Choosing a new pet to bring into the family is very exciting. This article will focus on dogs and cats but there are other exotic pets to choose from. It is important to think realistically about what type of pet best suits you. If you are looking for a purebred dog or cat make sure to do your research when looking for a breeder. Good breeders will be able to discuss their breed honestly and give you an idea if you are a good fit. Adopting a dog or cat from an animal shelter or rescue is a great choice and they typically make fantastic pets. Adopting an adult dog should also be considered as they are often overlooked. Puppies are a great deal of fun but they require a lot of time and patience. Adult dogs are a great choice for someone who may not have as much free time.
Once you have selected your new pet, it is time to integrate them into your family. If you have other pets already, be cautious when introducing the new arrival. It is best to start the introduction in a controlled manner, such as keeping the new pet in a travel crate to let the existing pet approach to look and smell. Depending on how this goes, you can then slowly start letting the pets interact more freely. Always supervise pets together at first and look for signs of aggression or distress in either animal. Cats especially can take weeks to fully accept a new addition so be patient. Young children should also be introduced carefully, with lots of supervision as the new pet may become frightened and react aggressively.
Training is another important part of pet ownership. Kittens may just need to be shown the litterbox but puppies often take some time to be trained to go to the washroom outside. Pups should also be taught basic commands and how to walk on a leash. Less desirable habits such as jumping on people and biting/chewing non-toy items should be worked on. Socialization early on with other dogs is a very good idea for puppies. Obedience classes are a great way to get some help doing this. They have the added benefit of providing both socialization and training at once.
Taking your new puppy or kitten to the doctor is another important task. Some will have had their first vaccination done already by the rescue/shelter/breeder and they will have a record of it for you. Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccine boosters done and it is important that boosters be given 4-6 weeks apart to be fully effective. If you are unsure about when your pet needs to be vaccinated contact your veterinarian’s office and they can help. The core dog and cat combination vaccines protect against viruses that can cause illness or even death if your pet contracts them. Many of these viruses are rampant in unvaccinated populations and some can even be carried by wildlife. The other core vaccine is rabies. All pets should at least be vaccinated for rabies as it is fatal to pets but also to humans. Also if your pet happens to bite someone and it is reported they will need to undergo a costly quarantine period if their rabies vaccination is not up to date. During the vaccine appointments your pet will receive a physical exam to assess overall health. It is also a great time to bring up any questions or concerns you have. Your pet will often also receive a deworming treatment to clear them of parasites. Heartworm prevention may be discussed, especially in the spring/summer months. It is optimal to establish a good healthcare routine for your pet early on. Regular check-ups/preventative care will help maximize your new family member’s lifespan and quality of life.
This article was written by Dr. Nicci Bachmann of the Beausejour Animal Hospital and Lac Du Bonnet Veterinary Service.