When a new year dawns, we make resolutions for personal improvement, such as decluttering, staying on top of finances, and making healthier choices. But, what about your pet? They can’t share their 2021 goals—and might not make the best choices if they could—so you’ll need to write their list. Make 2021 your pet’s best year yet by including resolutions to ensure their health, safety, and mental function. Here are our top picks for your pet’s personal improvement list.

#1: Keep your pet’s veterinary appointments

Regular wellness and preventive visits are the best way to monitor your pet’s health, prevent dangerous diseases, and check for illness signs. Your pet’s wellness visit includes the following critical parts:

  • Thorough physical exam — A head-to-tail exam allows our veterinarians to detect the first signs of illness, such as abnormal heart and lung sounds, new masses and growths, or lymph node enlargement. Recognizing abnormalities sooner allows us to diagnose potentially life-limiting diseases, begin treatment, and give you more time with your beloved companion.
  • Parasite screening — We will check your pet’s skin and fur for evidence of fleas and ticks, which can transmit dangerous diseases, in addition to causing skin issues. An annual heartworm test will ensure your pet is free from life-threatening heartworms. Also, a fecal analysis will screen your pet for intestinal parasites, including worms, coccidia, and Giardia, and we will discuss the best parasite preventives to keep your pet protected year-round. 
  • Vaccinations — Regular vaccinations protect your pet from deadly diseases, such as parvo and distemper in dogs, and feline leukemia and panleukopenia in cats. Some exotic pets, such as ferrets, also require vaccines to remain disease-free.
  • Blood work — Regular blood work allows us to look deeper than a physical exam to detect problems such as kidney and liver disease, diabetes, or infection. Pets often show no clinical signs until a disease has advanced and treatment may no longer be effective. Blood work helps us diagnose diseases in their early stages, when treatments are better able to help. 

Young, healthy pets should visit Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital at least once a year for regular health monitoring, although our team may recommend more frequent exams for some pets. For example, dogs and cats who have entered senior status—generally around 8 years of age—should be seen twice a year. Exotic pets have vastly different life expectancies, and our team can advise you about their best wellness visit schedule. 

#2: Don’t forget your pet’s dental health

Do you make your own dental appointments every six months, but brush off your pet’s dental health? If you don’t brush your pet’s teeth at home and schedule regular professional cleanings, chances are good that your pet has dental disease, despite giving you no signs. Up to 80% of pets with no regular dental care develop dental disease by 3 years of age. Take a look in your pet’s mouth—if you see yellow or brown tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth, or smell bad breath, dental disease has likely already set in. If you notice red gums, bleeding, broken or loose teeth, or horrendous breath, or you see that your pet has trouble eating, they likely have advanced dental disease that requires immediate treatment. To know if your pet’s teeth need attention, schedule a dental consult—we would be happy to assess their oral health, let you know what they need, and teach you how to brush their teeth at home. 

#3: Commit to be fit with your pet

More than half of pet cats and dogs are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Extra weight predisposes your pet to a myriad of health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and can significantly shorten their life. If your pet needs to shed extra pounds, make them your exercise buddy, to help you both get fit, and to enjoy more time together. Try walking daily, hiking a new trail, or trying an outdoor exercise circuit together. Your cat can get in on the action, too—pull a feather toy through the house, toss toy mice for them to chase, or teach them to navigate an obstacle course. 

You should also assess your pet’s diet, since many pets eat more calories than they need. Our team can help you by calculating your pet’s daily calorie needs, and determining exactly how much food and how many treats they can eat each day.

#4: Keep your pet on their toes

Do you get bored sitting around all winter? Your pet does, too. If your pet’s daily norm, despite the season, is napping on the couch, add new challenges, games, and puzzles to their routine. Mental enrichment helps stave off boredom, prevent destructive behaviors, and encourage more movement. Brain games will also help keep your aging pet mentally sharp, and can prevent cognitive decline. Try feeding your pet from a puzzle feeder, creating a whack-a-mole game for your cat, or hiding small treats throughout the house for them to find. Our tip—reward them with fresh veggies instead of calorie-laden processed treats.

We can help you make 2021 a healthy, happy year for your best friend. Give us a call to schedule your pet’s wellness and preventive visit, book a dental assessment, or discuss their calorie needs.