7 resolutions your vet wishes you would make

Dr. Ernie Ward

My favorite holiday may be New Year’s Day. It's a time to reflect on the past year and an opportunity to chart a path for the next. On New Year’s Day, you have the next 365 days to improve your health, relationships, and career; a gift to truly treasure. While you’re planning your personal improvements, don’t forget your dogs and cats. Here are seven resolutions I wish every pet parent would make this year.

1)    Basic blood and urine tests – An important part of my job as a veterinarian is to uncover hidden diseases before it’s too late. Kidney and liver disease, thyroid and hormonal disorders, and a variety of medical conditions can often be detected with simple blood and urine tests. If the results are normal, the information serves as vital references to reveal subtle shifts in the future, allowing me to identify illness earlier.  

2)    Healthy weight and body condition – Over half the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight, putting them in danger of developing diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and cancer. My sincerest wish is that every pet (and person) would achieve a healthy weight. It’s never too late to start and as few as a couple of shed pounds can improve your pet’s quality of life.

3)    Understand your pet food – Most pet parents can’t tell me much about their pet food and treats. Sure, they know the brand, but often fail to understand what is actually in the bag or can. Call me a skeptic, but I need to base dietary decisions on more than a popular brand, pretty pictures, or price. This year, investigate your pet food and seek a thorough understanding of what constitutes a healthy pet diet. There are many dietary choices and opinions; it’s critical you and veterinarian collaborate to determine what is best for your pet’s unique needs.

4)    Measure each meal – The biggest mistake pet owners make feeding their pet is feeding too much. This January, have your veterinarian calculate the number of calories your pet should eat each day to achieve their health goals. Apply that information to your current diet to determine how much to feed. If you offer dry kibble, weighing portions is the most precise method to avoid overfeeding. Innovative technologies will begin to appear in 2016 that will also help pet parents solve the food measurement mystery. Until then, measure each meal.

5)    Daily Enrichment – Dogs, cats and people were made to move. Each day commit to walking your dog for 30 minutes and playing with your cat for 10 to 15 minutes. This tiny fraction of your day can yield tremendous health and mental gains for your pet. Nearly every physical and behavioral problem I treat benefits from increased aerobic activity. Make 2016 the year you move every day.

6)    Help a local pet rescue organization or animal shelter – Tens of millions of dogs and cats end up in shelters each year. To put it bluntly, the system is overwhelmed and underfunded. You can help by volunteering your time, fostering needy pets, or providing financial assistance to your community animal rescue groups. If every household with pets donated $10, that would generate $700 million dollars! Please help.

7)    Daily gratitude – We have so much to be grateful for. Pause each day to consider your blessings. My family and pets remind me each day of what matters most – love. Fill your days with gratitude.

I hope my pet resolution wishes find their way into your New Year. The next 365 days are waiting for you. Use them wisely and both you and your pet will usher in your New Best Year!