Choosing a pet is an exciting prospect and one which will generally involve a lot of emotion. Given that most pets will generally join your family and be dependent on you for around 15 years, it’s important to consider the responsibilities and consequences of selecting a pet.
Most importantly, examine your current lifestyle and consider what adjustments you are willing to make for a dog. Look at the needs of your family – especially if you have children or other pets.
Some people are definitely cat or dog people, others enjoy both species. The main point to consider here is how much time you are willing to dedicate to owning a pet. In general, dogs require a reasonable investment of time for exercise, company, games, outings to the beach, etc. They don't like being left "home alone" and adapt better to their environment and to other pets and people when they are trained. Training also takes time.
Cats are generally much more independent than dogs and therefore need less ‘human’ time than dogs.
Costs and benefits of pet ownership
You may be able to acquire a new pet for free, or you may pay hundreds of dollars for a pedigree, but all animals require care and a financial investment for their entire lives.
Costs include food, dental care, and parasite control such as worming, flea control, heartworm protection, vaccinations (an initial course and annual boosters), desexing (sterilisation), and most importantly regular check-ups.
You will also need to consider a budget for council registration (dogs), unforeseen veterinary bills (e.g. for illness, accident), insurance, grooming, boarding kennels/cattery for your holidays, training classes (dogs), bedding and leads/collars/brass name tags.
If you are willing to accept the responsibilities, consider adopting a senior dog. It can be one of the most compassionate things you can do for these precious creatures.
Dental diseases are becoming more common in pets, with up to 85 per cent of animals three years and over now affected. Does your dog or cat have halitosis (smelly breath)? This is often the first sign of a problem - but it can be prevented.
As with human teeth, residual food, bacteria and calcium deposits form plaque and tartar on pet’s teeth, with painful and sometimes fatal results.
Failure to address the problem can result in bacteria being carried into the animal’s bloodstream, resulting in severe or even fatal complications. Your pet's dental care is an important part of their health.
Prevention and control can be achieved by a combination of attention to diet and other preventative treatments – consult a good vet.
Don't risk the health of your pet - get a dental check up at your next vet visit, and be sure to look after your pet's teeth.
Shampoo & Skin Care
Just like humans, animals require topical therapies to keep their skin healthy. The frequency of washes will depend on the condition of your pet's skin, their level of activity and their environment.
Dogs that live inside and close to their owners (or even share the bed or couch) may need more regular washes. Cats generally keep themselves clean and don't always tolerate bathing so well.
Animals with skin disease might need very regular (even daily) skin therapy, which can be reduced as their skin heals.
Dogs and cats are at risk from a number of serious infections. However you can help to protect against several of these diseases with good nutrition, socialising with other animals and a vaccination programme.
It is easy for dogs to come into contact with infections present because of unvaccinated dogs and puppies or in the environment. Because dogs tend to socialise and go for walks outside, they are exposed to diseases on a daily basis. Some diseases are so serious that people can spread the disease to their dog, simply from walking in a contaminated environment.
As both cats and their owners are very mobile it is possible that your pet will come into contact with infections present in the environment - for example, when your cat socialises with other cats in the neighbourhood, or if the cat goes into boarding for any reason, or into the vet clinic for another illness.
Fleas can cause medical problems in pets including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, hair loss due to scratching, and secondary skin irritations. In large numbers, fleas can cause anaemia from blood loss, especially in puppies and kittens.
The simplest way to tell if your pet has fleas is by finding the adult fleas or the flea faeces (often called "flea dirt") on the animal. Brush your pet over a white sheet or paper towel and look for small dark specks.
When it comes to fleas, prevention is the key. Controlling and eliminating an already existing flea problem takes a lot of time and effort. It is recommended that good grooming and application of flea control treatments, when needed, can help protect your pets from the discomfort and disease fleas can spread, and protect your house from possible infestation
A worm infested pet is more susceptible to illness and poor behaviour such as stealing food. Cat and dog worms are transferable to humans. Worm infestation can be fatal to puppies. A good diet and regular worming treatments are recommended as prevention.
Puppies should be wormed every two weeks until twelve weeks of age, then monthly until six months of age. After six months all dogs need to be wormed every three months for effective protection.
Kittens 6 to 16 weeks of age should be wormed every three weeks. From 4 months onward cats and kittens should be wormed every 3 months.