Here's a list of resolutions that you don't have to wait for the new year to begin.
I will have my pet spayed or neutered.
"A happy, healthy pet has a longer life and is a much better family member when it is spayed and neutered," says Dr. Marta Lista, president of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association. "It is an economical, one-time expense that lasts a lifetime and helps with the millions of animals we euthanize yearly in this country.
"I will provide appropriate and consistent health care for my pet's age and conditions.
"Make sure your pet sees a veterinarian at least once a year," says Susan Nelson, assistant professor at Kansas State University's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "This includes keeping its vaccines up-to-date and checking for dental health, lumps and bumps, heart murmurs and other things an owner may not notice at home."
Establish a relationship with your veterinarian and communicate regularly. And don't hesitate to switch vets if your current one doesn't meet your expectations.
I will administer heartworm medication and flea prevention on a regular basis.
Year-round flea prevention medication keeps pests from bugging your pet. Heartworm prevention can save its life.
I will start my pet on a proper diet for his age or medical condition.
"One of the great developments in animal nutrition is that we have great foods for different stages of life and medical conditions. The new year is a good opportunity to find a diet that works for your pet and stick with it," Lista says.
"Trim the fat. Treats do not equal love," Nelson says. Veterinarians advise you do the rib test. Run you fingers over your pet's ribs with light pressure. You should be able to feel the ribs. If not, it's time to put Dexter on a diet.
I will pay attention to my pet's hygiene and learn to groom him for good health.
Learn how to brush your pet's teeth and clip its toenails."Minor grooming procedures can be done at home where it is less stressful. You may also discover lumps or bumps that need to be checked by your veterinarian. This is a great way to prevent problems later down the road," Lista says.
Part of keeping animals healthy and clean means scooping your cat's litter box daily and changing the litter once a week.
Also, wash your pet's toys regularly and make sure they're in good condition. If your dog chews a toy all the way to the squeaky treat in the center, it's time to bid that toy farewell.
I will exercise and play with my pet more.
Pay attention to your pets. Without attention, they get bored and may become destructive.
"Our pets are part of our family," Lista says. "Carve out a small amount of time with them each day or a dedicated time each week."
I will enroll in a basic training class and socialize my pet to other pets and people.
If you have a puppy, take it to socialization classes so it becomes used to other animals and people. If you have an older pet with a behavior problem, seek out help from experts to work toward a solution.
I will remember Hurricane Katrina.
Get some sort of pet identification tag or microchip. Make sure to update the information if you move or change phone numbers. Thousands of pets die every year in shelters because their owners can't be found.
Take a current photograph that shows identifying marks just in case a pet gets lost.
In general, try not to let your pets roam free. Keep them on a leash or in a fenced yard.
You should also update your emergency contact numbers such as shelters, veterinarian, emergency pet sitters, kennels and pet-friendly lodging in case of an evacuation or other emergency.
I will pet-proof my house.
Keep poisons in locked cabinets, poisonous plants and electrical cords out of reach and don't leave strings or ribbons around for curious cats to swallow.
I will donate time to a local animal welfare group.
Both your time and your money are needed at the local shelters and humane groups in your city. You may be surprised what your talents can do for these organizations that need your help.
I will certify my pet as a therapy animal.
"Pets increase life span, help speed recovery by patients young and old and are a great moral booster to people in various psychiatric and medical treatment programs," Lista says. If your pet is especially social, patient and people-oriented, then he might be a good therapy animal. Contact your local humane group and they can direct you to a good resource.
With a little patience, it's easy to keep these resolutions. And you'll be rewarded with the greatest gifts of all -- lots of purring and kisses from your healthy, happy pet pals.