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Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou! We hope everyone’s New Year is off to a cheery start.

After the festive indulgence and carefree spirit of the holiday season, we’ve noticed that the Calvin & Susie community is enthusiastic to make this year the best one yet – for pets and people alike.

With over 360 days stretching before us, this is when a lot of us decide to make big plans for the new year. Career plans, exercise plans, plans to finally run the Honolulu Marathon. Why not makes some plans for your pet?

We know that all of us try to be the best pet parents we can be, but sometimes life gets in the way. It’s called, “being human” and our pets always seem to forgive us for our transgressions. That’s one of the reasons why we love them so.

So before 2017 gets too busy, here’s a checklist of things you can do to improve your pet’s health, happiness, and well-being this year. Put it on your fridge, pin it by your desk; we guarantee both you and your pet will feel a little better every time you cross something thing off.

Get on a regular vet visit schedule

Most healthy pets who are not yet seniors do quite well getting a wellness check from your trusted vet (if you don’t have a vet, that’s the first thing to do in 2017!) twice a year. Checks like this allow your vet to get to know what’s normal for your pet, and gives them a chance to potentially catch some more serious ailments early.

Getting on a vet schedule is one of the best preventative steps you can take to ensuring a healthy, comfortable life for your pet. Catching a disease or development early could mean the difference between simply changing your pet’s diet or adding supplements, and copious medications or even surgery.

And remember! If you have a senior pet, they will need to see the vet more often. Consult with your vet on what would be a good schedule.

When was your pet’s last vaccination?

Whether you have a new pup or an old cat, be sure that your pet is up-to-date on necessary vaccinations. Not all vaccines stay effective for the same amount of time, so it’s worth making sure that your pet is still protected.

We recommend noting in your calendar the dates of your pet’s vaccinations, just in case your pet requires emergency services, your pet gets lost, or in case of other such unforeseen circumstances.

Get on track with your pet’s dental health

Your cat or dog’s dental health is one of the simplest ways to maintain their wellness.

Getting into a daily or weekly regimen of oral care will not only improve your pet’s breath, but can also protect them from losing teeth in old age, heart disease, and infection, among other issues.

Trust us we know brushing your dog or cat’s teeth is NOT always fun, but finding a way to do it (slooooooowly getting your pet used to the idea of a toothbrush) or at least finding an oral health additive for their food or water (we can help you with that!) will definitely pay off later in your pet’s life.

And just like you go to the dentist for a deep cleaning, we highly recommend finding a vet or certified technician who can give your pet’s teeth a deep clean once or twice a year.

Vets generally put pets under anesthesia to clean their teeth, but if your pet has health issues, is elderly, or generally has clean teeth that only require a “touch up”, you may want to consider a dental cleaning without anesthesia (check with your vet first). We regularly host such anesthesia-free dental clinics at both of our stores – with Canine Dental Service, a certified and experienced service that always has a vet on premises. Call or drop by to ask questions or to make your appointment.

Is your pet’s diet the best it could be?

Your pet’s diet will undergo many changes in their lifetime.

Your adult dog or cat isn’t going to eat the same thing they at when they were a puppy or kitten, and your senior pet is going to have different nutritional needs than a young adult. Issues such as allergies, sensitivities, and medical conditions can also dictate your pet’s diet.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Has your pet been eating the same food, with little variation, for years? While their food may be perfectly healthy, rotating protein sources (chicken, beef, pork, salmon, etc.) is recommended in order to give them a variety of different nutrients. You don’t want to ONLY EAT CHICKEN FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, and neither does your pet. Plus, it keeps them interested in their food!

  • Has you pet developed skin, dental/oral, or weight issues?

  • Is your pet displaying allergy symptoms? Sensitivities? Food allergies are extremely common and can develop over time. Ex: A dog can start off eating chicken just fine, but can develop an allergy to it over time. Conversely, after a few years, the pet can get over their food allergies. It happens with humans, and it does happen with our pets. Another reason to rotate their food.

  • Has your pet had recurring digestive issues? (Gas, diarrhea, constipation, etc.)

  • Is your pet’s coat dull, their skin unhealthy?

  • Do they have excessive tear stains? “Gluey”, sticky eyes?

While many of these issues should be brought to the attention of a vet first, each could be improved through the aid of an appropriate food choice. You’d be surprised how many issues can be remedied with good food. Nutrition is one of the best ways to avoid serious health issues down the road.

So if you answered yes to any of the above questions, consider transitioning and/or rotating your pet’s diet. Don’t know what pet food options are out there? Ask us! We’d love to help you out.

Could your pet benefit from some supplements?

While a wholesome, balanced diet should provide your pet with all the nutrition they need, sometimes they need a little something extra to keep them bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Supplements might be what your pet needs to put a spring back in their step.

Probiotics for digestion and gut health, omegas for heart, brain, skin, nerves, immune system (really your pet’s whole body), glucosamine for joints – these are just a few of the supplements that improve pets’ well-being. And while not every supplement is right for every pet (always check with your vet before starting a new supplement regimen), if your pet is suffering from some discomfort or an imbalance, a supplement could make a big difference.

Of course, only give your pet supplements that are approved for pets, approved by your vet, or both. Some human supplements have additives or fillers that are not safe for animals.

Does your pet’s microchip check out?

When’s the last time you checked your pet’s microchip?

If your pet’s identifying information has changed recently – you’ve moved, your pet was previously owned by someone else – make sure that your pet’s microchip is up-to-date. You don’t want to be in the position of wishing you’d remembered to update it, AFTER your pet gets away from you.

Also, microchips can migrate in your pet’s body, making them hard to find. Have your vet make sure that it’s still in one of the locations that shelters, rescues, or vets will look for it, and that it hasn’t “disappeared”. (My cat had to have a second one inserted when the first one couldn’t be found.)

And be sure to ask your vet what kind of microchip your pet has (there’s more than one brand), and ask what information is on the chip. It’s always a good idea to know your pet’s microchip number.

And if your pet does not have a microchip, GET ONE! A microchip could be the difference between being reunited with your lost pet and never seeing them again.

Grooming is great

How often do you bathe your dog? Take them to the groomer? Do you ever brush your cat? If you don’t know how to answer these questions, this might be the time to change that.

Just like you, grooming and bathing is a very important of keeping your dog or cat happy and healthy.

By making sure that your dog is bathed regularly (once every week to ten days is generally recommended, more if your dog goes to the beach regularly or gets dirty from outdoor activities), you ensure that their skin and coat stays free of irritants, smells, and/or dandruff.

Brushing your cat or dog can also be a great way to distribute oils from their skin into their coat, keeping it shiny and soft. Helping your cat get rid of excess hair is also a good way to cut down on hairballs. (Generally speaking, you don’t need to bathe your cat unless they have fleas or get into something yucky.)

Additionally, regularly bathing your dog can reveal if an unpleasant odor is not “dirt related”, and is in fact emanating from their skin or paws. This could be an indicator of a greater medical problem.

But remember, always take time to thoroughly dry your pet after you wash them. Not damp dry, thoroughly dry. If you don’t have time to get them dry before they go to bed, don’t wash them. Lots of dogs get itchy from growth of fungus or bacteria due to not being thoroughly dry in their paws or ears. This starts a vicious cycle of them licking at themselves causing raw skin, infection, and/or proliferating fungus, bacteria, or yeast.

If you don’t have time for a full bath AND dry, it’s better to just give their paws or coat a spot clean with a damp towel (then let them dry off).

New Year, new leash

How’s your dog’s collar and leash holding up? Are the materials still strong and intact? Are all the clasps and buckles strong and functioning? Does your dog’s collar still fit correctly?

A solid collar and leash that is easy for you to manage and can handle the weight of your dog pulling on it, is vital to your dog’s safety. How often have you pulled your dog out of danger, or stopped them from running off just by holding onto their leash?

If your dog’s collar, harness, or leash is starting to look frayed and/or the clasp has been damaged, it’s time to get your dog a new “outfit”. This could also be a chance for you to work on any bad habits your dog may have developed by getting a training leash that helps teach your dog not to pull.

And if your cat wears a collar, make sure it has an “emergency” or “break free” clasp that will release if your cat gets caught somewhere and has to pull herself free.

Drop by our store and we’d be delighted to help you find the right collar or leash for your precious pup or puss!

Tag ‘em!

Just like with microchips, make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and legible. After years of wear and tear, sometimes we don’t realize that our pet’s tags aren’t completely readable.

And be sure that your pet’s tags are securely attached to their collar. The last thing you want is a perfectly legible tag to fall of your pet’s collar if they get lost!

Picture perfect

We know we probably don’t need to tell you to take MORE pictures of your furry family member, but always be sure to have a clear, current photo of your pet on hand. If your pet gets lost and you need to post fliers, having a current photo at the ready will increase your chances of being reunited with your pet.

Are you prepared for an emergency? Is your pet sitter?

Have your vet’s number programmed into your phone and posted in your home; the same goes for the closest and most reputable emergency veterinary hospital in your area.

Do you have a trusted pet sitter or pet sitting agency? Do you have a list of emergency numbers and contacts that you can give them? Do you have a checklist of your pet’s needs that you can easily print off, email, or hand your sitter?

Having a regularly updated checklist of your pet’s needs can be one less thing to stress about should you be called out of town suddenly. You’re also less likely to forget important checklist items if you’re regularizing updating a list.

We recommend having at least one person who you trust as your proxy when you’re out of town, to make quick decisions concerning your pet’s medical needs, in case you can’t be reached. Someone other than your pet sitter.

You also may want to consider making sure your vet has your credit card information on file, and that they are authorized to charge it, should your pet need vet care while you’re away. (We’ll also temporarily keep your credit card on file in our stores if you want to ensure that your pet sitter has access to your pet’s specific food and supplements.)

Such arrangements can expedite your pet’s care, and may stop pet sitters from hesitating should your pet need emergency attention.

Make an emergency kit for your pet

If your pet requires immediate medical attention before they can be seen by a vet, having an emergency kit for them could be a life saver. Plus, if there’s a disaster or outage in your area, an emergency kit will ensure that your pet stays calm and cared for until circumstances improve.

Here are some suggestions for a basic pet emergency kit:

  • Clean towels or blankets

  • Sterilized gauze and/or bandages

  • Saline solution to flush eyes or wounds

  • Your pet’s microchip info, tag info, vet’s contact info, any allergy or ailment info

  • Any medication your pet needs, plus dosing directions

  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting if directed by a professional or to clean wounds)

  • Iodine or Neosporine

  • Thermometer

  • Saline eye wash

  • Vet wrap or ace bandage

  • A few cans of food

  • A bottle or bottles of clean water

  • A travel bowl

  • Extra collar and leash

  • An old item of clothing you’ve worn (and haven’t washed). Your scent, the smell of home, can be a great way to soothe a worried pet.

How’s your pet’s bowl looking?

If your pet has been eating or drinking out of the same bowl, or bowls, for a long time, it might be time to examine them to make sure they aren’t harboring bacteria.

If your pet has a ceramic or plastic bowl, look for micro fissures or scratches in the surface. Such spots can be breeding grounds for bacteria. This is especially important to be aware of if you feed your pet a raw diet.

We recommend replacing your plastic or ceramic bowls with stainless steel bowls. Such bowls are much hardier, can be safely submerged in boiling water for a “deep clean”, and are less susceptible to bacteria-ridden nooks and crannies. Again, we highly recommend using a stainless steel bowl if you feed your dog or cat raw food.

If you do decide to continue using plastic or ceramic bowls, be sure to wash them with soap and warm water everyday, and replace them often.

Make spending time with your pet a priority

It sounds so simple right? “Spend time with your pet”.

But when life gets really busy, very often it’s your pet that gets the short end of the stick (instead of getting to fetch it). As part of your New Year’s plan, carve out some time, a few times a week, if not everyday, for your furry family member.

It doesn’t have to be a three hour hike, your pet just wants to be with you, bond with you. A quick game of tug-o-war or tossing around the ol’ catnip sack between work and putting the kids to bed; a walk around the block with your dog when you need to clear your head; a snuggle or paw massage at the end of the day while you’re watching TV – devoting some bonding time to your pet on a regular basis will not only improve their disposition and mental health, but probably yours too! Plus, keeping your pet active is vital to keeping your pet healthy.

Pets who feel confident in their bond with their owner tend to be less stressed out, less destructive, more accepting of new things (new pets, children, strangers, etc.), and are generally healthier.

Most of All: Enjoy having a pet in your life!

Remember: all of these tips and checklist items are for the good of your pet.

Being prepared, getting on a schedule, staying up-to-date, are all in service to making sure you and your pet have the best 2017, and the best life.

None of us are perfect, but in your pet’s eyes, you are darn near close to it. (Well…maybe not if you have a cat. They may think you’re pretty great, but they’ll never admit it.)

Let’s make 2017 the year we live up to how our loyal, loving pets see us!

Enjoy the company of your four-legged family!

~ Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

Note: Always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or lifestyle. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt, always ask a vet.

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