New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Parents
By Denise Fleck
Pets ARE part of the family! Zooeyia (ZOO-ey-ah), a newly coined word speaks to the health beneﬁts pets provide us humans. It is the inverse of zoonoses, the study of diseases we can get from animals (rabies, giardia and lyme disease for instance). If you share your life with a pet, this should come as no surprise, but there is now scientific proof that including pets in the family unit can actually improve our wellness. Besides helping us develop stronger immune systems, lowering our stress and blood pressure…
Pets get us moving. Humans of all ages with dogs in the family exercise more than those who do not share their life with a pet as the dog’s need for walks gets us up and moving too.
Pets lower the impact of chronic disease. Studies have shown pets decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in their owners and provide comfort and support to cancer patients. Animals also help in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and dogs who suffer from PTSD as well may benefit from helping a human.
Pets help us ‘kick the habit’ as research has shown that knowing secondhand smoke can harm out pets has motivated some smokers to quit!
Pets make us more social. Loneliness and isolation occur in our increasingly urbanized lifestyles, especially among the elderly. Having a pet gets people out meeting people (dogs can be ‘babe magnets’), taking part in activities with other pet parents, heading to parks, hiking and just staying in touch with the world. Caring for a pet gives many a reason to get up each morning!
For all your pet — your best friend, companion, therapist, fellow adventurer, keeper of secrets — does for you, resolve to be the best pet parent you can be this new year by following these tips and signing the Pledge and taking it to heart!
Know the location of your nearest Animal Emergency Center. Some locations are open 24/7 while others open at 6pm and close 8:00 the next morning to fill that gap of time when your veterinarian is closed. Drive there before you need to, so you know exactly where it is and where to enter (really important if you have a large or injured dog). You don’t want to be worrying during a time of crisis if the location is on the right side of the street or the left! Learn what services are offered (antivenin for snake bites, blood for transfusions, MRIs, etc.) and how payment is accepted. Doing your homework can alleviate additional stress when your pet needs you to be your most calm.
Get down on all fours. Look at life from your dog’s perspective. What appears a neatly kept room from a 5’ 6” to 6’ 2” viewpoint is a completely different scenario from 7” (Chihuahua) to 14” (Old English Bulldog) off the floor! If it’s in paws reach, it’s fair game for even the most obedient canine. Add to that a dog’s incredible sense of smell. As humans we rarely notice the sweet aroma coming from our morning coffee, yet dogs can detect a spoonful of sugar in an Olympic-sized pool of water! If something smells interesting, your pet might investigate more closely even if the aroma is coming from a shelf, behind a cupboard door or on the stove. Cleaners and fertilizers not absorbed through paw pads will be ingested when your dog grooms himself, so take note of what you put on floors and the yard, choosing only pet-friendly chemicals.
Perform a weekly Head-to-Tail Check-up.
Really get to know your pet, his body, and his habits. The better you know what is normal for Fido, the more quickly you can determine when something is not quite right signaling you to get professional medical assistance. Start slowly getting pets used to your touch, and learn the idiosyncrasies of their bodies – each is a unique individual in so many ways. Know what is supposed to be (yes, male dogs also have nipples, those aren’t ticks!) and what is not…lumps, bumps, foxtails & burrs, fleas & ticks. Be aware of what your dog looks like when he sits and stands. Does he moan when he gets up off the floor or sit with a leg cocked to the side? How often do you have to refill his water bowl, and how frequently does he answer nature’s call? Changes from normal behavior could warrant a veterinary visit.
Keep up with annual veterinary visits. Although you may not need to visit your veterinarian annually for vaccinations, there is no replacement for those professional eyes, hands, ears, stethoscope, blood test and urinalysis to catch a problem early. From day one, a dog’s life is accelerated – most can reproduce at 6 months of age, so every calendar year is equal to approximately 7 years in the life of a human. Think of your vet as your pet’s second best friend (you should be #1), and work as a team for the sake of your furry kid.
Learn Pet First-Aid and know the items in your Pet First-Aid Kit.
Veterinarians are the experts, but most of us are not lucky enough to have a vet velcroed to our hip 24/7. Even if you live with a house full of humans, odds are that when the dog stops breathing or cuts his paw, you will be home alone, and it will be after veterinary hours. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 1 out of 4 more pets can be saved when first-aid is administered prior to getting professional care. If you know how to stop bleeding, you can minimize blood loss. If you know how to lower body temperature, you can prevent brain swelling. If you know how to induce vomiting, you can expel poison before it gets into your pet’s bloodstream. If you know how to alleviate choking, you can prevent the dog from going unconscious, and if you know how to administer Cardio Pulmonary Cerebral Resuscitation (CPCR), you can be the pump your dog’s heart can’t be and possibly save his life! Knowing what to do during those first few moments is empowering as a pet owner but imperative as a pet lover. First-Aid is not a replacement for veterinary care but can make a difference in your pet’s survival and recovery.
In addition to what to do, you need the right tool for the job – a well-equipped Pet First-Aid Kit! Once assembled, if you use something up, replace it; if it expires, get another, and take special care of items that can go bad due to temperature changes. Medications and creams, adhesive on wraps and tapes as well as Hydrogen Peroxide all do not hold up well if they get hot.
Read your pet’s food label. Ingredients on cans and bags are listed in diminishing order meaning the first 3-5 items listed are the bulk of your pet’s diet. Make sure the first ingredient is a high-quality protein — the name of the animal in the package (i.e.: chicken, lamb, salmon, sardines, venison or turkey). Generic terms like “poultry” and “meat” don’t guarantee quality. Limit or refrain from grains such as wheat, corn, and soy which cause allergic reactions in many pets, and if you can’t pronounce it…your pet probably doesn’t need it.
Educate yourself as to the different foods dogs and humans can metabolize. While your pet may eat a small woodland creature (bones, gristle and fat) without issue, once bones are cooked, they splinter and cooked fat turns to grease resulting in life-threatening pancreatitis for your canine pal! Although many fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to animals, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, macadamia nuts can lead to paralysis, seeds from peaches and plums contain an arsenic-like substance and onions can break down red blood cells. Chocolate is PAWSitively a no-no for dogs, cats, and ferrets! Learn what must be kept out of paws reach, and keep it there.
Spend quality time together. The most important tip of all is to spend quality time daily with your dog. That’s why we have pets – to make them part of the family! Give your best buddy your undivided attention several times daily. When you go for a walk, “unplug” (from talking and texting), and be in the now like your dog is. Couple that with exercise, fresh air (it does a body good – canine or human) and continued obedience training to keep him safe, and you’ll be worthy of the unconditional love your dog gives so selflessly!
Denise Fleck’s Sunny-dog Ink motto is “Helping people to help their pets,” and she has…teaching more than 12,000 pet lovers animal life-saving skills and millions more on national television segments, yet better pet parenting is still a secret in many communities. Therefore, in her role as the Pet Safety Crusader™, Denise will journey across the Southern U.S. during the Spring of 2017 to ‘Be the one who makes a difference’ by teaching pet first aid & safety from California to Florida, north to Virginia & Maryland, southwest to Tennessee, and south to Arkansas & Georgia! Learn more at www.PetSafetyCrusader.com and about her latest book, “The Pet Safety Crusader’s My Pet & Me Guide to Disaster PAWparedness” on Amazon.