s resolutions, call SPCA Tampa Bay’s Veterinary Center at 727-220-1770 or your primary veterinarian.