The idea of owning a cute little puppy or kitten crosses just about everyone’s mind at one time or another. Those adorable faces, playful demeanors and little barks and meows can melt anyone’s heart. The bond between humans and animals is very real as pets are often referred to as family members. Unfortunately, lots of people don’t do the research to fully understand the financial and emotional commitment that comes along with adopting a pet. You may be welcoming a new pet into your home, but unbeknownst to pets, the quality of their lives rests solely in your hands. Receiving the proper preventative care or medical attention needed, and ultimately their life span, all depends on the pet owner looking after them. Raising and taking care of a pet in some ways is very similar to a parent raising and taking care of a child. Like any relationship, there will be ups and downs but, in the end, owning a pet is well worth the unconditional love pets give to their owners. As a licensed veterinary technician with 8 years of experience in the veterinary medical profession, I hope I can aid you with your adoption decisions by providing some valuable insight about things to consider.
Preventative Care for Young Pets
Puppies and kittens tend to be extremely easy to find homes for because most people like the idea of watching and maybe contributing to their full development into adulthood. Puppies and kittens, like human babies, require a series of vet visits and vaccine boosters to help protect them from contracting deadly pathogens like Parvo for dogs or Feline Leukemia for cats. Depending on the age the first set of vaccines is given, vaccine boosters are typically given in intervals of three, weeks apart, all within the first 6 months of their lives. For each of these appointments, by law, the doctor is required to perform a physical exam to ensure the pet is healthy enough to receive vaccinations and to monitor its development. The prevention of internal parasites, like worms, is also strongly recommended at some point during this time.
The next recommended stage is sterilization, neutering for males and spaying for females. This not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but other detrimental health conditions as well. These include eliminating the occurrence of mammary cancer (similar to breast cancer in humans) and a deadly infection of the uterus known as pyometra, which can occur in females of both cats and dogs. Prostatic cancer and exhibitions of aggressive behavior are reasons to proceed with the neutering of both cats and dogs. Microchipping is another strongly recommended option for pet owners in case a pet should ever get lost unexpectedly. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters are required to scan pets turned into them for microchips before any decisions for the pet are made.
The destruction of your personal property especially by puppies and kittens is another thing to consider. Cats tend to scratch furniture and dogs like digging up dirt and/or chewing on anything they can find. A plan to invest in learning about or enforcing behavioral training should be considered early on. For cats, declawing may appear to be a quick fix but realize this is an added stress and human induced deformity caused to the pet. Contrary to popular belief, declawing is not just the removal of a cat’s nails, it is a bone amputation of a cat’s first knuckle of each digit. This procedure leaves cats defenseless in cases of accidental escape from homes and increases their tendency to bite more to compensate. If other alternate options have been tried and exhausted and declawing is absolutely necessary, just like for humans, post-operative healing is better and less painful in young developing cats.
Unforeseen Genetic Predispositions
Pets can have genetic issues that may not appear until after getting acclimated to you and your family months or years down the line. Some examples include:
Allergies: This can be caused by food or environmental factors. Like humans, this can be seasonal, or in some cases treatment can be lifelong resulting in the need for investing in expensive prescription diets and/or allergy medication.
Cancer: Some breeds are more predisposed to this than others, but just like humans, this pathology can occur across species and breeds.
Droopy-eared dogs: These guys are more likely to develop chronic ear infections and/or complications because the genetic structure of their ear allows for yeast and bacteria to grow and multiply easier. This naturally results in more frequent vet visits and medication dispensed.
Hip Dysplsia: A genetic predisposition more common in larger breed dogs as well where their hip bones develop abnormally creating lifelong joint discomfort and pain. Surgery is one costly solution, pain and/or joint supplements are another.
Kidney stones: This can affect any cat or dog breed but is more common and problematic in male cats. The structural shape of the male cat’s urethra is such that stones are more likely to get lodged on their way out the body in turn preventing urine from being eliminated. If not caught early this condition can be deadly and may reoccur.
Knee Surgery: Large and small, some dogs are more predisposed then others to blowing their knee joints. For other dogs improper weight management can be another cause. Surgery can fix this problem but it is costly and sometimes needs to be performed on both knees.
Just like for humans there are endless amounts of other pathological health conditions any pet can experience, these are just some of the more common ailments.
Unforeseen Life Accidents
When our pets get into things they shouldn’t be or participate in risky activities, accidents happen. A few costly examples include:
Broken bones: Depending on the severity and location of the break this can equal several trips to the vet with repeated diagnostics like x-rays being performed and sometimes even surgery.
Foreign Body Removals: This very costly surgery involves the removal of a foreign object digested by a cat or dog that is obstructing the path of the GI tract. This unfortunately is very common and can be deadly if not caught early enough.
Pancreatitis: This is typically caused by pets getting fed human food table scraps and can result in days of hospitalization depending on the severity. Reoccurrence is a factor.
For those blessed with pets who are not plagued with ailments or accidents, preventative annual health treatments like vaccines and bloodwork are always recommended to keep them protected and to catch signs of anything early. Pet health insurance is a valuable option to consider for financial assistance. Most veterinary insurance companies reimburse owners a percentage of each vet visit depending on the criteria dictated by the company.
Emotional Aspects of Pet Ownership
Pets, like humans have different personalities. Different species and breeds have particular needs that should be met. Large dogs need larger areas to play and exert pent up energy, some cats aren’t too happy with the idea of living in a household with other cats or dogs, and some pets in general don’t like change of any kind and may start exhibiting unfavorable behavior as a means of acting out. Generally speaking, puppies and kittens may not be the best option for households with young children not mature enough to handle these babies properly. As puppies and kittens grow, like human babies, their bones are more fragile and more prone to breaking if mishandled or rough housed.
Pets that end up being rehomed may experience varying degrees of stress shuffled from one environment to another without their consent. This can lead to behavior issues thus continuing the cycle of rehoming for that pet. Consideration of these emotional factors as well are just as essential when making your final decision.
Making the Best Decision For You AND For the Pet
Adopting a pet is a two-way street. Not only are you welcoming a life into your home, these pets are relying on you to have the best quality of life possible. Speedy or poor decisions on your part can cost an animal emotional and/or physical stress and even cost them their lives if one is not both financial and emotionally ready to take on the responsibility. Finding homes for each pet is the ultimate goal but matching a pet to its most compatible owner/home is more valuable. I strongly urge everyone to do the research and listen to any advice given to you by veterinary medical professionals and pet adoption agencies. We all have the best interests of the pet at heart, we hope you will too.