By Dr. Bruce Little
When you acquire a new pet, be it a puppy, kitten or a grown adult animal, it’s good practice to schedule a visit to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you don’t have one yet, visit www.veterinarians.com to find an animal hospital close to you that can look after the health and well-being of the newly acquired addition to your family. Veterinary visits serve many purposes in advising pet families about responsible pet ownership. It’s best to introduce your pet to the veterinarian early-on, so a record of all health issues can be addressed at the outset of your relationship with your new pet.
To help you be as prepared as possible for this first visit, here are some questions the veterinarian and hospital staff may ask.
Question #1 – Where did you acquire your new pet?
This is an important question because pets can come from many different sources — animal shelters, breed adoption centers, foster homes, pet stores, licensed and certified breeders, or individuals who failed to have their pet spayed or neutered. Many on these facilities have protocols regarding adoptability that include health checks, vaccinations, spay/neutering, deworming and nutritional advice. However, not all these sources know and understand what’s best for the pet. Many times, veterinarians are familiar with these establishments in their area and are aware of the care that has been given prior to adoption or sale of the pet.
Question #2 – What is the age of your newly acquired pet?
Many puppies and kittens are sold in pet stores at an early age, usually between 8 and 16 weeks old. Most pet stores and individual breeders are regulated by state and local governmental units that require certain protocols to be followed before a puppy can be purchased by a family. However, shelters and adoption centers may operate under a different set of regulations. Many times, dogs and cats are picked up by animal control and their age hasn’t been confirmed. Your veterinary visit will allow hospital staff to estimate the age of your new pet by checking its teeth, body shape, state of awareness and other factors. It’s common to age a pet according to life stage rather than chronological years. Different-aged dogs or cats may require special health care options, rather than the one-size-fits-all treatment category.
Question #3 – Did the shelter, adoption center or breeder give you a Health Report for your new pet?
Most shelters, adoption centers, certified breeders and pet stores will have vaccinated, dewormed, and spayed or neutered your new pet. They will issue a Health Report that contains all the information available, including dates of vaccinations and surgery. Be sure to take this Health Report with you when you visit the veterinarian for the first time, and every time thereafter. If your pet has not been vaccinated for communicable diseases or treated for parasites, your veterinarian will inform you of the need for such preventive actions and offer a schedule for fulfilling those needs. The same advice will be given to you for spaying and neutering if that hasn’t already been done.
Question #4 – What have you done in preparation for housing, feeding, grooming, and home care for your pet?
The size and breed of your new pet will dictate the space and housing needs it will need. Big dogs need more space than smaller dogs and cats, and may need special attention regarding space in your house or yard. They also may need you to take them to walking trails and dog parks as part of their daily routine. Of course, all pets need food and water bowls, grooming equipment, and toys. All pets are different, so it’s important to consider needs of that individual. Ask your veterinarian what’s best for your particular pet. Keep track of the successes and failures of you pet’s activities and report that back to your veterinarian on subsequent visits. Training and socializing a new pet are a continuous work in progress and may change as the pet passes through the different life stages. Remember, both dogs and cats age faster than people, so these changes come about more rapidly than our children.
Question #5 – What do you plan to feed your new pet and how much do you plan to feed it?
All pets are different. Feeding pets is an individual process and must be determined for each pet depending on breed, size, life stage, family lifestyle, and activity of the pet. The pet food that’s good for one pet may not work for all pets. Dogs that have free run of a large yard or outside facility will need more nutrition than a pet that’s confined to a small space in a house or apartment. According to a recent study, 59 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs are overweight or obese. Dogs and cats need limited calories and daily exercise to keep their weight under control. Unfortunately, 90 percent of pet owners believe their pet is at normal weight for its breed, size and age. Overweight pets are perhaps the greatest health crisis in all the pet world. Pets should be fed a commercial diet that’s formulated for their life stage and activity level. Homemade pet food frequently leaves out necessary nutrient products that provide the best overall nutrition for that pet.
Question #6 – How do you plan to entertain and socialize your new pet?
All pets need exercise and socialization. Walking your dog is great for exercising both the dog and its owners. Taking your dog to the dog park is also beneficial for both exercise and socialization. The dog will have an opportunity to interact and play with other people and their pets. Dogs need toys to play with, and to also play fetch. Find a way to encourage your dog to exercise daily. Cats will benefit from playing with items such as feathers on a string, laser lights on the wall and puzzle food bowls. Cats also need scratching posts and elevated platforms on which they can climb and rest, thus separating themselves from the activity of a busy household.
If you go to your veterinarian visit prepared with answers to these six questions, you’ll have a successful experience! Visit veterinarians.com to find a vet near you.