Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ask the Brambleton Vet - Dr. Nancy DeSantis, Animals Medical Centers of Loudoun

Dear Dr. DeSantis-
I'm thinking of expanding my family by adding a furry friend but I have never owned a dog or cat. What do I need to know about pet ownership, particularly about owning a puppy or kitten?
Hopeful New Furry Friend Family

Dear Hopeful-
I commend you for doing your research before you make this decision! Pets can truly brighten our lives and are a source of unconditional love. However, pet ownership is not something to be taken lightly. When you adopt a new pet, you are committing to be a responsible pet owner for the rest of your furry friend’s life. This responsibility manifests itself as a commitment emotionally, financially and physically. If you have decided that you have the time to dedicate to a pet, the next step is decide what type of pet is best for you and your lifestyle.

Cats are generally more independent than dogs. They do not need frequent walks outside and often allow you to have more freedom with your daily schedule. If you are looking for a companion to go on long walks or to take joy rides in the car, then a dog may better suit you. Both dogs and cats also come in a variety of breeds. I strongly encourage you to do your homework regarding breed characteristics before you purchase or adopt. For instance, if you’d like your dog to go on a daily jog with you, it would be best to avoid a basset hound or bulldog as these tend to be more “couch potatoes.” Remember that the cute little bundle of fur that fit into the palm of your hand may grow into a very large bundle of fur that sheds all over your house! Many breeds will also be predisposed to certain health problems and it’s best to be educated on these risks prior to adoption.

It is also important to decide if you want to rescue an older pet as opposed to adopting a puppy or kitten. Puppies and kittens typically require more investment financially as well as a significant time investment. Vaccinations in young animals need to be performed more frequently due to an immature immune system. Therefore, puppies and kittens will need several trips to the veterinarian’s office for vaccinations, deworming, stool check and neutering. It is also vital to have time designated for obedience training and house breaking young animals as well. Although some older pets may already be neutered and vaccinated, they still require a financial and time commitment as rescued pets may have previous health or behavioral issues. Call your veterinarian’s office to see if they will do a pre-purchase talk with you to help determine what pet will be best for your individual situation. I would also recommend that you make an appointment at an animal hospital shortly after adopting your new pet, young or old, to have his or her health status determined.

Congratulations again on venturing into the world of pet ownership. I wish you and your new furry friend a long, happy lifetime together!

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