Eight Resolutions for the Austin Pet Parent
1. Double check your pet's protein levels.Go grab a bag of your pet's food, and check the first ingredient. Is it a named protein (i.e. chicken, beef, fish versus 'meat meal' or corn)? Dogs and cats are both carnivores, and thrive on a sufficient amount of whole proteins. Unless your pet requires a special diet, look for dog foods with a guaranteed analysis of at least 25% min. protein, and cat foods with a minimum of 35% min. protein.
2.Meet new friendsWe've been blessed with so many great dog parks in Central Texas. Some of our favorites include the Cedar Park Bark Park, Round Rock Dog Park, Red Bud Isle, Zilker (of course), and the upcoming Yard Bar. Once a month, load up the pup and check out a new local dog park. Make friends with other dogs and pet parents around town. Before you go, be sure your dog is friendly and fully vaccinated, and read up on off-leash area rules.
3. Return to nutritional natureDogs and cats are carnivores. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores: they thrive on protein, but can survive on plant foods when meat is scarce. Cats are obligate carnivores: they require animal proteins to survive (or otherwise be supplemented with the amino acid, taurine.) Take a second look at the ingredients in your pet's food. Does it support their dietary needs as nature dictates, with whole meats toward the top and healthy produce as a natural source of other nutrients? Does it contain anything not found in nature, like ethoxyquin, BHT, artificial flavors or coloring? If so, make 2015 the year you fall in love with a new, healthy pet food. Pack up your pets and come see us--we'll help you find the perfect food (and probably sneak your fur baby several samples in the process). Get out there and walk a shelter dog!
4. Share your loveCentral Texas is filled with so many incredible rescue organizations and animal shelters who are always in need of support. And with so many pets in their care, there is often not enough manpower to walk every dog. In fact, between 30-100 dogs per day don't get out of their kennels when Austin Animal Center is at maximum capacity. Once per quarter, visit a local shelter like Austin Animal Center or Austin Pets Alive and show these shelter pets some love. Take them for a walk, play with them, or teach them some tricks. Dogs Out Loud provides some helpful details on how to volunteer at AAC. Or, take a shelter dog from APA for a jog around Lady Bird Lake with RuffTail Runners.
5. Get out ahead of potential illsIs your pet getting a little pudgy, growing from a puppy to adult, or gliding into his golden years? Step back and take a big picture view of your pet's life and health, and prepare for any big transitions. For example, if you have a large breed dog turning five years old, consider adding glucosamine supplements to his diet to support his joints. Or if you have an aging cat, cut out any unnecessary carb sources while keeping protein levels high to avoid weight gain as her activity level decreases. Turn off the TV and take a few minutes each evening to teach a new trick.
6. Exercise his brainBrain stimulation is critical throughout your pet's life. It helps puppies develop and keep senior dogs sharp. Choose one trick each month to work on with your pet for five minutes per day. Your pet doesn't have to learn each one perfectly to reap the benefits. Just the act of learning is great brain exercise, and an excellent way to bond with your pet. Or, engage their brains by hiding portions of food around the house. This makes them work for meal time, and plays to their natural instincts as hunters.
7. Try new thingsHas your pet ever tasted elk antlers, raw food, or Chicken Chips? We are constantly blown away by all of the new, healthy stuff hitting the shelves. Like raw goats milk with turmeric for a probiotic boost, canned tripe with prebiotics (for the raw milk's probiotics), or a whole dried salmon skin for immediate drooling and happy dancing. Every other visit, take home one small thing your pet has never tried before to see if you find any new favorites.
8. If you haven't yet, get microchipped.'Micro-chipping' is a quick, simple process that can be done in five minutes at your vet: your contact info is simply stored on a rice-sized microchip which is inserted just under your pet's skin between his shoulder blades. Should your pet ever go missing without his collar, local animal shelters can painlessly scan for the microchip and contact you immediately. Micro-chipping is inexpensive (usually less than $20), and so important. Hopefully you'll never need it, but better safe than sorry. Already have your own resolutions as a pet parent? We want to hear 'em! Share with us in the comments below, or on Facebook!
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