If you’re as fanatical about your pets as we are about ours, then you probably think you are doing all you can for them. I did, too, until one day I realized just how much they were sleeping during the day while I was on the computer. They were bored and I couldn’t blame them. While I was physically present, I wasn’t interacting with them. I bet if they could tell me, they’d say I was shirking my pet parent responsibilities.

We all get caught up in our hectic lives and often the ones to suffer the most are our pets. Why not take the opportunity of a New Year to make their quality of life better. Let’s make 2021 the year we pay more attention to the needs of those that bring us so much joy every day!

how to be a better pet parent

How to Be a Better Pet Parent in the New Year

Spend More Time with Your Pets

First and foremost and what would make your pets the happiest is simply spending more time with them. This may have happened not by choice in 2020 with the pandemic and all of us staying closer to home. But in normal times – and yes, we will get there – this can also be the hardest to achieve. Finding free time can be a true luxury.

So, while you’re still stuck at home, resolve to spend more time with your pets and just maybe it will become habit. Step away from the computer/social media, and give your pet some quality, one-on-one attention. And don’t forget to involve other family members, too. Everyone will benefit. 

spending time being the best pet parent

Just set aside a small amount of time each day to be present with your pets. Pick up a brush whether for their fur or teeth. Grab a squeaky toy and play some tug of war. Give a few more belly rubs. Play hide and seek – this one brings our pets such joy and shows us just how smart they are. Or just lay next to them and give a few kisses and tell them how much you love them.

Any and all of it will be greatly appreciated and can lower your heart rate and blood pressure in the process. 

Get More Exercise

This is something you can both benefit from and for many people, may be their only form of daily exercise. Obesity is not only an issue for us humans, but is on a dramatic rise in dogs and cats. And it has the same detrimental effect on your pets, being linked to an array of health problems like diabetes and arthritis.

self-care actions you can do today like running with a dog

Try taking a longer walk or add an extra one to the routine. And if you’re just letting them out in the backyard, now is the perfect time to put on that leash and get out and about – assuming everyone’s health permits it. Throwing that ball in the backyard also counts for your pet, but not for you!

And here’s an added benefit for the human – Getting out in my neighborhood and walking my pups has allowed me to meet so many people I otherwise never would have known. Pet owners and their pets tend to be quite social. The only problem is I tend to remember the dogs’ names, but not the owners’. Something for me to work on in the New Year!

Pay More Attention to Your Pet’s Health

This follows with getting more exercise, but there’s much more to it than that. Of course, we love our pets and want to do the very best for them, but we don’t always come through. And with vet bills being so expensive, trying to keep them as healthy as possible should be our goal.

A big factor here is to be attuned to your pet’s “normal”. Know what their behavior is like when they are happy and feeling good, so you can more easily recognize when something is amiss and you can act on it before anything progresses. One of my dogs has back issues and I can see it in her eyes and she is less active when she is hurting.

Then, there are some questions you need to ask and do your research for the answers…

Are all vaccines necessary and on the schedule your vet recommends? Do you know what titers are? I started doing titers many years ago to determine if my pets had immunity before revaccinating, except for rabies. Much to my surprise I have yet had to revaccinate any of my dogs as they have maintained immunity even up to the age of 14!

Which natural home remedies actually work? Do they need supplements and if so, which ones? Do they need annual physical exams? Should I get a second opinion if something is wrong? On this point, I’m going to let you know what happened to me so you know why I bring this up.

When my vet sold his practice, I tried a new one who was highly recommended by several close friends. The office was immaculate and everyone was quite nice and I liked the new vet I had chosen who was not the owner.

Some routine lab work showed an abnormality for one of my dogs. A procedure was recommended and during it, we received a call saying it looked like there was a mass in the spleen and a biopsy was recommended. The vet who owned the practice did the actual biopsy with my vet assisting.

I was essentially given a death sentence for my dog and referred to a local surgeon. But that night I got a voicemail message from the vet that the radiologist who read the ultrasound found nothing…oops…but please keep the surgical appointment.

The next day the surgeon, who I knew and trusted, couldn’t quite explain what all had transpired. They did another ultrasound and again, found nothing. While I was relieved beyond words, I was also VERY angry. My poor pup was put through a horrible experience for nothing and my husband and I put through such anguish and stress. We literally thought that whole afternoon that our 3 year old pup whom we adored was going to die in a few months. 

Besides the pain and anxiety for my pet, I paid over $2,000 between the two vets and received no apology or explanation from the first vet’s office. Needless-to-say, I have not been back and have not been shy about letting others know, including licensing boards of my experience with this vet. It certainly taught me to question everything and be a better advocate for my pets.

And then there’s the food we provide for them…

Know What You’re Feeding Your Pets

Have you looked at the ingredients in their food – do you know what even to look for and what is good and what is bad? I did this many years ago and was shocked. I started making  homemade food for my pups right away.

I did this until it caught on and I could actually buy great quality fresh made food. The problem is a lot of this food is VERY expensive and cost prohibitive, especially if you have large dogs. So, an alternative is to use the fresh as a topper over high quality kibble.

I’m very fortunate to have several companies locally that make homemade food with great choices. I can buy them either at Farmer’s Markets or they will deliver. It’s worth checking out in your area.

be the best parent with fresh made dog food

Try Something New

It’s a New Year, so why not try something new with your pets? Give yourself a chance to bond with them while having a great time. 

If they have boundless energy, run around the backyard like a loon, and fly over obstacles, maybe think about agility training. If they are more mild mannered and get along great with people and other pets, think about enrolling them in a pet assisted therapy program. If they are smart as a whip – well, aren’t they all – get one of those puzzle toys for them to solve. 

Take them on an adventure to the local pet store and let them pick out a toy. Give them a treat toy and let them chase it around the house to get the treats out for their reward. The point is to try and keep them stimulated and active. 

Volunteer

This actually is more for you then your pet, but that’s okay. If you can, look for volunteer opportunities for a pet-related cause this year. Check with your local animal shelter or pet welfare organization to see if they could use your help. You could care for the pets up for adoption, help with office work, fundraise, or even foster to get a pet out of the shelter.

fostering a dog

Foster dog Goose making herself at home with Jolene.

But there are also opportunities to involve your pet, too. If your pet has an excellent temperament and enjoys people, he or she may be able to visit nursing homes and hospitals, providing therapy and stress relief for patients.

I hope this has given you some ideas for how you can be a better pet parent. It in no way is meant to make you feel guilty if you can’t spend more time with your pets. We know you are giving them a loving home. But when you can find a few extra minutes to spend with them, it will be a huge benefit to you both!

How are you going to improve the quality of life for your pet this year?