Q: I know my dog is overweight and I resolve to take him on more walks. I can use the exercise, too. That's my resolution. Every year, you announce your own resolutions. Will you do that for 2013? -- S.J., Henderson, NV
Q: I recall that you were instrumental in beginning a national movement to pay attention to cats, so more are adopted from shelters and so cats get proper veterinary care. Do you have a resolution in this vein for 2013? -- P.K., Miami, FL
A: I do, indeed. In 2013, I'll encourage pet owners to see veterinarians for preventive care. Sadly, according to a study conducted by Bayer Animal Health, a quarter of owners don't understand the importance of preventive care for their pets. The number of households not seeing the veterinarian at all in the course of a year increased by eight percent for dogs and a confounding 24 percent for cats compared to five years ago, according to the 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. Our pets deserve better.
Skipping preventive care veterinary has consequences. A long list of preventive illnesses is on the rise, leading to higher costs for pet owners. And most importantly, pets are suffering, even dying when they shouldn't be. This alarming trend needs to be reversed and I'll work (with others) to help make that happen 2013.
Here are additional topics I'll focus on this year:
1. Breed-specific legislation: Breed bans have been instituted by communities, even states and entire nations. Dogs referred to as pit bulls lead the list of forbidden pets. The reality is, breed bans have had no impact on the frequency of dog bites. Instead, I support enforcing sensible dangerous dog laws, which apply to all breeds or mixes. I also support education, so dog owners understand the importance of early socialization.
2. Senior pets: The good news is, with appropriate preventive care, proper nutrition, exercise and a little luck, overall, our pets are living longer than ever. But longevity has the same drawbacks for pets as people -- physical and cognitive ailments related to aging. Fortunately, a rapidly growing list of products can improve quality of life for elderly pets. I'll be writing about these in 2013.
3. Tubby tabbies, plump puppies: TV's "Biggest Loser" could create a spin-off show about overweight and obese pets, since the problem is downright epidemic. Diet can pre-empt the problem. Research confirms that there's a correlation between spaying/neutering pets and subsequent changes in energy and metabolism. New Royal Canin spayed/neutered diets address this issue (cat formulas are available in the U.S. now and dog formulas will be released later this year). Certainly, exercise is important; without it, pets can grow huge. I resolve to encourage pet owners to understand that overweight and obese pets are likely to suffer changes in their quality of life, and their chances increase for diabetes, arthritis, some types of cancer and behavioral problems.
4. Shoot 'em up: For reasons inexplicable to me, police are increasingly shooting innocent dogs. You read that right. And I plan to shed further light on this issue in 2013.
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