2020 can be the year you add months - or maybe even years! - to your pet's life. Our pets don't become unhealthy overnight. It takes a long time for bad habits to form and just as much time to reinvent them.
Thankfully, there are a lot of small, painless things you can do right now to gradually start improving your pet's health! As with most important things, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
1. Add 15 minutes of exercise a day.
Anyone can find 15 extra minutes, right? Odds are, your pet doesn't get enough exercise. If they're one of the more than 50% of American pets that are obese or overweight, those few extra minutes a day can make a world of difference. The easiest ways to add some more exercise include a short walk, of course, or even a round of spirited playtime at home.
2. Start socializing more.
Just like people, many animals thrive in a "community." Socializing with other people or animals releases all kinds of feel-good hormones in our pets and can even help calm their anxiety. This year, consider doggy daycare for your bored-at-home pup, or hire a once-a-day cat minder for your homebody feline. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, just follow your pet's lead.
3. Try a different treat.
Does your pet love treats? (Duh.) It might be time to switch up which treats you're giving, especially if your pet's weight is a perpetual concern. Even swapping half the packaged treats for carrots or apple slices can make a big difference in your pet's weight. You could also try incorporating more playtime in lieu of treats to promote a healthy lifestyle and strengthen your human/animal bond.
4. Make that vet appointment.
Even the most conscientious pet parents wait too long between vet appointments. Every year your pet goes without seeing the vet is like you going 3-5 years without seeing the doctor! Many common pet health issues are highly treatable (and even curable) when caught early. If it's been more than a year since your pet's seen the vet, or more than 6 months if your pet is over 10 years old, you're overdue.
5. Stock up on flea and tick meds.
Veterinarians harp on "flea and tick medication!" because these pests really are terrible for your pet's health. Fleas - which live year round, by the way! - can cause skin problems and harbor disease. Ticks are even worse, carrying Lyme and a host of dangerous infectious diseases. Your pet should be on flea and tick preventatives all year round, not just in summer.
6. Commit to that brushing regimen.
Brushing your pet's teeth daily can literally add years to their life! Remember that gum disease isn't just smelly and gross, it can be a precursor to more serious conditions like heart disease. Even if daily brushing isn't realistic, a few times a week is way, way better than nothing.
7. Talk to your vet about a new diet.
If your pet's health is already stellar, don't rock the boat. But if you've got ongoing concerns like chronic ear infections, terrible flatulence, or weight management issues, it may be time to talk to your vet about switching up your food. Even adding supplements to your pet's diet may make a marked difference, just be sure to clear with your vet first.