Man’s best friend! There is nothing quite as satisfying as coming through the door each day to an animal that is obviously glad to see you. It might be a cute little puppy who runs around and circles or jumps up and down in a frantic attempt to garner your attention. It might be a cat who purrs and rubs itself against your leg as if to say “I’m so glad you are home.” It might even be a bird that that starts chirping the minute it sees you. Pets come in all sizes, shapes, and forms but whatever the animal they generally give more than 10 times their body weight in love.
As pet owners, we all need to be aware that we have certain responsibilities to our loving animals. However, it isn’t always clear exactly what those responsibilities are. Do we just take them to the vet when they are sick or do they need annual checkups just like a human? How do we tell when they are sick? These are just a few of the questions that often race through the minds of a pet owner.
I didn’t get my first real pet until I was in my mid-40’s so I didn’t have a lot of experience in caring for my sweet little Yorkie, Sugar. I wish I had known then what I know now about pet ownership. If I had, I might have been able to recognize the warning signs of her illness and maybe – – just maybe – – she’d still be with me today. While I can’t go back and change what has already occurred, I can help inform others in an effort to prevent the same thing from happening again. To that end, here is information that I hope will help you in caring for your pet.
Annual visits to the vet should be a part of every pet’s schedule. Not only is it an opportunity to update necessary vaccinations, it is also wonderful preventative care. While we, as pet owners, don’t always know the warning signs to look for in our pets, veterinarians do. They are trained to look for tiny signs that we might overlook. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Take your pet to the vet! Make it your mantra: Take you pet to the vet!
Accidents sometimes happen. My beloved Shih ‘Tzu, Pepper, is absolutely awful about wanting to play in the street. When I walk her, I practically have to yank her away from it. She doesn’t understand the danger. She simply wants to play. However, the street is no place for an animal. It is danger with a capital D. I can’t count the number of times that my friends have lost their pets to car versus animal accidents. (Hint: The car wins every time.) Unfortunately, that is not the only possible accident that can occur. My Yorkie loved chicken. Sugar could eat her weight in chicken. One day, I heard a strange sound from the kitchen. I went in to find that my little 10-pound dog had figured outhow to knock over the trashcan to get at the left over chicken bones from dinner. Such bones are dangerous to dogs because they can splinter and lodge in the stomach and/or intestine. Another food to avoid is chocolate. Now my Pepper loves chocolate. Given the chance, she would eat a whole bag of M&M’s. My grandson loves to feed the candy to her because it makes her so happy and he just adores her. However, I had to teach him about the danger of chocolate to dogs so that he would be careful not to overdose her. The point here is that accidents will very likely happen. When they do, you may want to take your pet in and have them checked over. Obvious signs of a problem would be if your pet starts to have seizures or becomes unconscious. But also look for little signs like them spitting up or suddenly becoming listless. If anything unusual occurs – – Take your pet to the vet!
In fact, you should always look for unusual abnormalities in your pet. Things like suddent listlessness or wanting to sleeping all day, loss of appetite, not drinking water, not going to the bathroom, unusual feces color or odor are all signs that your pet might have a problem so – – Take your pet to the vet!
A common sense rule of thumb is to do for your pet what you would do for yourself. If you are wondering whether or not to take your pet to the veterinarian, then you probably should. It is your internal alarm sounding that there might be a serious problem.
Next, there are things that you should know before you take your pet to the vet. First of all, get to know your vet. I don’t want just anyone taking care of Pepper. She is literally my guardian angel on earth. I can’t count the number of times she has helped me when I was sick or down. So I would never entrust her health to someone I do not know. I actually interviewed vets before picking one. I’m paying them money to perform a service so I figure it is my right to refuse their service if I don’t feel it is up to par. If you are not comfortable with interviewing vets yourself, then ask around for recommendations. Other family members and friends who have pets will usually be happy to share their experiences with you. That way you learn who to avoid and who might be worth a try.
Unless you intend to show or breed your pet, consider spaying or neutering. Research indicates that, in many instances, this might actually help extend the life of your pet. It can help prevent certain kinds of cancer. And, of course, everyone knows that it helps to control the animal population so that so many dogs and cats are not left unloved. There is nothing sadder than an animal that doesn’t have a home with a family to care for them. Many of these unwanted animals will become wild, get abused, pick up serious diseases, and may actually become harmful to themselves as well as the human population.
Research the most common ailments among your pet’s breed. That way you know what to look for in terms of symptoms or possible problems. For example, Shih ‘Tzus tend to have a lot of eye problems because their fur grows close and long around that area. Chemicals like shampoo and flea treatments often cling to the fur and then transfer to the eye area causing inflammation and irritation. Pepper also has a lot of urinary tract infections; another common ailment in her breed. I now know that when she needs to go out more than her usual scheduled times or when her urine has a terrible odor, that she needs antibiotics to fight the infection. Different dogs and cats have different problem areas. Find out what your animal’s areas of concern are and what to do if they exhibit one of the symptoms.There are also common ailments to look for in any pet, such as heartworm, fleas, ticks, and the like. You want to make certain that your vet is checking for and, if necessary, treating these ailments.
Obviously owning a pet can be an expensive prospect. A lot of vet procedures are, unfortunately, expensive. This is particularly true when any kind of surgery is involved. To help with such expenses, consider purchasing pet insurance. This is a relatively new concept and a lot of people are unaware that it is now available. This can be particularly critical for people who otherwise might not be able to afford annual vet checkups or needed procedures. While most pet insurance at the moment is limited to cats and dogs, there are a few out there that extend to smaller animals like birds, rats, and hamster as well. You will need to do some research to determine what is available for your particular needs.
Pet insurance generally comes in three forms:
- Insurance that covers annual checkups and up to 80% of Emergency bills;
- Insurance that covers only Emergencies; and
- Insurance that covers annual checkups only.
Most insurance allows you to choose your own licensed veterinarian. However, just as is true with insurance for humans, a few plans require that you use a vet within their internal system.
Purchasing the insurance early in the life of your pet can make a difference in the cost of the insurance. Another factor that might influence cost is the breed of the animal. For example, large dogs tend to have more medical issues than small ones. Also, older animals tend to need more medical care than younger ones.
Owners who “show” dogs or who have full-breed dogs – – like Pepper – – should consider insurance as a necessary protection for their investment. Show dogs have a great deal of intrinsic value and full-breeds can be very expensive to purchase and maintain. Obviously, most owners want to keep those pets for as long as possible. However, pets are also often considered members of the family. They are loved and cherished with the same esteem as a family member. It, therefore, only makes sense to protect those animals in the same way that we protect other family members.
Pet ownership is a privilege and it is imperative that we – – as owners – – treat it as such. Taking care of our pets is a very small price to pay for all of the joy, love, and affection that they give back in return. Take your pet to the vet!