Are you making some resolutions for yourself this time of year? Make a few for your dog, too! Whether your pup needs to lose weight or just have a healthier 2021, Dr. Courtney Campbell is here to help.

dog catching stick outside mid-air
Aim for a minimum of two 15-minute walks per day for proper pup health.
| Credit: Boris Jovanovic/Stocksy

From the vet office of Dr. Courtney Campbell

Check in With a Checkup

When was the last time your dog had a checkup at the vet? "Dogs should be examined at least once a year," says Campbell. "As your pet grows older, twice-annual (or more frequent) physical exams may be recommended." These visits are key for detecting diseases early, preventing parasites, and maintaining your dog's general health and wellness. And it's important to keep this schedule, even if your dog seems fine. Skip them and you could miss some early warning signs or fall behind on vaccinations and meds. 

Help Him Get Moving

"Obesity can shorten pets' lives, making them predisposed to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, constipation, and more," Campbell warns. "In my opinion, every dog should be able to do a 15- to 20-minute walk twice a day comfortably." If your dog is out of shape and can't walk for that long (you'll know by his heavy panting or if he simply plops himself down on the pavement and refuses to go any farther), Campbell suggests you start with 10-minute spurts and work up from there: "Slowly build up your speed and distance as you both feel more comfortable."

Reevaluate His Diet

If your pup has increased his snacking during quarantine, watch out: Treats shouldn't constitute more than 10 percent of a dog's diet; any more can throw off the nutritional balance, Campbell says. As for your furry friend's main food, Campbell points out that "most diets are formulated for dogs who have a moderate to high energy output." If you feed your pup based on the package directions and he is less active, some of that food will be stored in the form of fat. Talk to your vet about diet at your dog's annual checkup. 

Freshen His Pearly Whites

You need to brush your dog's teeth way more often than you'd think. Namely every day. It's the best way to prevent dental disease, inflammation, infection, bad breath, and more. To get him used to it, Campbell suggests putting a dab of veterinary toothpaste (not the human stuff) on your finger and letting your dog sniff and lick it. Then try some toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush. "Hold it at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface and try for 15 seconds on each side." If things aren't going well (read: if Fido hates it), wait a few hours and try again.

If your pup has increased his snacking during quarantine, watch out: treats shouldn't constitute more than 10 percent of a dog's diet.

Challenge His Mind

Your dog can't exactly start doing the weekly crossword, but he does need mental stimulation—especially if he's been used to having you around during quarantine and you're getting ready to head back to the office. Campbell says those long walks will help keep your pup's mind sharp. He also suggests treat-dispensing puzzle toys (which you can find at pet stores), dog-specific TV channels or podcasts (like My Dog's Favourite Podcast), puppy playdates, new tricks, and even new smells (give him, say, a paper shopping bag or a family member's favorite tee-shirt to sniff) for an added brain boost. 

This article originally appeared in our Winter/Spring 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.