2019 Resolutions with your Dog
We have reviewed the changing disease patterns for tick borne bacteria and heartworm disease and discussed the emerging issue of diet related heart disease in dogs. With the new year upon us I would now like to take some time to look to the future and think intentionally about 2019.
What are some goals you have for the coming year? What have you not gotten around to yet that is a priority? What is a nice to have? What of these can you do with or for your dog? Well, for those of you who like lists or goal journals, here is a list of common items to review from your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.
1. Update information: Have you moved, changed phone numbers or added a new pet this year? Make sure microchip information is up to date. Not sure? Check out this website to see what is readily available about your pet's microchip number.
This is a good time to make any changes to a will or trust you may have that mentions your pet. Also update pet sitter information and record regularly administered medication - I keep a note card next to the medication for easy reference if I need someone to take care of the animals in an emergency.
2. Check your food: Has your pet gained weight this year? If you are not already, I recommend measuring the amount of food you give each meal. If it has been a year of inappropriate weight gain then cut back on the amount of food (and extra treats) to get back into shape. We know that dogs who are fit and trim live longer and have lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Also, what are you feeding? If you haven't read the last article about grain free diets and heart disease, put that on your to do list.
3. Evaluate your preventative care: What are you currently using for prevention of parasites and diseases? Is your pet due for vaccines, titers, or other tests this year? The recommended prevention changes based on what activities you and your pet are planning this year. Going to dog beach during the off season? Getting more active with hiking? Starting trips to doggy daycare or the dog park? If so, then we may want to discuss different prevention plans.
Another consideration is if you are giving any supplements. There is not a single governing body that monitors the quality of herbs, vitamins or supplements. The brand can really matter for these products. One voluntary label to look for is the NASC quality seal. To research what I'm hinting at here, check out this article from the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association. To find out why this is the case, read this overview.
4. Learn some new tricks: Old dogs really can, and should, learn new tricks! Not only is learning a new skill good mental stimulation it is also fun. Not sure where to start? Check out clicker training. Want to teach something unique? How about wave, or watch me? Other brain games include feeding from treat dispensing toys, driving to a walk in a new neighborhood (with new smells), and playing games. One game my dogs like, and can play with the kids, is hide & seek. Huxley will "sit" & "stay" in the living room while the kids find a place to hide the toy. Then he goes on a sniffing search mission to "find it" and bring it back.
5. Get some exercise together: Getting some fresh air and endorphins is a great way for you both to stay fit and healthy. Exercise is also a great way to bond with your dog. Regular walks are great, but if you want to try something different, check out dog yoga, a local park, head to the beach, or whatever you are into! Can't get your dog out yourself? That's ok! There are many local dog walking companies, neighborhood kids, or there is even an app for that. We have definitely had to ask friends and family to take our dogs out when life gets crazy (or babies arrive). The dogs are thrilled for an adventure with a new person and the person who helps is usually happy to have some extra cash & dog kisses.
6. Dental home care: Teeth brushing is the gold standard of dental care but needs to be done every other day to be effective. Use an enzyme toothpaste made for pets with no fluoride (I like the CET vanilla flavor). If you hadn't started brushing your dog's teeth at a young age, then it can be difficult to train later in life. Alternatives include an oral gel (if you can get a quick swipe but not a full brush), water additive (such as Healthy Mouth), or dental chews. For dental chews, avoid hard items such as hard femur bones and antlers as they can crack and break teeth. Look for items with the VOHC seal and always monitor for choking hazards.
Whatever you plan is for 2019, we wish you and your loved ones a year of health, joy, and happiness.