Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.
2017 is almost over and we’ll be in a new year next week. What are your resolutions? There is nothing special about 2018 — you’ll probably make resolutions that you’ll struggle to keep after the first week — again. But that doesn’t mean resolutions are hopeless. Make a real difference in the new year and forge a pact for healthy change with your pet. These resolutions will help keep your pet happy, healthy and safe throughout the year. And well, what’s more important than that?
Be more active
- Studies show one of the biggest health benefits of owning a dog is improved cardiovascular health. Not only is it great for you, it’s great for your dog as well. Some dogs are satisfied with a walk around the neighborhood once a day, while others require additional exercise time. Parks, hiking trails and city walks abound in this area. Grab the leash and go! It’s good for you and your dog.
- While it is true that cats have the evolutionary advantage of a high metabolism that works even as they lounge around (see lions in the wild), they do still need some physical activity to keep them from a sedentary life of sloth and eventual obesity. Find a toy that keeps your kitty moving and active. Look into expanding their space vertically with floating shelves — and marvel at their acrobatic prowess.
Get in shape
- Along with being more active, good nutrition and portion control are essential for getting into better physical condition. Obesity is a huge deal in our fur children and is linked with orthopedic disease, metabolic disease and a shortened lifespan. While having your own personal chef to keep you on track with what and how much you eat — your pets do have that luxury. Talk to your veterinarian about what your pet should be eating and how many calories per day. You may be surprised with how many calories are in that cup of dog or cat food… and how few calories your pet actually needs. Help them get to their weight goals but not overfeeding them.
Get more sleep
- Did you know that cats sleep anywhere from 16-20 hours per day, and dogs sleep approximately 12-14 hours per day? If there’s one thing our pets are constantly showing us — it’s how to relax. You may want to keep the cat naps a little bit shorter though. Experts say that a power 30 is the perfect amount of time to help get you through the day. Turn the electronics off at night, go to bed earlier and snuggle up with that fur ball of yours.
More Mental Stimulation
- It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Try a new hobby or activity that challenges your brain to keep it sharp. And apply that to your pets. Train some new tricks (yes, cats can be trained too!), do some agility with your dog or teach the cat how to use the toilet. Puzzle feeders are also great ways to keep those minds bright by having you pets need to work out how to get their treat… anything to prevent boredom.
- Don’t worry; you don’t have to create a Facebook profile for them (though having an IG account is encouraged). But like children, your pet can become destructive and unmanageable when they are not given enough attention or not allowed to socialize with other animals of her kind.
- The optimal window of socialization for kittens is 2-7 weeks of age and for puppies is 6-14 weeks of age. This doesn’t mean you can’t socialize outside of this age range — it does mean we should work on socialization pretty significantly when our pets are very young. And when we are working with older dogs and cats, we just need to work that much harder (and have a bit more patience) to make progress — but it can be done.
- Obedience/training courses and/or working with a trainer to help with new skills, basic (or advanced) socialization and helping give your pets the tools to be comfortable in their environment can be just what is needed to keep your (and honestly, your pet’s) sanity.