February is Be a Responsible Pet Owner Month! There are a number of ways by which we can be “pawsome,” responsible pet parents. It takes lots of love and commitment. Bringing a pet into your home is a lifelong relationship and there are a few basic steps to showing how much you care.
- Spay or neuter your dog, cat, rabbit or ferret. It’s important not to contribute to pet overpopulation. Hundreds of thousands of animals enter shelters nationwide each year. Many, if not most, face euthanasia. Spaying or neutering not only limits the pet population, it helps to keep your furry friend healthy for a longer period of time.
- Keep regular veterinary checkups. It’s important that our pets receive their vaccinations on a regular basis, not only to keep them healthy but also to prevent the spread of any animal diseases. In addition, many animals can easily conceal their pain and illness. Regular, at least annual, visits to the vet will help detect any signs or symptoms before they become serious diseases that require expensive treatment.
- Identify and microchip your pet. Keeping up-to-date ID tags on your dog or cat helps to get them home safe and sound if they should wander away for a while. Keeping your dog registered with your town is also a good practice.
- Always be prepared! Being prepared for an emergency or disaster also means having an appropriate emergency kit for your pet. Keep a list of items on hand that your furry friend needs if you ever need to evacuate and have these items easily accessible in your home or already packed in a backpack. Always have ample pet food on hand in case you suddenly need to pack some for a few days.
- Travel safely. Most dogs love car rides and it’s important to keep them safe when they are traveling along with you on your adventures. Using a harness that buckles into the seat belt or restraining small dogs in their own car seats are always good safety practices. Traveling is sometimes done on foot too! Walking your dog regularly and allowing ample exercise time both provide the physical activity and mental stimulation that dogs require. There are plenty of wonderful scents in the great outdoors and we all know how much dogs love to explore these smells. Give them a chance to do that every day! Obey leash laws and use a leash when required. Find local dog parks or trails where your furry friend can also have some off-leash freedom. Always clean up after your pet. When traveling with your loving kitty, it’s best to keep kitty in his own crate or carrier, where he can feel safe and secure.
- Pet proof your home. As we all know, animals can be very curious. It’s important to keep any plants or products that may be toxic away from your pets. Keep plants out of reach of cats or dogs, and keep any hazardous products in cupboards that your inquisitive friend cannot open on his own. If your dog likes to counter-surf, or your cat likes to jump up on counters, keep items such as food products in the refrigerator or cupboard. For your pet’s own good health, learn to read the labels on dog and cat food. Some are significantly healthier than others.
These are some of many responsibilities that come with the joy and privilege of having a pet in your home. It’s important to keep only the number of pets for which you can provide sufficient food, shelter, healthcare and companionship. Having a pet is a lifelong journey. Recognize that if something happens in your life that prevents you from keeping your pet, it’s important to find an appropriate, alternate home in which your pet can continue to live a healthy, happy life. It’s also important to understand that the life of our beloved pet is usually not as long as our own. This means there may be a need to consult with your veterinarian when your aging or ill pet begins to lose a good quality of life so that appropriate decisions can be made. Yes, having a pet means taking responsibility, and it also means enjoying the love, companionship and new adventures that you can share with your furry friend every day of the year! For more information on Responsible Pet Ownership visit www.avma.org.