By Kim Gilliam
Like many, I am taking the arrival of a new year to review my resolutions for 2016 and see what might be added or changed for 2017. You can apply that same thinking to what you might do new or differently with your pet this year. Consider some of the following resolutions for your furry family members.
Give back to the community: There are a number of ways you can benefit others that involve your pet. Go through their bedding, bowls and toys to donate unused items to the local shelter.
Offer to foster rescue animals awaiting placement with their forever families — your pet can help them become socialized. Participate in a pet-friendly charity walk to raise money for an important cause.
Have children read to your dog at the local library. Or take your pet to visit patients in hospitals or the elderly in nursing homes to brighten their day.
Schedule a pet photo shoot: Photo shoots aren’t just for people anymore. There are a number of pet photographers in the area who would love to capture the love between you and your companion in pictures. This is typically not very expensive and you’ll treasure them forever.
Bucket list for senior pets: What do you think your senior pet would want to do before crossing the Rainbow Bridge? It may seem all too trendy right now to write a bucket list for them, but this is can be a great way to make the last phase of your pet’s life memorable and full of tail wags and kisses.
Make exercising your pet part of your daily routine: One of the great benefits of pet ownership is that it helps you stay more active, so take advantage of that! Set aside time each day for a game of fetch, hide treats around the house to play find-it, tease them with their favorite toy, take long walks or jog together — it will be good for both of you.
Remember that pets at their proper body weight have a reduced risk of heart and joint problems, diabetes, and other poor health conditions. Ease into your new routine as needed; both you and your pet may need to build up stamina and endurance.
Do something new together: Take 2017 to try a new activity with your pet. Whether it be agility classes, sheepherding, dock diving, backpacking, freestyle dance, nose work, tricks training or just participating in a new meet-up group, it’s easier than ever for people to find new ways to engage their pet.
The D.C. area offers a wide array of things for you to do; each is a great chance to strengthen your bond and get out of the house to meet likeminded pet owners. Plus, stimulation helps reduce cognitive deterioration in aging animals, so teaching your pet new tricks and practicing them will keep their neurons firing.
Re-examine eating habits: Consider your pet’s eating routine; are they still interested in their food? Are their stools consistent and solid? How is their energy level? Is their coat shiny or dull and flaky? Have they developed a hefty midsection?
Your pet’s dietary needs can change with each life stage, so take this chance to evaluate whether they are eating the optimal food. Maybe this is the year to resolve to feed fewer table scraps. Or you can swap shelf-stable treats with a fresh one instead to avoid unnecessary ingredients. A pet’s diet is key to maintaining their overall health and happiness.
Schedule a check-up: Annual wellness checks are a key component of good preventive care, and should be done twice a year for older pets. These enable you to catch changes to your pet’s health early on and reverse them or prevent conditions from worsening.
Medical conditions such as oral infections, diabetes, arthritis or obesity are much easier to manage when detected early. The veterinarian will perform a full physical exam to assess your pet’s mouth, eyes, heart, lungs and joints, plus changes to their weight, skin, coat and more. Plus you can update their vaccinations.
Proper identification: Over the course of a year, a lot can change — maybe you moved or got a new phone number and forgot to update your pet’s tags or microchip? Or maybe you need to renew their county registration? Make a commitment to update their information; it’s the best way to ensure your pet will get home safely if ever lost.
So while you are focused on ways to improve yourself or pay it forward for others, take this chance to make some important promises to your furry family members. You won’t regret it!
The writer is the co-owner of Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in the Eisenhower Valley.