New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Pet

By: Amanda Poldoski
Staff Veterinarian

Happy New Year from Pet Poison Helpline®!  Do you want to make a New Year’s resolution but need a few ideas?  Why not choose a resolution that benefits both you AND your pet!

Holiday New YearsResolution #1

Does your pooch need to lose a few pounds? Could Fluffy stand to be a little less “fluffy?” Then get moving! Resolve to help your dog or cat get more exercise this year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a 2012 survey performed by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 58.3% of cats and 52.5% of dogs in the United States are overweight. If your veterinarian has mentioned that your pet needs to slim down, consider these tips. Take a walk each night after dinner (weather permitting, of course). Go toss the ball around in the yard. My dog loves to play in the snow. Bounding through snowbanks is definitely good exercise! Get your cat moving with toys like ribbon and feathers tied to a stick, or “cat dancers.” Some cats even like to play fetch! You will likely benefit from the extra exercise as well.

Resolution #2

Resolve to feed your pet healthy treats. Feeding treats can be a fun way to bond with our pets but the extra calories can add up quickly.  Did you know that a 1 ounce piece of cheddar cheese for a 20 lb dog is the caloric equivalent to one and a half hamburgers for the average size woman?  And just one potato chip for a 10 lb cat is like half a hamburger! One of my cats is crazy about potato chips and, admittedly, I sneak her a crumb now and then. Instead of feeding calorie-dense treats, try some of these alternatives:

For dogs, try crunchy treats like carrots, snap peas, pieces of apple, green beans, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, or even plain popcorn. My dog loves the crunchy hearts or ribs from romaine lettuce, which is also a safe treat. Foods to avoid include grapes, raisins, onion, macadamia nuts, and of course chocolate. Feeding your dog these healthy treats may serve as a good reminder about your own snack-time choices, too!

For cats, try reserving some of their daily ration of kibble, if you feed dry food, and dole it out as treats throughout the day to avoid over-feeding. Some cats are quite food motivated (like mine) and can be taught tricks with little food rewards and a lot of repetition.

If your pet needs more help with weight loss, please consult your veterinarian. They are your best resource for nutritional information. He or she can calculate how many calories your pet should consume each day and then recommend a specific food appropriate for your pet’s needs.

Resolution #3

Resolve to keep potentially harmful items out of your pet’s reach.  All too often here at Pet Poison Helpline® we hear about dogs chewing on pill bottles that were left on a table or nightstand, dogs getting a hold of grandpa’s 7 day pill container, or getting into mom’s purse and eating the pack of gum that contains xylitol. Dropped pills are also an issue. Many dogs are quick to snatch up a pill that is dropped on the floor before the owner can retrieve it. Preventing potentially toxic ingestions will save your pet from possible peril and save you from unwanted stress and veterinary bills! Consider these tips: Store your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements up in a cabinet or cupboard out of Fido’s reach.

Take your medications in the bathroom or another room where you can close the door to keep pets out in case you drop a pill. Or have your dog sit in their kennel while you take your medicine. Train your dog to know the “leave it” command. This really comes in handy when food, pills, or other items you don’t want your dog to have are dropped on the floor.

Keep purses, backpacks, and other bags up off the floor and out of reach. It’s amazing how many things in your purse can pose a risk to your pet – items like gums and mints containing xylitol, medications (Rx and OTC), chocolate, cigarettes and lighters.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2014!