Happy New Year! I think I speak for everyone when I say I couldn’t be happier for a fresh start and hopefully a bit of normalcy in the upcoming year. New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for people, they are a fantastic idea for your pet too! While you are thinking of personal improvement, consider what improvements you can make for your pet too. Making New Year’s resolutions with your pet is a fun way to bond and just may help you stick to your own resolutions. If you got a Christmas puppy, these are a great way to start training and encourage positive learning.

1. Learn a new trick! Whether your pet is 10 months old or 10 years old, it’s always fun to learn tricks. Just like humans, your dog can learn new behaviors and skills throughout their life. It will be a great bonding experience with your dog or cat, as well as enrichment for them. Stimulating your dog’s mind and challenging them is one of the keys to fulfillment.

2. Drink more water – Just like humans, staying hydrated is essential for your pet’s health! It helps to regulate body temperature, flush waste and bacteria, and promote skin health. Remember to refresh your pet’s water bowl daily—and when you see him taking a sip, don’t forget to take one yourself.

3. Stress Less – Envious of your pet’s carefree lifestyle? You might be surprised to learn that dogs and cats experience stress and anxiety, too. Changes in your pet’s environment, loud noises, and even boredom can all affect your pet’s wellbeing. Once you’ve ruled out any underlying health issues with your veterinarian, there are several ways to help alleviate your pet’s anxiety at home. Engaging your dog in a game of fetch or enriching your indoor cat’s environment with toys and perches are great ways to provide physical and mental stimulation to fight boredom. Plus, studies have shown that interacting with a pet helps relieve your own stress as well.

4. Enjoy the outdoors. Take a walk to a local dog bakery, or shop that sells special dog treats. Take a boat ride: rent a kayak, sail or speed boat & cruise around with your pup! Try aquatic training: your pup will learn to enjoy the water & potentially take home prizes for their ability to jump, retrieve and swim. Take a hike! There are so many beautiful places to hike in Colorado; or visit alltrails.com to find dog friendly trails nationally. Crown mountain park and Carbondale nature trail are two off leash options to give your dog open space to run around and make a few friends.

5. Brush your Pet’s Teeth – Dental disease has significant health consequences for your pet and affects nearly 85% of dogs and cats over 3 years of age. You brush your teeth every day, so should they! They even make pet specific toothpaste flavors that your pet will love. If your pet has tartar (coloring on their teeth), consider taking them in for a professional dental cleaning with a veterinarian. This will give them a fresh clean mouth that you will be able to keep really clean with daily or every other day brushing. Dental chews are a good option when brushing is not an option, but it needs to be the right dental chew to have a benefit. Greenies are a good once a day option that will help reduce tartar and dental decay of your pets teeth.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight – help your pet quit that table scraps habit. Your food smells so good, they can’t help but look up and beg for a yummy bite. Please help them by not giving in to those pleading eyes. All of those scraps lead to weight gain which can lead to several health problems including arthritis and diabetes. The fatty and spicy scraps can cause an upset tummy and cause an even more serious condition called pancreatitis.

7. Schedule a Check-up – What could be greater than good health? Just as you should see your doctor regularly, it is important to visit the veterinarian at least once a year to ensure your pet is happy and healthy—and to catch any potential problems as early as possible.

8. Exercise More – get out and exercise together! An extra walk every day will help both you and your pet feel better and lead a healthier lifestyle. Even indoors, getting out those toys and playing a game will be stress relieving and fun for you both. Aim for 20 minutes of active play, walking or bonding every day. Here is a fun way to exercise with your pet – Exercise With Your Pet! Turn Playtime Into a Great Workout For You

9. Get your pet up-to-date on all preventative vet care. Fleas, heartworms, ticks, and intestinal worms are not only difficult and costly to treat, but can also cause serious health problems for dogs and cats. Do your part to ensure your pet’s health and make sure they are up-to-date so they are safe when they play with a friend at a dog park or need to unexpectedly be boarded. January 1st – this is a great chance to get into the habit of always giving them preventatives for heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks on the first of the month. You could even add a reminder to your smart phone so you won’t ever forget.

Vaccines: Keeping up with vaccinations ensure your pet is protected against infectious agents that can lead to life threatening diseases. The right vaccines for your pet depends largely on their environment and lifestyle. Discuss what vaccines your veterinarian recommends at your next appointment!

Heartworm: Heartworms are a common internal parasite affecting dogs and cats. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms live in the heart and blood vessels, which results in heartworm disease. While heartworm disease can be treated, treatment is expensive and requires hospitalization. The good news is that heartworm disease is 99% preventable! Compared to heartworm treatment, prevention is safe, easy, effective, and inexpensive.

Fleas: Fleas are a common “ectoparasite”, which means they live on the outside of their host. Flea infestations can affect dogs, cats, and other mammals. These pesky parasites live everywhere we live, including our lawn, furniture, carpet, and yes, on our pets. Fleas can negatively affect our pets in many ways by causing itching, hair loss, allergies, anemia, and skin infection. They can also transmit other parasites and diseases. The key to preventing fleas is consistent administration of a safe flea preventative.

Ticks: Ticks are external parasites that attach and feed on your pet’s blood, potentially to the point of anemia. More importantly, ticks are capable of transmitting many debilitating diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia. Many of the diseases ticks carry can also be transmitted to people. How often you see ticks will depend on the region of the country in which you live, the time of year (tick activity varies in warm and cool weather), the habits of your pet, and how and when you use tick control products. It is very difficult to prevent your pet’s exposure to ticks. Therefore, the best way to prevent ticks on your pet is with the regular use of tick prevention / control products.

Intestinal Parasites: Hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, all unwanted in our pets and cause secondary signs such as diarrhea and vomiting. Puppies and kittens are especially susceptible to intestinal parasites and so prevention is essential to keep them healthy and happy. Intestinal parasites are best prevented by keeping your pet on a regular Heartworm/Flea preventative that also contains anthelmintic.

10. Pet Insurance – Look into pet insurance if you don’t already have it! This is a hugely overlooked but important part of owning a pet. Things happen unexpectedly, and veterinary visits can add up quickly (especially emergency visits). Pet insurance will help you afford to give the best care possible if your pet gets sick or has a misadventure with some pet mischief.