Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pet Advice for 2010

I have pets. I adore my pets. In the past, I have been a poor pet parent, but now I like to think that I am an excellent pet parent. Having recently read the annual complaints from vets about people getting pets for their children for xmas, most of which end up surrendered or abandoned or even abused, neglected, or killed, I want to list a few pointers for potential pet owners.

1) If you are getting a pet for your children, don't. Just don't. Feel free to get yourself a pet, but don't count on your kids, no matter how old they are, to take proper care of a pet.

2) If you are not home during the day and can't come home a couple of times during work hours, adopt an older, already house-trained dog, or make sure you have at least a few days home to crate-train your new puppy. Your new puppy WILL poop and pee in the house. Your new puppy WILL destroy shoes, clothes, and furniture. Cats and kittens sometimes do NOT automatically know how to use a litter-box. Keep these things in mind. This is NOT a flaw in your pet, but is perfectly normal. Be prepared!

3) SPAY or NEUTER! Intact dogs and cats not only become pregnant at inconvenient times and fight over females in heat, but they also have high chances to develop cancers later in life. Your male pet doesn't care if he has no testicles. This does not make him less of a MAN. If your manhood is tied to your male pet's testicles, you probably shouldn't have a pet, but should invest in some therapy for yourself. Your female pet does NOT need to go through her first heat before being spayed. Check with your vet about when you can have your pet neutered. You do NOT have to wait until they are six months old in most cases.

4) VACCINATE! Rabies, fortunately, is pretty much under control here in the US, mostly due to laws requiring vaccination. But don't stop there. I have seen puppies with Parvo. It is a sad and ugly sight. These puppies die from dehydration and organ failure after bleeding from every orifice, sometimes for days. Parvo is very highly contagious and if you have a pet with Parvo, you will have to decontaminate your entire home and yard if you want to try again after your pet dies. When you get your annual exam and rabies vax, be sure to get the DHPPC vax, which covers distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and corona virus. If you plan to board your pet or it is exposed to strays or other pets with unknown health histories, think about also getting the Bordatella (aka Kennel Cough)and Giardia vax. Sometimes this is included in the DHPPC - ask your vet. For cats, vax to consider include those against Feline Leukemia, Feline Distemper, Calicivirus, and Rhinotracheitis. If your cat goes outside (DON'T! See below!) vax against Giardia is a must unless you enjoy diarrhea-filled litter-boxes and watching your cat suffer. You and your family will also enjoy diarrhea and suffering when your cat shares this disease with you.

5) If you do not have a few hundred bucks to set aside annually for health issues involving your pets, DON'T GET A PET. My kids are cheaper than my pets at the doctor's office. This is serious! You will need at least $50 per year per pet, just for vaccines and annual exams. For dogs who need heartworm/flea medications, you will need at least $150 per year. As your pet ages, health care becomes even more frequent and expensive. If something terrible happens, and your pet develops a serious health condition or a life-threatening injury occurs, you will need a minimum of $100.00, just to have your pet euthanized. This does not include disposal or cremation.

6) Keep your pet clean and well-groomed. If you don't have time or the inclination to groom your medium or long-haired pet or to pay a groomer to do it, don't get a hairy pet! Short-haired pets are much easier and cheaper to bathe and groom. My 20 lb. long-haired dog costs us $65 every other month for grooming and I have to brush her every other day to prevent matting. Keeping your pet's teeth clean is very important as well. Imagine not brushing your teeth EVER. Nasty teeth lead to pain, and eventually, organ damage and death. Your vet can clean your pet's teeth professionally, like your dental hygienist does for you. This is very expensive, since your pet will have to be anesthetized for the procedure.

7) Shelter, feed and water your pet appropriately. Fresh water must be available all day, every day. If your pet stays outside, you MUST provide proper shelter, from wind and cold in winter and from heat and rain in summer. Just because your pet has fur does NOT mean it can keep itself warm in winter. In summer, pets get heatstroke just like people do. When feeding dogs, I recommend twice or thrice a day feedings based on your dog's size/weight. There are charts on all bags of dog food that tell you how much to feed daily. Do NOT feed your pets leftover human food. This is just asking for weight problems and expensive health issues. I feed Science Diet, but I am confident that even the cheapest dry food will be fine for your pet as long as you don't over or under feed. Be wary of paying extra for "anti-oxidants" or "probiotics" as these have not even been clinically proven to benefit humans in any measurable way, much less pets, and they tend to make foods very expensive.

8) Don't let your cats outside! Your cat does NOT NEED to be outside. Your cat is a domesticated animal, not a lion living in the Serengeti. It will be perfectly content in the house. Like with feeding human food, letting your cat roam outside is asking for expensive health issues, including fatal diseases such as feline leukemia or FIV (the cat equivalent of HIV), not to mention parasites it can pass along to you and your household.

9) Be sure you will have time to spend with your pet. Daily walks, playing with toys, just petting and talking - all of these are requirements for a happy pet. If you don't want to spend time with your pet, why get one?

10) Train your dog! This is especially important when there are other pets or children in the home. Untrained and/or unsocialized pets cause many injuries every year. There are many, many resources for training and socializing your dog, including on the internet. Proper training and socialization can be the difference between life and death if something happens to you and your dog has to find a new home. Rover doesn't need to know how to roll over and play dead, but he does need to know how to walk on a leash, how to let someone grab his food bowl while he's eating, how to come back to you when you call, how to drop your dirty underwear when you want it back, how to play with other dogs, cats, and children, and how to stay off your family members and guests.

11) When it is time, let your pet go with dignity. Don't let your cat or dog suffer needlessly when we have ways to make their passings easy and painless. This is something we cannot do for our human loved ones. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it hurts. But be there for your friend at the end. Imagine the difference between dying in pain, alone, and dying by falling asleep in the arms of the person you love the most, with his or her voice in your ears as you go, telling you how good you have been. Which would you choose?

Many more things will probably come to mind after this post. But that's all for now.

1 comment:

Nowruz said...

Sorry for a log time absence. Though I do not have much time to debate but now and then I will return to your blog and read your posts. I like to know your ideas about some topics, so I appreciate it if you answer my questions.
I have a question: why we have come to the world? To eat, drink, achieve our wishes, etc.? Just these goals can be imagined for mankind?