Pets a reflection of ourselves
Pets are a source of companionship for families, couples and single people whether young or old.
Animals give unreserved love and affection to their owners with a devotion rarely found between human beings. They do this consistently, without having ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days, which makes them such an asset to masters relying on them to help get over their own ‘not-so-good’ days.
If you are feeling stressed, try sitting a pet dog or cat on your lap for five minutes and see just how much better it makes you feel.
Choosing a suitable pet is not as easy as it sounds. What species to acquire - dog, cat, bird, rabbit, ferret, rat, fish or land-snail - is the starting-point. Personal preference plays a large role here but dogs and cats generally -interact with humans better than ferrets, fish and most birds (although some birds can learn to talk incessantly at their owners, often to the point of distraction!)
Once you have decided on a species, it’s time to look at breeds. Cat breeds vary widely in type- from Moggy to a multitude of long coats, medium coats and short haired. All cats from an early age can be readily trained to be totally indoor pets or partially outdoor pets. But keep them indoors at night because after dark they hunt and fight - both undesirable outcomes for wildlife and the owner’s wallet. Fight-induced cat abcesses can be expensive to drain!
Choosing a breed of dog poses all sorts of dilemmas. There are about 100 breeds and the first consideration is size. If you like big dogs, remember that they come at the expense of lifespan.
Giant breeds like Great Danes, Béarnaise Mountain dogs, Giant Schnauzers’ and Newfoundlands are certainly beautiful but most are unlikely to live beyond 10 years.
Large breeds like German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Short-haired Pointers can be ideal for the ‘large-dog’ person and often live into their early teens.
The medium-sized breeds like the Corgie, Schnauzers, Kelpies, Border Collies, Staffie Terriers and West Highland Whites and Scottish Terriers are robust dogs without being difficult to manhandle when walking or lifting into the car. They can live up to 16 years, and sometimes beyond.
The smaller breeds and toy breeds are very popular and ideal for families with young children, and seniors looking for a lap-dog. Toy Poodles, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pomeranians and Miniature Schnauzers are in this category. The smaller the dog, the longer they live.
Veterinary costs are frequently related to the size of the pet. Flea treatments, wormers, heartworm prevention and drug dose rates for sick animals are directly related to size, as are many veterinary procedures. If finances are limited, don’t get a large dog.
Coat length is another financial consideration when choosing a pet. Long coats require a lot of work and professional grooming costs should be considered before selecting a fluffy pet.
Having chosen a pet, some knowledge of routine disease prevention and vet procedures will be helpful. Ask your vet for details, but the following is a guide:
Puppies and kittens need vaccinations - up to three shots when they are little followed by annual boosters. Boarding establishments require annual certificates of vaccination so don’t lose them. Make sure that these animals are vaccinated once–a-year.
Intestinal worming is necessary every two weeks until three months of age, then every three months for life.
Heartworm prevention is needed from 6-8 weeks’ old. Heartworm is a mosquito-spread parasite which grow into worms that live in the blood vessels. It is easy to prevent, but dangerous to treat.
All cats and dogs must be micro-chipped as youngsters and must be registered with the local council by six months of age. Big discounts apply if a de-sexing certificate is provided at the time of registration.
Most animals are best de-sexed at 5-6 months of age. It makes them less anti-social, more obedient and there are health benefits for the pet in later life.
Dogs and cats need flea - and sometimes tick - protection, particularly in the warmer months.
Most long haired breeds need regular grooming and often clipping as well.
if choosing a pet is a problem remember the oft-quoted veterinary saying: “Isn’t it amazing how often there is a resemblance between a pet and its owner”.
Pet selection can be as easy as looking in the mirror.
Ken Davidson (BVSc., Hons)