2020 was quite a year and although we’ve started 2021 in a national lockdown, that doesn’t take away from the fact that January is the month that many of us use to re-set ourselves or re-visit the good habits we’d like to develop, continue or improve on.
As you’re thinking these through, why not consider some that include your pet? There are several pet care tasks that many of us know we should do more regularly. Every bit of extra effort that you put into your pet will be rewarding and will go towards helping to keep them healthy and happy.
1. Regular grooming
Let’s start with one that’s often put off but can be so rewarding – grooming. Grooming doesn’t just keep your pet’s fur in check, it also strengthens your bond and gives you a chance to check for hidden injuries, ticks and skin issues. Try and stick to a regular grooming routine this year to keep them safe, happy and healthy.
Depending on your pet’s breed and fur type, you may need to brush daily or weekly; your vet will be happy to advise you on what’s best for your pet. They’ll also let you know the best brushes and combs to suit your pet’s coat.
Take a look at our pet grooming advice:
Most owners are aware that regular vaccinations and health checks are an important part of pet ownership. During the pandemic it hasn’t been as easy to stick to a regular schedule due to the lockdowns. It’s worth contacting your vet and making sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. If they aren’t up to date, it’s worth understanding how much flex you have before a re-start might be required.
It’s even more important to keep vaccinations up to date with new or younger pets – there are some dreadful diseases that can start to spread when pets are unvaccinated.
Regular health checks are also key, again not so easy at the moment but talk to your vet and see whether you can arrange one as a phone or video consultation. This is a good opportunity to discuss any concerns that you may have.
3. Plan their parasite treatment
It’s easy to forget about fleas in the winter, but did you know that as we crank the central heating up these pesky parasites can spring to life. Preventing fleas as well as ticks and worms is important for your pet’s health. Parasites are not only irritating and painful for your pet, but they can also cause more serious health issues like disease and infection. Protecting your pet is simple but it does need to be done regularly, so planning in advance is essential.
As well as organising repeat prescriptions for suitable pet parasite treatments, set out regular ‘deep cleaning days’ a few times a year to fully clean your soft furnishings to remove eggs and larvae that may be lurking within. Your local practice will also be able to post flea and worming treatments to you or you can arrange contactless collection from the practice – read more here.
4. Look at their diet
After the indulgence of December, most people are trying to eat a bit healthier in the New Year. It’s worth thinking about whether your pet has also had a few extra treats. Consistently over-treating your pet will have an impact on their weight – it might creep on gradually and it can be very difficult to shift.
It’s a good idea to weigh out the recommended daily amount of food for your pet’s age and breed to avoid overfeeding. You should then split this out across your pet’s regular feeding times, as individual treats, or in treat toys. Even if this isn’t something you do all the time, it’s a good exercise to do every now and then to make sure portion control doesn’t get out of control – it’s easily done.
Many pets are fed on-demand or fed with other pets; it’s harder to control how much is eaten this way. It’s really important and you should try and observe what’s going on; even if it’s only to make sure that one greedy pet isn’t scoffing all the food.
Occasional pet treats are fine but pick treats that are low in sugar and starch. Use them sparingly as a reward for good behaviour and reduce the amount of regular food they receive that day.
Your pet’s nutritional needs change as they get older, so it’s a good idea to check whether you need to switch them onto a more suitable diet. Speak to your vet for expert advice, and if you do decide to change, do so gradually to allow your pet to get used to the new diet.
Read more about pet nutrition:
5. Brush their teeth
Regular dental checks and good oral hygiene play an important part in keeping your pet happy and healthy. Cats and dogs are very good at hiding pain and discomfort, so you ‘might never realise there’s a problem. You should be brushing your pet’s teeth a few times a week as a minimum, more if possible.
Take a look at our latest dental videos for more tips and advice about keeping your pet’s teeth clean:
6. Exercise them more
If you’re planning to take up a new activity this January, consider whether there’s one that your dog can get involved in. The current lockdown might restrict this but there are things that you can do to exercise in your local area such as running, walking and just exploring. It’s great exercise for both of you, it’s great for bonding and it beats being indoors all the time.
For cat’s a new toy is often enough to get them active, particularly if it allows them to flex their hunting instincts. Laser lights are great for getting most cats active.
7. Organise pet insurance
You may already have pet insurance, but if not it’s something we would recommend. It gives pet owners peace of mind that if the worst happens or your pet develops an illness – you’ve got some financial cover Accidents and illness can happen at any time (and at any age) and it’s comforting to know that the cost of care will be covered if it’s ever needed.
There are many different types of policies available to suit your pet’s needs; your practice team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about pet insurance. You can also research on the internet to find the best insurer for your needs.
8. Give your pet a fresh start
Things like bedding, blankets, toys and food and water bowls can build up bacteria over time which could make your pet ill or harbour dormant flea eggs. Deep clean their bedding, blankets, toys and food and water bowls to give your pet a fresh start to the year. Make sure you use pet-safe cleaning products and dry everything thoroughly.
If bedding, toys or hutches are starting to show their age, now might be a good time to consider replacing them with newer versions instead.
9. Update their microchip details
Microchips are the best way to ensure your pet can be identified if they ever get lost. In fact, it’s a legal requirement in dogs over the age of eight weeks and there are moves to also try and make it a legal requirement for cats – which is a step in the right direction. Irrespective of this, it’s the right thing to do and we know that microchips have been the source of many pets being reunited with owners that may have thought their pet was gone forever – happy endings.
However, if your details aren’t up to date on the system, your pet’s microchip can’t do its job properly. Set time aside to check your contact details are correct this new year, especially if you’ve moved house recently.
Speak to your local Medivet practice for more tips and advice.
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