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National Pet Week: Understanding Your Pet’s Needs

All of us pet-parents know that dogs and cats are huge commitments. It’s like having a child, except instead of trying to balance doctor and dentist appointments with schoolwork and weekly activities, you’re making annual veterinarian appointments and trying to fit in play sessions and walks after work. Dogs and cats are wonderful additions to a household, but being a pet owner isn’t all fun and games; it takes hard work and lots of time.

The first important job that you have as a pet owner is choosing an animal that will fit in with your family’s lifestyle. Those of us who are constantly on the go and spend long hours away from home may not be the best parents to a puppy, unless we can make sure to schedule in plenty of exercise, potty breaks, and training sessions. If you already have pets in the home, bringing home a dog or cat that doesn’t do well with other animals could create tension and disruption in your home environment. A cat will probably be more comfortable in a small apartment than a medium- or large-breed dog. There are many factors to consider when choosing a pet: living space, lifestyle, budget, etc.

Adopting a pet means that you are accepting responsibility for that animal’s health and welfare, and committing to caring for that pet for the rest of its life. Remember that deciding to adopt isn’t entirely about you as the pet owner; it’s also a decision that will greatly affect the life of your pet. Selecting an animal that will be compatible with your lifestyle not only makes pet-parenting easier for you, but is also in the best interests of your future family member.

Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a new pet (click each section for more information):
Different breeds and species have varying needs. Consider food, living environment, socialization, exercise, grooming, medical care, and life expectancy.
How long will you be leaving your pet? Pets who require lots of exercise or frequent feedings may not be a good choice for an owner who spends long days in the office or travels often.
Who will care for your pet in the event of an emergency? Is it possible that your pet may outlive you? If so, do you have a friend or relative who will commit to caring for your pet after your death?
Do you have the time to give your pet that attention, or will your pet be neglected? Consider that some animal breeds, like Shepherds, have high energy and need to spend lots of time running around outdoors. Keeping a pet like that in a smaller space for many hours a day is not in the best interests of the animal (or your belongings!).
Is the type of pet you’re looking to adopt going to be accepted by your current pets and socialize well with them?
Do you want a pet that will cuddle with you? Or that will accompany you on long hikes and other outdoor excursions? One that is largely independent, or super snuggly and affectionate? One that will go hunting, act as a guardian, or perform other tasks for you? Different species and breeds have varying personalities, and this is something to consider when choosing what type of animal to add to your family.

Your veterinarian is here to help! Whether you’re trying to select a pet, or you’ve already welcomed home a new family member, your vet is an excellent source of knowledge and advice who can help you better understand the social and medical needs of your pet. Never hesitate to ask your vet questions about your pet’s needs — they’re considered animal experts for a reason, and they are a great source of information and support!

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