January 2, 2009

Your Personal Trainer is Already At Your Feet!

It's that time of year, and for the majority of us who have pets, our furry friends may be the training partner we need to stick to our New Year's Resolutions. In an attempt to keep it simple, the San Diego Animal Support Foundation has just 5 resolutions to add to your list that will improve the lives of you AND your pet!

1. Diet & Exercise Plan:  Like people, overweight dogs and cats suffer far more health issues, like diabetes, arthritis, and premature death. People tend to over feed their pets in place of love, attention and quality time. Food scraps and poor quality pet food can also lead to obesity. Try to feed yourself and your pet the best quality food you can afford. (Note:  Paw Country, a holistic pet store in La Mesa, CA is offering free nutrition consultations for pet owners for the New Year.  Additionally, if you bring in your old food they will give you $3 off a medium size bag of healthy all natural pet food, or $5 off a large bag.  Visit for more details.)

Instead of giving treats when you want to show your pet you care...reward your pet with a fun activity or quality time. Food does not take the place of love. Additionally, create an exercise program with your pet. If you have a dog, it will become routine for him/her, and your dog will become great motivation for you to stick to the program. (Like having a free trainer!) Walking is one of the best exercises you can do....and it's great for your pet, too. Just like people, dogs need to build up and increase their exercise gradually...they too can suffer from exhaustion or have a heart attack if pushed too hard. You're in this together!

2. Get a Health Check for You & Your Pet: Like people, pets should get a health check from a vet before starting a diet and exercise program....just to make sure they're healthy and up to date on vaccinations, etc. Even if you don't change your pet's diet/exercise routine, you should visit a vet at least once per year. Plan to take your pet in for a health check, get vaccinations, and make sure your pet is up getting it's regular prescriptions like heartworm pills, flea/tick prevention, arthritis medication. There are always new treatments and vaccinations you should know about. Most important: GET YOUR PET SPAYED OR NEUTERED which may prevent incredibly expensive cancer treatment down the line.

3. Spend Productive Quality Time With Your Pet: Enroll in a training class. This builds the bond between you and your pet, and makes your dog a more social, well-behaved companion.  Perhaps you and your furry buddy can start volunteering in hospital pet therapy program, or at a shelter or rescue group. Never underestimate the importance of playing and relaxing.  This time builds a stronger bond between you and your pet, and studies show it's actually good for your health, relieving stress and lowering blood pressure. Taking your dog to an off-leash dog park or beach will build stronger social skills and friendships for BOTH of you!

4. Grooming: Just like you, maybe it's time for your pet to get a new style.  Get your pet on a grooming schedule. Set regular appointments to have your pet bathed, nails clipped, teeth cleaned, etc. Sometimes you or a groomer will discover a problem in the early stages (tumor, cyst, etc) that may require veterinary care or special attention. This is a great way to prevent problems later down the road.

5. Update ID Tags, Microchips and Emergency Numbers: This may not seem like a big thing, but youd be amazed how many people have invalid information on their pet ID tags. Even more amazing is how few people update their micro-chip information when they move or change their phone numbers. Take time to make sure yours is all updated with the appropriate agencies. Thousands of pets die every year in our shelters because their owners can't be found.    Additionally, update your emergency contact numbers (shelters, veterinarian, emergency pet sitters and kennels, pet friendly lodging) in case of an evacuation or any other emergency. Make sure you have a friend/family member's number who is familiar with your pet and can care for it in case of an emergency.