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Bringing home a new pet is often one of the easiest decisions to make. But becoming a pet owner is often a huge responsibility.
Taking care of a pet is not always a walk in the park—pun intended. Like dogs, some can get mischievous, peeing on a nice rug or gnawing at your new boots. But all this is to be expected. Plus, you will forgive them the second they flash their puppy eyes.
While it might be a worthwhile and rewarding experience to have a pet, there are some essential things that you should have in mind to ensure the wellbeing and safety of your little friend. Before you consider things like insurance for your pet (we’ll talk about that later), it's first essential to understand some vital pet ownership basics.
And with “Responsible Pet Owner” month (February) just around the corner, we thought it would be super helpful to share a list of the most important things a pet owner should know to keep their buddy happy and healthy.
In This Post:
- Pet-Proofing Your Home is Essential to the Safety of Your Pet
- Exotic Pets Will Require Specific Diets and Environments
- Keep a Close Eye on Your Pet's Diet
- Don't Blindly Follow the Serving Found on Most Pet-food Packages
- Consider Seeing a Veterinarian Whenever You Notice a Change in Your Pet's Behavior
- Booster Vaccine Shots Are Sometimes Necessary as Some Pet Vaccines Will Become Less Effective Over Time
- It's Generally Better to Invest in Preventative Healthcare Than Pay for Major Procedures
- Bad Breath Could Be a Symptom of Canine Dental Disease
- Instead of Telling Your Pet What Not to Do, Train Them to Engage in Proper Behaviors
- Declawing Your Cat Is Unnecessary and Is Often Considered Inhumane
- Cat Asthma Is Surprisingly Common and Can Look Like Nausea
- Socialize Your Pets to Keep Them Happy
- Final Thoughts
Pet-Proofing Your Home is Essential to the Safety of Your Pet
The idea behind it is quite similar to baby-proofing—to help ensure the safety of your pet. Ensure that your pet won't get its teeth around wires, remote controls, poisonous house plants, or shoes. Such basic household items might cause a severe hazard to your pet.
Owning a new pet is a lot like bringing a new child into your household. As such, you need to educate yourself on exactly what your pet needs and what it is and what is not appropriate for your pet's breed. You need to be sure not to leave things randomly lying around the floor anymore.
Be sure also to keep an emergency number nearby. Accidents happen, and no matter how effectively you pet-proof your home, there's the possibility of them discovering your leftover Halloween candy stash. Or perhaps your buddy comes down with a concerning limp or cough; you will want to act swiftly to protect them best. Knowing where your nearest emergency vet is could save their life.
Exotic Pets Will Require Specific Diets and Environments
Do your research and be realistic before you adopt an exotic pet. Adopting pets like reptiles or small mammals will require more than just a clean cage, water, and food. For instance, one of the most common reasons why reptiles get sick is because there's something wrong with their habitat. As such, it's usually much easier to fix the problem before it starts.
So, before you bring an exotic animal home, see an exotic vet. Ask them what supplies you need before bringing the pet home and what signs of distress you should be looking out for. They can make great recommendations in terms of habitat cleanliness, temperature, exercise, and diet.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Pet's Diet
It's quite common for both cats and dogs to easily become obese. As such, it's important to keep an eye on the food your pet eats and how much they weigh. Keep in mind that being obese can be quite devastating to your fur-child. While many people tend to overlook it by calling them cute names like “Fluffy” or “Chunky,” you're not doing them any favors.
Your pet will have a higher risk of diabetes, joint disease, heart disease, and even cancer in that state. Consider talking to your veterinarian once in a while about your pet's diet, exercise patterns, and eating habits (including treats). Of course, you should always try to keep your pets as active as possible.
Don't Blindly Follow the Serving Found on Most Pet-food Packages
According to Sara Ochoa, a professional Veterinarian and a Veterinary Consultant at DogLab, less is often more for pet food. The amount suggested on the back of the food bag is always too much. Aim to feed your pet a slightly lower amount than the suggested serving size on the bag of food.
Of course, this is unless you've received some special instruction from your pet's vet. However, in most cases, you are better off feeding your animal buddies slightly less than the serving size suggested by the manufacturer. This will go a long way and help avoid obesity.
Consider Seeing a Veterinarian Whenever You Notice a Change in Your Pet's Behavior
It might be tempting to use the internet to diagnose an apparent change in your pet's behavior. However, it would be best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out possible underlying medical issues that could be causing behavioral problems.
Don't assume anything. Some dog owners for instance, might believe that behavior change is related to food allergies. However, it's more likely for dogs to be allergic to other things in their environment. Plus, by abruptly changing your pup's diet, you could upset their stomach and worsen the situation.
Don't wait for too long, and don't depend on internet searches. Until there comes a time when you can use the internet to do tests on your pet's blood or heart online, seeing a veterinarian is most often the right thing to do. Taking a pet to the vet just because of a change in behavior might sound a little weird at first. With the right type of pet insurance, you wouldn’t have to choose between your budget and Fido’s health. Simply find a plan that includes the option of regular checkups.
Booster Vaccine Shots Are Sometimes Necessary as Some Pet Vaccines Will Become Less Effective Over Time
While many pet owners realize the importance of vaccines, some believe that a single shot will be enough to give their buddy a lifelong immunity to disease. In reality however, most vaccines will need to be followed by booster shots for them to be lastingly effective.
Therefore, you mustn't make the mistake of assuming that your new pet is protected just because they got vaccinated that one time. You should ideally keep track of your pet's medical records and regularly ask the vet if your pet needs booster vaccinations.
It's Generally Better to Invest in Preventative Healthcare Than Pay for Major Procedures
While some pet owners will balk at the cost of annual vet appointments, preventative care will generally be more financially savvy in the long run. Many pet owners will try saving money by skipping yearly checkups and other preventive treatments.
However, you should know that it will be much more cost-effective for you to keep up on regular vaccinations and ensure everything is okay health-wise, rather than risk having your pet infected and spending hundreds of dollars on treating the disease or condition.
Bad Breath Could Be a Symptom of Canine Dental Disease
When you notice a bad breath from your dog, you should always have it checked by a professional. Also known as halitosis, bad breath could mean your pet is suffering from dental disease, which your veterinarian can quickly address.
Dental disease is usually treated with antibiotics, dental radiographs, anti-inflammatories, and polishing or scaling their teeth under anesthesia. It's also important to note that you should avoid giving your pet breath mints or use toothpaste meant for humans. Many breath fresheners include a sweetener called xylitol, which is toxic to animals.
Instead of Telling Your Pet What Not to Do, Train Them to Engage in Proper Behaviors
It's easy for most pet owners to forget that pets won't understand things as humans do. It's helpful to guide your pet to the proper actions, especially if they do something you want to discourage.
For instance, if your dog likes chewing on something inappropriate, such as a piece of furniture, your first reaction will likely be telling them to stop. They could then stop for a short while and then get back to the same behavior. The same goes for cats and scratching on everything they can.
This happens because you just told them what not to do, rather than direct them to something else they could do. In this example, the appropriate action would have been giving them something that they are allowed to chew. Be careful of all bones you give, that they are size appropriate as some can chunk apart and cause digestive issues.
Declawing Your Cat Is Unnecessary and Is Often Considered Inhumane
Just don’t—it’s like amputating the first digit from all of your hands.
No matter how you slice it, a declaw is a form of amputation. Declawing is nearly amputating the end section of the last one that contains the growth plate in the nail. It's a procedure that veterinarians know may cause long-term pain, including phantom pain.
Additionally, the Humane Society usually advises against removing the claws of a cat. Many countries worldwide, along with some states and cities in the U.S., such as New York, have illegalized declawing cats.
Cat Asthma Is Surprisingly Common and Can Look Like Nausea
In case you notice your cat frequently acts like it's going to vomit, and nothing ever comes out, you might want to take it to your vet for a respiratory checkup. Suppose your cat seems to be vomiting while its neck is stretched out and nothing is produced. In that case, you should consider asking your veterinarian to assess your cat for lower airway disease.
In most cases, the diseases that cause this behavior, such as feline asthma, can be managed with particular medication or treatment.
Socialize Your Pets to Keep Them Happy
Like humans, most pets enjoy getting out and playing with other animals and as such, socializing them is so important. Many people have a busy schedule, and it can be easy to forget that pets stay home the whole day.
If you have a dog, while walking your dog in the morning or night may help, socializing them with other animals will help them grow mentally and physically. Consider dropping your dog off at a convenient daycare location a few times a week or schedule a playdate with a colleague or friend who owns a dog.
Suppose you have a social cat and you are prepared to adopt more pets. In that case, you might consider adopting another feline friend for it to socialize with throughout the day, but there are some things you should know about how to get a new cat acquainted.
When introducing a new cat to the household, keep it initially separated in a spare room or a bathroom with food, water, and litter. A new cat will like a space that is comfortable to get used to, and the other(s) will get used to the smell. Slowly introduce the cats first through the door and let them get each other’s scent. Treats for every cat is a good addition here. Lastly, while supervised, allow them to become introduced. This may take some time, but you need to remember that cats are extremely territorial.
There you have it – some of the most important things you should know as a pet owner. Keep in mind, I’ve really just scratched the surface here, so depending on the type of pet you own or want to own, you’ll want to do a bit more research to ensure they’re safe, happy, and healthy.