As you make your resolutions for 2013, here are five that can make it a great year for your pets, too.
By JD Warford, DVM, and Laurie White
1. Catch up on overdue exams, diagnostic tests, and vaccinations. ?All pets need annual veterinary examinations—the equivalent of once every five years for humans. Older or sick pets may need more frequent exams or lab tests. Early detection of illnesses means more treatment options and a longer, happier life for your pet. Talk to your vet about your pet’s specific needs.
2. Don’t ignore dental care.? Pet dental care is a very important, yet often neglected, issue. Home brushing of your pet’s teeth reduces plaque buildup and may decrease the frequency of dental cleanings at the vet, which require general anesthesia. Precautions such as pre-cleaning exams and tests make anesthesia as safe as possible. Unaddressed dental issues can lead to serious health concerns, including emergency visits to address dental abscesses, kidney disease, and chronic pain. February is Pet Dental Health Month, and many veterinary clinics offer pricing specials, so ask about your pet’s dental health now!
3. Evaluate your pet’s weight and activity. ?In the United States, more than 50 percent of pets—more than 9 millions dogs and cats—are considered obese. Not only can obesity exacerbate cardiovascular disease and arthritis, but it can also lead to such illnesses as diabetes. Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight may add years to your four-legged companion’s life expectancy.
If your dog is young and active, you probably already take walks and visit the dog park. However, these steps may not be enough. You’d be surprised how much exercise young, healthy cats and dogs need! Many rambunctious and destructive behaviors improve simply by adding more scheduled playtime.
Talk to your vet about your pet’s age, weight, and activity level to determine the right diet and exercise plan.
4. Plan for the Unexpected. ?Take time to review and organize your pet’s medical records, including updated rabies certificates and county licenses. Make sure that identification tags and microchip companies have the current contact information. If your pet is lost, these may be the only things that bring you back together!
Look into pet insurance and ask your vet for recommendations. Many companies provide plans for various budgets, but they require that you pay expenses up front. Knowing that your pet is covered and that you will be reimbursed can help make emergency visits or newly diagnosed illnesses more manageable. Many employers offer pet insurance as part of their benefit package. Ask your employer if this is available to you. You may be surprised!
Are you and your pet prepared for a sudden power outage, storm damage, or even an evacuation? It’s easy to assemble a pet emergency kit to supplement your own. Pack a bag containing medical records, medications, a collar and leash, grooming equipment, food and water, bowls, toys, and other items your pet may need if you must leave quickly.
5. Give back. ?Consider giving back to animals in your community that aren’t as fortunate as your pet. Most shelters are always in need of food, bedding, supplies, or cash donations. If you have the time, room, and resources, then please consider fostering a dog or cat until it can find its forever home. If you’re ready to adopt, then visit your local shelter or animal rescue and save two pets—the one you adopt and the one that gets its space in line.
Remember, as you make your resolutions, include your pets in your planning, and together, you can have a safe, happy, and healthy 2013!
JD Warford, DVM, is the owner/operator of DC MetroVet, a house-call veterinary practice serving Washington, D.C., and the Metro Maryland area. You can visit Dr. Warford’s website at www.dcmetrovet.com for more information. Laurie White is a freelance editor, writer, and photographer in the Washington, D.C., area.