We all look forward to the New Year and the practice of making promises to ourselves to hopefully better our lives in one or more ways. Those are noble goals, indeed! But even more noble and gracious would be to honor our beloved pets by committing to those New Year’s resolutions that will help to guarantee their health and well-being, as well. Let’s look at some of the ways we can do so:

• More than 50 percent of our pets are considered to be overweight. No surprise, given that our human population is in even worse physical condition. The first pet resolution must be our promise to feed our pets correctly, taking into consideration their present condition, age, breed, etc. As needed, we also must commit to a regular exercise program for them. (This action supports our human condition, as well.) And certainly, discuss the type and degree of exercise you intend to initiate with your veterinarian to be sure you are not about to do harm in trying to help your pet.

• Commit to regular playtime with your pet(s). This does not mean you have to spend five hours daily, as it is the quality—not the quantity—of time that makes the difference. Find moments throughout your busy week for your critters, even if you are simply playing catch, teasing them with one or more of their favorite toys, or just rolling around, petting, rubbing or play-fighting. Most pets just love the attention.

• Regular grooming is a great commitment to make for the sake of your pet. This can simply mean a regular combing or brushing at home. Often, skin conditions can occur below the coat surface. Note that when you bathe your pet, you must brush them out afterwards or the kinking and matting will follow. As needed—depending on breed or your own capabilities—it may prove easier to simply select a great groomer and initiate a regular schedule of bathing, brushing or actual grooming. Discuss the needs of your pet with your selected groomer. Often, your veterinarian can direct you to a suitable groomer for your particular pet’s needs.

• Don’t forget to honor your pets with regular veterinary examinations, at least once annually, but twice a year is even smarter. Why? Because in the course of 12 months, many bad things can evolve, especially as our pets age. The visit should always include a physical examination by your veterinarian, as well as appropriate blood, urine and fecal examinations.

The level of diagnostic sophistication in veterinary medicine has exponentially improved in the past decade. It is not unusual for your vet to have ultrasound, digital radiography, complete in-house blood diagnostics, and any number of specialists to refer you to, as needed, when needed. Take advantage of these expanded skill sets to be sure you offer your pet the greatest and best in health care. The result is that your pet lives longer and healthier.

• Keep your household safe and free from dangerous scenarios that can entangle your pet into life-threatening situations. Keep poisons, cleansers, fertilizers and other chemicals secured away in the garage or basement. Remember that anti-freeze—introduced pre-winter and removed from our cars in the spring—is especially toxic to our animals. It tastes sweet, and thereby, is attractive to their taste buds.

The trash can also harbors all sorts of tasty morsels that by volume, may cause an emergency bloating in dogs; or, by food type, say chocolate foodstuffs, grapes, onion and more, can all prove very toxic if ingested by Fido or Felix. Be logical. Protect your pets as you protect your kids—that’s the best rule to follow.

This is a good start for 2014. If you can all promise to commit to these few actions, we are all on our way to giving our pets a safe and healthy start for the new year. Talk to your veterinarian and learn more about other actions you might commit to this year. Make it a personal challenge to do the best you can for those special family members, our four-legged buddies.

Have a great New Year full of new dreams and a healthy, loving life for you and your pets.

Dr. Doug Pernikoff practices at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic/Veterinary Pet Rescue. For more information, visit clarksonwilsonvet.com.

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