Oh, how I enjoy New Years! It’s a fresh beginning. We can think, “Oh thank Heaven that 2012 is over!” or “Maybe I meant to ______ last year, but it’s a brand new year. This year I will do it!” Our critters don’t recognize the turning of the calendar page, but we do. We can make small changes in our lives for our own health and for our pets’ health. I once heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit. I thought I might suggest a few very minor habits that you might start this New Years if you haven’t already cemented them into your diabetic pet’s routine.

Take your dog for a walk! We know that exercise helps glucose regulation for both pets and humans. Heck, a daily walk is good for our own health, too. Sometimes people without pets may consider taking a walk and then opt for the lazy alternative of plopping down on the couch and channel surf instead. If you have a dog expecting a walk (which will happen if you make it part of your routine), it’s harder to be that couch potato. Cats aren’t likely to go for a walk, but might sincerely enjoy some laser light play time or chasing a cat toy on a string. My cats know the drawer where the laser light resides. There is magic in that drawer! Each January I expect crowds at the gym where I work out. I call it the New Year’s Resolutions Crowd, looking spiffy in their new work out gear. If you walk that dog for the first 21 days of January perhaps you will outlast the folks that briefly crowd my gym each New Year!

Measure your pet’s portions. Consistency is key to good diabetic regulation for pets. It’s easier to just dip the dog bowl into the bag or pet food container than to measure accurately the amount of food fed to your pet. Diabetic cat owners typically have a better idea of portions fed than diabetic dog owners since most diabetic cats are on canned food (which we prefer for diabetic cats due to the low carb content of canned food). Perhaps it is ½ a can or ¾ of a can. It’s as visual as the ol’ pie chart. Put a measuring cup in the pet food container and know how much you feed your pet each meal. If you happen to give your dog an extra treat or two that day, back off slightly from the portion of kibble fed.

Aim for better consistency with the timing insulin injections. Who hasn’t gotten stuck late at work or been delayed getting home due to errands. Make friends with your neighbors. Have their phone numbers in your cell phone contact list and if safe and appropriate give them a key to your home. If you know you have bowling night every Tuesday, ask a neighbor to come give your pet the meal and insulin injection. I love living in a small town. My neighborhood has a strong sense of community that often started with the pets since I am a veterinarian. I’ve lost count on the courtesy nail trims I’ve performed on neighbor dogs on my front porch. In exchange, if I must go away for a night, I can count on my neighbors to come take care of my pets.

It’s a bright and shiny New Year! Let’s make the most of it. Even small changes can make a big impact on your pet’s health. We at ADW wish you a wonderful New Year!

NOTE: Consult your Veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.