By Dr. Gary A. Borgman
With the winter holiday season rapidly approaching, many families begin considering adding a four-legged family member. We are often asked questions about this decision-making process; so what better time than now to address the important issues and questions a family may have.
Q: What type of a pet should I get? A dog or a cat? A: This truly is a personal preference. Your available space, time, and personal preferences and experiences will help decide this for you. Just remember that puppies need to be housetrained, while kittens instinctively know how to use a litter box. Dogs need to go outside for elimination functions while felines can do just fine by remaining indoors. Dogs require and even demand a great deal of interaction time, while cats are often very independent and aloof.
Q: Okay, so I have decided to get a pet. What is the best age to get a puppy or kitten? A: The ideal age for bringing in a new puppy or kitten is eight weeks old. This is the best age to begin the interaction, socialization, and training of a puppy or kitten and the mother is usually ready to let them go.
Q: How can I be assured of good health? A: Conscientious breeders and pet stores will provide the legally required Official Certificate of Veterinary Examination for puppies and kittens. This is your best assurance of proper pre-sale health examination, and timely preventive health vaccinations and parasite control treatments with laboratory confirmation of negative status for parasites.
Q: So now I have made my decision to add to our family, and I know where and when I am going to get my puppy or kitten. What is the next step? A: A health check-up, including review of past immunizations, parasite control measures, and a complete physical examination should be arranged as soon as possible. This visit should be within the first 24-72 hours.
Q: The holidays can be very busy and hectic in many families. Do you have any recommendations? A: Yes indeed; adding a new pet to the family can be complicated. It is recommended that puppies be introduced to a “crate” from day one in a new home. This crate or den will provide a sense of security and comfort. These crates come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. It should be about 2-3 times as long as the puppy, and of course tall enough for the puppy to stand up. I like to provide the meals in this crate, with the door open, so that it is a positive place to go. Then when the puppy comes out and starts sniffing and circling, we know it is time to get him/her outside for elimination functions. Puppies need lots of exercise outside of the crate, but they do eventually get tired and ready for a nap, and the crate provides that safe retreat.
Q: Are there any specific hazards to our dogs and cats during the holidays? A: After most holidays, we see an increase in gastro-intestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. This can be due to rich “people” foods, left-overs, garbage, or ingestion of ornaments or toys. A dog in a crate or a cat in a separate room from where the human meals are served is less likely to suffer these consequences.
The veterinarians and staff at Kissimmee Animal Hospital (407-846-1379) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions about pet health care. We are here to help and to serve.