A to Z on pet care (Part 3 of 3)

Do you have what it takes to be a responsible pet owner? Caring for an animal requires a firm commitment to the animal’s health and welfare throughout his life

Responsible pet ownership doesn’t stop with a bowl of food and fresh water. It means that you have a commitment to providing your pet with everything he needs, from love and attention, to shelter, safety and medical care. You also have a responsibility toward your community in how your pet behaves in public places.

Quench your dog’s thirst

Responsible pet owners provide pets with fresh water every day. Always rinse the water container before you top it up and wash with soap and warm water every other day. Make sure your dog has access to fresh water when he eats dry pellets.

Rules: even pets need them

You may be in love with your new puppy, but you will need to set some boundaries to ensure your dog grows up to be the companion you want. If you don’t want your Saint Bernard to sleep on your bed, don’t put him there as a puppy. Consider the house rules you want to enforce, then start (and stick) with them while your dog is still a puppy. Obey the rules set by others, like keeping your dog on lead in a public park if required, or not walking on a beach with your dog if they aren’t allowed there.

Senior pets need love and extra care

Animals in their senior years need a special diet based on their age. They may also require more frequent trips to the vet as they struggle with age-related complaints. Older pets also need a soft place to rest during the day. If your older dog doesn’t seem to want to exercise as he did before, see your vet about osteoarthritis and pain management. When the time comes, you may need to consider euthanasia on the advice of your vet.

Training is ongoing

After puppy classes, join a Level 1 obedience class to provide ongoing training for your puppy. Later, you may even consider enrolling him in one of the dog sports – a great way to keep him stimulated and keep off those unwanted pounds!

Unforeseen medical emergencies can be costly

Pet health insurance or medical aid provides peace of mind for pet owners should their pet need medical treatment. Where veterinary bills can run into thousands of rands, premiums for health care cover are usually affordable. There are several companies in South Africa which offer pet health policies, so do some research to make sure the policy meets your needs.

Vaccinations help to prevent illness

Vaccinations are designed to trigger an immune response in your puppy or kitten. This builds up his antibodies against the diseases administered through the vaccine. The breeder should have the first vaccinations done and let you know when the second one is due. Adverse reactions to vaccines are quite rare. Your puppy or kitten may have a local swelling at the injection site and he may be drowsy after his shot. After the initial puppy and kitten vaccinations, your pets will require an annual booster shot. Pet owners are required by law to vaccinate their pets against rabies, as it is a deadly zoonotic disease that animals can transmit to humans. No vaccinations are required for rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and hamsters, but some diseases and parasites can be passed on, so always wash your hands before and after handling your pet. Only birds on commercial farms or birds in large breeding aviaries require vaccinations.

Worms can make your pet sick

Symptoms of worms may include a dull coat, low energy, appetite and weight loss, and in severe cases, vomiting and diarrhoea. Check your dog’s stools. Tapeworms look like grains of rice, while roundworms are long and thin. If your dog has any symptoms, ask your vet for advice. A regular deworming programme is recommended as some worms cannot be detected by the naked eye.

X-rays can detect problems before breeding

There are various genetically inherited conditions that are passed from parents to their offspring. Responsible breeders make sure their breeding dogs are sound before they are bred. If you are buying a puppy, ask the breeder what tests, including x-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, have been done on both parents and what the results mean.

Your vet, a partner in your pet’s health

If you have never had pets before, you’ll need to find a veterinarian in your area. This is especially important if you have a bird or exotic pet like a snake, bearded dragon or iguana. Consider finding a vet before you bring your new pet home.

Zap unwanted parasites

Most animals pick up ticks, fleas and mites sometime during their lives. It’s up to you to make sure they are dealt with before they set up a breeding camp on your pet! A good tick and flea control programme and a good grooming programme will stop ticks and fleas in their tracks. Ask your vet for advice on the right product for your type of pet.

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