A to Z on pet care (Part 1 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.

Annual check-ups are essential

All pets should have an annual check-up at the vet, even if the animal seems healthy. Vets are trained to pick up early signs of illness that may be too subtle for you to notice. He or she will also listen to your pet’s heart and lungs to make sure they are healthy. The vet will check for signs of infection or parasites and will deworm your pet. Any required booster vaccinations will be given.

Buy from a reputable breeder

Responsible pet ownership starts with finding a pet to suit your lifestyle. Whether a dog or cat is chosen, the right breed must be considered. Once you have settled on a breed, you will need to find the right puppy or kitten. Always buy your pet from a reputable breeder who is committed to his or her breed. Never buy from pet stores,as they often purchase their ‘stock’ from puppy or kitten farms. For registered breeders, see the Animaltalk classified advertisements, Animaltalk Breeders Gallery or the Dog Directory 2013.

Car safety is compulsory

Pets must be properly restrained in a vehicle. In the event of an accident, your unharnessed pet will likely be thrown from the car, and could suffer serious or fatal injuries. For dogs, use a pet travel crate for smaller pets, or a seat belt harness designed for the size/weight of your dog. Cats should be secured in a cat carrier. The carrier can be placed behind the front seats or secured on the seat with a crate harness connected to the seatbelt. Small pets can be transported in a travel carrier placed behind the front seats.

Diets should be scrutinised   

A well-balanced, quality diet is essential for good health. Some diets are breed-specific, others are recommended according to the developmental stages of your pet. Some pets, like guinea pigs, birds, hamsters and reptiles, need fresh fruit and vegetables in their diets. Vitamin and mineral supplements may also be required. The wrong food can upset your pet’s digestive system or may even be fatal. Ask the breeder or your vet for advice on your pet’s diet.

Exercise is essential for all breeds

All dogs require some exercise. This is essential for health and fitness and also helps to prevent obesity. An overweight dog can develop various medical problems, including diabetes, breathing difficulties, back and joint problems and a decrease in liver function. Exercise will also stimulate your dog and help to prevent boredom, which is often the precursor to behaviour problems. The amount of exercise required will depend on your dog’s breed.

First aid knowledge can save your pet’s life 

By learning some basics in pet first aid, you could save your animal’s life in the event of an emergency. Quick, confident action could help to alleviate your pet’s discomfort as you get him to an emergency veterinary facility.

Every home should have two well-stocked first aid kits – one for humans and one for pets. Pet first aid kits are available at pet stores. Keep the telephone number of a local 24-hour veterinary emergency centre on your cellphone.

Grooming your pet is therapeutic

Grooming is an essential part of pet ownership. You will need to find out exactly how much grooming your cat or dog needs, based on his coat type and length. Regular grooming means that you’ll be ‘up close and personal’ with your pet and able to keep an eye out for unwanted parasites. Research has also revealed that caring for a pet can be therapeutic for owners. Just stroking or rubbing a pet can help to lower stress levels, calm you and prevent depression.

Horses – be a responsible owner

Feeding a horse can be confusing and costly. The diet will differ according to the horse’s type, age, weight and workload. You’ll need to supply your horse with fresh water, forage (like hay, grass or teff) and concentrates to ensure a balanced diet. Your equine vet may also suggest a salt lick and dietary supplements. In addition to the right diet and plenty of water, horses also need a clean shelter, exercise, grooming and proper medical care, including deworming, vaccinations and dental care.

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