A new year is right around the corner! While the last couple of years have been unpredictable and unprecedented, there are ways that we can plan and execute simple changes to our lifestyles and behavior that will improve our pet's health. Dr. Aziza shares a few suggestions that would be a great addition to any new year's resolution list.
Get into an exercise routine
One of the top diseases affecting our pets is obesity. This is a serious issue due to the secondary health concerns that develop from, contribute to, or are exacerbated by obesity. For instance, dogs with obesity are more likely to develop diabetes mellitus and those with osteoarthritis are likely to have more pain and difficulty walking. Obesity can also complicate surgical procedures and post-surgical recoveries.
Thankfully, obesity in dogs can be treated by simply making lifestyle changes, and one of the most powerful tools to combat it is exercise. Consistent, good quality exercise makes a huge difference in how pets burn crucial calories for weight loss. But what exactly makes exercise good quality? It all depends on the dog. A small or toy breed dog will not require the same amount of exercise as a large breed dog. Age also affects the type of exercise that the body will tolerate. For instance, a dog that's 3 years old will have more energy to exercise versus a dog that's 13 years old.
One of the additional benefits of increasing your dog's exercise is that you will increase your exercise as well. Think about it. You'll be walking, running, or swimming with your dog more regularly - that's what I call a win-win!
Focus on healthy eating
While exercise is crucial to burning calories, it's also important to be mindful of the calories consumed. When it comes to what our pets eat, it's completely in our control. From the amount they eat to how often they eat to the type of diet and treats, it's all managed by pet parents.
Think of foods as having high or low caloric density - for example, a large salad has fewer calories than a hamburger, but both meals will fill you up and satisfy your hunger. Now let's apply it to our dog's diet. There are numerous calorically dense over-the-counter diets that will still leave your pet feeling hungry throughout the day. Instead of these, I recommend switching to diets that have lower caloric density and contain high-quality ingredients, like fiber, which will help your pet feel fuller for longer. The best dog food options are Freshpet's Nature's Fresh Chicken or Vital Balanced Turkey recipes.
Now that the main meals have been addressed, next, we have to tackle treats. We love giving our dogs treats and that's fine, but if weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight is a goal, the treats cannot be ignored. The good news is that you don't need to cut out treats completely - you can switch to items that are tasty, nutritious, and low in calories. For instance, blueberries, strawberries, fresh green beans, pineapples, apples, bananas, and carrots are all great alternatives to typical cookies that are high in calories and have little nutritional value. Plus, you don't have to feel guilty if you give your dog a little more than normal! Still want to give your pup a special treat, like bacon, once in a while? No worries, Freshpet has Dog Joy Turkey Bacon treats that are low in sodium, wood smoked, and low in calories. No guilt there!
Make dental care a priority
Another common disease that veterinarians see that can easily be prevented and managed, is periodontal disease. Your dog's mouth should not smell like a trash can and the teeth should not be covered in yellow, green, or gray rock-like material. That is not normal, nor is it healthy - it's a sign of progressive periodontal disease.
Dental disease can cause infection, halitosis, difficulty eating, and loss of teeth. For the year 2022, try to do something to help your pup maintain good oral health. This could mean annual dental cleanings and extractions when needed (if teeth extractions are recommended, it's usually because the dental disease is so bad that the teeth are doing more harm than good by being present). Try brushing your dog's teeth every day or adding a helpful oral health additive to their bowl of water. There are even dental chews that help slow the progression of dental disease!
Stay up-to-date on preventative medicine
Sometimes our lives can get so busy that we forget to keep up with our pet's health, especially their preventative care. If this is the case for you, don't worry - in 2022, you'll get back on track! Start by making sure that you take your dog to the vet for its annual exam and that all of their vaccinations are up to date. This is also a good time to ensure they're on a good flea and heartworm preventative medicine. Mosquitos spread heartworm disease and infect our dogs. Even if you live in cold weather environments, cases are diagnosed across the country and it's better to prevent the disease than deal with the treatment.
If your dog has already been diagnosed with diseases like hypothyroidism or diabetes mellitus, the New Year is the perfect time to go to your veterinarian to perform tests to assess if your current medication is effective or needs an adjustment. This is an important part of the maintenance of chronic diseases and the best way to increase the effectiveness of treatment and quality of life.
Invest in pet insurance
The last recommendation I would make as you make plans for 2022 is to prepare financially. One of the most difficult things about veterinary medicine is that the majority of care is out-of-pocket expenses. While that may be fine for a routine exam or check-up, it can be financially devastating if something drastic occurs like your dog getting into poison, a dog fight, or eating a sock (it happens). These high unexpected costs can put a large financial burden on your family and sometimes cause people to make difficult decisions.
Knowing this, I recommend all pet parents get pet insurance. It's the closest thing to medical insurance for our pets. Like human medical insurance, there can be limitations due to pre-existing conditions or breed predispositions. However, pet insurance policies can be tailored to fit your needs and can cover emergency surgeries, alternative medicine (ie. acupuncture), advanced diagnostic tests, and more. Take the time to shop around and see what plan best fits your needs and your finances so you are better prepared when the unexpected happens.
In addition to these ways you can transform your pet's health, we have a bonus way you can help transform the health of our planet in 2022. By making the switch to Freshpet, you're joining us in our mission to improve our place in the world. From working towards having a carbon footprint of zero and being landfill-free to using wind energy to power all places where our healthy dog food is made, we're committed to minimizing our impact on the planet. You can learn more about our commitment to the planet here.
From our Freshpet family to yours, happy new year!