Summer is here, which gives families extra time at home together and longer days to reflect on needed new family members. We are seeing lots of new pets lately, which I love so much, but leads me to my next topic of choosing a new pet. As we all know, baby animals are adorable. One of the reasons I think they are made this way is so that when they chew up your favorite pair of shoes (puppies), climb up your pants (kittens) or wake up crying for the fourth time in one night (humans) you can only be upset for a moment. However, those adorable characteristics also mean that sometimes we acquire them before realizing the time and financial commitment involved. The joy they bring is priceless, but unfortunately their care and upkeep is not. Most vets would love to offer free services, but since we need to eat, keep our staff and the electric company paid, keep our equipment upgraded etc. we do need to get paid. I will outline what a new pet requires, though exact cost will vary between different veterinarians.
All puppies and kittens should receive distemper vaccines every month from about 8 weeks until they are at least 16 weeks. They will need a rabies vaccine, and may need additional vaccines depending on their lifestyle. They should have a fecal exam done to make sure they are free of internal parasites which they often get from their mother. They should also be spayed or neutered unless a breeding is planned and saved for. Puppies require a large time commitment, and this is not just during the time of housebreaking. Puppies, as a general rule, can only hold their urine for as many hours as they are months old.
Therefore, a 3-month-old puppy should not be left without an opportunity to go to the bathroom for more than 3 hours. This rule holds until about 9 months, since it is never recommended for a dog not to have access to the bathroom for more than 9 hours (since most people can’t even do that!) This is not a strict rule, and all dogs do vary. However, when getting a puppy we should make sure our daily plan doesn’t include unrealistic expectations. Dogs and puppies both need exercise and interaction. Dogs are healthiest and happiest if they can get about an hour of exercise a day. This must be broken up for puppies, though adults dogs can get one longer walk a day (plus bathroom breaks, of course.)
Kittens are an easier time commitment, since most kittens are litter-box trained as soon as they are big enough to get in one. However, cats still love to play and spend time with their owners, so they are happier the more time they spend with you. Training kittens early to enjoy brushings, nail trims and playtime will help everyone in the long run. In general, if a pet only needs an exam once or twice a year, that expense will be low. You must factor in flea, tick and heartworm prevention which can be a cost many people don’t consider. All pets will need food, while cats need litter as well.
The goal of all veterinarians is to help maintain wellness in their patients. I love to see my patients, but if they only come in once or twice a year for a check-up I am happy. My favorite place to see them is out and about. When our patients are healthy, it means that everyone is doing a good job of preventative care. Unfortunately, a lot of pets need more than one or two vet visits a year. They get into food that they shouldn’t, toxins that they sneak, have meetings with porcupines, other animals or cars, get respiratory and urinary tract infections, need dental cleanings, and the list goes on. Just as with humans, as pets age they experience organ failure, joint damage and even cancer. The hardest decision to make is not being financially able to pay for your pet’s treatment and having to resort to surrender or euthanasia. While veterinarians will do everything in their power to treat your pet within your financial abilities, unfortunately money may be the limiting factor.
Before you get a new pet, try to consider if your budget would allow for a complicated surgery or emergency care. Pet insurance is available and can take a big burden off when involved treatments are needed. New pets, whether young or old, add a dimension of love and companionship to your life. Remember that a pet is a big commitment, just as they are a big part of your life. For this reason, pets should not be given as surprise gifts. Different types of pets fit certain lifestyles or environments better, and the more prepared you are for a new pet, the easier the transition will be. Your veterinarian, breeders or humane societies are well equipped to help guide you towards the best new pet for your life. This may be a puppy, a guppy or anything in between!