Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

New Years Resolutions

By Kathleen Gressot, DVM

Happy New Year from us at Westbury Animal Hospital! It’s the time of the year to look back fondly on the past, and look hopefully to the future. It’s tradition to make New Years Resolutions for ourselves to make sure 2016 is even better than 2015, but what about our pets? Here are a few suggestions to make sure they have a better New Year, too.

1) Weight Loss

A very popular resolution on the human side, but also applies to our pets. Recent studies show that as many as 35-45% of household pets are overweight. Studies also show that overweight pets have a shorter life expectancy, as many as 2 years shorter. How can you assess if your furry friend needs to lose a few pounds? Look at them from above; they should have a visible pinch at the waist. Look at them from the side; you should see a definite tuck of the abdomen towards the spine after the ribcage ends. Put your hands on each side of their chest; you should be able to feel their ribs with only gentle pressure applied. If you don’t see the above, then this resolution is for you. The way to go about it is simple, increase activity/exercise and decrease calories.  Need inspiration? Look up the story of Dennis the Dachshund to see that it can be done!

¨    Are you feeding too much? The instructions on the bag of food are recommendations for intact, active animals. Most neutered/spayed pets need to have this quantity reduced by 20-25% to be appropriate for their metabolisms.

¨    Snacks need to be factored in. If you like giving lots of treats throughout the day, then their regular meals should be reduced to make their total daily calories appropriate. You can also give light treats or even things like apple slices, carrots, green beans and other healthy alternatives instead.

¨    Increase exercise. Take longer walks around the neighborhood or multiple walks a day. Try a local dog park where dogs can run and play off-leash. For cats, getting them toys that trigger their chase instinct and playing with them for 20-30 minutes a day.

2) Dental care

What is dental disease? The process starts when the normal bacteria in the mouth make plaque to help them stick to the teeth and provide them with an ideal environment. This plaque gets mineralized into dental tartar by prolonged contact with saliva. Eventually enough builds up under the gum line to cause irritation and infection of the gum-line (gingivitis) and detach the gums from the teeth, causing a sub-gingival pocket (periodontal disease). The bacteria live in the pocket and produces toxins that affects the gums, but also the bone around the teeth. Eventually, there is enough bone loss that the teeth become loose and eventually fall out. In the meantime there is bad breath from the bacteria, pain from all the irritation, but there can also be tooth root abscesses, increased drooling or dropping food, bleeding gums, and/or loss of appetite. Here are some tips to improve your pets’ dental health:

¨    Talk with your veterinarian about a dental cleaning. The recommendation in humans is to visit a dental hygienist twice a year, and we brush our teeth! Our pets require anesthesia, which increases the cost of the procedure, so we realize that the human recommendation is not really feasible – but by treating with dental products after a dental cleaning, you can slow the development of disease and spread out dental cleanings.

¨    Brush your pets’ teeth several times a week with pet-approved toothpaste. This doesn’t reverse current dental disease, only a dental cleaning can truly remove tartar, but it will slow the progression of dental disease. After getting a dental cleaning, you can brush several times a week to make as much time pass before your pet needs another dental procedure.

¨    Use dental treats, chews, and washes. There are many products on the market, available from your veterinarian and over the counter.  The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an entity that tests these products and awards a Seal of Acceptance to those products that pass pre-set criteria in dental care.  These products have the VOHC seal on the bag. For a complete list of products, you can visit the American Veterinary Dental College website at www.avdc.org.

**Be aware that not all products choose to undergo this process, which doesn’t mean they don’t work, but they’ve not been tested and so their claims have not been verified.

3) Increase enrichment

A lot of behavioral issues can be linked to the simple fact that our pets are bored. They sleep all day or have too much energy and turn to destructive behaviors. One of the first things most trainers say is to fill their time with positive behaviors so they’re distracted from performing negative behaviors.

¨    More playtime when you’re home. It helps get their energy out, gets them doing something other than sleeping, and strengthens the human-animal bond.

¨    Get out of the house! Take them to a dog park, play fetch, or even on a hike. Take them on an outing that lets them see things, explore things, and get their excess energy out.

¨    Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? Having regular training sessions to refresh old tricks and teaching new ones, even to older dogs, will help keep them learning and keep their cognitive function sharp. Take an agility class or get an obedience certification and then get therapy dog certified to volunteer in the community.

¨    When you’re not home, you can put some kibbles in a treat puzzle (dogs and cats) to make them work for their treats. This can be done at mealtimes too. You can also find some automated interactive toys 

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