“Why is that gift box barking?!”- Preparing for a New Furry Family Member

With Christmas right around the corner, the insanity that is holiday shopping has commenced. Kids have their Christmas lists ready to be sent to Santa, and the first item that is noted at the top of the list: A PUPPY. Is the family ready for a new dog or cat? Keep reading to help you decide!

Pets are a huge responsibility for everyone involved, especially the parents who inevitably end up cleaning up after them and taking them to the bathroom when they cry at 3am. However, animals also bring joy, laughter, and companionship into the home and can be an excellent addition to any family.

Two of the biggest things to ask yourself before considering bringing an animal into your family are:

  1. Do I have the time and energy to dedicate to training, playing with, and exercising a dog/cat?
  2. Do I have the funds needed to bring an animal to the vet and keep them healthy?

Environmental Preparation and New Beginnings: Before getting your animal, be sure you are prepared with the appropriate food, a crate (if crate training) or pen, toys to provide enrichment, collar and ID tag, and leash or litter box (if applicable). Before bringing your new pet home, “baby-proofing” the house by moving potentially harmful items out of reach is helpful to avoid incidents. It may take a few days for a pet to acclimate to their new forever home, so isolating them to a small part of the house or apartment can help them become more comfortable with their surroundings. Once they are acclimated, slowly allowing them more freedom to explore their home is encouraged.

Some may think crate training is cruel, however, animals often end up thinking of their crate as a safe haven. Young animals can’t often be trusted to be unsupervised and so when you are at work, running errands, or sleeping, having them in the crate gives you peace of mind that they are safely contained and cannot get into something they aren’t supposed to. When you are available to supervise them, have the crate door open so they have the choice to walk into it if they desire.

It is important to remember that new puppies can’t hold their urine longer than a few hours and require several bathroom breaks throughout the day, so be sure to take them out often and use lots of praise and treats. This positive reinforcement will help them associate the outside grass or pee pads with going to the bathroom and make potty training quicker and easier. Kittens do not often need any encouragement to go to the bathroom in the litterbox, but if inappropriate urination is an issue, products like “Cat Attract” can be used to help attract them to the right spot.

If you already have animals at home, a slow controlled introduction over several days is recommended so they can get used to each other. Having dogs meet for the first time while leashed on a walk can prevent unnecessary conflict. Placing a baby gate, crate, or door between the animals so they can smell each other but not fully interact while in the house is a safe next step. This can then be increased to supervised interaction time and then to free range. The process is similar and extremely important for cats who tend to need more time to adjust.

Vaccinations: Routinely, puppies require three DHPP (aka. Distemper, 4-in-1) boosters 3-4 weeks apart which are typically done at 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. This vaccination is protective against distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus), parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Kittens require three FVRCP boosters 3-4 weeks apart, which are typically done at the same ages as the DHPP in puppies. This vaccination is protective against viral rhinotracheitis (herpes virus), calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Also, required by law is the rabies vaccination which is often given at 12 weeks old. Those are known as “core” vaccinations, however, there are several other vaccines available based on lifestyle (Lyme, Lepto, Bordetella, Influenza, etc.). No vaccine is 100% protective, and they are often given to decrease the severity of diseases that puppies and kittens may be exposed to.

Typical new puppy/kitten visits can end up costing several hundreds of dollars based on what is done at the time, so it is important to have money saved for these events and for the unfortunate occasion that your animal develops an illness. Pet insurance is a great investment to cover any unforeseen illnesses animals may develop and it is encouraged to research several companies before making the decision on which one is right for you. Some breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to issues than others so be sure to ask your vet about what breed may be right for you and your family.

Elective Procedures: As your animal gets older and you put aside any thought of breeding them, the time comes to talk about spaying or neutering. Male dogs are often neutered at 6 months old, but some people elect to wait until 1 year old or later in large breed dogs. Ideally, it is recommended that female dogs are spayed at 6 months old, regardless of what breed they are, to decrease risk of developing uterine or mammary cancer when they get older. A common myth is that spaying and neutering animals “calm” them down, however, this is often patient dependent and may not be true. Both of these procedures require animals to be placed under general anesthesia and often cost several hundred dollars due to the monitoring and high standard of care that revolves around it. At Norwalk Animal Hospital, you can be sure that your animal will be well taken care of and we are always happy to offer pricing before procedures are done.

Having your pet microchipped is encouraged and can be done at any office visit or during any procedure. This provides additional security and peace of mind needed in the unfortunate circumstance that your animal gets lost without identification.

If you have any questions or concerns before purchasing a new animal, please do not hesitate to ask your primary veterinarian or call Norwalk Animal Hospital. Whether adopting from a rescue, breeder, or pet store, animals can be a great addition to any family ready for the responsibility.