START THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT! Just a few minutes a day can help ward off illness and keep Fluffy and Fido happy and healthy all year long.

FIDO: Hey, Fluff, what’s going on?

FLUFFY: Hi, Fido, I’m busy putting together some wellness tips for pet parents.

FIDO: That’s a good idea. What made you think of it?

FLUFFY: Well, it’s the new year. I figure people are making resolutions, so they might as well make some about us.

FIDO: Good thinking, Fluff! Are you finished yet? Let’s take it over to Meryl so she can send it out for us.

FLUFFY: Okey doke, Fido, let’s go!

…And so they did. In today’s busy world it’s sometimes hard to stay on top of all we have to do. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll know that your Fluffy and Fido are well taken care of, no matter how crazy life gets.


Put out clean water. Sometimes it looks clean, and we’re tempted to leave it for another day. Instead, make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. In less time than that takes, you can clean the bowl and put out some sparkling new water. (And while you’re at it, clean the food bowls, too. You know, instead of putting the new food down over the old. Your Fluffy and/or Fido will really love you now!)


Have a petting session. Petting does more than feel good. It keeps you familiar with your pet’s body, and so you’ll notice small changes more quickly. Investigate any unfamiliar lumps or bumps, and pay attention to new behaviors. If your pet winces or pulls away from a touch she used to welcome, it’s a signal that something may be wrong. And use your nose, too. Nothing on your pet, even her cute little butt, should smell gross. Check it out if it does.

Work out. Your pet needs exercise as much as you do. A few minutes of play each day will be fun for both of you.

Don’t forget the pee and poop. We can’t stress this one enough. Pets are brilliant at covering pain or illness. Sometimes the only sign is a change in pee or poop – habits, texture, color or odor. Paying attention here will yield lots of benefits.


Brush your baby’s teeth. This may be a bit intimidating at first, but it’s really important. Decayed teeth and infected gums are not only painful (and expensive to fix!) but they can lead to systemic illnesses, such as heart or kidney disease. Here’s the good news. Pets usually love the taste of the toothpaste. (Never use human toothpaste, which contains a chemical that’s harmful to them. Your pet store will have a selection of safe options for you to choose from.) To get Fluffy or Fido used to the brushing, first introduce them to the toothpaste. Using your index finger, rub the toothpaste on your pet’s teeth, starting in the back and working your way forward. After a few days, he’ll be used to your finger in his mouth, and will be looking forward to his treat. At that point, you can introduce the toothbrush. Again, check with your pet store for animal friendly products.
Wash. If your pet has his favorite towels, rugs, mats, pillows, robes…well, you get the idea. Grab them all up and give them a good wash once a week. As with grooming, this will keep your house cleaner and may help with any allergies. And, really, we don’t like to sleep on rumpled old sheets, so why would our Fluffy?

Groom. Even cats, who are wonderfully expert at cleaning themselves, need help with grooming once in a while. Regular grooming for both cats and dogs helps to keep your home cleaner, may help cut down on allergies, and definitely reduces hairballs. You can incorporate the grooming into a petting session, and don’t forget to check the paws to see if her nails need to be clipped.


Remember parasite control. This is important whether you’ve got a cat or a dog, indoor or outdoor. It’s hard to keep your home completely parasite free; they can enter with a visitor, or even hitch a ride with you. If you’re opposed to chemical parasite control, ask your vet about natural products.



Visit your vet. This one’s easy to put off, especially when we’re not seeing any signs of trouble, but that’s not a good idea. The better your vet knows your baby, the more likely he or she is to spot problems early. So look at the big picture when scheduling, and plan your annual visit for a time when you know the odds are good you’ll be able to keep the appointment. In other words, don’t even try to go between Thanksgiving and New Years, or the week before your wedding, or just before you leave for vacation or start a new job.

Most veterinarians recommend twice yearly visits for senior pets eight years or older.

Follow these guidelines and your pet will be healthy and happy all year long!

We hope you enjoyed these tips, and that you learned something, too! We’d love to hear from you, so please send your ideas to


Meryl Schwarz, M.A., M.Ed., is an animal lover and Certified Professional Coach specializing in grief support for people grieving their beloved animals. Whether you’re grieving a terminal diagnosis, the normal aging process, a disappearance or a death, Meryl offers compassionate and caring support with the wisdom of experience. Visit her website at to schedule an appointment by Skype or phone.