2013 Resolutions for the Capitol Hill Pet Owner

Can you refuse this cute face? Photo: Andrew Lightman

Once again, in the hallowed tradition of making positive changes to your life for the New Year, we would like to bring you the second annual New Year’s Resolutions for the Capitol Hill Pet Owner. Our four legged friends deserve to be in the mix of life changes we make at this time of year and if we can accomplish even one of these resolutions then this is a victory. This list is not meant to harass or harangue, but to help you improve the quality of your pet’s life one small step at a time. Some of these items are taken from last year’s list, some are new. Read on and find out more:

  1. I resolve to keep my pet’s weight under control. According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, between 60 and 70 percent of the owners of obese pets don't think their dogs are heavy. Obesity, just as in humans, is a serious problem in pets and can lead to cardiac problems, diabetes, or can worsen pre-existing problems like osteoarthritis, a bad back or knee problems. You, the diligent owner, have fed the same diet as you always have, you are going by the recommended amount on the back of the bag of food, yet your cat or dog continues to maintain or gain weight. What are you doing wrong? Here are the quick answers (Brace yourself):

    1. Feed less. Simple, but true. The honest fact is that as your pet gets older, their metabolism slows and you would be amazed at how little your sedentary cat or sleep-on-the-couch dog needs.

    2. Don’t let your emotions rule feeding habits. When we, the veterinarians, make a feeding recommendation we often hear “That can’t possibly be enough food!” but it usually is. Rule of thumb – Get a starting weight on your overweight pet, feed your pet 25% less and reweigh in 2 weeks. If the weight is the same, cut back another 25% and reweigh. If there is appropriate weight loss, maintain the diet.

    3. Food does not equal love. Cut out the snacks. As much as we love the joy-in-the-eyes tap dance, giddy excitement response that extra treats often bring out in our pets, there are other healthier options than the equivalent of a calorie rich milk bone. Fresh or frozen carrots and green beans are great alternatives or break down that treat to one-quarter of its original calorie count.

    4. Get help. All weight loss programs should be accomplished under the direction of your veterinarian. There are some serious side effects, especially in cats, of losing weight too quickly. Also, your pet not eating for 2-3 days may have the desired effect of weight loss, but may also indicate a larger underlying problem that your veterinarian should address.

  2. I resolve to get my pet more exercise. Going hand in hand with the above resolution is increasing your pet’s activity. An active dog is a healthy dog and your older Beagle could probably use an extra stroll down North Carolina Ave. to Eastern Market. Get to the Arboretum, Lincoln Park, Kingsman Dog Park, and Congressional Cemetery to get your dog the exercise he or she deserves. Cat owners can replace that beat up scratching post, get a new ball to be batted about or just take a half hour out of your busy day to play with your cat via laser mouse or dangling string toy from Metro Mutts. Furthermore, if your dog has anxiety issues or if your cat is an “inappropriate urinater,” spending more time exercising with your pet has been shown to be beneficial.

  3. I resolve not to ignore changes in my pet. Sudden weight loss? Increased thirst? Many changes that would shock us in a person we write off as a minor glitch in our pets. Do not ignore these changes as they can equal serious problems for your cat or dog. If your pet has stopped eating for more than 24 hours, is losing weight, or is just persistently more tired than usual, have them checked out by your veterinarian. Many problems can be addressed or even fixed.

  4. I resolve to get my pet spayed or neutered. Still not listening to Bob Barker and Drew Carey from The Price is Right? Despite numerous studies detailing the benefits of spaying or neutering, owners simply choose not to for their own reasons. From prolonging your pet’s life to controlling the pet population in your community, it just makes sense. Don’t take our word on it, read more on your own from the ASPCA: http://tinyurl.com/dxl47k2 And, if expense is an issue, the Washington Humane Society offers low cost and sometimes free spays and neuters at their location on L St SW. http://tinyurl.com/7x374n6

  5. I resolve to be better about my pet’s dental hygiene. What applies to your dental healthy applies to your pet’s: Daily brushing removes plaque, prevents tartar formation and slows the onset of periodontal disease (ie. tooth decay). However, many of us do not have time to brush our pet’s teeth twice a day, but even if you can do once a day, twice a week, etc. you are probably doing better than a significant percentage of pet owners. Anesthetized dental cleanings are advised when the tartar gets out of control and your pet’s breath can knock over a small child. Your veterinarian should be consulted before proceeding with any anesthetic procedure.

The New Year is a chance for us to prioritize personal goals and to create new life patterns in the hope of a happier, healthier future. The same applies to our pets. Raising our awareness of our pet’s health through the above list will benefit both you and your pet by increasing their quality of life and subsequently your enjoyment of it.

We at AtlasVet hope 2013 will be a safe, hopeful and healthy year for you and your pets!

See you ‘round the Hill!

Dr. Antkowiak and Dr. Miller are the owners of AtlasVet (the Atlas District Veterinary Hospital) at 1326 H St. NE and they reside in Capitol Hill.

Twitter: @atlasvetdc, Website: www.atlasvetdc.com, Facebook: www.facebook.com/atlasvetdc

Dr. Antkowiak is a graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Miller is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.