Through our experience in the practice of veterinary medicine, we are uniquely qualified in many aspects of animal medicine, care, and training. Below we attempt to pass on some of our "pearls" from practice.
- When selecting a new puppy or kitten, we highly recommend selecting for temperament/disposition rather than for a breed or color. Ultimately it is the pet's friendliness and family interaction that make it a good pet. Too often, individuals select a pet because of its physical characteristics, breed, or color, and they may not thoroughly research or evaluate its personality, characteristics or tendencies.
- Critically evaluate if you are the right person for a "special needs" pet. "Special needs" is a very broad term. It can denote a pet with a physical disability, a pet with a rough start to life due to abuse or neglect, or a pet with a behavioral problem. There are many wonderful people with a special place in their hearts for these animals, and many special needs pets can be rehabilitated or placed into a loving home where they can lead a rich life; however, the cruel reality is that there is an oversupply of animals, and many wonderful animals without any problems/issues whatsoever are euthanized each year simply because there are not enough owners to go around. We often see well-intentioned owners take on a special needs pet (for example, a pet with a history of abuse) — only to become frustrated when problems develop (such as aggression toward family members).
- Enroll your new puppy in an obedience class. An obedience class is one of the most important investments you can make with your new puppy. Although you may think you can train a dog/puppy, a qualified trainer has a wealth of knowledge he or she can pass on to you. A trainer will show you how to establish dominance, how to properly scold/reward, how/when to feed, and how to housebreak. Remember: behavioral problems are the leading reason pet owners get rid of a new pet. The class greatly aids in socialization as well.
- Follow through with recommendations from your pet's doctor. The doctors at Westside will never make a recommendation that doesn't have your and your pet's best interests in mind. Too often, major problems develop because simple preventative steps are not followed. Although preventative medicine may not be cheap, it is often much more cost effective than treating a major problem once it develops. The veterinarians at Westside strive to be your partner through all stages of your pet's life.
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Overweight/obesity is one of the most frequent problems that we see in pets. Being overweight has been proven to decrease life expectancy in pets, and contributes to conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Sadly, many pet owners do not take this problem seriously. Even though rewarding our pets with treats and food is something we all enjoy, moderation is the key. Resist the urge to feed your pet simply because it begs for food. Establish a diet and exercise plan with help from your pet's doctor and stick to it!
- Spay or neuter your puppy or kitten by 6 months of age. It is well-documented that female dogs and cats that are spayed after their heat cycles have already begun, or that are not spayed at all, are far more likely to contract mammary (breast) cancer later in life. Heat cycles generally begin at or older than 6 months of age, so spaying by this age is generally regarded as ideal. Too often, we see pet owners who think they may want to breed their female dog or cat at some point, and therefore do not spay. In most instances, breeding is never done, and the spay procedure is often delayed until after heat cycles have already begun. While spaying is still recommended ("better late than never"), the benefit of spaying prior to the onset of heat cycles has been lost.
With male dogs and cats, there is not a strong medical benefit to neutering by 6 months of age as with females; however, there are strong behavioral reasons to do so. Once they reach sexual maturity, male dogs and cats often exhibit urine marking and roaming — both of which can be a significant problem. Also, with dogs we have found aggression to be more of a problem if they are non-neutered. Neutering prior to onset of these behavioral problems helps to prevent them from starting.
- Beware of price-shopping for your pet's surgery. Quality pet care can be expensive, but please be aware that surgical quality can vary greatly from one hospital to another. While Hospital X may be significantly cheaper than Hospital Y, consider these important points: 1) How attentive will your pet's care be? Is it one of 50 procedures being performed that day? 2) Will your pet be given IV fluids during its procedure? 3) How will your pet be monitored during and after surgery? What parameters are monitored? 4) How will your pet's pain be managed? Will a customized pain-control plan be utilized, or is a "cookbook" approach taken? For more information about your pet's surgery, check out our Surgery page.
- Give your dog or cat monthly heartworm preventative. Contracted through the bite of the mosquito, heartworm disease is life-threatening, but it is easily prevented by giving a simple monthly medication. Don't ignore this simple, important step in your pet's health care!