Let’s be honest here, I wish I could tell every new pet owner, or anyone even thinking about getting a pet a lot of things. And I guarantee most people wouldn’t like everything I have to say about it. But I promise, it comes from a place of love and passion for all creatures and a desire to strengthen the bond between human and pet.
First and foremost, I want everyone to understand the importance of researching the breed you are planning to adopt. It is vitally important to know the needs of the breed you want prior to bringing a new pet home. Some breeds, such as poodles, require a fair amount of grooming that can be time consuming and expensive. It is also important to choose a breed that’s activity level matches that of you/ your family. For example, a Husky would not be a good fit for someone that lives a more sedentary lifestyle, but would be a better fit for a family that enjoys hiking and other active pastimes. Before going to a breeder or to the shelter, or wherever you decide to get your new best friend, spend some time reading up on the breed you want.
Once you choose the right breed for you, it is important, no, essential, to socialize your new friend. Young animals are like sponges. They soak up a lot of information about their world. While your puppy or kitten is young and most impressionable, this is the best time to expose him or her to as much as possible and make those experiences as positive as possible. This is the time to expose them to other healthy animals, other people of all different ages, and new experiences. I encourage people to invite their friends over and have them give lots of treats and play to make a positive association with new people. It is also valuable to have “play dates” with your new baby and friends or family member’s pets that have healthy, fully vaccinated animals, so that appropriate play in leaned. I also recommend people to take their pets in the car regularly, and don’t just come to the clinic every time you put your pet in the car so they don’t associate car rides with coming to the vet. To make veterinary visits easier in the future, get your pet accustomed to handling his or her feet, opening the mouth, touching the ears, being restrained, and general handling.
What your new best friend is eating is vitally important to their health. Many pet food brands have fabulous marketing but sub-par nutrition. Only a few brands actually do the research and feeding trials to demonstrate that their diets are right for what they claim they are. These brands are superior to the boutique brands and the ever popular Blue Buffalo for the simple fact that they are scientifically proven with real evidence. These brands are Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina Pro Plan. While there are other decent diets out there, I (and most veterinarians) highly recommend sticking to a diet that has evidence to back it up. No matter the diet you select, please, for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT feed a grain free diet. Grain free foods have significant links to heart disease. Again, I recommend sticking to one of the Big 3: Royal Canin, Science Diet, or Purina Pro Plan.
Every single dog or cat, no matter their lifestyle, should be on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Even indoor kitties. Even dogs that only go outside to go potty. Even if you live in a gated community. Even if the dog you had when you were 12 never was on prevention and lived to be 16. Heartworm disease is a parasite that lives in the heart and the pulmonary arteries and is passed by mosquitos. Unfortunately, mosquitos are present in all fifty states, and are active in most states all year. This means Fluffy or Fido are at risk of contracting this parasite no matter the time of year or where you live. Heartworm disease is technically treatable in dogs, but your pocketbook and your fur baby would prefer prevention. In fact, you can pay for about 7 years of prevention for what it costs to treat an average sized dog for heartworm. Heartworm is rare in cats, but it is not treatable. Conveniently, heartworm prevention is very easy to give and well liked and tolerated by most pets. Pets should also be on a flea and tick preventative. Indoor pets can get fleas and ticks from other members of the household or their humans bringing them in on their pant legs. While fleas are fairly east to treat, they are unpleasant and take about 3 months to complete their lifecycle, making it a long process to treat and get out of your home.
While I recognize that good diets, prevention, and veterinary care can get expensive, they are well worth it in the long run when you have a happy, healthy best friend for as long as possible. Ultimately the goal of veterinary professionals is to ensure that your fur baby live a long and happy life. I am in this field for the outcome, not the income. Seeing a healthy patient make it to their 15th birthday makes my heart happy. Participating in life-saving care of a sick or injured animal is incredibly fulfilling for myself and many others in this field. I’m not getting rich by any means, but my heart is always full.