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our best free vet advice for bringing a new pet HOME
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Who hasn’t dreamed of finding a new pet under the tree on Christmas morning? Parents and spouses might want to surprise their kids and loved ones with a furry friend for the holidays––but if they do, it’s best to have a plan before taking the plunge!
“There’s definitely a trend of people getting pets that they may or may not have planned for around the winter time holidays,” says veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney from our team of vet experts. While adopting a pet on a whim might feel magical, advanced planning will help you and your new pet hit the ground running so that you can start making memories together.
Keep scrolling to see free vet advice from Vetnique’s Team of Vet Experts Dr. Patrick Mahaney and Dr. Joya Griffin on welcoming a new pet into your home, featuring best practices for cats and dogs!
7 things to consider before adopting a new pet
1. What kind of companion do you prefer?
2. Is the person caring for the pet ready to be a pet parent?
Are you thinking about surprising your loved one with a new pet? Just be sure they’re ready to commit to the responsibility of pet parenthood! “One word of advice is to make sure that the receiver is able and ready to receive and care for a new pet and that the pet fits in with their lifestyle,” says Dr. Joya.
3. Do you face any obstacles to having a pet?
Is your roommate allergic to cats? Does your landlord have a no-pet policy? Is there a small child or pet in the house that may not mesh with the new addition? Weigh every potential risk before adopting an animal––and if the timing doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. Millions of animals are surrendered yearly because they simply don’t fit their owner’s lifestyle.
4. What's the energy like in your household?
If your house is a realm of chaos, ask yourself if adding a pet is the right choice. On the other hand, bringing a high-energy pet into a quiet home could present its unique set of challenges.
5. How will your other pets adapt?
How do your current pets deal with other animals? Is there an alpha or aggressive pet dominating your household? Bringing a new pet into a home where other pets have already claimed their territory will require lots of patience, supervision, and mediation.
6. What kind of environment will welcome your pet?
Indoor, outdoor, multi-family, residential, or even commercial environments will all have unique effects on your potential pet. If you’re unsure about what kind of pet will suit your home environment (and vice versa), ask the associates at your local shelter for advice.
7. How much time do you spend at home?
If you spend most of your time at home but only travel occasionally, establish secondary care options for your pet before you adopt. If you travel a lot for work–or travel a lot for fun–consider a pet that can easily travel with you. But because travel can be stressful for many animals, either work closely with your shelter to find a pet used to travel or have calming treats stocked up for your jet-setting companion.
8. Have you made space in your budget?
The most daunting part of becoming a pet parent is considering the financial costs associated with adopting a new pet. Be prepared to pay for vet visits, pet insurance (optional), food and hygiene supplies, and the items you’ll need to start your pet parenting journey (we’ll get to that next).
Feeding a dog can cost anywhere from $400 and $700 a year, with cats being a bit less expensive (but not much) by comparison. Taking care of a dog or cat–including pet health costs–can add up to around $1,500-$3,500 per year. These costs can reach up to $9,000 per year, depending on your pet's age and health conditions.
10 things you need before bringing a new dog home
Our new dog checklist covers practical advice and tips on preparing from real vets!
When bringing your new dog home, they’ll look for a place they can call their own. Prepare a bed for them in your home away from heavy foot traffic where they can safely observe their surroundings. Larger dogs might prefer simple pillow beds, while smaller breeds may prefer compact, higher-walled beds that make them feel more secure.
2. Food supply
Food is one of the most important things to have prepared before bringing a pet home.
“When you get your new pet, don't immediately change the food. Get a recommendation from your veterinarian to stay on the current food or transition to a new one,” says Dr. Mahaney. “Perform a food transition over approximately seven days (or as recommended by your veterinarian) to permit the digestive tract to acclimate to a new food source.”
3. Food & water bowls
Provide one food and water bowl per dog in your household and wash them daily to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. Dog bowls are one of the items on your new dog checklist that are fun to personalize, so enjoy choosing ones that suit your new pet’s personality or your decor!
4. Bath supplies
Most dogs need a bath every 1-2mos depending on skin and coat. For dogs who love to get dirty, bathe them even more frequently with a shampoo that keeps fur smelling fresh.
Dog brushes are great for grooming and bonding with your new pet. Dogs with dense fur also need your help keeping their coats free of mats and tangles.
6. Collar, leash, & harness
Invest in a comfortable collar, leash, and harness to get your dog ready for daily walks with you. Let them wear the gear around the house for a few days to ensure the fit is comfortable and easy for them to walk, sniff, and play in once they get outside.
7. Enrichment toys
Slow-feeding bowls, food puzzles, and Kong toys are great options for mentally stimulating your new dog. Walks and outdoor play are great, but indoor playtime is just as crucial for bonding with your new pet!
8. Puppy pads
Even if your new dog isn’t a puppy, don’t be surprised if an accident or two happens as they adjust to their new surroundings. Keep puppy pads near the exit leading to outdoor areas where you’d like them to do their business, and eventually remove them altogether.
9. An appointment with a veterinarian
Once you have a pickup date for your new pet, contact a local veterinary clinic to make an appointment. They’ll help you assess your pet’s health status and establish a wellness plan for future visits.
“Schedule an examination with your veterinarian within 24 hours of getting your new pet,” advises Dr. Mahaney. “Doing so may be required in the contract with a breeder or rescue, but even if there are no contractual requirements, the new-pet-veterinary exam allows the veterinarian to evaluate the pet by taking a thorough medical history and performing a physical exam.”
10. Flea & tick treatments
For dogs spending time outdoors, flea treatments are essential for overall health.
"Our pets are commonly exposed to heartworm disease from mosquitoes as well as bacterial and parasitic diseases from fleas and ticks, simply by being out and about in the world doing their day-to-day elimination and activities,” says Dr. Mahaney. “Seek a recommendation from your veterinarian for the appropriate anti-parasite treatment that suits your pet's needs based on lifestyle, geographic location, and overall health.”
10 things you need before bringing a new cat home
Our new cat checklist covers practical advice, tips on preparing, and ideas for what to buy before your new pet comes home!
1. Bed & blankets
A bed will give your new cat a safe space to lounge during the day. As your cat gets comfortable in their new home, they might start to sleep right on top of you during the night––if you’d rather sleep unencumbered, a cat bed can also help establish healthy boundaries between you and your cat. Blankets are also a necessity to help cats feel less stressed and more secure.
2. Cat house
Cats will hide under furniture when unsure of a new environment, but giving them a new space they can own and occupy can help them feel more confident in their new home.
3. Food supply
When adopting a new cat, ask the shelter about the food they’ve been eating. Continue the same food at home until it’s time to slowly transition to a new food––after about 1-3 weeks. Start slow and add new food to their diet until they’ve phased out of the old one.
4. Food & water bowls
In the wild, cats are used to ‘hunting’ for food and water, so don’t be scared to spread things out. Felines prefer to seek water away from their food because they don’t like the strong scent of food when drinking water. Since hydration is vital for cats, be sure to have a few sources of fresh, clean water for your cat throughout the house.
5. Litter box
Whatever type you prefer (or your cat friends recommend), just make sure you put the litter box in a place where you’re prepared to keep it for at least a few months until your cat becomes acclimated to your home. If you have little kids in your home, ensure the litter box is inaccessible from tiny, curious hands.
6. Scratchable surfaces
Whether we like it or not, cats need to scratch! Protect items you don’t want scratched with double-sided tape or bitter melon spray. Invest in a scratch tower or cardboard mats and put them in “OK to scratch” areas away from precious carpets or furniture.
7. Calming & behavior aids
Some cats might be skittish when arriving in a new home. Behavior aids like pheromone diffusers and catnip can help calm your kitty or pique their interest. Pheromone diffusers can help ease signs of anxiety like spraying, scratching, and aggression toward other household cats. Catnip can entice cats to play with new toys and people, or encourage them to explore unfamiliar areas (like a new bed).
8. Enrichment toys
Most cats love a feather wand or laser pointer, but sometimes something as simple as a cardboard box or paper bag is enough to keep them mentally stimulated! Enjoy multiple 10-15 minute daily play sessions with your cat, with a goal of 1 hour of play per day to keep them healthy and engaged.
9. An appointment with a veterinarian
“Schedule an exam shortly after you bring your pet home,” reminds Dr. Joya. “This will allow you to become educated on how to best care for your pet and set them up for their routine vaccines and medications.”
10. Flea & tick treatments:
Your veterinarian will recommend flea and tick prevention for outdoor cats but may also advocate these treatments for indoor cats depending on age and environment. Most flea treatments are once per month and can be easily applied at home.
Welcoming a new pet into your home is one of the most rewarding experiences––but doesn’t come without its challenges. Keep these tips in mind, ask questions at the shelter, and keep an open line of communication with your veterinarian to set you and your new pet up for the best chance of success!
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