Did you know that February is Responsible Pet Owner Month? Here are the top 10 ways that you can be a responsible pet parent!
1) The very best way to be a responsible pet parent starts before you even bring your four-legged friend home. Research the various breeds and pick one that fits with your lifestyle. Are you a couch potato? Then an active breed is probably not for you! And if you live in a small apartment, think again about getting a Great Dane. Before you head off to a breeder, first consider your local shelter or rescue group – there are so many great dogs and cats just waiting for a forever home. If you choose to get your new pet from a breeder, make sure he or she is reputable.
2) Know the cost of owning a pet. The cost of owning a cat for the first year is $1,100 or more, and if you have a dog, you can expect to spend upwards of $1,800 for the first year. Keep in mind these are conservative cost estimates and do not account for emergencies or major illness. Statistics show that pets under the age of 1 year are 2.5 times more likely to suffer an unexpected illness or injury than their older counterparts, so protecting them with pet insurance at any early age is a great way to ensure they (and your budget) are covered for unanticipated expenses and protected for life.
3) Keep up with your pet’s health. Schedule annual physical exams (or twice a year for a geriatric pet) regardless of whether your pet is due for vaccines. Physical exams are just as important for safeguarding your pet’s health as vaccines, and give you an opportunity to catch problems sooner than later. Keeping up with your pet’s health includes keeping them parasite-free with monthly preventatives. Fleas and ticks can carry disease and make your pet uncomfortable, and heartworm disease can be deadly. Be sure you are giving your pet a monthly preventative year-round rather than just in the summer. Since February is also Pet Dental Health Month, it's a great time to brush up on your pet’s oral health care.
4) Feed your pet a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet. And don’t overfeed! Obesity in pets is common - about half of my patients are overweight! Pet obesity can lead to other major health problems, such as diabetes, and exacerbates joint pain caused by arthritis.
5) Be sure your pet is spayed or neutered. Decreasing the pet population is important, but spaying or neutering your pet helps reduce the risk of certain health problems, such as mammary or testicular cancer.
6) Make sure your pet has identification. Current ID tags on your dog or cat’s collar may be the difference in whether they return home in the event they get lost. Talk to your veterinarian about getting a microchip for your pet. A microchip is your best defense against a lost pet and can make all the difference in helping them return home. If he is lost (and found), the microchip number can be scanned instantly to tell rescuers important phone numbers and addresses. If your pet has a microchip, also be sure that your information in the database is up-to-date to help return your pet faster.
7) Be prepared. Have a pet first aid kit accessible at home and in the car when you are traveling with your pet. Include things like: gauze, vet wrap, plastic bags, hydrogen peroxide, styptic or cornstarch for small cuts or bleeding toenails, eyewash, antibacterial ointment, scissors and tweezers. Don’t forget to include a first aid book and the phone numbers of your regular veterinarian and nearby emergency facilities.
8) Train your dog. Start training and socialization when your dog is a puppy. Even knowing simple commands, such as “Come” and “Sit” or “Stay” can keep your pet safer, especially if he is mischievous! The ability to call your dog back to you with “Come!” can keep him from potentially dangerous situations. Training is also important in preventing behavior problems - unsocialized dogs can become nervous or aggressive around people.
9) Set a good example when you're in public with your pet. When you go out with your pet, be sure to bring bags so that you can clean up after him. Leaving waste annoys other people, is unhealthy and is often against the law!
10) Lastly, tell other people about Responsible Pet Owner Month, and encourage your friends to be responsible pet parents, too!