NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 14, 2012

Paw Prints: Don't forget to make a New Year's resolution for your pet too

Paw Prints, Heidi Bassler
veterinarian

---- — ’Tis the season for love, peace and excess. Glad tidings and gluttony pair hand-in-hand for us and for Fido and Fluffy, too.

So with the arrival of 2013 just a couple of weeks away, this is a good time to ponder a few New Year’s resolutions for you and your pet. Here are some to get you started:

1. Enlist Fido to be your personal trainer. He’ll do a better job than anyone you could hire. Once you start your routine, Fido will always remind you when it’s time to go for that daily walk. He’ll nudge you with his little wet nose, stare at you with his adorable pleading eyes and whimper sweet songs at the front door.

It’s a proven fact that people with pets are generally healthier and more fit than those without. As an added bonus, an exercised Fido will be healthier and happier, too.

2. Make sensible food choices. Discard both your brownies and your pet’s biscuits. Choose food that is balanced and nutritious for your pet. Consider his age and any medical conditions. There are endless pet food choices available, and the Internet can be overwhelming with questionable information. Narrow your choices by picking a company that has a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on staff. Also choose one that performs Association of American Feed Control Officials feeding trials. However, if the bag simply indicates the food is formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles, then feeding trials were not performed and your pet would be their guinea pig.

3. Stay trim. Half of our country’s dogs and cats are overweight or obese. This affects their quality of life, and shortens the years they will be with us, too. If Fido or Fluffy is battling the bulge and you don’t know what to do, talk to your veterinary team. They can offer free advice to guide you toward low calorie foods, feeding amounts and exercise tips for both Fido and Fluffy.

4. Prevent pesky parasites. No one likes to be bitten by bugs. Preventing fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites is easier and safer than ever. Ask your veterinarian for guidance. Not only will Fido and Fluffy be healthier and more comfortable, pet parasite prevention will help protect your family, too. Some pet parasites are zoonotic; that means they can spread to people. Children are especially susceptible.

5. Learn more. Everyone appreciates a good education. You can expand Fido’s and Fluffy’s vocabulary by talking to them. Also be expressive with your face and body language. Dogs can read 70 to 80 different human facial expressions. So if you’re delighted with something your pet just did, let him know.

6. Brush your teeth, and your pets’ teeth, too. Yes, Fido and Fluffy can be trained not only to tolerate this daily routine, but actually to enjoy it, too. Pets are prone to painful gingivitis, periodontal disease and infected teeth just as we are. Daily home dental care helps keep their kisses fresh. Use only soft-bristled toothbrushes and toothpaste made for pets. Favorite flavors include poultry and seafood. Yummy.

7. Have regular dental check-ups. We have our teeth checked every six months. Fido and Fluffy should typically be checked annually. Schedule an appointment with a board-certified veterinary dentist, or call a veterinarian who has a special interest in dentistry.

8. Remove choking hazards. We know to keep small objects away from young children. In this regard, pets never grow up. Pets of any age will swallow objects that can get stuck in their throats or intestines. Cats are endlessly enchanted with string, which can be life-threatening if swallowed. Hard chew toys, such as marrow bones, commonly fracture dogs’ teeth.

9. Address those aches and pains. Don’t postpone visiting your doctor if you’re not feeling well. And watch Fido or Fluffy for clues that something is not right.They may be asking for help if their appetite or thirst changes, if bathroom habits change, if they don’t greet you at the door like they used to or if they have less pep in their stride during a walk.

Be prepared and sign Fido and Fluffy up for health insurance before illness strikes. Your veterinary team can discuss different plans with you.

10. Appreciate the ones you love. Our families include two-legged and four-legged members. They’re all part of the circle that provides us with love, peace and happiness all year. Take time to let them know how much they mean to you. Everyone has their own way of communicating love and affection.

For me and my pets, it’s an extra walk with my dog and precious snuggle time with my cats.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a safe and happy new year.

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Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital (www.BasslerVet.com). She hosts a radio show, “Your Pet’s Health,” every Sunday morning at 8:30 on AM-1450 WNBP. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to heidibasslerdvm@comcast.net.