May 26, 2018

GUEST COLUMN: New Year’s resolutions for pet owners

By M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

Our pets provide us with so much unconditional love that we should find ways to improve our relationship with them in the coming year. One way is to include them in our New Year’s resolutions.

At the top of almost everyone’s resolution list is to exercise and lose weight. Why not let your pet help you keep that promise? Like their humans, many pets are overweight or obese. Increasing walks and playtime will not only help weight loss, but it can help prevent medical and behavior issues. (A tired dog is a good dog!) Studies show that dogs kept close to their optimal weight will live on average two years longer and have fewer health problems than their obese counterparts.

In these economic times, saving money is another popular resolution. Pet owners can save money by keeping pets up to date on vaccinations and parasite prevention. It costs less to prevent disease than to treat it. Likewise, if your pet is injured or ill, don’t procrastinate—delaying veterinary care not only results in unnecessary suffering for your pet, it can lead to higher expenses. Consider investing in pet insurance or a pet health savings plan as the New Year begins. No one ever expects Fido to slip his lead and get hit by a car, but it can happen, and having a fund set aside for pet emergencies can help prevent “economic euthanasia.”

Volunteering is on many people’s resolution list. You can keep that promise by volunteering your time at your local animal rescue or shelter. Walking the dogs, playing with the cats, or even fostering an expectant mother are always appreciated and can be a fun way for you to introduce your children to volunteering.

Finally, a great resolution for all pet owners is to discuss all aspects of their pets’ care with their veterinarian before acting on information found online. “Dr. Google” can provide a lot of misinformation and bad advice. Your veterinarians are the true health experts, and are happy to answer your questions and concerns.

Dr. M. Kathleen Shaw is a small animal veterinarian and chair of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association’s public relations committee.     

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