(1) Speak to your veterinarian about pet nutrition – 2018 was a terrible year for fad and boutique diets. Veterinary cardiologists around the country reported increasing rates of serious heart disease in dogs being fed “B.E.G.” (boutique, exotic-ingredient, and/or grain-free) diets. In an even more dangerous fad, 2018 saw nearly thirty raw-diet recalls. In addition, news reports associating raw-meat pet food with hospitalized children and pet deaths helped spread word of the risks of this ill-advised trend. Fortunately, surveys are showing that all of these scares have caused more and more pet owners to ask their veterinarians about what is best to feed their pets. That is an encouraging trend. Contrary to what you might read on the internet, veterinarians receive extensive education in animal nutrition. They know nutrition and they know your pets. Please take advantage of that resource in the new year.
(2) Clean those teeth – Periodontal disease is the most common condition in household pets. More than 80% of pets over three years of age have some degree of the condition. Inflammation of the oral tissues is caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar from bacteria in the mouth. This condition is closely associated with many ailments, including kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, and liver problems. Some studies have suggested that regular professional dental care can add two to five years to the life of your pet. Start the new year off right by scheduling a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment session with your pet’s veterinarian. Under a light plane of anesthesia, your veterinarian will probe, examine, and x-ray each of your pet’s teeth. These visits can prevent pain and disease, both in the mouth and elsewhere. After the procedure, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for home care and follow-up visits.
(3) Help your pet lose weight – According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half of all dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Even a small amount of excess weight can have a dramatic impact on a pet’s quality and quantity of life. One large fourteen-year study demonstrated lean dogs live almost two years longer than their overweight counterparts. In addition, the extra padding results in 80% higher incidence of painful arthritis. In addition to arthritis, obesity commonly leads to diabetes and liver disease in cats. “Spoiling” your pet with excess food, treats, or table scraps may seem like an act of love. In reality, it is slowly killing your pet and making it more likely she will suffer painful conditions. Resolve in 2019 to show your pet love not with extra calories, but with more exercise and affection.
(4) Catch up with lapsed preventive care – The holiday season is a busy time of year with extra strains on the family budget. Often, that causes pet preventive care to lapse. Vaccines can be time-dependent, requiring additional boosters if they lapse too long. Parasite prevention, especially tick and heartworm preventives, should be continued all through the winter to protect your pet from serious diseases. Are all your pets up to date with all your veterinarian’s recommendations? If not, January and February are great times to get those routine screening tests and important vaccinations addressed.
(5) Microchip your four-legged friends – My e-mail and Facebook accounts receive a near constant flow of missing pet reports. Many of these pets slip their collars or get out unexpectedly without identification. Sometimes, a pet is even stolen or assumed to be a stray and taken in by a good Samaritan. Microchips provide a permanent identification that help veterinarians and shelters return pets to their families. Every new pet in our practice is scanned for a microchip, so even “stray” or stolen pets have a chance of returning home if they have a microchip.