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Five things to ask when adopting a pet

Posted on: May 22nd, 2009 by

Adopting a pet from a local shelter or rescue group can be a wonderful event, both for you and for your pet. Four of our seven permanent dogs are adopted from shelters and rescue groups. We also adopt and place in new homes, about that number annually. Here are five things to ask the shelter or rescue group up front to make sure your new pet will fit into your family.

1. Why was the pet relinquished? You need to gain information on why the pet is up for adoption. It might be due to a behavior problem, which if you are unable or unwilling to correct will result in an unhappy situation for you. Know the facts, and then you can make an informed decision and prepare to deal with the circumstances. Most behavior problems can be corrected, but you need to be prepared to deal with the problem up front. Most all pet behavior problems are due to our lack of knowledge, but may take time and certainly an insight into how to correct improper behavior.

2. Does the pet have any medical problems? Adopting pets with medical problems is fine, if you know the facts and make an informed adoption decision. Questions to ask: What medical problems does the pet have, if any? Are they long-term or lifetime problems that I have to treat? How much will it cost to continue treatment? Is the condition contagious to other pets or humans? What special needs do they have? For instance, my wife and I have adopted two pets that were paralyzed in the rear legs due to slipped disc. We bought them carts to ambulate and the care was intense and costly at times, but our rewards were worth the cost.

3. How old is the pet? There is nothing wrong with adopting an older pet, you just need to know the facts. There can be medical issues with older pets, and older pets are oftentimes “set in their ways” and may take special accommodation. An older pet with arthritis, for instance, is not good with young children who lean, push, prod and lay on pets. Someone who likes to take long walks should not adopt an older dog with arthritis or a heart condition. Certainly the veterinary care will be more costly on older pets, but then you don’t have to go through the puppy/kitten problems.

4. Is the pet good around children and other pets? Seems like a “no brainer” question, but you would be surprised how many adoption decisions are made on the spur of the moment. The pet is taken home, only to find out it will not adjust to children or other pets. Some large dogs, simply will not tolerate a small dog. Cats take longer to accept other new cats and some dogs and cats have had bad experiences with children and will not tolerate them. It is better to know before adoption than risk your child or small pet to a possibly nasty, but normal reaction from a fearful pet.

5. What is your return policy, should the adoption not work satisfactorily? Unfortunately, not all adoptions work out for many reasons. Asking the right questions is paramount to starting off right with your pet, and knowing your limitations for caring for a pet will prevent relinquishment.

Why miss out on the many positive benefits that pets provide us. Do yourself a favor and save a pet by adopting from a shelter or rescue group.

Adopting and Adult Shelter Cat

Posted on: May 21st, 2009 by

1. Purchase the necessary paraphernalia. If this is your first household cat, you need all the bowls, litter boxes, toys, beds, and scratching post. If you have other cats, it is still good to obtain new ones to reduce aggression towards the newly adopted cat.

2. Begin immediately with confinement to lower stress and allow some time before being introduced to the entire house, other cats or dogs. The cat’s body language will tell you when it is time to introduce other pets and expand outside the confined room. It will most likely not be the first day and may be longer.

3. Feed small amounts of food on each side of the door to the new cat’s isolation area if you have other pets. The proximity with the sounds and smells will be associated with a positive experience of eating for both the newly adopted cat and other household pets.

4. Hand feed for the first few days during the isolation. Do not leave food down; instead insist they take the food by hand. If they are rough in taking the food, pull back your hand or close it. Open slowly when they respond gently. The key is to reward gentle behavior. Then use your other hand while they are eating to stroke and massage the newly adopted cat.

5. If the cat is fearful or hiding, try providing special treats. If they will not accept food or treats from your hand, leave some on the floor and come back in an hour. However, remember that providing free food instead of hand feeding will slow the socialization and bonding.

Provided by Dr. Rolan Tripp of The Animal Behavior Network. Visit for more information.

5 Rules for Adopting a Pet

Posted on: May 20th, 2009 by

1. Always have the pet examined by a veterinarian. If not before the adoption, then immediately afterward. If you can do so before you become emotionally attached to the animal, you might avoid a mistake that could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinary services. Invest in a general health screening, especially when adopting an older pet, including a blood test to check the internal organs and overall health of the pet. Make sure the pet has the proper vaccinations, which can prevent a number of contagious viral and bacterial diseases. Also, have the stool checked for internal parasites.

2. Always do your homework before you go to adopt a pet. Not all pets are right for all people. Avoid adopting based purely on emotion or first impressions. Bringing home a pet that you can’t manage or isn’t suited for your lifestyle can make your family—and the pet itself—unhappy. Animals, especially dogs, vary considerably in temperament, activity level and sociability from one breed to another. Be practical and realistic in your approach: training may help, but will never completely transform the animal’s natural tendencies.

3. Be willing to make several visits before you choose. Don’t be in a hurry to adopt. Sure, adopting a pet is the right thing to do, but taking your time and getting the right pet is far more important. Take your time and wait until it is the right fit for you, the pet, your household and your lifestyle.

4. Choose a selection committee. With a family, it is especially important that you discuss what type of pet you will get, how old, what breeds are acceptable and generally what expectations you all have for the pet. It can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience if you take your time, do research in advance and make the selection together. A committee—even if it’s only two people—will also make better decisions. Make sure to get expert input: talk with knowledgeable people about your choices.

5. Be willing to consider a mixed-breed pet. Too often, mixed-breed pets are passed over in favor of purebred animals. The truth is, mixed breeds tend to have less congenital and hereditary defects, and may display excellent traits from a variety of breeds. Often, people who adopt these “mutts” find them to be more loyal and appreciative, with plenty of vitality and character.

How will the economic recession affect your pets?

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by

These days, it seems like we can’t stop talking about the economy. In the newspaper or on TV, the radio or the Internet, it’s a constant drone: “recession, recession, recession.”

And no wonder: unless you live in a cave someplace, the economy affects almost every aspect of your life, including your family pets: your beloved dog or cat.

In our society, pets are more like family these days. Most of the dog owners who took part in a recent American Kennel Club survey, for example, said that they buy Christmas presents for their pets, spending up to $50. Some, of course, spend much more than that. In the current recession, 69% percent of these people said they would rather spend less on friends or extended family members than to skimp on Fido’s presents!

Plus, there’s more good news for pets: a whopping 96% of latte-loving survey takers would give up their fancy coffee drinks before they would cut back on pet expenses. And 97% would give up luxuries like massages or spa treatments.

Other cutbacks dog owners would be willing to make?

  • 97% would skip their favorite restaurants and eat at home more often.
  • 94% would spend less on new clothes
  • 88% would skip buying new car or buy a less expensive model
  • 72% would give up their gym membership

Yes, some pets may have to live with less during the recession, but it seems that most Americans would rather go without luxuries than keep their furry family members from enjoying the finer things. Kind of makes you think life in the doghouse might not be so bad, eh?

Is my dog overweight? What should I do?

Posted on: May 14th, 2009 by

It was my dog’s groomer that brought it to my attention: my Labradoodle, Murphy, had just gotten a sleek trim for summer when the groomer and I were chatting.

“He sure is a big boy,” she said.

“I know!” I said with pride. One of the largest Labradoodles I’ve seen, he’s just a few inches shorter than I am when he stands on his hind legs.

“Um, big, like sort of round, I mean,” said the groomer.

Uh oh. Was my dog fat? A trip to the scales confirmed that he had gained almost 20 pounds since last fall. How had I let this happen?

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