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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2009

This morning, I came across this helpful and interesting article* by Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, regarding new year's resolution for your pets called "Tips for enhancing animals' lives and our own".

I am not typically one for making New Year's resolutions -- too much stress and expectation! But I do enjoy the feeling of a "fresh start" and the refocusing that the new year brings. Here are some ideas and tips to hopefully enhance the health and add some fun to your pets' lives.

It is the start of a new year, and people's thoughts often turn to diet and exercise, making up for holiday indulgences. Pets also suffer from overeating and lack of exercise. But there are more things to consider than diet and exercise when it comes to being a good pet owner and animal lover. Here, in no particular order, are 10 tips to a healthier lifestyle for animals in need and our own pets.

Exercise
Regular exercise has the obvious health benefits, but it also is a great time to bond with our pets. A simple daily walk helps a dog learn proper manners, provides some good quality time, and does wonders for the human counterpart, too! Keeping pets at the proper body weight reduces the risk of heart and joint problems, diabetes, and a host of other poor health conditions.

Health Check Up
A regular visit to your veterinarian is the best way to stay ahead of potential problems. Annual examinations of teeth, heart/lungs, and body condition overall will be less costly than waiting for a problem to develop and your pet suffering needlessly from complications of preventable problems. Having a good "baseline" of information about your pet also gives the veterinarian something to compare against and determine exactly what is wrong when something isn't quite right with your pet.

Good Nutrition
Like humans, pets who eat poor quality food just don't have the health reserves than those that a good balanced diet. Poor skin, hair coat, muscle tone, and obesity problems can be a result of a poor diet. Also, pets are not humans -- a diet rich in table scraps is not a healthy one, and can lead to problems such as obesity and pancreatitis.

Good Grooming
No one wants to be around a stinky pet. Regular grooming -- bathing, toe nail clips, brushing out coat, parasite control -- not only make the pet more pleasing to be around, it is much healthier for the pet! For skin and coat problems that don't resolve with regular grooming, please see your veterinarian -- there may be an underlying medical condition affecting the skin, coat, or toenails.

Safety
Keeping pets safe is something most pet owners take for granted. However, take a moment to assess the toxic chemicals used in your house and yard. Are they necessary? Are all safety precautions followed? Where are household chemicals stored? Can your pet access these items? If toxins such as rodent poisons are used, can your pet access the rodents? Think too about enclosures for pets -- is the fencing secure? Can your pet get caught or hooked up on the fence, a tree, etc. and choke or be stuck out in the weather when you are away?

Information
Being informed is the best way to keep track of our pet's health and well being. If possible, keep a medical log of your pet's vet visits, medications, special needs, etc. to help keep track of your pet's medical history. Knowing what is normal and not normal for your particular pet will assist your vet figure out what is wrong in the case of illness. The Internet is a wealth of information, but caution is advised when seeking out a diagnosis or medical assistance via the web. Just as in real life, there is good information and bad information out there. The only way to get an answer/diagnosis is through a thorough physical examination, review of medical history, and possible lab work performed by your veterinarian.

Love & Attention
This is probably obvious, but too many pets are left outside in all kinds of weather, with very little human contact. Same goes for inside pets -- those who are largely ignored for lack of time and busy human schedules. Take the time to focus on your pets and create/nourish that human-animal bond!

Volunteer
There are thousands upon thousands of animals in need of help each day. This concept can be overwhelming for many people. Every little bit helps, though. Financial donations, donations of supplies or your time to a local shelter or rescue group is always appreciated, and real live animals are being helped by your generosity.

Maintenance
This refers to the more "unpleasant" aspects of pet care -- the litter box scooping, yard clean up, cage cleaning, and fish tank maintenance. A clean environment for our pets is a healthy one! Poor sanitation can lead to behavior problems (i.e. litter box avoidance) and health problems such as skin infections and the spread of communicable diseases.

Be a Voice
Speak up when you notice neglected or abused pets in your neighborhood. This isn't pleasant, but if you can help even one animal escape a painful life, it is worth it. Shelters and rescue groups will thank you and most will accept an anonymous tip to help animals in need.

*This article courtesy of About.com

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