As you reflected on the past year and made plans for the year ahead, you no doubt made New Year’s resolutions to improve your body, mind, and soul. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital team knows you are also concerned about your pet’s health, and in case you have not already done so, we suggest some New Year’s resolutions for your pet to help improve their health and wellbeing.
Make a wellness appointment for your pet
Early disease detection is important, because most conditions can be treated more easily and have a better prognosis when they are identified before significant signs are evident. Pets are experts at hiding illness, and they frequently don’t exhibit signs until their condition is advanced. Wellness exams include diagnostics that help our veterinary team catch issues that may later cause your pet serious health complications. Conditions that may be detected during a routine wellness visit include:
- Cancer — About one in four pets develops cancer, and their risk increases with age. Lymphoma is the most common type of pet cancer, and initial signs, including swollen lymph nodes, are usually subtle. Our veterinary team palpates your pet thoroughly, checking for enlarged lymph nodes and abnormal masses on their skin and in their abdomen. We also run blood work to check for abnormalities that may indicate cancer.
- Diabetes — Pets can develop diabetes at any age, but most dogs are diagnosed between 7 and 10 years of age, and cats after 6 years of age. Diabetes can be detected on a biochemistry profile and a urinalysis, which are included in a wellness visit.
- Kidney disease — Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common problem in pets, especially cats. CKD is best managed when detected early and can be identified by increased kidney values on blood work and changes on a urinalysis.
Maintain your pet at a healthy weight
Pet obesity is a growing problem in the United States, yet many pet owners don’t realize their pet is overweight. Obesity can result in significant health complications, including cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and arthritis, and can cause breathing and mobility issues. Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is the best way to protect them from these issues. Recommendations include:
- Monitoring your pet’s weight and body condition score (BCS) — Weigh your pet about once a month to ensure they aren’t unexpectedly gaining or losing weight. You can also assess their BCS to evaluate their body fat at a few key locations.
- Calculating your pet’s calorie needs — Consider your pet’s age, weight, activity level, and spay or neuter status to calculate their daily calorie needs.
- Measuring your pet’s food — Once you know the food amount your pet needs, use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to accurately measure their meal portion.
- Limiting your pet’s treat intake — Ensure treats account for no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories.
Ensure your pet receives year-round parasite prevention
Some people think that their outdoor pet does not need parasite protection, but fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can easily find their way into your home in any season to infect your pet. All pets should receive year-round parasite preventives to protect them from diseases, such as:
- Heartworm disease — Alabama has one of the highest heartworm incidence rates in the country. These parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes, which are prevalent in the state’s hot, humid weather, and they can cause significant damage to your pet’s heart, lungs, and vasculature.
- Flea-bite dermatitis — The most commonly diagnosed skin condition in pets, flea-bite dermatitis causes excessive itching, skin lesions, and infection. Affected pets are allergic to the flea’s saliva, and a single flea can trigger a severe response.
- Tick-borne diseases — Ticks can transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis, that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Make a dental appointment for your pet
If your pet’s breath is less than fresh, they may have dental disease, which affects the majority of pets before 3 years of age. While bad breath may be the first sign you notice, other more problematic complications include bleeding gums, loose or missing teeth, tooth-root infections, and a fractured jaw. The bacteria can also enter your pet’s blood stream, and damage organs, including their heart, kidneys, and liver. Professional veterinary dental cleanings, which involve anesthesia and dental X-rays to allow for a full evaluation and appropriate treatment, are the only way to thoroughly remove the bacteria from your pet’s teeth and from under their gum line. Your pet’s mouth should be assessed about once a year.
Exercise your pet regularly
Similar to humans, all pets need daily physical activity to be happy and healthy. Pet’s exercise needs vary, depending on their species and breed, so ask our veterinary team about the best exercise program for your pet. Recommendations may include:
- Exploring — Take your pet on fun walks throughout your neighborhood. You can also find safe rural areas to hike to expose them to new and interesting sights and smells.
- Playing — Schedule time every day to play with your pet. Many dogs love an energetic game of fetch, and cats are typically tempted by laser pointers and wand-style toys.
- Competing — If you have an extremely active pet, such as a border collie or Labrador retriever, consider a competitive sport such as agility, dock diving, and flyball.
Keeping these New Year’s resolutions will help improve your pet’s health and wellbeing. If you would like to schedule a wellness exam or dental cleaning, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Town & Country Animal Hospital, and let us help you keep your resolutions for your pet.
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