Articles by Fran
Printed monthly in The Union newspaper, Nevada County
Start the Year Off Right
We’re already through half of January and for many of us—you know who you are—new year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Here’s the good news—it’s not too late to resolve to take better care of your pets. Whether you have a cat, dog, horse, or something else, your pets count on you to give them the best possible life. When you do, you reap the benefit of their unconditional love. If you’re not sure how to begin, the following suggestions are a good place to start.
1. Call your vet and make an appointment for an annual checkup. Annual checkups are the best way to prevent serious problems. Make sure vaccinations are current, teeth are clean, and that you have flea and tick and other medicines on hand. You might also want to pick up some de-skunking shampoo just in case Sparky hasn’t learned that lesson yet. Be sure to pay attention to your pet’s behavior. Loss of appetite, lethargy, skin rashes, or new lumps and bumps are indications that something is wrong. It’s up to you to pay attention to your pet and get him the necessary veterinary care he requires whenever necessary.
2. Feed your pet a healthy diet, one that is nutritious and balanced. If you’re not sure how to do that, talk to your veterinarian. Your goal is to feed your pet the right quantity and type of food to maintain a healthy weight. That means limiting the amount you offer—especially if your dog is overweight. While you’re at it, be sure your pet has plenty of clean, fresh water. For more information about pet nutrition, check out petnutritionalliance.org, which is a global collaboration of nine veterinary organizations that offer pet nutrition resources and education to the veterinary healthcare team. Its website contains an abundance of resources to help you make good decisions about your pet’s dietary needs.
3. Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise. When it comes to exercise, pets are no different than people. So why not exercise together? Pick up a leash and spend some time in the great outdoors with your canine or equestrian companion. In addition to being fun, exercise has many benefits. A daily walk can help both you and your pet maintain a healthy weight. If you walk with a friend or head to the dog park, walking can also help you and your pup socialize. If you have a horse, make plans to ride with a friend. Exercise also keeps pets from engaging in destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture, barking excessively, or kicking the walls of the stall. Make sure kitty gets exercise too. Set aside at least 10 minutes each day to play with your cat. Anything that gets your cat to run, bat or pounce will do.
4.Brush your pet. Brushing is the easiest way to maintain your pet’s coat. Doing this daily will strengthen your bond, help avoid mats and tangles, and get rid of shedding, fleas, ticks and more. Daily brushing also stimulates blood flow to the skin, helps it stay in good condition, and releases oils that create a healthy, shiny coat. If your dog or cat doesn’t like to be brushed, start slowly. Take a few brush strokes, give a treat, and brush some more. It’s best to brush a few minutes each day and build up to longer daily sessions.
5. Be a responsible pet owner and spay and neuter your pets. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, there are an estimated 70 million homeless dogs and cats struggling to survive. This is because people fail to spay and neuter their animal companions, allowing them to bring more animals into a world that already has more dogs and cats than there are loving homes for them. In Nevada County, our shelter is currently overflowing with pets who need homes. Some have been relinquished by owners who no longer want them or who can no longer keep them. Others are the result of irresponsible breeding. You can avoid being part of the problem by simply spaying or neutering your kitten or pup.
6.Train your animals. There is nothing worse than cats, dogs, and horses who have not been trained. Training is the ideal way to keep your pets safe and to have fun together. Do you really want your cat to sit on the counter, hang from the curtains, or scratch your kids? Do you want Fido to jump up, chew, bark excessively, dig, chase, or bite? Do you want your horse to be kicking, pawing, nipping, charging or worse? There is one solution to all these problems, and it begins and ends with training. Whether you read books, watch videos, enroll in classes, or work with a trainer one-on-one, anything you do to teach your pet the basics is important. Yes, no matter what you have heard, it is possible to teach an old dog (cat or horse) new tricks.
When treated with kindness and respect, pets can do a lot to improve the quality of our lives. In addition to being wonderful companions, pets keep us healthy and help us relieve tension and stress. They reduce depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and, if you walk them, they even improve your cardiovascular health. Caring for animals helps children learn responsibility and kindness. Pets also provide companionship for older adults. So, if you’re going to keep just one resolution, make it the one to bring more health and happiness into the life of your pet.