Updated: Feb 16, 2019
What does it take to be a responsible pet owner? Does it mean that you must have experience with pets to own one? Does it mean you must have a lot of money to provide all its needs? That you must be with the pet 24/7? We’re going to discuss what can help make you a responsible pet owner.
Doing your due diligence, like reading this article, means you’re off to a great start! Whether you ’re looking into Getting a Pet , or have pets, it’s important to do some research into the pet project you’re about to invest into. Things you may want to consider would be, what breed is appropriate for me and my lifestyle? What foods are out there that will meet the needs of my pet? How can I enrich my pet’s environment and improve our bond? Am I physically caring for my pet in the best way? Here are some suggestions.
Investing time and some dollars upfront into training will save you a lot of headache down the road. Basic potty training for pups and kittens and behavior training is very important. It may require some time and patience, but the rewards will be monumental and enhance your bond with your pet in the long run. Training, as well as socialization can reduce and alter behavior problems. The “no” or “leave it” command will be one of the most important commands that you and your pet will appreciate.
Getting The Right Breed
Researching a breed and breed- mix to see if it is compatible with you and your lifestyle is very important in ensuring that both and your pet will meet each other’s needs and help you provide better care for that pet. I’ve seen many people get a pet to fulfill their childhood dream, or wanted a particular breed because they had one as a child and wanted to re-create that feeling. This is not the best way to decide. If you had a Chocolate Lab as a kid and lived on a farm and he was your best bud, but now you live in a high rise in Manhattan and work 16 hour days, that may not be the right fit for you and your pet. If you have the opportunity to choose a breed, choose a breed or mix that meshes emotionally, financially and physically with your life.
Regular exercise is just as important for pets as it is for humans. Exercise will help keep them at a healthy weight, reduce risk for disease such as Diabetes, Degenerative joint Disease, Anxiety, and other behavior problems. It will stimulate them mentally and physically, and keep them out of trouble, especially if they are tired! It has been proven that a healthy weight maintained over the course of a pet’s life increases longevity and quality of life.
This also goes hand in hand with regular exercise. When choosing a well-balanced nutritional food, also take into consideration your pet’s life stage, breed and activity. Some food companies have breed specific diets that is scientifically formulated to match the needs of certain breeds. Royal Canin and Hills are some examples. Try to stick to one food that is agreeing with your pet’s digestion, coat, skin and activity. Many owners like to add variety to a pet’s food . While this is coming from a place of love, it does not add any benefit, and can cause digestive and skin issues and food sensitivities. Also recently trending are anthropomorphic impressions about grain free diets and the numerous food recalls. Keep up to date on food recalls and the science behind the food when making nutritional choices and include your veterinarian in the conversation.
Hygiene and Grooming
Inspecting, touching and cleaning your pet’s ears, teeth, paws, and skin folds at least twice weekly will help to reduce infections, detect if something is wrong early (e.g. tarter and broken teeth), and help your pet to be familiar with you touching those areas. This will be particularly helpful in the treatment of ear infections, skin infections and nail abnormalities. Regular grooming , bathing, brushing and nail trims can prevent skin infections, ingrown and cracked claws, observe external parasites, swellings and growths. It will also help to reduce shedding and dander, decrease dirt and “hair tumble weeds” in the house, improve air quality in the home, and decrease allergies in humans caused by pets.
Healthcare and Finances
Find a Veterinarian in your neighborhood whom you are comfortable with and build a rapport with them. Your veterinarian will be able to answer your questions, guide you in your pet’s care which will include vaccinations, spaying, neutering and microchipping. I recommend bi-annual checkups to catch potential problems early, to help prevent disease and dental cleanings at least once a year. The aim is to maintain the health and well-being of your pet so that they may live longer happier healthier lives as your companion. To help manage the finances of veterinary care, I strongly encourage owners to get Pet insurance. Not all pet insurance policies and plans are the same. So do your research and see which one will apply to your situation and your pet.
As you can see, responsible Pet ownership is more than providing a roof over their heads. These animals have long since been domesticated to be our companions, so they rely on us humans to meet all of their physical and emotional needs. At the same time they are not humans, and being too anthropomorphic can lead to complications. Teaching kids and members of your household how to approach another pet, ask the owner’s permission if they can touch the pet; feeding, walking and caring for their own pet can instill compassion, responsibility, and appreciation. It’s important to know your pet’s personality and work on boundaries and providing an environment that will support their needs and yours in order to foster a rewarding relationship.
Published by Dr. Varsha Ramoutar, DVM MS
Stay tuned for more articles in this series!