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Pete the Vet: Top 10 things to consider if you're getting a new pet

Dr Pete Wedderburn says there are many things to consider when you’re planning to get a new pet, but for now, he has 10 tips.

Dr Pete Wedderburn

SO, YOU’RE THINKING of getting a pet? It’s understandable, particularly at a time like this when many of us are working from home, isolated from loved ones, and reassessing how we live our lives.

When you’re walking within your 5KM radius, you’ve probably noticed an increase in people walking dogs. Dog ownership, in particular, has increased greatly since Covid-19 hit almost a year ago.

Getting a new pet can be one of the most joyful experiences and when it goes well it can bring years of happiness into our lives. But, owning a pet is not something anyone should do half-heartedly or without proper research.

I’ll be outlining below the top 10 things to consider if you are thinking of getting a pet, or if you’ve just taken one into your home. It’s important to remember that we won’t always be living in Level 5 and eventually people will have to return to the office, kids will go back to school and you will still have a duty of care to that pet.

Thinking of getting a pet?

1. Plan ahead and be realistic

A pet can be a wonderful life companion, and welcome addition to any family: research shows that pet owners enjoy more contented, healthier lives, and children that grow up with pets become more self-confident and socially adept.

shutterstock_1694212189 Source: Shutterstock/FamVeld

With more folk working from home due to the Covid lockdown, there’s less impediment for many to take on a pet, and in particular, a new dog. The demand for puppies has soared, leading to increases in puppy prices, rising from around €400 to over €2000 for common breeds like labradors.

Amid the enthusiasm for the joy of owning a dog, it’s easy to forget that this is a 15-year commitment, which carries an annual cost of at least €1000, not to mention a significant commitment of time and energy.

So you need to be ultra-realistic when considering taking on your first dog. Cats, and smaller pets, need less input, but it’s still a serious decision, not to be taken lightly.

2. Choose an ethical source

Illegal puppy farmers and other dubious sources have taken advantage of the shortage of supply of puppies. Read the Petfix Club checklist before searching for a new puppy, to ensure that you are buying from the right type of seller.

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Search local rescues first: “adopt don’t shop”, remembering that rescue dogs can make equally good pets. Visit www.petbond.ie, a website dedicated to helping people find well-matched pets from ethical sellers.

A group called the Irish Pet Advertisers Advisory Group (IPAAG.ie) has been established to set a standard for online advertisers to follow, and it’s hoped that progress will be made on this in coming months.

3. Manage the pet’s arrival carefully

The process of leaving their family and arriving in a new home is a natural part of life for young animals but there is some unavoidable stress. Be gentle and calm, bring some bedding and food from their original home, and settle into a regular routine from the start.

Just taken a new pet in?

4. Get a vet to check your pet

An early visit to your vet makes sense. First, some pets have hidden issues (such as heart murmurs or hernias) and it’s best to spot these as soon as possible so that if by misfortune, the animal has to be returned to the breeder, you can do this before your heart has been completely won over by your new pet.

Second, if your pet is healthy, your vet will give you good, sensible advice on the essentials of caring for your new furry friend.

5. Ensure vaccine cover is complete

Puppies and kittens need proper protection against some life-threatening viruses before they go out and about in the world: this means two vaccinations in most cases, with the last one given at 10 – 12 weeks.

The breeder may have arranged for the first vaccine to be given, but a second one (and sometimes a third one) needs to be done by your own vet. Your vet will advise on this, and it’s critical that you do not expose your new pet to risk before this has been done.

shutterstock_1006800148 Owning a pet means taking responsibility for lots of things, including their waste. Source: Shutterstock/Saklakova

6. Use safe – but not excessive – parasite control

Pups and kittens need to be treated for worms repeatedly, as they pick them up from their mothers. Adult dogs and cats need regular worming and flea/tick prevention too. Ask your vet, or use the Petfix Club parasite planner to find out what you need to do.

7. Focus on socialisation, behaviour and training from an early stage

A well-behaved animal makes life easier for both you and your pet: engage with online resources, and aim to spend at least fifteen minutes a day training your pet, ideally for their whole life.

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shutterstock_1775221898 Source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

8. Choose your pet’s food wisely

Gradually change your new pet onto a diet that you have chosen: ideally, one that includes transparent, high quality and highly digestible ingredients. We do offer a range at PetfixClub.com that is hypoallergenic, complete food for all breeds and sizes.

9. Don’t forget home dental care

The ideal is to use daily toothbrushing for the front teeth, combined with clinically proven dental chews to keep the out-of-reach back teeth free from plaque and tartar.

10. Educate yourself from a trusted source

You don’t need to go to a vet every time your pet has a hiccough, but be aware that Dr Google Vet can be misleading. Get your information from somewhere you can trust, such as Petfix Club.com.

Dr Pete Wedderburn BVM&S MRCVS is well known as a media veterinarian with regular national tv, radio and newspaper slots. Pete is known as “Pete the Vet” on his busy Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, regularly posting on topical subjects and real-life cases from his clinic in Bray. He has recently launched an interactive website for pet owners, at www.petfixclub.com.

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About the author:

Dr Pete Wedderburn

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