Caring for Your Furkids! By Joe Gaston Pet care begins with the decision to purchase or adopt a pet. This is one of the most critical parts of pet care, because the decision will impact your life and the life of the pet for the next 10-15 years. It should be a carefully considered decision. Things to Consider Before Adopting: 1. Your living situation (apartment vs. home) 2. Need for and access to an exercise area for a dog vs. none for a cat 3. Your life style, including how long youre away at work or traveling, which impacts your ability to interact with your pet 4. Your financial ability to provide daily care, as well as health care 5. The time demands of family, friends and work Exercise, Nutrition and Weather Precautions Exercise is essential for a healthy life style for pets as well as people. Indoor cats and dogs tend to be more obese due to lack of regular exercise, so its important to reduce their caloric intake to match their lifestyle. This can be achieved by feeding a less calorie-dense food with high fiber, feeding them less and/or increase exercise. Cats tend to do a better job of weight management with high protein, low carbohydrate diets. Weight can result in a cat or dog becoming diabetic and requiring insulin injections twice daily. Some diets are selected specifically for medical conditions your pet may have, such as allergies, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, pancreatitis, etc. Its important to make dietary changes in all pets slowly, so you can avoid pathogen bacterial overgrowth and colitis. Exercise will also impact the diet choices for your pet. Working dogs often require a higher fat content in their diets to prevent weight loss. You must also take precautions during hot, humid days to avoid a heat stroke for yourself and your pet. Dogs and cats cool themselves by panting. You can exceed their ability to regulate their temperature when you run long distances on a hot, humid day. Its far better to run early in the morning or late in the evening, and wet your pets coat to act as sweat, which will help to cool them as they run. Potty Training Your Pet If youre away from home for 8-10 hours each day without someone to allow the dog to go outside to the restroom, it would be unwise to have a dog. Keeping a dog in a crate when youre not observing them is a good way to house train a dog. However, it is unfair and ineffective to keep a pet in a crate for greater than 4-6 hours, because you cannot expect them not to mess up their cage/crate. Housebreaking a puppy requires that you take them out first thing in the morning, 15 minutes after feeding and generally every 3-4 hours during the day until they get to be six months or older, which is when they have self-control for longer periods of time. Its best to take up food and water at about 6:00 pm when training a puppy, so they will not have to go to the restroom in the middle of the night. Cats are usually easily trained to use a litter box. For them to continue the good habit, its important to keep the litter clean and odor-free. If dogs or cats develop indiscriminant urination or defecation, we first try to determine if there is a physiological problem and /or a psychological problem, and treat appropriately. Medical Expenses to Consider When Owning a Pet Feeding and providing healthcare for a pet will far exceed the purchase price of a pet. The largest expense occurs in the first year of life, when the pet is spayed or neutered, given a series of vaccines and treated for intestinal parasites. Between youth and old age, the pet will require grooming, annual exams, preventatives for parasites and disease and often special foods or supplements. These expenses can be exceeded by care for a geriatric patient when they develop diseases of age, including osteoarthritis, immune mediated diseases, metabolic diseases and cancer. This is when there is a greater need for hospitalization and longer term care. Often, these expenses are occurring at the same time the family is facing expenses for their own health care, education for children, business expenses and home owner expenses. This can often lead to the pet being put last on the list of financial needs. As long as one is prepared for this, a pet will provide the unconditional love we all need and will become your faithful companion and a wonderful addition to your family.