By Kerrin Jeromin

Last year is behind us, and everyone has goals and big plans for 2022. But have you thought about how to ensure your pet also has a happy and healthy year ahead? We’re all trying to live our best life, and each new year brings the proverbial “reset” button we all need. Whether we strive to start a workout routine, eat healthier, or drink more water, there’s always room to improve, and the same goes for our pets. In 2022, let’s resolve to help our pets live their best year yet.

I recently spoke with two experts at the League – Veterinarian Dr. Peter Deluca and Behavior and Transfer Manager Jess Cytron – on this topic. Both offered their advice and tips to help formulate the Top Five New Year’s Resolutions for our pets in 2022 (many of which also apply to us humans).

5. Get Checkups, Get Vaccinated (Visit the Doctor)

It’s never been more important to prioritize our health! Routine visits to the veterinarian and staying up to date on vaccinations can greatly benefit our furry friends, supporting their overall health and ensuring they are on a healthy path forward.

“As in human medicine, it is always more beneficial to be more proactive than reactive when addressing and maintaining your pet’s health. This starts with regular visits to the veterinarian and staying up to date on vaccinations,” says Dr. Deluca. “Vaccination is a simple and relatively cost-effective means to keep your pet safe from diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. Unfortunately, we are tasked with treating these infectious, life-threatening diseases at the shelter on a daily basis that could otherwise have been prevented with a few simple shots.”

But just like you may not like to see the doctor, it’s important to remember that our pets also need to ease into their visits, especially if they aren’t used to going. Getting into a routine can allow your pet to become more accustomed to their veterinarian. 

“Sometimes when a new year approaches, people think it’s a good idea to go all out at the [veterinarian], bringing all their pets, getting all the shots, and going often—but if they aren’t used to these visits, this can be very stressful for a pet,” adds Jess.

Now is a great time to make a plan and schedule regular appointments to get on a routine.

4. Listen to Body Language

It’s often easy for us to set lofty goals for ourselves each new year, such as starting an ambitious workout routine. But if your knees say no to those deep squats you just started, you know it’s important to ease up to avoid injury. Just like we listen to our own bodies, we can also take cues from our pet’s body language.

“Remember that your pet can and does communicate with you regularly. Your pet can give you signals that indicate if they are comfortable with what is happening to them, whether that’s environmentally or [during] an interaction with your habits,” says Jess.

Jess encourages us to “reapproach what happiness looks like to our pet.”

“Try to think more critically about the function of what you are doing with your pet. Consider, are these functions really serving your pet or [are they] serving you?” says Jess. “Try not to overwhelm or flood your pet with a new experience. Take it slowly, because even if your intentions are to do something new and fun and enriching for your pet, you want to be safe about it,” Jess says.

3. Take Care of Mental Health and Happiness

Just as many of us have realized over the past two years, health goes way beyond the physical. The mental health of our pets is equally important!

“Most people think of health, and they go for the physical image, but I think people overlook the mental health of their pets and what goes into their repertoire of what makes up their behavioral health,” says Jess. “People underestimate the importance of enrichment, and what people don’t know is that enrichment can satiate the happiness, sometimes more so than physical activity.”

You can explore diverse enrichment opportunities and techniques on the Dumb Friends League (DFL) website by visiting the resources page.

2. Eat Healthy, Live Healthy

Eating better is the age-old resolution, and it’s a good one! Fueling our bodies with good, clean food is key to overall health for both humans and animals.

“Keeping pets active and on a good, well-balanced diet is conducive to keeping pets happy,” says Dr. Deluca. “Some tips for finding the best diet for your pet include avoiding advertising gimmicks and sticking to more reputable brands like Hill’s, Purina, and Royal Canin. Always remember to ask your veterinarian for guidance if you are unsure of the quality of a particular diet.”

Dr. Deluca adds that while people often allow themselves a “cheat day” regarding their diet, it is important to avoid feeding pets human foods and table scraps, particularly ones that are rich in fats and carbohydrates. Animals who are regularly fed people food or poor-quality diets are more prone to developing short-term problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, as well as chronic issues like arthritis, obesity, and diabetes mellitus.

Since we obviously don’t want any of that, let’s stick to eating well this year and every year

1. Stay Active and Enjoy Colorado!

There’s a reason so many people live in this beautiful state, including the excitement of the mountains, the natural tranquility of flowing streams, plentiful sunshine, and fresh air. Both of our pet wellness experts encourage you to get out and enjoy all that our state has to offer to live 2022 to the fullest.

“After your pets are vaccinated, take them outside! Colorado offers incredibly convenient access to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world, and taking your pet outside will certainly help keep them happy and in shape. Just be sure to check pet and leash rules before you arrive at the trailhead,” says Dr. Deluca.

Remembering the recommendations in our previous resolutions, we can approach new activities smartly, keeping in mind our pet’s species, body language, and comfort levels and ensuring they are prepared for the outdoors. In fact, you can still explore the beauty of our state even if you aren’t an avid hiker. “You might consider taking a different approach, like going for a car ride! Keeping pets happy is going to look different from pet to pet,” explains Jess.

Jess adds an important point, remembering that Colorado is home to many new faces.

“There are a lot of new pet owners in Colorado because of the influx of residents, so it’s important to remember there may be a lot of novice pet owners out there learning boundaries and how to let their pet interact with others.”

Be aware of your surroundings and approach with caution as you venture into new territory. But remember, no matter how fast or slow you approach your resolutions, they are *your* goals. Do what makes you and your pet the happiest to ensure this year will be the best one yet.