1. Focus on your pet’s dental health
Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best thing you can do for their dental hygiene. Studies have found that daily brushing is significantly more effective at reducing tartar and gingivitis in dogs compared to brushing once a week or not at all1. Dental disease can lead to significant infection and inflammation in your dog’s mouth, which can be painful and lead to other illnesses such as respiratory, liver, and kidney disease.
Most dogs (and especially cats!) don’t love having their teeth brushed when you first start. However, it is possible to desensitize most pets to teeth brushing. Don’t be discouraged! Associate teeth brushing with something your pet loves- like meal time, treat time, or playtime, and do it at the same time every day. Start slowly by showing them the toothbrush and letting them lick the yummy flavored toothpaste. Gradually progress to putting the toothbrush in their mouth for short periods and work up to a full tooth brushing.
If your pet does not tolerate teeth brushing, alternative products, such as dental chews and water additives, can be helpful. The Veterinary Oral Health Council website lists recommended products for dogs and cats.
2. Update Microchip Information
Many dogs and cats have a microchip implanted under their skin between their shoulder blades linked to your phone number and address. Sometimes pet owners forget to register or update their information after the microchip is implanted or after moving or changing phone numbers. Make sure your information is updated in case your pet is lost.
There are many microchip registry websites, the most common being 24 Pet Watch, Homeagain, and PetLink. This process is almost always free, but many microchip websites will encourage you to purchase subscription plans with other marketing features, which you do not need to update your information.
3. Dedicate time for exercise
Exercise is vital for your pet’s physical and emotional health and can be whatever your pet enjoys- running, walking, or even swimming. Setting aside 30 minutes to 1 hour of dedicated exercise time two to three times a week is a good source of stimulation and will help your pet stay fit.
4.Maintain a healthy weight
Pet obesity is a widespread issue. In 2018, a large study conducted in the United States found that more than half of dogs and cats in the US are classified as overweight 2. Obesity can lead to several problems in pets, including arthritis and endocrine diseases such as diabetes.
Feeding your pet the correct food and the right amount of food is the most important factor in preventing obesity. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is an appropriate weight and how much of their specific food they should receive every day. Always measure your pet’s food with an actual measuring cup to ensure they get the correct amount.
5. Set aside time to play or cuddle
Dedicate 30 minutes a day to spend time doing something your pet loves. Some dogs and cats enjoy quiet time by simply cuddling with their owners. Others, especially puppies and kittens, are high-energy and would rather spend time chasing a ball outside or pouncing on a wand toy in the living room. Purposefully setting aside this time will make your pet happy and lead to a stronger bond between you and your pet.
6. Teach your pet a new trick
Teaching your dog or cat a new trick is a rewarding experience for both of you. You get the satisfaction of showing off your pet’s cool new talents, and they get the joy of pleasing you and enjoying the treat at the end!
7. Remember to give heartworm, flea, and tick prevention
Monthly medications that prevent heartworm infection, fleas, and tick-borne disease transmission are recommended for most pets. Discuss if these medications are appropriate for your pet with your veterinarian.
Preventative medications are highly effective, but only if you remember to give them! It can be easy to forget, so setting a reminder to give these medications when they’re due and administering them on the same day every month can help you remember.
8. Commit to annual wellness appointments
Annual checkups with your veterinarian for a complete physical exam are essential to your pet’s health. Some older pets, or pets with chronic diseases may benefit from checkups every six months. Consider also performing yearly blood work on middle-aged to senior pets to check vital organ function and to pick up on signs of chronic disease early.