5 Rules for Adopting a Pet

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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.

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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.

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