Monday, January 9, 2012

Ask the Vet: New Year’s Resolutions by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

After all the splurging during the holidays, the New Year gives us a chance to reset our priorities and goals. While you are making your own New Year’s resolutions, consider some resolutions for your pets as well.

Top Five Pet New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Exercise – It’s good for you as well as the dog, cat, bird, guinea pig, hamster or whatever little creature you consider a companion.  Walking or jogging with your dog is a great activity.  An ideal goal is at least 30 minutes of exercise every day for dogs (age and health permitting).  For your indoor critters make an effort to get them to run around and play or enjoy a good scratch on a daily basis.  
  2. Diet - I’m frequently asked which brand of pet food I recommend. It’s a difficult question because one pet may do great on Brand X and another does terribly on it. There are also many misconceptions about pet foods that stem from marketing campaigns by the pet food industry. My answer is to find a food that your pet enjoys eating, seems healthy on, and meets AAFCO nutritional standards. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a consumer protection group that establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods. Not all pet food companies formulate diets that meet these standards so when you are picking out a pet food, check for a label that indicates it has been formulated to meet AAFCO standards.If your dog has a weight problem try giving apples and carrots instead of more fattening treats and cut back on the table scraps, bones, and dental chews.  All those calories add up! 
  3. Preventive care – I recommend all dogs and cats get examined by their veterinarian once a year. This is a chance to discuss your questions; have them checked out from head to toe; update vaccines, heartworm, and flea control; and get whatever routine care is needed. For geriatric pets or animals with a chronic disease, I also recommend an annual blood panel. These visits keep your pet as healthy as possible and provide an opportunity to detect minor problems.  
  4. Learn something new – You can teach an old dog new tricks. Your dog will love learning something new, especially if it means getting treats and your attention. Try teaching your dog high five, roll over, play dead, pick up the newspaper or whatever you think is fun. I guarantee your dog will love the opportunity to learn something new.  
  5. Help others – Based on the temperament of your pet, consider getting him or her certified to visit nursing homes or hospitals. When my grandmother was in a nursing home, the visiting dogs made her so happy she talked about it for days. Check the requirements at your local hospital or nursing home for therapy pets. You can find resources for training and certification online, at the AKC good citizen program website, or the Therapy Dogs International website.

Happy New Year to your entire family! May it be filled with good health, new skills, and charity!

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email

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