Choosing a Pet: Healthy Pet/Happy Pet 11

Article Series for Dunes Living Magazine
Dr. Amanda Thomas

Let’s consider why people choose the pets they do, and what some of the recommendations are for picking the “right” pet for your family. Whether it will be a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a hamster, a reptile, or a bird, you should know as much as you can about that particular species and what their daily, weekly, monthly, and annual requirements will be before making a decision. The more informed you are the better the outcome will be for you, and for your new pet.

Rescue organizations, shelters, and humane societies should be your first choice for finding a companion animal. This pet will become a significant and major part of your life and family for years to come.
Animal shelters in the U.S. currently care for about 6-8 million animals, half of which will be euthanized every year, so about 3-4 million pets will not be adopted. We need to do everything we can to support these organizations and save the lives of these animals.
If you adopt a dog or a cat, think about the 10-15 year commitment you are making. If it’s a large reptile or a bird, think about who you will be leaving him to in your will….

• Your Health –
o Are you physically able to walk your dog every day, or take him to the dog park on a regular basis?
o Dogs require exercise – it is not an option for them
o Cats can live indoors but require litter box cleaning twice a day

• Your Family –
o Do you have small children?
o Are there elderly people in your home?
o Does any family member have allergies?
o Do you travel for work?
o Is there anyone home during the day?

• Your Commitment
o Are you willing to spend at least an hour a day with your new pet, training, teaching and helping him to learn what you want him to do in this new home, with this new family?
o Are you willing to set aside other things to provide a good quality of life and a loving home for this pet?
o Are you willing to change your routine (and your life) for this pet?

• Your Budget: the cost of adoption is minimal compared to the long term expenses associated with owning a pet, which include:
o renting or owning a home that will always allow your pets
o the cost of regular veterinary care, vaccinations, emergencies
o quality food, bedding, toys, parasite control, pet-sitting/boarding
o Training and Obedience class… maybe more than once.
o Special housing and supplies if your pet is a small mammal, reptile or bird

• Dog, Cat or another type of Pet
o Is the animal young or old? What is their life expectancy?
o How much exercise will this pet need?
o What are their veterinary needs?
o Are you willing to provide the maintenance necessary for this pet
(ie: cleaning litter boxes every day, feeding, fresh water)
o Do you have appropriate/safe living conditions at home for this pet
(ie: a yard, a secure fence, a safe neighborhood)

Young children will fare better with larger more mature dogs over puppies and toy breeds. Puppies with sharp teeth can unintentionally injure a child or an elderly person, which can make the pet feared rather than loved.
Toy breeds are very sensitive to touch and don’t respond well to rough or clumsy handling.
Vigorous big dogs may be too rambunctious for elderly people who might fall and hurt themselves.
As parents, one of the two should be designated as the primary caregiver for the new pet, no matter how many tears and promises are given by a child who has begged and pleaded for the responsibilities of feeding, providing fresh water and exercise for their new friend.

Many people choose not to own pets because of their current work or life situation, they lack the time commitment required – or the funds-
or have just lost a pet and are still grieving that loss. All of those are good reasons to hold off on adopting a new pet.
Wherever you might be in this decision making process, please know that your veterinary community is here for you and can help guide you through the options. If you need any assistance, have any questions or need educated advice on what to do or where to go next, we are just a phone call away!

Have a wonderful, happy, healthy and rewarding life with your family of pets!