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Make New Year's resolutions for your pet

Original Publication Date: December 28, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

A new year prompts many to resolve to better their lives in some way. Your pet may also benefit from a change in his routine. This is a good year to focus on resolutions that promote your pet's health.

Pets, like people, need an appropriate diet for their age and activity level. Puppies and kittens require specific nutrients to support their growing bodies and endless energy. Caloric and nutritional requirements are different for adults. Seniors generally have lower energy requirements and may have medical issues like degenerative joint disease that can be aided by a special diet. More than 50 percent of pets in the U.S. are considered overweight. A pudgy pet can certainly benefit from the proper amount of a low-calorie food.

Consult your veterinarian to choose an appropriate product and check package directions for recommended amounts. It is easy to scoop up what looks like the required serving. Be consistent. Use a measuring cup so each meal provides the exact portion necessary to provide the nutrients and calories your pet needs.

Exercise is another key to maintaining proper weight and fitness. You like to get out of the house, and so does your pup. A daily walk serves many purposes. It keeps both of you fit and strengthens your bond. A walk also stimulates your dog's mental health by allowing him to snoop, sniff and explore the outside world.

Cats can get their aerobic exercise batting a catnip-stuffed plaything or a feather on a string or chasing a laser toy. A climbable cat treehouse is popular with most kitties. They think games, climbing or turning a box into a cat cave for alone time are enjoyable activities. The best kinds of exercise are fun.

Joy and Strider share tons of love as she brushes him Joy and Strider share tons of love as she brushes him
(click image to enlarge)

Dogs of all ages also benefit from playtime. Studies show mental stimulation reduces mental decline or cognitive dysfunction in aging pets. Teach your dog a new trick and practice those he already knows. Puzzle feeders are great to make him think through what must be done to get a treat as a reward. Stimulating your pet's brain keeps him healthy.

Brush your pet each day. It removes dander or dead skin cells from your pet and distributes natural oils that keep his coat healthy and shiny. Grooming is also a wonderful bonding activity. Your pet feels your loving care as you gently brush his coat. As an added bonus, the excess hair you remove from your pet won't end up on your furniture and clothes.

A New Year's resolution that includes a diet specifically tailored to your pet's life stage and nutritional needs is a great start. Add exercise, grooming and stimulating mind games to provide a well-rounded daily routine. Resolve to spend the effort to promote a happy, healthy new year for your furry friend.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at