Keep your pets happy and healthy in 2015.
Ok, be honest. How many of you have already cheated or given up on your New Year’s resolution? Whether it be to eat healthier or exercise more, many of us don’t make it past the first week of January before we’re back into our old habits. While committing to make your life healthier for the long haul may not be easy, the benefits for your overall well-being are immense.
And don’t forget, a healthy lifestyle is best for our pets too! This year, make a commitment to help your furry friends lead a healthy and active lifestyle as well. Who knows, by dogging down together, keeping those new year’s resolutions may be easier than you think.
Below, the Leesburg Veterinary Hospital doctors share their tips to get you started.
Dr. Boyle suggests:
Maintain a healthy weight and body condition
My tip would be to keep or get your pet to a healthy weight and body condition! Excess weight increases the risk for developing endocrine and systemic diseases and puts increased stress on the joints and heart. Pets in an ideal body condition enjoy a longer and higher quality life! Discuss steps for weight loss or maintaining weight with your veterinarian to be sure it is done safely.
Dr. Doering suggests:
Really think about how and what you’re feeding your pets
To follow up on Dr. Boyle’s point, one way to maintain a healthy weight and body condition is to focus on the amount and type of foods your pet is eating. Start by simply measuring how much food goes into their bowl. You’d be surprised how many people just fill up the bowl once a day or whenever pets start scratching or begging. The nutrition label on their food bag will give you a good idea of what a reasonable amount of food is for your pet’s weight. Additionally, when a pet is on a diet, make sure you are feeding a “light” or diet food so they are getting the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget about treats and table scraps, which can add a lot of unnecessary fat and calories. Substitute a baby carrot, slice of apple or a few kernels of plain microwave popcorn for dogs, and a small piece of canned tuna or chicken for cats.
(For more of Dr. Doering healthy lifestyle tips, check out her blog post from last February).
Dr. Willkom suggests:
Socialize your pet
This year, I had the privilege of meeting and working with many adorable pooches in monthly early puppy socialization classes. My goal with these classes was to help teach confidence and good behaviors within the first three months of the pups’ life. This is a time when sociability outweighs fear and a great opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences.
Whether you pet is 3 months or 3 years old, a little socialization can go a long way. Take your dog to the park or trail to release pent up energy. Go for a ride in the car or stroll through the pet store to practice leash walking. And if you notice problems like fear, avoidance, or aggression, consider scheduling an appointment with a behavioral veterinarian. Leesburg Veterinary Hospital works with a terrific behavioral consultant, Dr. Leslie Sinn. You can read more about her work or schedule an appointment on our website.
Dr. Kloer suggests:
Don’t postpone preventative care
Annual examinations for younger animals and bi-annual exams for older patients are so important. I’ve noticed a trend towards only seeing patients when they are sick – sometimes really sick!. Wellness exams and preventive diagnostics go a long way to treating disease early and keeping vet bills down later on! Labwork, xrays, ultrasounds, aspirates of seemingly “benign” lumps, and dental cleanings before teeth get really bad are all so important to maintaining pet health. A little effort up front can save a lot of money down the road. These services are just as important as vaccinations and annual heartworm/lyme tests. This applies to cats too! Cats are so good at hiding signs of disease, which is even more important to bring them in. If you need assistance getting that sneaky cat to the vet – see: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/take-cat-vet.html
Also, if you notice a change in your pet’s behavior or medical status, it’s best to give us a call rather than taking a “ wait and see approach” or consulting internet sites first. While the internet provides a vast knowledge of information, there is just as much misinformation – some of which can be very deleterious to our pets. Your vet may be able to give you reputable online resources for specific situations. Lastly, don’t forget about exotics and pocket pets – these little ones need vet check ups too!
Dr. Henly suggests:
Schedule a blood pressure check
Regular blood pressure checks are important in diagnosing hypertension (high blood pressure). In many cases, hypertension is a result of an underlying disease or condition. We can prevent organ damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and eyes and make recommendations for management including medication and diet to prevent the progression of such problems.
Dr. Strickland suggests:
Take it slow when starting a new exercise regimen – especially during the colder winter months!
It may sound counter-intuitive, but my recommendation is avoid too much exercise this winter with your pets. Since most of our pets are “couch potatoes”, their bodies are not prepared for the cold weather in regards to pad protection or keeping warm. Even though they have a fur coat, animals are not as conditioned for cold as you might think. We recommend a coat for short hair animals. Also, be aware of their feet for snow balls in the webbing and ice cutting their pads with exuberant exercise. And watch out for over-exertion in the deep snow . Many animals will tear knee ligaments and pull muscles by running and jumping in the snow, especially when adrenaline makes them feel like they can keep up with you.