‘Give them a lifetime of love’

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This week is National Pet Week — always the first full week in May — as designated by the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA.

The AVMA is the organization almost all practicing veterinarians belong to. We take this time to celebrate pet ownership and the love we have for our pets, and recognize the ways we can thank those special animals for being a part of our lives.

“Give them a Lifetime of Love” is the theme of this year’s events, and the AVMA has chosen to highlight a different topic each day of the week.

They are sponsoring activities for teachers and pet owners on their website; there are activities for the classroom, and answers to common questions about pet care as well as how to choose a veterinarian, for pet owners.

At this time the AVMA sponsors both a poster and writing contest to highlight next year’s theme, and the winner will have national recognition and a cash prize. The deadline is June 14.

A lifetime of love is a commitment. Veterinarians first advise choosing a pet for your lifestyle wisely. Maybe a senior or an apartment dweller should select a smaller pet, not a large one that needs a lot of exercise and could topple you over with a tug of the leash.

Socialize your pet to make you and your friends more comfortable with them in every situation. Taking your dog to school is fun, and could stimulate some new interests on your part.

It is estimated that over 50 percent of dogs and cats are overweight! This has been proven over and over to shorten their lifespan and your vet does not want to treat your pet for diabetes. We must be conscious of the need for exercise and calorie counting at treat and meal time.

Preventive care is a cornerstone of health-regular checkups, vaccines, deworming, heartworm prevention and dental care can eliminate some health concerns. The bonus is that a checkup might identify a problem while it is still treatable.

The human animal bond, as we call it, has amazing benefits to us humans from lowering stress levels and blood pressure to ensuring that we stay active and engaged, even when we live alone. It is almost ingrained in our DNA to have this relationship with animals.

To protect your pet, have contact numbers handy in the event of an emergency, and prepare a list of things to have ready to go in the event that you need to evacuate your home with or even without your pet. (if you need help with your list please reach out to your vet, or visit the National Pet Week/AVMA website, which has put a lot of thought into emergency evacuation especially after Hurricane Katrina).

Lastly, plan for your pets’ well-being as they age, recognizing that they may need medication or more help with mobility and that their care could be more expensive. Plan for your pets’ care as you age and identify caretakers for them in the event you can no longer keep them.

Interestingly, more and more hospice facilities and long-term care facilities are allowing pets to visit their loved ones to cheer them up and give them joy. That’s ultimately why we make them a part of our family after all.

Your veterinarian may be sponsoring some activities as we come together to celebrate National Pet Week. We are all your partners in pet health.

Dr. Janet Batker is a veterinarian at Lillington Veterinary Hospital.

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