We're all familiar with that ‘fresh start’ feeling that accompanies the new year and, at some point, the majority of us will have made resolutions that we are convinced “this year,” we will manage to keep.

Whether we want better health, fitness or work satisfaction, the new year is the perfect time to set changes in motion. But we're not the only ones that can benefit from a few lifestyle adjustments, and many of our personal designs for 2021 are also applicable to our pets.

Health and fitness issues are particularly relevant; it is estimated that over half of domestic cats and dogs are overweight through being overfed by their owners. While we are in charge of what (and how much) we feed ourselves, our pets depend on us to make dietary decisions for them, being far from concerned themselves about how they look or what they weigh.

Dogs and cats especially will eat what they are given and then suffer the consequences, just as we do on receiving the large veterinary bill for their extensive weight-related ailments. When it comes to making new year’s resolutions for our pets, better weight management is usually top of the list. But there are plenty of other resolutions that will welcome positive change for our animals, as we are about to discuss.

Diet and exercise – like us, the need to stay fit and healthy is of great importance when it comes to promoting the comfort and longevity of our pets. Sometimes, without even realising it, our animals become overindulged and begin to carry excess weight that, while only appearing minimal, has a hugely detrimental effect on their internal functions. Even slight weight gain can translate to major problems for cats and dogs. Investing in a specific, high-quality diet containing optimal nutrients and avoiding the occasional (but actually, quite regular) table scrap, is a great way of kick-starting your pet’s healthy eating plan.

Sometimes it feels like our lives are getting busier and there is less time to do the things we love. Unfortunately, a dog’s exercise needs don't fluctuate to accommodate our hectic schedules and daily walks remain an important part of a happy, healthy canine lifestyle. Just as better weight management is top of the resolution list for our pets; it is also the no. 1 lifestyle change for us coming into the new year, with more of us wanting to shed the pounds and get fitter than any other goal. Make 2021 the year for joint exercise and both you and your dog will reap the benefits! Having your very own, ever-enthusiastic exercise partner will also give you all the motivation you need to get on-the-move.

Grooming – maintaining a tidier home will appear on some of our resolutions lists and this covers the removal of pet hair. Rather than making it a goal to vacuum more regularly, think about ways to reduce the amount of pet hair making its way onto your carpets and furniture.

Grooming your cat or dog more often will help keep your pets’ coats in better condition and will remove any loose hairs that would otherwise fall to the floor. However, this isn’t limited to just the coat, as regular bathing (not too regular, as this will dry out the skin!), nail clipping, parasite control and dental hygiene are all important aspects of grooming that need regular attention. If your dog could talk it would surely thank you for sticking to this resolution!

Vet checks – although most would argue regular visits to the vet are a waste of time and money (not to mention a complete disruption to our pets), they can help detect potential health problems before they arise, saving time and money in the long-run.

With particularly young and old animals, ensuring their general physical condition - in particular their teeth and heart - are in a good state of health by paying regular visits to the vet can be hugely beneficial, helping to identify problems in their early stages. These visits may seem like a chore at the time, but annual veterinary examinations could potentially be the difference between life and death for your animal. Even if these ‘annual’ visits occur every other year, they are never completely unnecessary. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before seeking your vet’s advice. Money spent confirming the health of your pet is never money wasted.

Teach your dog a new trick – as far as some are concerned, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. As far as we are concerned, a dog is never too old to learn new things; in fact, keeping a dog’s mind stimulated with new tricks, tasks and toys is a sure-fire way of countering the negative effects of ageing.

Danielle Fletcher, VioVet’s E-SQP, says that if she were to make a New Year’s resolution for her dog, Stewie, it would be to teach him new tricks such as ‘twist’ and ‘left and right.' Don’t worry about training your dog too much or overwhelming it with lots of tricks in one go, as most dogs thrive when given direction and are more than capable (and intelligent) enough to process a considerable amount of information.

Update ID information – with the coming of the new year, we all take stock of what is important to us. Along with other family members, our pets feature very highly on the list.

This year, make it a resolution to review all your pets’ ID information in case your animal goes missing. No one wants the distress that accompanies the disappearance of a beloved pet, and whilst not all cases can be avoided, if a cat or dog escapes the house and is later picked up, its ID tag (and microchip) are your best hope of being reunited again. Maybe you have moved house in the last year or have changed your telephone number and have forgotten to update this information. Do this now, while you remember, and stand yourself in the best stead of having your pet returned to you.

Time, love and affection – ‘spending more time with the family’ is a resolution we hear a lot of at the start of a new year. Wanting to give our pets more love and affection is something most pet owners desire, just as we all want endless time to play with our furry companions! Time is priceless; however, it is also difficult to come by. We all lead busy lives, and sometimes there are not enough hours in a day to give our pets the attention they deserve. Set aside a fraction of every day to remind your pets just how much you love them (whether that’s with belly rubs, a game of fetch or a cuddle on the sofa), and to thank them for the years of companionship they have given to you!

If you have any resolutions to add, please post them below or email me directly: [email protected]

Written by: Hannah