This New Year, Get a Fresh Start on Pet Care

Little Dog Being Examined By Vet

When I recently wrote about how to get animals to enjoy a trip to the veterinarian (hint: Put a smile on your face to boost your pet’s attitude), I got to thinking how sometimes a pet is very happy to see me. The owner, on the other hand, is not. I know why, and I want to change that, starting today.

If you're dreading a trip to the vet because you haven’t followed past advice, haven’t practiced good preventive care, or have never thought about how you’d cover the costs of an accident or illness, this is your day.

Look, we have all been in a jam at one time or another, and none of us like to be called on the carpet for something we know we should have done, could have done, or planned to do before a million of life’s other demands took over. So instead of pushing for New Year’s pet care resolutions, I’m declaring amnesty. Instead of pulling for “perfect,” I’m just going to suggest that you aim for “better,” because I know most resolutions fail, especially those that set the bar too high.

Start Small

Better doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect” and it doesn’t even have to mean “good.” It simply means letting go of the idea that if you can’t do everything, you should do nothing. Instead, think about just doing something. A lot of little somethings truly can add up when it comes to your pet.

Take one of the issues I’m most outspoken about: obesity. More than half of all pets are overweight or obese, and we veterinarians get very frustrated that we can’t seem to communicate the urgency of the situation when we see a fat pet in front of us. What if instead of feeling guilty and waiting for the lecture you think you’re going to get, you admit you need some help and ask for it, starting with getting an accurate assessment of your pet’s body-condition score? That's doing something.

After your veterinarian picks up his jaw off the floor, he’ll be happy to help you. He’ll show you what a waist should look like in a dog or cat. And he’ll offer suggestions. Take just one or even two things that you can do, such as always measuring your dog’s food — no guestimates! — or taking just a few minutes for interactive play with your cat in the evening. That's a place to begin, and starting something is all you need sometimes.

Good, Better, Best

Let’s think about another topic we veterinarians feel strongly about: dental care. While I’d love it if you brushed your pet’s teeth regularly, I accept that you’re (probably) not going to, even if I point out that doing so is one of the home-care practices that truly will pay off for you in terms of saving money and, even more important, making your pet’s life longer and more comfortable. (If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know this is true!) But how about if you take a “good, better, best” approach and do what you can? Get your pet in for an examination and, if necessary, take him for dental care to address any existing problems. Then ask your veterinarian to help you, by advising on the following options for your pet:

  • Good: Dental rinses added to drinking water can work to keep plaque from forming. These are formulated to taste good to pets, making them easier to administer.
  • Better: Special chews that help to remove plaque and have enzymes to fight bad breath are another pet-friendly way to help fight dental disease.
  • Best: Yes, brushing. Any amount of it is better than no brushing at all. And you’ve never had more choices to make it easier, from toothbrushes designed for pets to pastes that tickle the feline and canine palate.

These are just two examples of ways you can make a fresh start this New Year, and really help your pet. So stop avoiding your veterinarian and feeling guilty about the things you haven’t done. Take your pet in and ask for advice on some small steps toward better preventive care for your pet.

Believe me, your veterinarian will be happy to help. We don’t like giving the lecture any more than you like hearing it. Let’s make the New Year better for us all, by starting fresh and starting small.


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