How to Choose and Prepare for a New Pet

Posted on by Christopher Bern, DVM

One of the most exciting moments of having a pet is the initial period when you bring your new friend home. Whether this is a dog or cat, bird or reptile, young or adult, there is a joy in finally realizing the dream of that newcomer becoming part of your family. Unfortunately, sometimes the reality doesn’t live up to the dream, which can result in dissatisfaction and even resentment. Besides being disappointing to the pet owner, it can result in neglect or inappropriate care of the pet. So before you take the plunge, here are some things to consider prior to getting a new pet.

How much time do you have?
If you have a very busy schedule, where you’re hardly home or come home at inconsistent times, a dog or bird may not be the best choice. Be realistic about how much time you will have to give your new pet. Dogs require training and must be let out frequently to eliminate. Large bird species are highly intelligent and social and need a lot of interaction with their person. If you find yourself wanting animal companionship without much time investment, reptiles, small rodents or cats might be a good choice.

How much space do you have?
If you’re living in a one-bedroom apartment a Labrador retriever or Mastiff may not be the best choice. Look into what kind of activity level your pet may have and then look at the space you’re going to be putting them in. Large, active dogs likely need a yard to run around in, or at least a larger house. Even a large reptile like an iguana can require a sizeable tank or even a small room.

What kind of care will the pet need?
Reptiles need specialized lighting, heating, diets and so on. Even small birds and rodents need certain diets, bedding and enclosures. When it comes to “exotic” pets you will prevent numerous problems by doing your research ahead of time and making sure you have the right housing and nutrition to keep them healthy. Some dogs and cats need frequent grooming, regular ear cleaning or routine cleansing of their skin folds. Be aware of any special needs your pet may have and prepare yourself to meet those needs.

What typical health problems might the pet have?
Different breeds of dogs and cats are prone to different types of disorders and diseases. For example, if you’re thinking of getting a Westie, be prepared for skin problems. If it’s as Cocker Spaniel, look out for chronic ear infections. Once again, research ahead of time can help prevent surprises. Though not every individual within a given breed or species will have common health issues, there are tendencies and trends, so be aware of the possibilities.

What are the typical behaviors for the pet?
English bulldogs typically have a low activity level and don’t do well with exercise. Greyhounds are great sprinters but don’t do well with endurance running. Labs tend to be a bit hyperactive and can have a problem with chewing on items around the house. Anoles can be skittish lizards that don’t take to much handling. Conures are very loud birds, which can be a problem in apartments. Regardless of the type of pet you’re getting, know ahead of time what to expect from how they act. Though each one is an individual and will have personality differences, there are certain likelihoods we see in different breeds.

How will existing pets react?
You can never forget the pets you already have. Sometimes adjustments are easy and the newcomer meshes well with the family. But sometimes there are fights and social adjustments that can make the transition difficult. Older pets tend to react worse to changes in the household, especially if the new pet has a very high energy level and is playful. Talk to your vet or a trainer about the best ways to introduce new pets.

Do you have a vet who can see your pet?
Not every vet sees every species, and most small animal vets limit themselves to dogs and cats. If you have a bird, reptile or even hamster, make sure you find a vet who can treat such pets. Doing so before there is an illness or emergency will make it much easier if something does happen.

Do you have everything that you need before the pet comes home?
After all of this thinking and research, make sure you are stocked and supplied properly before bringing the pet home. Have a checklist of things like cages, litter boxes, food, toys, and so on so you can be ready to enjoy the new family member.

With a little thought and preparation you can make getting a new pet a truly enjoyable experience!

About Christopher Bern, DVM

Dr. Bern has been with the practice since 1999 and currently works as the Chief of Staff for the Woodstock, GA hospital. View all posts by Christopher Bern, DVM →

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