New year?s resolutions for your pets Print
News - Rubrieke
Thursday, 21 January 2010 10:49
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In this column veterinarian Dr Liesel van der Merwe provides practical assistance for common problems in companion animals. She is a specialist physician at the Onderstepoort animal teaching hospital and a senior lecturer in the section of small animal medicine. Send your questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Dr Liesel van der Merwe

With the new year come all those new year’s resolutions . . . so let’s make some for your pets . . . and let’s keep them.

Off with the extra weight
Aim to get your pets at their target weights. You should be able to see a waistline both from the top and side view of your pet and you should be able to easily feel the ribs. Ad lib feeding is a no-no. You can cut down on the amount fed, stop all the snacks, or feed special weight reduction diets such as Hills RD and Eukanuba weight control. Note that the “light” diets are to maintain the desired body weight in a dog prone to obesity. All this extra weigh puts strain on the joints and heart.

Start an exercise program
Both you and your pet will benefit. Regular exercise will calm your pet as well as keep him/her fit. The time spent together also improves the interaction between pet and owner, as long as it is not fraught with bad behaviour.

Train your pet
Basic obedience training to verbal commands and good manners when on the lead makes for a much nicer pet and will also encourage you to spend more time with your pet. Resources such as books, dog trainers and DVDs abound.

Control parasites
Control of ticks is the only way to prevent biliary fever. Fleas may transmit blood diseases to cats and cause severe allergic skin disease in dogs. Intestinal worms are especially dangerous in young puppies but can also cause gastrointestinal signs in adult dogs and can be transmitted to humans. Get advice on your specific situation and start a routine anti-parasite program. This is money well spent.

Premium diets
Good nutrition is essential to maintain your pets in good health with a shiny coat. Carefully evaluate what you are feeding, including all the extras, and try to upgrade to the best premium dog or cat food you can afford. The premium brands contain highly digestible sources of protein and also a large amount of essential fats and anti-oxidants. The bag will usually last longer than a cheaper bag, as you pet will eat less because the food is more digestible. Evidence of this is usually smaller and less frequent faeces. Not a bad side effect at all.

Sterilise
Sterilise pets which are not intended for breeding purposes. Female dogs and cats should be sterilised at about five to six months of age. Smaller animals mature more rapidly than the larger breeds. Cats can become pregnant whilst still suckling their kittens, so get in there early.

Identify your pets
Use name tags on collars as well as ID chips injected under the skin. Thus, even if the collar is lost your pet will still have an ID. All veterinarians and SPCA’s have the required scanners.

Health check
Arrange a general health check at your veterinarian for your older animals. This can be instead of the yearly vaccinations which need only be given every third year once the initial booster course is complete. Several diseases such as kidney damage, prostatic disease and malignant masses can be identified early on and management is then a lot easier.

Check your dog’s teeth
Smelly breath with a lot of tartar on the teeth causes receding gum lines and pockets in the gum resulting in persistent periodontal disease and discomfort for your pet. Extraction of affected teeth with ongoing dental care either with diet, chews, brushing and regular descaling and polishing at your veterinarian may be required.

Vaccination
New puppies and kittens must have their full initial vaccination and dewormimg program. This is more important than all the cute toys.