The start of a new year is often marked by the promises we make to ourselves. Whether it’s eating better, hitting the gym more often, or simply being more mindful, the resolutions often share a common denominator: improving life.
This year, why not include your four-legged family member and strive for some pet-positive resolutions?
Here are six that will make 2017 your pet’s year the happiest and healthiest yet.
1. Ditch the plastic
Tonnes of pet products made from non-renewable plastics end up being trashed in the landfill each year and can also be a danger to the health of you and your pet. Inexpensive toys, beds, feeding dishes, and clothes can contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chemical classified as a human carcinogen and a danger to animal health by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
For feeding bowls, opt for stainless steel. Look for toys and products made from natural and sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, untreated wood, and wicker. Canvas and natural rubber are also sustainable and tough.
Plastic chew toys are great to keep pups entertained and occupied, but they quickly end up in the trash too. And plasticy products like Nylabone can create dangerous intestinal blockages if large pieces are ingested.
Opt for a tougher and longer-lasting “green” chew. Made from natural rubber, Kongs are a great eco-friendly solution for even the heartiest chewers. Antlers are another eco-friendly chew. Unlike rawhides that are frequently sprayed with chemicals like arsenic and formaldehyde during production, antlers are naturally-shed from animals like deer and elk, and are free of preservatives and additives. They also give your dog’s teeth a great cleaning: as your pup grinds down the antler to get more marrow, it massages their gums and cracks away plaque and tartar.
2. Make healthier food choices
It’s not just hoomans watching what’s going onto their plates in the new year. Start 2017 off right by eliminating less than desirable ingredients from your pet’s menu.
Many brands of pet food, especially cheaper brands, actually contain rendered meat, ground up animal bones, fat and skin, preservatives, and artificial colours and flavours. This year, opt for pet food offerings free of artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives.
Bonus: Source from local companies, and you’re also lowering transportation carbon emissions and supporting a local business. Look for treats made with limited ingredients, like dehydrated salmon, turkey and shrimp, and grain-free treats sourced from local BC meats.
3. Get proper ID
Nearly a million Canadian pets get separated from their families each year but sadly only a fraction are happily reunited. One major culprit is the fact many pets don’t have identification to link them back to their owner. There are cheap and easy ways to increase those odds. First, get ID tags for your pet’s collar with your up-to-date phone number. Next, register and license your animal. Vancouver legally requires a license, and it must be renewed annually. It costs $41 per year.
A permanent method of pet identification is microchipping – a simple and relatively painless procedure that typically costs between $25 and $50. The chip, which can also record important medical history and information, like allergies or medications, can be read by a scanner at a vet’s office or shelter.
Finally, register your pet online at BCPetRegistry.com, a province-wide pet identification database that helps links missing pets back to their anxious owners. Note: it’s important to keep your personal information like your phone number and home address updated with the site and your veterinarian, otherwise it’s useless.
4. Try a new exercise
Just like we get stuck in a rut sometimes when it comes to exercise, our pets do too. Pledge to try out a new activity with your pet in 2017. Never taken your pup to dog daycare? Try out a spot in your neighbourhood to let your pooch socialize. Most facilities offer the first day for free, or a discounted trial rate. If your dog is more high energy, enlist a dog walker or dog hiking service to pick up Fido at home and take them out to stretch their legs.
If you’re into exploring the great outdoors, plan a dog-friendly trip you can enjoy together. Pick a hike or trail that welcomes pups, or bust out your snowshoes and hit a local mountain. You’ll get a great workout too — and it’s great bonding time.
5. Stop lugging giant bags of food and litter!
How many times have you found yourself lugging huge bags of kibble, kitty litter, or endless tins of food from the pet store and thought to yourself, this is actually the worst? Well, you don’t have to. Skip the trips to the pet store in 2017 and sign up for a pet food delivery service.
SPUD and Naturally Urban Pet Food Delivery offer drop-off service in the Vancouver area and North Shore, and you can do all your shopping on your computer or smartphone and arrange a delivery time that works for you. Both are free delivery with minimum spends, and have prices competitive with big box pet stores.
The services have built their brands with a focus on sustainability and wellness when it comes to the foods they choose, so it also takes the guesswork out of choosing the right healthy food for your cat or dog.
6. Go green for grooming
The chemicals, synthetic colours and fragrances added to most dog shampoos, conditioners and grooming products can contain pesticides and suspected carcinogens. These can cause major skin irritation for your pup, including redness, painful hot spots, itchiness, and rashes. These chemicals also hurt local waterways when they’re flushed down the drain.
Seek out formulations that are biodegradable, free of parabens and synthetic fragrances, and use organic ingredients wherever possible. Avoid what I call the “foul four’: DEA (diethanolamine), SLS (sodium laureth), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), and synthetic colours and fragrances.
To try: Vancouver’s Black Sheep Organics makes a lovely line of naturally-scented products that work hard without putting your pet’s health — and the environment — at risk.