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As December comes to a close, you may be thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions and how you can improve in 2020. But, did you know that many of your resolutions can also benefit your pets? Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions you can make that will help you and your pet be your best selves in 2020.

#1: Exercise more with your dog

Your dog deserves a walk every day, and some high-energy dogs could use more than one walk per day. Walks provide dogs not only physical, but also mental exercise. With so many sights, sounds, and smells in the great outdoors, daily walks can fire up your dog’s brain cells after a long day inside. Also, although you may be on a mission, remember to let your dog stop and smell the roses, which can do wonders for his mind, and yours. 

#2: Feed pets a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet

Choose a high quality diet from a reputable pet-food company, and skip trendy boutique food. If you have questions about the best food for your pet, reach out to your family veterinarian or call us, and we will be happy to lead you through the confusing world of pet food. Never rely on advice from the cashier at the pet-food store.

Once you’ve chosen a diet, be careful not to overfeed your pet. About half the country’s pet population is overweight or obese, and the extra pounds can exacerbate joint pain, and lead to other major health problems, such as diabetes and cancer. 

#3: Focus on your pet’s health

We all want to be healthy, and diet and exercise are a good start. Also, maintain your pet’s heartworm prevention and be diligent about year-round flea and tick control. Make and keep your pet’s wellness appointments, consider investing in pet health insurance, and ensure your pet’s vaccines are up-to-date. If your pet is 7 or older now, keep in mind that senior pets should see their veterinarian twice yearly. Regular veterinary visits help your veterinarian identify changes in your pet’s health earlier, which means treatment can begin early in a disease process, improving a pet’s chances of recovery. 

#4: Screen for cancer and other diseases

Cancer is a leading cause of death among people and pets, and early diagnosis and intervention can mean the difference between life and death. Ask your veterinarian about these cancer screening techniques:

  • Fine needle aspirate — If you notice a new lump or bump on your furry friend, this is an affordable and non-invasive way to learn what’s inside the lump.
  • Rectal exam — This can help identify anal sac tumors before a pet shows other signs of illness.
  • Blood work — Changes in your pet’s regular blood work can indicate illness early, before your pet shows other signs.
  • Urinalysis — Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the most common tumor of the urogenital system in dogs, and a urinalysis can reveal a gene mutation associated with this cancer, potentially leading to a diagnosis months before the dog shows clinical signs of the disease.
  • X-rays — Radiographs, or X-rays, can reveal the presence of a tumor before other signs appear.

#5: Spay or neuter your pet

Decreasing the pet population is important, but spaying or neutering your pet helps reduce the risk of certain health problems, such as uterine infection, and mammary and testicular cancers. Talk with your primary care veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet to mitigate these risks.

#6: Quit smoking

Our pets breathe the same are we breathe, and they’re just as susceptible to health problems associated with secondhand smoke as our human family members. Not only are pets exposed to secondhand smoke when they breathe, but they also ingest it when they groom themselves. Researchers have found that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of developing nasal cancer, heart disease, allergic skin disease, and other health issues. An increased risk of lymphoma and oral squamous cell carcinoma has been found in cats exposed to secondhand smoke. 

#7: Ensure your pet has current identification

Current collar ID tags can make all the difference should your dog or cat get lost, but what if he sneaks out without his collar? If your pet is not microchipped, resolve to remedy that. A microchip is a permanent form of identification inserted under your pet’s skin that is your best defense if he gets lost, because when a pet is found, his microchip can be scanned for the owner’s contact information. Also, always ensure that your information in the microchip database is up-to-date.

#8: Be prepared for your pet

Have a pet first-aid kit accessible at home and in the car when traveling with your pet. Your kit should include: 

  • Gauze
  • Veterinary wrap
  • Plastic bags
  • Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol swabs
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch for small cuts or bleeding toenails 
  • Eyewash
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers 

#9: Train your dog

Start training and socialization when your dog is a puppy. All dogs should know simple commands, such as “Come,” “Sit,” or “Stay,” especially if they are mischievous. Obeying “Come!” can keep your dog from potentially dangerous situations, such as being hit by a car. Training also can help prevent behavior problems, because unsocialized dogs may become nervous or aggressive.

#10: Help other pets

The beginning of a new year is a great time to set a goal of helping not only your own dog or cat, but also the many unwanted and abandoned pets in shelters. Consider fostering a petsome dogs need to buy time in a foster home until they get forever homes. When shelters are full, pets who need help may be turned away, or worse, euthanized. If fostering a pet is not possible, consider donating time, money, or food to a shelter.

Happy holidays, and here’s to a wonderful 2020 with your furry friends.