‘Tis the season for gift giving. Many families will be including their furry companions in the tradition. So, what do our pets really want for Christmas?
#10 High quality, age appropriate nutrition – What is the best food for your pet to eat? Any quality food that meets AAFCO standards and matches your pet’s life stage. Young dogs and cats should eat puppy or kitten food for the first full year of life. Different dog breeds age at different rates. A large breed dog, like a Great Dane, will need to switch to a senior diet earlier than a Chihuahua. But be careful not to overdo it! Obesity is a real threat to your pet’s long term health. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the type or amount of food to give your pet.
#9 Shelter – Every pet deserves a sheltered place to live. Make sure your pet has a living situation that keeps him protected from the wind, cold, and rain. Older pets, in particular, need a soft place to lie down as they tend to sleep more. Our pets deserve a quiet location in every household. Make sure children know to respect your pet’s bed and give your pet a safe space to rest, especially during the busy holidays.
#8 Toothbrush – Dental health is an important part of your pet’s wellness. Tooth decay and plaque buildup can be a large source of pain for your pet and can affect his long term health. Daily tooth brushing is the single most important action an owner can do to maintain dental health. Buy a dog or cat toothbrush and toothpaste, then make it a routine to brush his teeth daily.
#7 Toys – Unwanted behaviors can be avoided with appropriate toys for your pets. Make sure your puppy has appropriate chew toys. Offer him a Kong toy filled with a treat or a Nylabone to chew. Avoid meat bones or rawhides, which can splinter with persistent chewing and cause fractured teeth or gastrointestinal issues. Older dogs may enjoy food puzzles. These can keep dogs occupied and out of trouble while you are away from home. Give cats an appropriate scratching surface. Sprinkle it with catnip to make it more appealing than other surfaces in the house.
#6 Dog training lessons – Give your dog the gift of manners. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation for a reputable dog training class, which emphasizes positive learning. The time and attention you give your dog through this training will last lifelong. Consistency is key. Make sure everyone in the household is maintaining the training regimen. The effort required now may help to avoid long term behavior issues.
#5 Pet proof your home for the holidays – Take the time now to assess your household from your pet’s point of view. Avoid ribbons, yarn, or tinsel if you have cats. Many cats will try to eat these items and end up with an intestinal blockage. Avoid bringing poisonous plants into the household. When in doubt, leave the plant outside or in an area of the house inaccessible to your pet. Keep those chocolates out of reach of your dog. Do not share table scraps with your pet as this can lead to a bout of diarrhea or worse.
#4 Exercise – All pets need exercise. The holidays are such a busy time of year that many people neglect their own regimen. Give your pet the gift of your attention and maintain their exercise. Cats benefit from chasing laser pointers or fishing pole-type toys. Dogs love their daily walks or retrieving toys. The daily exercise will be good for both of you!
#3 Microchip – Give your pet the gift of identification. A microchip is permanent. Contact your veterinarian if you would like to have your pet microchipped. If your pet already has one, take a moment this holiday season to make sure that your contact information is up to date with the microchip company.
#2 Veterinary annual exam – Preventative care is essential to a long and healthy life. Give your pet the gift of an annual wellness exam with a veterinarian. Make sure he is up to date on his vaccines. Be sure to talk to you veterinarian about any changes you have noticed in your pet’s health. Early detection of a disease can often help to extend your pet’s life. If your pet has not been to a vet for a long time, then don’t delay. Give him the gift of a wellness exam and schedule one today!
#1 Forever home – It may sound cliché, but the best gift you can give your pet is the guarantee of a home for the rest of his life. If you have room in your heart, consider adopting a shelter animal. Give the gift of a forever home to an animal in need this holiday season. The unconditional love you will receive in return will be your pet’s gift to you all lifelong!
Season’s greetings to you and your pets this holiday time of year!
By Dr. Tiffany Mitchener, DVM