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Top 10 tips for owning a pet

1. Cost

When one is thinking about owning a pet, cost is not normally the first thing that comes to mind…but it should. Owning a dog or cat over its lifetime (including initial purchase cost boarding fees, vet visits, insurance, food and preventative healthcare) can be up to £31,000 for dogs and £17,000 for cats1.

One-third of this cost goes to feeding your pet with another third being veterinary fees. This is why you should always consider pet insurance.

2. Vaccinations

Vaccinations are key to ensure your pet is protected against the most common transmittable diseases, many of them being lethal to your pet. However, the biggest reason to vaccinate is to make sure your pet has a full physical exam on an annual basis (this is often part of the vaccination cost).

As is plainly obvious, our pets cannot talk and need us as owners to be observant both visually (walking, eating and drinking habits) and physically (coat, skin, lumps and bumps). Get to know your pet so when you spot something abnormal, you see your vet.

3. Parasites

Parasites can be extremely detrimental to your pet’s wellbeing but are easy to prevent thank goodness. There are many products on the market that can be given either by tablet or pipette (on the skin at the back of the neck) that will prevent your pet being infested with fleas/ticks or infected with worms.

Products that treat both fleas and worms together tend to require a prescription from your vet but many individual treatments can be purchased online providing you supply some important pet details such as your pet’s breed, age and weight.

4. Food

Whilst each pet has different nutritional needs, depending on their age, size and lifestyle, feeding them the right food is immensely important for their health and wellbeing.

This is specifically important as they grow from one life-stage to another, puppy to junior, junior to adult and adult to senior. Each stage requires different levels of minerals, vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrates to suit the breed and age of your pet. There are many premium food brands that provide exactly this as well as veterinary diets that can be given for the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, allergies, joint and kidney disease to name but a few.

5. Weight

It is not only we humans who need to fight the battle of the bulge, animals also need to watch what they eat. Plump pets are at risk of a whole host of illnesses including diabetes and heart problems, just like us. Make sure you know your pet’s optimum weight and invest in a pair of scales.

Feeding your pet human food over proper dog food is not advised but if you do, please use oatmeal, yoghurt, peanut butter, carrots, green beans, salmon, cottage cheese, salmon, pumpkin and eggs. Do not ever give your pet chocolate, onions, grapes/raisins or avocado! Also lilies (the flower) and cats do not mix. Chomping on a leaf, licking pollen or even drinking water from the vase can cause irreversible kidney failure in your cat.

6. Breeding

Whilst watching videos of cute kittens and loveable puppies is the perfect way to procrastinate from basically any chore, having new-borns could be rather more challenging. Ensure you speak to your vet early on about neutering.

Neutering males will reduce roaming and prostate problems whilst neutering females (especially if done before their first season) drastically reduces the incidence of breast tumours.

7. Exercise

Pets need to be outdoors. In much the same way we, can become somewhat volatile without regular access to food (particularly soft, chewy cookies) pets can become unhealthy and destructive without the right levels of exercise.

Please walk your dog daily and if you can, put in a microchip-accessible cat flap for your feline friend!

8. Microchip

The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is easily implanted under the skin at the back of your pet’s neck. This can be done either by your veterinarian or sometimes your local charity.

This handy device means that if your pet goes missing, they have a unique code traceable back to you. It is also a means to prove ownership in case your pet is stolen. Do not forget that microchipping your dog will become compulsory in England from the 6th April, 2016. A fine of £500 will be payable if your dog is not microchipped within 21 days of being served a notice – requiring you to do so. You have been warned. Please do it, it is quick and painless (for both you and your dog!).

9. Teeth

Without opposable thumbs your pet cannot really brush his teeth first thing in the morning or last thing at night. However, dental hygiene is still important and it is important you brush their teeth…

(finger brushes and pet toothpaste are available) and/or provide them with treats and toys designed to remove plaque and calculus. Bad teeth not only smell bad but can lead to heart valve issues if left untreated.

10. Love

Well this is the whole point of having a pet and your pet will return your love a million fold if you carry out the nine points above!

Pets really want to be snuggled, coddled and stroked. They love affection, warmth and smiles. Shower your pet with love and they will provide your home with that unconditional love that only a pet can provide. Also do not forget that stroking your pet has been scientifically proven to reduce your blood pressure. Now, it does not get better than that!

1PDSA Big Pet Report – PAW Report 2014 p.38