6 top tips for new pet owners

6 top tips for new pet owners

Did you know that on average a medium-sized dog may cost over £20,000 to care for over the course of its life? Food, vaccinations, insurance and vet bills can soon add up. Fortunately, there are several ways you can minimize and spread that cost.

Tip 1: Get insurance as soon as possible
Purchase a policy early in your pet’s life – pre-existing conditions are usually not covered. Consider lifetime insurance, especially if you are concerned about chronic or recurring illness.

Tip 2: Get them vaccinated
All dogs, cats and rabbits need to be vaccinated to protect them against common ailments. Dogs and cats also need worm treatment, as worms can cause a blockage of the gastro-intestinal tract, especially in puppies, and represent a health risk to humans, especially young children. Cats in particular require flea treatment, not only because they themselves suffer if they’ve got fleas, but also because this can lead to some very unpleasant problems for their owners. Think flea bites and having to spray your entire house.

Tip 3: Make sure they’re microchipped
Microchipping makes it extremely easy to identify a pet if they are lost and from the 6th of April 2016, all dogs in the UK must be microchipped and registered to an approved database by the time they are 8 weeks old. Ask your vet if they offer puppy or kitten packages as they can often include the basics at a significant discount.

Tip 4: Get them neutered
Having your pet neutered is another important way to prevent serious health problems, especially in female dogs. Of particular significance is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection of the uterus called Pyometra, which vets have to deal with very frequently. Older entire male dogs often struggle to pass faeces because of prostate problems which could have been prevented by castration. Often neutered dogs are much more easily trained. In cats, the main reason for neutering is the prevention of increasing numbers of unwanted kittens.

Tip 5: Give them a good diet
It is vital that pets are not fed scraps of human food, because this will almost invariably lead to obesity and dental problems. Every day, vets also treat patients because of diarrhoea and vomiting due to dietary indiscretion. One fatty meal, for example roast pork, could be enough to give your dog a very serious bout of pancreatitis, requiring it to be hospitalised.

Tip 6: Don’t reward inappropriate behaviour
Finally, try not to reward inappropriate behaviour. It will make your life a lot easier in the future. As a classic example of how inappropriate behaviour can be reinforced, think of the owner who, after his or her dog has just tried to bite the vet, pets the dog and, in a well-intentioned attempt to calm it down, praises it “Good dog!” It happens all the time!

Remember – each pet is different and there is an element of learning whether it is your first or tenth. Always contact your vet if you have any concerns – they’re here to help!

By Dr Frithjof Praetsch BSc MRCVS