Do you make New Year resolutions for your pet?

Do you make New Year resolutions for yourself? How about for your pet(s)?

A cat and dog cuddling

Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started… and to help your pet(s) live a happier, healthier, longer life.

1. Taking your pet to the vet once a year is outdated

Health experts now recommend a checkup every 6 months, especially in senior pets. The goal is to detect health issues earlier. How so?
For example, it is not unusual for my referring vets to find a mass in the skin or worse, in the belly (on the spleen or the liver for example) during a “routine” physical exam. Whether the mass is benign or malignant, the sooner it is removed, the better for your pet.

2. Keep your pets up to date on vaccines

Please don’t fall into the “my pet never leaves home” trap. If your pet ever needs emergency care or surgery, (s)he could catch a contagious disease at the hospital.

Plus, rabies vaccination may be required by law where you live.

3. Stay on top of dental care

It’s not just a matter of bad breath. It’s also a way to prevent tooth decay, loss of teeth, severe pain, and infection spreading to the heart, the liver and the kidneys.

4. Take parasite control seriously

Parasites can be both internal (ie intestinal worms and heartworms) and external (ie fleas and ticks). You would be surprised to know how many pets which end up on my surgery tables have fleas! And no, they did not catch them at the hospital!

5. Keep track of your pet’s medical history

It doesn’t need to be fancy. A simple notebook will do. I am always surprised when I ask simple questions about a pet’s medical history and the owner answers: “I don’t know.”  You owe it to your pet!
If you don’t understand something, please ask your vet or the nurse. That’s what we’re there for.

6. Medications are prescribed for a reason

Please give them as directed. Finish the full course, especially antibiotics. Don’t give them to another pet without being directed by your vet. Even better, please don’t give any medication not approved by your vet, especially people medications, starting with aspirin and Tylenol.

7. Keep your pet thin

Chubby pets are at risk for a number of diseases, and die on average 2 years earlier than thin pets.

8. Keep your pet on a leash

Keep the collar snug. Use pet identification (a microchip under the skin is a simple and reliable solution). Don’t let your pet get hit by a car.

9. Spay or neuter your pet

When done before 6 months of age, spaying a female pet virtually eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally eliminates the risk of infection of the uterus (pyometra).

Neutering eliminates or dramatically reduces the risk of many diseases (prostate conditions, testicle problems, perineal hernia etc.).

10. Get pet insurance

An embarrassingly large number of pets is euthanized every year because their owners simply can’t afford the life-saving treatment they need. It is so sad, especially when a good pet insurance plan could have saved these lives (beware, there are some very bad plans out there).

11. Pet proof your house

Especially be careful in “at risk” rooms: kitchen, bathroom, garage. There are countless poisons throughout the house, so store them in locked cabinets. Also ban toxic plants from your house.

12. Cats love playing with strings or ribbons

They will sometimes even swallow them. They can be deadly as they cut through the intestine. Dogs are not immune to this common problem!

13. Exercise with your pet

Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s good for both of you, and it is great to bond with your pet. If you have a cat, playing with a laser is an easy way to provide lots of fun – for you included!

14. “Pet your pet” often

This will help you notice skin lumps and bumps early. And please do not procrastinate to have them tested or removed.

15. Every pet should have some manners

Dogs should have some basic obedience and should know a few rules (“Don’t bark frantically in an exam room”, “Don’t bite the nice doctor”), and should know that you are the boss. You are, right?

If you’re not sure, ask your family vet, a veterinary behaviorist or an animal behavior consultant (

Cats can also learn an amazing number of things.

16. Consider saving a life this year

Adopt a cat or a dog from your local shelter, Humane Society or occasionally your vet.

17. People food is for people!

Feed pet food to pets! Choose a quality, balanced, reputable brand. I recently talked to a little old lady with a grossly obese Chihuahua who insisted that she only feeds 1/8 cup to her dog daily. “That’s it, Doctor, I swear.” And of course, also some treats, half a banana, some cookies, some chicken… and some ice cream.

And how about Oz, the Lab with laryngeal paralysis who weighs 140 pounds?

And Titus, the 250 pound Mastiff who needed a TPLO on both knees to address his ACL tears? The list could go on…

18. Don’t “kill with kindness”

Rather than more food, all your pet really needs from you is more time and more love. If your pet stares at you “with those irresistible eyes,” resist the urge to share food.

Instead, share a kiss or a big hug!

19. Stay informed

There is a lot of junk on the Internet. Often bad advice. Sometimes quite dangerous. Beware of Dr. Google and self-proclaimed know-it-alls and fake specialists. You owe it to your pet to stay informed.

My web site, is a good start.

20. Pets can help you live longer!

Watch this 2 minute long video. It’s an incredible testimonial about pets from a cancer physician at the Mayo clinic.

I sincerely wish you, your family and your pet(s) a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Let’s make it a great year!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!