2013-03-08 / Columnists

Paw Prints

A Life Stage Plan For Your Pet!
Commentary by Dr. Karina B. Salvo

As many of us work at normalizing our lives post Sandy...we return to our homes with our beloved pets. Many residents are returning and welcoming new pets into their home as well as working at reacclimating our previous pets back into their now ‘new’ home. As our pets enter our lives, grow, age and become our ‘man’s (or woman’s) best friend’ there are questions that inevitably come up along the way.

Families that have recently welcomed new pets into their homes are often overwhelmed with what their new little friend has now brought with them...responsibility of sorting out the fine print! Which vaccines are needed and when, should they spay or neuter and when, which food should they feed, which treats can they use, types of toys, types of flea/tick & heartworm prevention, training techniques and kenneling. Who said this would be easy?

As our pets mature and ‘find their place in our lives’...they test the waters of life. Some pets are more adventurous than others and can find themselves in precarious situations! Dietary indiscretion is one of the most frequent reasons that pets visit the emergency room. Even the most careful owner that has ‘proofed’ their home can have the sneakiest of pets! During the earlier stages of a pet’s life comes the time for decision making of choosing preventative measures, obedience training and socialization that will ensure a healthier life for your pet. Dangers exist in making the wrong decisions for our pets that can affect their life in the immediate future and well into their geriatric years.

When our pets reach their ‘middle age’ years...healthcare is just as important during this time as it is any. This is the time of life that the years of proper preventative measures prove their worth. During these years, cancer can develop due to lack of spaying or neutering, bad habits are now a ‘way of life’ if appropriate training has not been done and this is the time that disease prevalence increases. What do we do to ensure a healthy life for our pets? What can be done now? A little hint is that is is easier to learn a behavior than it is to unlearn that same behavior!

As the years press on...our pets seem to grow slower with age. Some develop lameness’ as the years prior they may have undergone knee surgery or have various arthritic changes or trauma. Some pets are predisposed to diabetes, endocrine disorders, cancer and so on due to environmental factors, weight, age or genetic reasons as well as others. How do we change what our pets may be predisposed to in the future? How do we deal with what ails our pets now that they are elderly?

As our pets pass through various stages of their lives, we are faced with choices and as many decisions. Today, there are numerous ways to obtain information about our pets care and what we should or shouldn’t be doing...and why. Pet owners are often educated by misleading information and can lead them to making the wrong decisions for their pets based on that information. The internet can be a great source for information, but can also be dangerous, as there is a plethora of wrong information as well. Today, pet owners are more educated and aware of healthcare needs and options available to them. With the information obtained from media, internet, trainers, books and videos...a pet owner can make an informed decision...but maybe not the best for their individual pet. Not every pet is the same and not every pet “reads the books” or “follows the rules”! It is always best to contact your veterinarian before making any potential life altering decisions for your pet. Your veterinarian is the one who is best educated in veterinary care to include every stage of your pet’s life. They have the capability and knowledge in working with you in coming up with a lifelong plan for you and your pet. They can suggest the best foods, healthcare, preventative measures, training and overall life stage plan for your specific pet.

Speaking to your veterinarian about you and your families expectations of your pet and developing a life stage plan for your pet will help to build a lifelong bond between you and your furry or feathered family companion.

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