A new year brings the promise of a fresh start, both for us and our pets. We could all benefit from making improvements to our lifestyle, our diets and our day-to-day interactions, including our furry friends. Here are my top 10 New Year’s Resolutions to help make 2018 the best ever for your pet:

  1. Exercise: Dogs and cats both benefit from regular exercise. Exercise helps your pet maintain a healthy weight, strong muscles, and also can decrease anxiety and boredom. If you have questions about beginning an exercise plan for your pet, you can always consult your veterinarian.
  2. Teeth brushing: Daily brushing with a veterinarian-approved enzymatic toothpaste can do wonders for your dog or cat’s dental health. Buildup of tartar can lead to painful gingivitis or abscessed tooth roots. Also, while brushing, you can check for any broken teeth or abnormalities within the oral cavity.
  3. Schedule one (or more) physical exams with your veterinarian: Depending on your pet’s age and health condition, at least one physical exam each year can help us detect problems at an earlier stage. Prevention really is the best medicine.
  4. Diet: This is a great time to renew your dedication to feeding only quality canine or feline diets. Ditch the table scraps to avoid weight gain and costly, uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
  5. Environmental enrichment: Consider getting a new toy for your dog or a laser pointer to keep your feline friend occupied. Boredom can lead to problem behaviors, but more importantly, you will enjoy watching your fur-baby play.
  6. Grooming: Get out the brush and nail clippers! Frequent grooming not only improves the look of your pet, but can also help their coat stay healthy. While you are brushing fur and trimming nails, look for any new lumps or bumps, or any other changes in the skin. Early detection is crucial for many diseases.
  7. Start training anew: It’s never too late to teach an old dog (or cat) a new trick. Your pet will benefit from the mental stimulation of training and it is a fun bonding experience for you too!
  8. Pet proof your home: After the holidays, make sure to pack up all your decorations that may pose a hazard to your pet. Don’t forget about the small batteries that accompany many children’s toys. For cats, tinsel is especially dangerous if swallowed. Keep the chocolates out of reach and avoid giving your pets leftovers like turkey or ham bones.
  9. Do something new: This may be the year to pick up a new hobby with your pet. Find a spot to go hiking with your dog or teach him or her how to play Frisbee. Our area has so many pet-friendly places to go, giving you the opportunity to break up the normal routine.
  10. Improve quality of life for your senior pet: Does your older cat struggle getting into the litterbox? It may be time to purchase or make one with a lower entrance. Could your senior dog benefit from a new bed to help out those joints? Also, consider building a ramp to help older dogs go out to the bathroom and back. Small changes like these can make your senior pet much more comfortable.

I hope these resolutions give you ideas on how you can make 2018 the best year yet for both you and your pets!

Dr. Carolyn Ives is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.