Posts from May, 2011
Summer is here and so is puppy love. This is the time of year when many of us yearn for a new puppy… what could be cuter? Dogs make wonderful companions. Just remember not to jump into pet ownership thoughtlessly. There are many factors that should be considered to ensure that your new puppy is the proper fit for your family.
- The first thing you need to look at is YOU. How active are you? Do you have children? How old are they? How old are you? Do you live in an apartment, single family home or in the country? Is your yard fenced? What is your personality like? Are you assertive, passive or somewhere in between? Do you have any disabilities or health issues? Do you mind spending time or money on grooming your pet? How picky are you about your house? Do you think pets should even be in the house? The list goes on but the point is the first thing you need to look at is your life and lifestyle.
Once you have an idea of your parameters, it’s time to start looking at the dog.
- What size of dog fits you? Large dogs require more space. They can be more difficult for a petite or older person to handle. They are more expensive to feed, medicate, spay or neuter. They can be a heck of a lot more work to exercise as well. As for small dogs: they require less of everything but activity. Size does not relate to activity level. There are some VERY busy small breeds.
- How about activity levels. You need to be very honest with yourself about what activity level you can tolerate in your pet. Age and general health may dictate a small, quiet, older animal. Are you interested in taking your dog to the dog park or out for a walk or run every day? Even with a large backyard, most active breeds will require additional exercise. If you’re a couch potato, many of the hunting and herding breeds may be too high energy for you. Think about your children as well. If they are too boisterous and rowdy, they may terrify some of the more timid breeds.
- Then there’s sociability. Do you want a dog that loves everyone or a more reserved animal that may bond only to you or your immediate family? If you love entertaining or traveling, be sure to get an animal that will enjoy it as well. Clearly, a one person dog would not be a great idea if you usually have your children as well as all the neighbors’ kids running through the house.
- Emotional stability is just as important. Some breeds are very easy going and unflappable. Others are less so. That includes many of the smaller breeds but some of the big guys as well. Again, this is particularly important if you have small children or an active social life. Do your homework and make certain you find a breed that will tolerate busy little hands and bodies.
- Trainability. Don’t confuse intelligence with trainability. Many of the so-called smart breeds can actually be quite difficult to train. Trainability should be thought of as the “will to please”. So, if you insist on perfect behavior, do your homework and plan on spending some time in obedience classes as well. But, if what you really want is a pet that will simply sit, lie down and not eat up the house there are plenty of contenders out there. PLEASE just don’t buy a highly motivated Border collie or other overachiever if you don’t have the time to keep them busy. When not kept occupied these doggie geniuses may end up destroying your home out of boredom and frustration.
- Dominance. Unfortunately many people confuse dominance and aggression. Most of the biting dogs we see in veterinary practice are actually fearful in nature. Dominant animals are generally confident if they have a calm, assertive owner. In the simplest terms dominance can be thought of as the how hard your dog will work to get his or her own way. Dominance is variable. Some dogs may just be dominant over other dogs but submissive to people. Dominance is not related to size either. There are a lot of pint sized Napoleons out there. Be sure to match your will to rule to that of your future pet.
- Hardiness. Pay special attention to hardiness when selecting a breed. Bulldogs and some of the short-faced (brachycephalic) breeds don’t do well in the heat. Chihuahuas, Greyhounds and other short coated dogs are not suited to outdoor life in the colder climates. Matted coats, burned skin, heat stroke or frost bite may all be the consequences of wrong choices made on your part. Then again, some breeds have been so completed altered by human kind that they are born with an array of health problems just waiting to happen. No matter what, it’s still best to know ahead of time.
- Grooming. Do you mind brushing your dog every day? How about a grooming bill once a month? How about a really big grooming bill once a month? Would you prefer a non-shedding coat? How about a dog with almost no coat at all? Do you know how to care for eyes and ears or nails and matted hair? What about anal glands? Every breed has different grooming care needs. Don’t overlook this when selecting your dog.
Great dogs can be found in a lot of places. That includes shelters and rescue groups. We wish you good luck in your search and hope that you have figured out that picking the right puppy involves a lot more than who’s got the cutest brown eyes. Hopefully, you now know that it takes a well thought out plan that combines your needs with those of your future pet. So be sure to use all of the resources available to you. Read books, attend dog shows, ask your veterinarian, talk to your friends, talk to breed associations, do whatever it takes to make yourself aware and educated. Then go ahead and take the big leap into puppy love.
According to the ASPCA, “approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.”
That is a really sad statistic. We work closely with many of our local shelters at Animal Family and are always surprised at the quality of the pets we see. These animals are neither worthless nor dangerous. In fact, often the opposite is true. Many are pure bred and almost all are loving, healthy animals who through no fault of their own end up homeless.
The 10 most common reasons owners give when surrendering a pet at the Humane Society of Scott County are:
- The owner is moving and is not able to take their pet with them
- The pet is too active for the owner to handle.
- The owner does not have enough time to devote to pet care
- The owner has encountered problems with housebreaking
- The animal is too expensive to care for.
- The animal is too young, too old or has developed health issues.
- The owner or a family member is allergic to the pet.
- The pet does not get along with another animal in the household.
- The pet belonged to a child who no longer lives in the home.
- The pet has become pregnant
Do you see a common thread among many of the reasons for pet relinquishment listed above? How many of these problems could be avoided by a little research and planning before acquiring a pet. For all the information on specific breeds that is available, it seems that people still jump into pet ownership on impulse.
So, please, before you bring a pet into your life, do your research. Think about your lifestyle, future plans, and overall health. How busy are you? Can you even afford a pet at this time? Do you have the time or interest for training, walks and general health and coat care. Don’t pick your pet based on looks. Don’t assume you have to have a puppy and never, ever give a pet as a gift without a thorough discussion with the prospective new owner first.
Next week, we will go over what you need to think about before you add a new pet to your family.
According to the AVMA, in 2007 there were 72 million pet dogs, 82 million pet cats and over 4 million pet birds. At least 3% of the US households own a reptile. Almost one half of those pet owners consider their pets to be a member of the family. We are a pet loving country. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that we can share more than love with our pets. Did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control that almost 14% of the US population has been infected with Toxacara (roundworm of dogs and cats). That’s because up to 30% of dogs fewer than 6 months of age and 25% of all cats are infected with roundworms.
Cats and dogs can carry Roundworms, Tapeworms, Hookworms, Leptospirosis, Ringworm and Rabies to name a few. Pocket pets and reptiles can carry Salmonella. Birds can also carry Salmonella as well as Psittacosis (a bacterial disease).
Who is most at risk? According to our friends at CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), it is generally those who come in contact with the soil the most often. That includes, gardeners, plumbers, sunbathers and of course children. Immune compromised individuals need to be particularly careful.
So should we get rid of all of our pets? No need to get so carried away. Following are some relatively simple measures you can take to control the risk of zoonotic transmission in your family.
- Wash your hands after handling pets, soil and feces. Be especially vigilant with youngsters.
- Don’t eat or smoke while you handle your pet. Especially if it is a reptile, bird or pocket pet.
- Pets and food preparation do not go together.
- Keep your pets on a regular schedule of deworming. Dogs and cats should be on broad spectrum, year round anti-parasitic products.
- Get annual fecal parasite checks. That’s because you may give your pet his preventative but he may either spit it out or throw it up later on.
- Treat pets and their surroundings for fleas.
- Dispose of pet feces on a daily basis.
- Cover up your children’s sandbox when it’s not in use.
- Feed only cooked, canned or dry dog and cat food.
- Don’t allow birds or reptiles to roam loose in the house.
- If you are scratched by your pet, wash the area thoroughly.
- Vaccinate. Yes, there is some risk (1/10,000) of soft tissue sarcomas in cats with the use of Rabies and Feline Leukemia vaccines. We try to make it safer by vaccinating every 3 years. However, our biggest concern is that Rabies is out there and it kills all of us all the time.
- Immune compromised individuals should not own reptiles or amphibians.
- Don’t let your dog or cat drink from the toilet bowl. According to CAPC this can spread human adapted strains of parasites to pets