By mid-January, most New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Diets have been ruined, gym shoes have been tossed aside, and budgets have been blown. But when it comes to your pets, keep those promises you made to get them healthy and happy this year.

Maybe your dog needs to lose a few pounds. Or maybe it’s been a while since your cat has been to the veterinarian. Here’s a list of New Year’s resolution suggestions for your pet:

Medical Resolutions for Your Pet

Get spayed or neutered. Female dogs and cats are spayed by removing their reproductive organs, and male dogs and cats are neutered by removing their testicles. In both cases, the operation is performed while the pet is under anesthesia. Spaying or neutering helps your pet live longer by preventing testicular cancer, mammary tumors, and other diseases. It eliminates many undesirable behaviors and helps prevent animal overpopulation.

Get a Physical Exam. This head-to-tail exam thoroughly assesses your pet’s overall condition.

Get a Complete Blood Count. This test evaluates the status of your pet’s red and white blood cells, which transport oxygen and fights infections.

Get a Serum Biochemical Analysis. This group of tests examines the health of your pet’s kidneys and liver and screens for some cancers.

Get a Urinalysis Test. This test shows how well the kidneys are functioning. As pets age, it is important to keep a careful watch on the kidneys and whether there are any early signs of diabetes, early renal failure, or other diseases.

Get Groomed. Although it is especially important to brush long-haired cats and dogs to prevent their hair from matting, even short-haired canines and felines need to be groomed to remove as much loose hair as possible. Talk to your veterinarian if you don’t know whether or not your pet needs to be professionally groomed.

Get Nails Trimmed. If possible start training your dog or cat to have her claws trimmed when they are young. The best time to trim is when your pet is relaxed or sleepy. Never try to trim after a stressful experience or an energetic round of play. If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your pets nails on your own, see your veterinarian or your groomer.

Brush Those Teeth. It may be difficult, but brushing your pet’s teeth just once a week will help prevent dental disease. You can ask your veterinarian to show you how. At the very least, offer your pet dental treats, such as CET chews that have a special enzyme formula to help prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria.

Behavioral Resolutions for Your Pet

For Dogs

Learn to Walk Well on a Leash. The energy you project internally is the message you’re sending to your dog. Utilize your dog’s energy in a positive manner. If your dog doesn’t walk well on a leash and you haven’t read Pack Leader by Cesar Millan, I highly suggest you do so.

For Cats

Learn to Scratch in the Appropriate Places. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained. Having an appropriate scratching post is important. Make sure the scratching post is tall enough for your cat to stretch out full length on the vertical surface. I’ve gone through many scratching posts over the years and found that sisal posts are by far the best. This is the one and only post you’ll ever need: If all else fails, check into Soft Paws, rubber caps that fit over the cat’s nails and prevent destructive scratching.

Overall Well-Being Resolutions You Can Do for Your Pet

Buy a Dog or Cat Care Book. The best pet owner is an informed pet owner. The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier and The Natural Dog: A Complete Guide for Caring Dog Lovers by Mary L. Brennan and Norma Eckroate are two of my favorites. Bookstores have entire sections on just pets, so there are many from which to choose.

Buy a Collar and ID Tag and/or Microchip Your Pet. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study, about one million stray dogs and half a million stray cats are turned into shelters across the nation each year. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those dogs and a measly 2 percent of those cats are ever reunited with their owners. So make sure your pet is identifiable should he become lost.

Set Aside Exercise and Play Time with Your Dog and Cat Each Day. Even if you have a small dog or a fenced-in yard, your dog needs to be walked at least once a day. Even if you can squeeze in only a 20-minute walk, it’s better than nothing! While cats don’t need the same level of exercise as dogs, enjoying regular play sessions with your cat will provide him with the physical exercise and mental stimulation he needs, as well as strengthen the bond you share. Try using a Cat Dancer with your cat for at least 10 minutes a day.

Poison-Proof Your Home. Pledge to make your home safe for your pet in 2014 by poison-proofing your house. The most common cause of companion animal poisoning is from rodent poisons and insecticides, but there are other common everyday foods and products that can cause harm to your pet such as raisins, chocolate, and alcohol. For a complete listing of poison-proofing your home, check out a previous Pet Chat column.

By implementing one or more of these New Year’s resolutions, you and your pet will be off to a great start in the New Year. Wishing you and your pet a happy and healthy 2014.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Pink is a small, soft, white, furry Chihuahua mix who was abandoned at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, and now K-9 PALS is helping to her to find her forever home. Pink has very expressive eyes, and she loves people. She is a spayed female about 7 years old, about 8 lbs. and current on all her shots. Pink loves taking short walks every day, and she loves being a lap dog and enjoying the company of people. She also really enjoys soaking up the sun. She is very alert and learns new tricks for a small treat. She likes being in the car and will just curl up in the seat and enjoy the ride. Pink gets along with other dogs, but she would also like to be the top dog in a family, so being the only dog in the home would also be just fine with her. She might tolerate a mellow cat but probably not feisty or overly playful cats. She is eager to see the world, so would love to be adopted soon so she can move out of the animal shelter and get on with her real life in the real world. Pink is just waiting for a kind and loving person, couple, or family with older kids to adopt her and give her the good life and forever home that she very much deserves.

For information about adoption for Pink, call Animal Services at 805-681-5285, and for information about K-9 PALS, call 805-570-0415 or email To view all dogs for adoption from K-9 PALS and courtesy posts for dogs from the County Shelters and other rescue groups, visit the K-9 PALS website at

K-9 PALS – K-9 Placement and Assistance League, Inc.- is the all-volunteer nonprofit 501C3 no-kill organization working on behalf of homeless and abandoned dogs in shelters in Santa Barbara County and Southern California. K-9 PALS provides veterinary care, training, rescue, foster, transports, adoption, and advocacy for homeless and abandoned dogs from Santa Barbara County shelters and other shelters in Southern California. K-9 PALS has Adoption & Community Outreach and other special events throughout the year.

K-9 PALS provides four free dog behavior training sessions for people who have adopted a dog from any shelter, rescue group, or humane society. So when you adopt a dog, please contact K-9 PALS at or 805-570-0415 if you want to take advantage of this great offer.

If you are not looking to adopt, please consider being a donor or volunteer for K-9 PALS to help us in our mission to provide care and services for homeless and abandoned dogs from county shelters. All K-9 PALS donations go directly to benefit the dogs to save lives and reduce the number of abandoned and homeless dogs in our county shelters. K-9 PALS, P.O. Box 60755, Santa Barbara, CA 93160-0755.

For more information about K-9 PALS go to, or K-9 PALS on facebook. Donations are gratefully accepted through PayPal, or by mailing to K-9 PALS, P.O. Box 60755, Santa Barbara, CA 93160-0755.


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