You and your pet
Pets have specific daily needs and fulfilling these will make for a happier pet
Pet vaccinations, similar to human vaccinations, protect animals from life-threatening illness. Using parallel methods of protection as in humans, pet vaccines initiate defensive immune response, preparing the animal's body to fight a potential future infection. Depending on your pet type and geographical location, the veterinarian will recommend vaccinations based on their need for protection. Pet vaccinations, especially for young pets, are highly recommended.
Why vaccinate pets?
It is important to vaccinate your pets for the same reasons it is important to vaccinate humans. Pets, especially those kept outdoors, are highly susceptible to numerous health risks, some of which may even cause death. In majority of cases, vaccination prevents these illnesses, averting the spread of infection. Within the last few years, the occurrence of numerous diseases has lessened due to the increase in pet owner awareness and the increase in pet vaccination.
Risks of pet vaccinations - Vaccinations carry very little risk, though some pets may experience adverse, mild and temporary reactions. The most common side-effects are:
- Pain or swelling at the injection site
- Excessive pain or swelling lasting longer than two days
- Inability to sleep
- Swollen legs or face
- Trouble breathing
Your pet's first veterinary exam is important to their well-being. As a responsible pet owner, it is critical that you provide your pet with superior care; taking your new pet to the veterinarian is the first step. The veterinarian will want to get acquainted with your new family addition as well as offer advice on nutrition and general health. Pets purchased from breeders are often given a particular window to get the animal examined. Typically, an exam within the first week of ownership is recommended to ensure the animal is in good health. During your first visit, you will be required to fill out forms for your pet's medical record, so be sure to have important personal information with you in order to complete the paperwork.
Physical exam During your visit, the veterinarian will perform a new pet physical exam, and the following will be thoroughly examined:
- Abdominal area for bloat or abnormality
- Bellybutton (in puppies and kittens) for possible hernia
- Condition of the skin and coat
- Genitals for malformation
- Heart and lungs to check for irregularity
- Joint movement
- Teeth, ears, and eyes
After you bring your pet home, it is important to implement the rules of the house right away. Introducing your pet to obedience training can strengthen the bond between owner and pet and provides a level of expectation for your pet. One of the most important obedience training regimens to begin is 'potty-training', so pets have an understanding of where they should relieve themselves. Both male and female animals urinate to mark their territory, so bathroom training is essential. Remember that when training, you have to be consistent with training regimens, and communicate in a way that your pet understands.
What pets can be trained? Nearly any pet can be trained when given enough attention, patience, and time. Some trainable pets include:
- Litter box training a cat is one of the simplest things to teach a pet. Once you show your cat where the box is, gently scrape its paw in the litter, informing the cat that they are allowed to dig; this will peak their interest, as they prefer to bury their waste. Start by limiting your cat to the litter box area, closing off other rooms of the home. After your cat begins to use it faithfully, gradually give the cat more space away from the litter box. If your cat has an accident outside of the box, check to make sure the box is clean. Cats are very meticulous and prefer clean spaces; if the litter box is too dirty, your cat may start relieving themselves just outside of it. Bunnies can also be litter box trained using a method similar to cat training. After you bring your bunny home, pay attention to where they use the restroom. Like cats, they prefer to have clean living spaces and will relieve themselves in a similar location each time. After their spot is defined, place a litter box over it filled with rabbit-specific litter. The rabbit should gradually begin using the box.
- Newspaper training a puppy is best started when they are very young. Begin by keeping the dog in a confined area with a bed on one side and newspaper on the other. Because dogs have a natural inclination to eliminate away from their living area, the puppy should eliminate on the newspaper side of their confinement. Each time they use their designated newspaper, offer praise. Be sure to keep one small piece of soiled newspaper on top; it will allow the dog to smell their scent and understand where their bathroom area is. As they continue using the correct area, begin to cluster the newspaper in an increasingly smaller area; gradually move it closer to the door you wish your pet to eliminate outside of, eventually placing it outside the door entirely. Continue praising the puppy as you move the newspaper and they continue to use it. Once you remove the paper from the house entirely, be sure to take your puppy outside before bed, when they wake up, and periodically throughout the day and praise them as they continue to eliminate in the correct place. If any pet has an accident inside, be sure to use an enzyme-based cleaner, not a cleaner that contains ammonia. In time, the ammonia will mimic the smell of urine which will encourage your pet to continue eliminating in that same spot.
- Positive reinforcers in obedience training: positive gestures, such as being given a treat, or loud verbal praise; it is a reward given when the correct behavior is performed with the intent of strengthening the good behavior.
- Negative reinforcers in obedience training: the removal of an unpleasant gesture after a display of good behavior. By removing an unpleasant act when the correct behavior is performed, pets learn that bad behavior gets an unlikeable stimulus which will be removed only when they behave well. Most sporting horses are trained with negative reinforcers such as spurs or a riding crop.
Keeping your pet clean is an essential aspect of pet ownership. Pets, like humans, need to be bathed to maintain the health of their skin and coat. How often you bathe your pet will depend on the type of hair they have and their propensity to get dirty. Certain types of pets need to be bathed once a week, while others clean themselves and don't need baths. It is important to understand your pet's specific grooming needs, and it is equally as important to meet them, either by means of at-home grooming or by hiring a professional groomer.
Pets have sensitive stomachs and gastrointestinal tracts. While many pet owners think by feeding their beloved pet table scraps is showing affection, it may actually cause a serious medical reaction. There are numerous 'human' foods that cause severe stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting for pets and should be entirely avoided when possible.
The following foods are harmful to pets' digestive tracts and overall well-being:
- Baby food
- Chicken bones
- Cocoa powder
- Dough containing yeast
- Fat trimmings
- Fish bones
- Fruit seeds/pits
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw eggs
- Raw or undercooked meat
Whether you have watched your pet age or you have adopted an older pet, senior pet care is very different than caring for a younger animal. As your pet ages, you will notice tell-tale signs that they are entering their senior years, with greying facial hair and decreased mobility. Providing your pet with proper nutrition and superior care can increase their lifespan and ensure further comfort during their last remaining years.
Common ailments affecting senior pets
Similar to humans, senior animals are prone to specific injury and disease. Some of the more common illnesses include:
- Cancer (numerous types)
- Heart disease
- Increased irritability
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- Lack of appetite
- Liver disease
- Sore joints which make it difficult to get up, stand, or walk
Most people struggle with the thought of losing their beloved pet, and having to say goodbye can be one of the most difficult things you will have to face. Some pets will pass in their sleep, while others may require the painful decision to put them down. Whatever the case may be, dealing with the loss is exceedingly difficult.
Many pet owners fear choosing euthanasia for their pet because they see it as giving up on them or lacking the ability to provide for them. In reality, deciding to euthanize a suffering pet is one of the most humane choices you can make. Oftentimes, we selfishly try to keep our pets with us as long as possible, causing our pet pain and misery. If your pet would benefit from an eternal sleep, the veterinarian can walk you through the pet euthanasia procedure and answer any questions you might have. Some veterinary offices will even allow you to stand by your pet as they introduce the final injection.
Dealing with the loss
After we lose a beloved pet, it is always difficult adjusting to life without them. Most pet owners suffer one or multiple stages of grief in various sequences:
- Denial - wondering how you will survive without your pet. Often ask yourself 'why' questions, such as 'why me' or 'why now'.
- Anger - usually anger is directed at people around you and is your only way to outwardly express your feelings.
- Bargaining - asking yourself 'what if' questions about alternative decisions you could have made or things you could have done differently.
- Depression - a feeling of emptiness without your pet or feeling that life isn't as happy as it used to be.
- Acceptance - the acknowledgement that your new reality exists, though not stating it is acceptable. Finally understanding that your pet is gone.
- Avoid comparing your new pet to the pet you lost. They will never be the same and you are only adding grief and stress for your new pet.
- Consider purchasing a new pet before you lose your elderly pet; this may cause your older pet to hang on longer and prevents you from having to get acquainted with a new pet while still mourning the loss of another.
- Do not give your new pet the same name or a nickname of your pet that has passed.
- Do not purchase a pet as a replacement for your pet that has passed away.
- Look for a pet that is different from your last pet, either in breed, species, or personality.
- Take time to think about what kind of pet you want and what sort of pet fits in with your lifestyle.
Pets are thought of as family members rather than animals, and pet owners are increasingly concerned with affording their pet excellent health care. Similar to human health insurance, some companies and organizations are now providing pet health insurance, which can allow pet owners to avoid expensive veterinary bills. Most pet insurances work the same as human medical insurance; there is a standard monthly fee as well as qualifications a pet must meet. Most plans also have exclusions that will not be covered under the pet insurance.
What is covered and what is excluded? While different providers have different regulations, the following are typically excluded from a pet insurance plan:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Preventative and routine care
- The veterinary exam fee
- Blood tests
- Routine Dentals
- Cancer treatment
- Hereditary disease (unless the condition is preexisting)
- Overnight hospitalization
- Pet emergency accidents
As a pet owner, you will soon learn that you can't always be home to take care of your pet. Whether your travel destination doesn't allow pets or you simply work eight hours per day, hiring a pet sitter may seem fitting. Before hiring someone to look after your pet, always check their references and verify whether the sitter is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International. Both of these institutions pride themselves on providing superior knowledge about professional pet care so being affiliated with either is notable. Check that the pet sitter is insured and licensed in pet CPR. When you have finally found a pet sitter who meets your requirements, be sure there is a signed agreement outlining your pet's care, including how frequently the pet sitter will visit.
Benefits of hiring a pet sitter
- Attention is still given to your pet, even when you're away.
- Can eliminate destructive behaviors caused by anxious pets.
- Pet sitters can also take care of the house while you're away.
- Pets with separation anxiety can become accustomed to the pet-sitter, relieving any stress and allowing them to be more relaxed.
- You have peace-of-mind, knowing that your pet is being effectively cared for.
- Your pet doesn't have to adjust to a new environment or someone else's schedule.
- Your pet gets to stay in an environment they are comfortable in.
When leaving on vacation, many pet owners opt to leave their pet behind at a boarding house or with family or friends; however, you should know that you can always take your pet with you. Traveling with your pets allows them to experience new sights and smells, averts separation anxiety, and prevents you from worrying about your pet while you're away. Before traveling with pets, be sure to check local regulations regarding pet travel and safety. Also confirm that the places you will be staying (hotel, friend's house, etc.) allows pets. Always make sure traveling pets have proper identification tags on their collars, as well as internal microchips for added safety.
Each airline has different regulations regarding pet travel. Some airlines allow small pets in the cabin when kept in a carry-on, others do not. Most airlines require a certificate of health and proof of vaccination dated no more than 10 days prior to your flight. Many also recommend that pets traveling in winter months travel midday and in the early morning or late evening during summer months. It is also recommended that you purchase a non-stop flight which does not change planes. The following requirements are true for most major airlines:
- Allow your pet a familiar toy during the flight.
- Attach a pet water container to the side of the crate.
- Crate must have slits for ventilation and handles to grip.
- Crate should be lined with absorbent materials in case of pet accident.
- Crate should have contact information labeled clearly on it along with a current photo of the pet owner.
- Pet should have proper identification on collar.
- Pets need to be secured in a bolted crate.
- Trim your pet's nails to avoid catching on crate openings.