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Vet Talks Pets: Is It Time for a New Pet?


By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM

Spring is here and as the weather warms, many folks begin to contemplate getting a new pet!

The thought of a new “family” member is always exciting, but be aware that a pet requires not only a lot of time, but also regular health care.

As you decide what pet you will choose, you should take many things into consideration, especially what type of pet will fit your lifestyle. You might even think about bringing a trained pet professional with you to assess the energy and demeanor of that pet to see if it will be a good fit.

Try fostering first

If you’re uncertain about getting a pet, consider fostering one from the local animal shelter or Humane Society. Fostering a pet allows you and your family to see if you all are truly ready for the responsibility of a pet, as well as if that type of pet can accommodate your daily routine.

In addition, fostering a pet will allow you to see if a particular pet’s personality is a fit in your home under all different types of circumstances, e.g. when the children have friends over or when you are gone for several hours.

Observe and engage

If fostering is not an option, take the pet (if a dog) for a walk outside when you visit it at the adoption organization. See how he/she reacts to other dogs, as well as to you. Does the dog have too much energy? Is it difficult for you to walk? How is it around other people and animals?

If you’re considering adopting a cat, hold it. Spend time with it. See how it reacts to other animals as well. Perhaps go visit that cat for several days in a row to be sure you connect.

Use your instincts

In general, use your instincts. If you like to be active, look for a pet who will be active with you. If you are looking for a companion or sidekick, look for that pet who can’t take his/her eyes off you.

Where do you find a new pet?

So then you ask, where do I find a new pet?

First of all, check your local animal shelters and humane society. The professionals in these organizations will know the personalities of these pets and will help in your decision making process.

What about the internet? In this case, buyer or adopter beware! Be sure you have that pet fully checked out by a trained veterinarian prior to your purchase to assess the health and the disposition of the pet, especially if that pet is going to be shipped to you.

What about pet stores? Not the best option, and again, buyer beware and read the fine print! Always take a pet from the pet store to a veterinarian within 48 hours of purchase. Many shops have contracts that will allow you to return an unhealthy pet within a specified time period.

And breeders. What about breeders? In the past two years, I have had several clients adopt young pups from breeders which seemingly are healthy but within days are violently ill with parvovirus. Before making a purchase, fully check out the breeder and find out if the pet has been seen by a veterinarian. Has it been vaccinated, and if so with what and when?

Get that medical history

There are many instances where adopting young pets without having a good medical history can be devastating financially and emotionally. Whether you are adopting from a shelter, a rescue, a breeder or a pet store, be sure to get a full medical history of that pet before adopting. Plus, inquire about any contractual agreements or potential insurance the adoption agent may offer. Most important, immediately take the pet to your regular veterinarian for a full examination.

In closure, be smart about your pet choices. Be educated on the needs of your pet over its lifetime. And best of luck finding the right companion for you!

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, CO. She’s a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School and a frequent visitor to Ellicottville to see family. She provides this column as a public service.

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