What does it mean to be a responsible pet owner?
First and foremost remember one thing, having a pet is not a God given right but rather a privilege. When we take on the test of being a responsible pet owner we also take on the responsibility of the health and well-being of that pet for the rest of their life. The health and well-being of your new companion starts on day one.
A visit to your veterinarian for a complete and thorough examination is a great place to start your lifelong journey with your new friend. Your veterinarian can check for any abnormalities that your pet may have been born with along with getting you started with a schedule of all of the vaccinations that they will require to get their life started off on the right foot. Your veterinarian can also go over a plan to spay or neuter your pet. As a general rule spayed and neutered pets live longer and have fewer problems.
Pets are very susceptible to parasites, both internal and external. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, giardia, and coccidian are all internal parasites that can stunt the growth of your pet and cause vomiting and diarrhea. A simple check of your pet’s feces sent to the lab can help identify, then eliminate, these pesky intruders.
External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, can also cause major health issues with your pet, including but not limited to, anemia, blood borne parasites (Lyme disease, Ehrlichia), and skin problems. Your veterinarian can help your pet and educate you to make the best choices for parasite control to keep them happy and healthy.
We are what we eat
Nutrition is critical to the long term health of your pet. Your veterinarian can make recommendations and help you pick the best food for your pet. Being a responsible pet owner is caring enough about your pet to make the proper decisions regarding what to feed your pet. Remember that feeding scraps and table food is not recommended and is actually hurting vs helping your pet. Pets need different foods for different stages of their life.
Typically, pets need “puppy or kitten” food the first year to two years of their life. They then transition over to adult food for the next five to seven years before they are finally put on a senior diet. Each stage of their lives requires different nutritional requirements from growth, to maintenance, to protecting their bodies as they grow older. Typically name brand foods are the best choice for your pet but talk to your veterinarian, so you can together make the correct decisions for your pet.
Pet care and maintenance
Pet care and maintenance for the long haul require doing the little things that we may take for granted but nonetheless need to be taken care of. Grooming and bathing on a regular basis are important to make sure the skin (the body’s largest organ) and hair stay healthy. Clipping your pet’s nails on an as needed basis and getting those anal sacs expressed (especially if we are scooting our rears on the ground) make sure that we stay comfortable and avoid any problems.
Providing a fresh clean water supply will make sure that our pet’s hydration and the body’s internal function stay healthy. Feeding at the same time every day is also important. Keep your pet on schedule to keep on top of anything that may be out of the ordinary. Both our pets and ourselves do better if we try to maintain a regular schedule. Providing shelter from extreme heat or cold is also important. Remember, if you are too hot or too cold, so is your pet!!
Annual physical exams are critical to your pet’s wellness. Yearly visits to your veterinarian allow us to evaluate the overall health of your pet. It is recommended that your pet not only get an annual physical exam but to also do a yearly blood test. This helps to make sure that everything is working well internally. Remember that the average human year is equivalent to 5-7 “dog years”. Pets are very good at compensating and not showing any signs of disease until it is too late. Many problems that our pets get are not curable. But with early detection and early intervention those problems can be controlled.
Getting a pet is an exciting and rewarding experience. Being a responsible pet owner will insure that your companion will stay healthy and live a long life. Remember the two common denominators for success: responsibility on your part and partnering with a veterinarian. Your veterinarian is the BEST source for information about your pet and their well-being. They can give you great insight into what it means to be a responsible pet owner. A little bit of time and effort will be rewarded several times over by the loyalty and love that your pet will provide for years to come.
Written By: Dr. Orlando Garza
Thank you for reading!