It's almost the first of a New Year, the time when it's traditional to make New Year's resolutions. Most of the time, those resolutions get broken, but here's some suggested pet resolutions that I hope will last beyond January.
If your pet wears a collar, wash it. It's not something anyone thinks much about. You buy a collar, you put it on the dog or cat, and, unless the pet outgrows it, it just stays on the animal, but, body oils and dirt can really build up on the inside of a collar. Clean leather collars with saddle soap. Nylon collars can be scrubbed with regular soap. A dab of shampoo works really well at cutting the grease, and an old toothbrush makes a good scrub brush.
Speaking of toothbrushes, consider the dental health of your dog or cat. Dogs and cats rarely get cavities, but they can get periodontal diseases, and a problem in the mouth can lead to bigger problems as the blood system carries the bacteria through the body. Try to get in the habit of brushing you pet's teeth. Start slowly, with your finger wrapped in gauze. There are flavored toothpastes made especially for pets. Never use toothpaste made for people, as the fluoride can make your dog or cat sick. If you can't get into a routine of brushing, have your pet's mouth checked by your veterinarian twice a year, and have a professional cleaning done if the vet recommends it.
While you're at the vets, ask about any recommended vaccinations for your pet, or anything specific you should be doing to give your pet a long, happy, healthy life.
The first of the year is often a time for a clean start. Put the emphasis on "clean." Wash food and water dishes regularly. It's easy to forget about food dishes, especially if the pet licks the dish, removing all traces of food, but it's still got a film of food and saliva on it. Make it a habit to throw your pet's dishes in the dishwasher, or to wash them in hot, soapy water in the sink. Wash litter boxes once a week. Use a disinfectant cleaner and dry thoroughly before replacing the litter. Clean birdcages, reptile cages, hamster cages. Clean out old bedding and get the gunk out of the corners. Wash the ferret's hammock every week or so. Wash the dog's bed and the cat's cushion. Not only will it help keep your pet cleaner and smelling better, but it will help control any fleas that might have found a home in your home.
Almost all pets can benefit from some grooming. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits. Depending on the length of fur, a good combing can help eliminate snarls and can remove dirt. Cats groom themselves, but they can always use a little help. It takes a long time to groom using just a small pink tongue and a paw. And, while you're brushing, you may find a lump or scratch that needs attention.
Exercise and diet are frequently part of resolutions that humans make. Do they need to be part of the resolutions for your pet? What kind of exercise does your pet need and is he getting it? You may need to get creative during the winter months to help give your pet exercise. It's hard to play fetch with a dog when the ball disappears into a snowdrift, and icy sidewalks can take all the fun out of a walk. Maybe you can play fetch indoors with a soft ball, or play hide and seek. Have a family member hold the dog while someone else hides. Let the dog go and tell him to find the missing person. You can exercise your cat by breaking up its food into small amounts and hiding them around the house. The cat will "hunt" for the food, giving him both mental and physical exercise.
Make sure the food you're giving your pet is the best. Talk with your veterinarian or read some books on your type of pet. Iceberg lettuce will not keep your iguana healthy and table scraps won't provide a balanced diet for your dog. No matter what food you feed, are you feeding too much? You should be able to feel your pet's ribs. If you can't, decrease the calories and increase the exercise.
Most importantly, enjoy your pet. Remember why you got him and how short a time you'll have him. Give him your best all year long.