The advantages of owning a pet are well known. Companionship for people living alone, sick or elderly, and for the young, are the advantages that most people think of when considering pet ownership. It has been shown that the close presence of a pet aids in recuperation from illness in the elderly as well as having a beneficial effect on people confined to institutions or recovering from heart ailments.
The association with a living animal that has simple needs and whose affection transcends fluctuating human moods is a great comfort in the complex and artificial society in which many humans find themselves.
The decision to acquire a pet is often made hastily. A puppy or kitten is seen at a fete or market or an advertisement is answered on the spur of the moment. It is often not until the adult form of the animal begins to emerge that many owners begin to have second thoughts.
The first thing to be considered is whether to acquire a pet. It is not practical if you live in a one-bedroom unit or in a large block of flats to acquire a large dog. Cats, on the other hand, adapt well to high-density housing, provided there are not too many other cats in the neighborhood. They can spend a large amount of time indoors but are much healthier if they do have a chance to get outside for some period of the day. Cats are not likely to disturb the neighbors and are, of course, much less expensive to feed.
It is quite strange that many owners do not fully realize the implications of the size of their new pet on their lifestyle. The range of sizes in the dog world is enormous and varies from the Maltipoo to the Great Dane or Irish wolfhound. Remember that when traveling by car, a large dog takes more room than an adult.
Large dogs cost more to feed, to board in kennels, and require larger doses of worm tablets and other medications. It is important that large dogs are obedience-trained, and this requires a further commitment from at least one member of the family. They are also harder to restrain in the backyard. If you are not willing to construct high fences or a special dog run, you should concentrate on a small breed.
Dogs vary greatly also in the amount of grooming needed. Long-haired breeds such as Afghan hounds, old English sheepdogs, silkie and Maltese terriers require daily grooming, otherwise, a tangled mass of grass seeds and matted hair develop that requires professional help to unravel. Poodles and wire-haired terriers require regular clipping and plucking to retain show-ring appearance.
It is difficult to predict the size or appearance of a crossbred puppy when it is only a few weeks old. Of course, the size of the mother is a guide but very often the unknown father was much larger. Be wary of the puppy with very large feet, or one that is already much larger than its littermates. Try to gauge temperament as well. Avoid the puppy that cringes in a corner or seems to snap at its littermates. The outward-going, tail-wagging puppy with short hair and which looks you straight in the eye is the one to choose as a companion for young children.
Cats also vary in the amount of care they require. That attractive long-haired Persian in the cat-food commercials requires daily brushing and combing. By giving a little thought before the acquisition of a pet, the few problems of pet ownership can be avoided.
Do you have plans to find a good Cat Sitter? It's something to consider.
Pet treatment should be remembered
Every ailment of the animal is preventable. Many are contracted by breathing germ-laden air or by drinking impure water, but in spite of all reasonable care, diseases are contracted without the owner's knowledge. But with ordinary care, every dog should live until he is thirteen or fourteen years of age.
Dogs should have had a parvovirus vaccination and preferably a distemper-hepatitis injection within the past 12 months, and cats should have had both feline enteritis and cat flu vaccinations.
A cat which has never had a flu vaccination requires a course of two injections, preferably about three weeks apart, before it enters a cattery.
Kennel owners should also be told if an animal has recently been under treatment. The name of the veterinarian who has attended the pet should be supplied.
Intolerance to particular foods or milk should also be noted.
If pets are being taken to the coast, precautions against ticks should be taken. Keeping the animal out of thick undergrowth and searching for ticks each day is a sound practice, but not always successful.
Anti-tick washes are effective on dogs if they are applied weekly and if the animal does not swim, but Proban tablets, given daily and in a dose proportionate to the weight of the dog, are more effective.
No other insecticides should be used, and if the animal is going to be in a tick area for longer than two weeks, a break of a few days in the course is advisable.
The first signs of tick paralysis occur about five days after the attachment of a tick. The animal will become unsteady in the hind legs and quieter than usual and will have difficulty standing.
It will also refuse food and its breathing will become noisy and labored as muscles needed for respiration become paralyzed.
Veterinary treatment should be sought if any of these signs are noticed, even if the tick is located and removed. Toxin remaining unabsorbed will worsen the condition and it is vital that anti-tick serum is administered.
Grass seeds are also a particular problem this year, with animals being treated for grass seeds in their ears, eyes, nose, feet, teeth and tonsils.
Owners should be suspicious if a dog or cat has one eye tightly closed, vigorously shakes his head, and scratches the ear.
Clipping the hair from between the toes and around the ears will help to prevent the attachment of seeds, but it is best to keep thick-coated dogs out of areas where the grass is uncut.
A veterinarian should be consulted because grass seeds are constructed in such a way that they only move in one direction, and early removal before the infection has set in will relieve the animal of distress.
The name kennel cough is used as the condition can be endemic where large numbers of dogs are kept in a confined area.
The first symptom of the disease is an occasional subdued cough which quickly becomes more frequent and louder if the dog is exercised or becomes excited. Usually, the dog does not appear ill and continues to eat normally. Prolonged bouts of coughing are usually followed by retching as the dog attempts to rid itself of the irritation in its throat.
If the condition continues unchecked over a number of days, the dog may refuse food when the tissues of the throat become inflamed. It may drool saliva, as it is painful to swallow, and at this point, the dog usually has a fever due to secondary infection.
The incubation period is quite short, the first signs of the disease appearing about five days after exposure to infection.
Treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation of the tissues of the upper respiratory tract and the prevention of secondary infection. Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics are usually prescribed and if the coughing is very pronounced a cough-suppressant is recommended.
The dog should be kept as quiet as possible and in an even temperature. Do not place the dog in a room that is too hot, as this will tend to dry out the already inflamed mucous membranes and also produce more rapid respiration. In severe cases confining in a steam-filled room has brought considerable relief.
The respiratory disease currently affecting cats is caused by a virus of the feline-influenza complex.
A severe inflammation of the throat and tonsils produces coughing. In some cases, the eyes become very reddened and have a watery discharge, but unlike in other epidemics of respiratory disease, little sneezing or discharge of the nose occurs.
In severe cases, the cat refuses to eat, becomes very depressed and develops a high fever. Its throat may become so sore that it is reluctant to swallow, and saliva may hang from its mouth. Its respiration can become quite noisy as the lining of its air passages and nose become swollen.
Treatment is not specific, as with any viral disease all that can be done is to limit secondary infections with antibiotics and reduce the inflammation in the tissues with anti-inflammatory drugs. If the cat is not eating, nutrients must be given by injection.
Vaccination against feline influenza should be considered, especially if the cat is likely to be placed in a boarding cattery. Only healthy cats can be vaccinated, and two injections are necessary, at least three weeks apart. Only after the second injection is the cat immune, therefore vaccination must be begun at least three weeks before placing in a cattery. A single booster injection annually is recommended.