Before You Bring One Home

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the cute cuddly side of a new pet, but before you decide to bring one into your family, make sure you’re prepared from all angles.

While you should always make sure your new cat or dog has been dewormed, doing so is especially important if you have children, according to Melissa Leaf, with N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Roundworms can be transferred from pets to kids, and puppies and kittens infected often show no signs of being infected.

Raleigh’s Mobile Laser Veterinary Services endorses as a source for gathering information when adopting a new pet. Its managing editor, Dr. Debra Primovic, recommends asking friends and neighbors which kennels they have used and whether they had positive experiences before selecting which one you will use for your animal. It’s a good idea to select a kennel or house pet-sitter before adopting a pet so if you have to leave town on short notice you’ll already have the best choice prepared. Consider factors like whether you can bring your pet’s own food and toys along.

If you think you will want more than one pet, it would be best to adopt them both while young. Puppies and kittens are more accepting than their adult counterparts, so it’s harder to adopt a second pet into a household with a grown animal. If you do decide to introduce a new pet to your older one, keep in mind behavioral hierarchies. Two dominant pets could be a recipe for disagreement.

If your new addition is a puppy or a dog who may not be properly trained, you’ll likely deal with in-house accidents. Knowing how to correctly treat a dog in such event is important. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a renowned veterinary behaviorist, says screaming at the dog or confronting it directly either during the act or afterward is a poor decision and will only confuse the animal.

If you spot your pet mid-accident, make a loud noise not directed at the animal, such as banging on a table. This should distract the dog long enough to make him cease his bathroom functions so you can quickly escort him to an appropriate spot. If you find the scene of an accident after it’s been made, do not confront the dog. Instead just clean it up and attempt to be more mindful of the circumstances leading up to the incident in order to avoid a repeat.

Your new cat might love to play with string, but make sure to surround her with other toys and playthings and keep items like string, yarn and rope out of reach. If accidentally ingested, those items can block the digestive track and cause great harm.

Make sure you are aware of any potential health issues unique to your pet’s breed. For example, some breeds of dogs are prone to bloat, a condition in which the dog’s stomach rotates and obstructs veins in the abdomen, potentially killing the animal. Bloat is the second leading cause of dog death, however many owners know nothing about it. Knowing which conditions are common in your intended breed can not only help you keep an eye out for warning signs, but can also ensure you are prepared for any vet bills that might come with age-related conditions, such as hip dysplasia that occurs in some breeds of cats.

In addition to dogs and cats, exotic pets have become popular, with ones like "pocket pet" sugar gliders or venomous snakes being increasingly common. These animals have quite complex requirements, so they should never be purchased on impulse or without significant research into the demands of the specific type of creature. It’s best to meet other people who own the same type of animal to discuss whether adoption would be right for you. Even pets like ferrets and rabbits fall into this category and can have a myriad of health dispositions or risks any potential owner should know.

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