Veterinarians sometimes cringe when the latest animal movie comes out launching a new specific breed craze. For example, when 101 Dalmatians had their recent remake by Disney, we saw a big upsurge in Dalmatian puppies. No offense to those of you who own and love Dalmatians, but they are certainly not for everyone and when the cuteness of the spots wear off, you are left with a big dog that requires a great deal of time to exercise and train. We have had similar crazes with Chihuahuas after Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Bull Mastiffs after Turner and Hooch.
Don’t get me wrong, we want people to own dogs. After all, taking care of them is our business. We just want people to think it through and make a wise decision about what type of pet is best for them. Here are some things to consider when choosing a pet:
- Budget. First off, you need to consider whether you should consider paying top dollar for a purebred or designer pet or if you could adopt a shelter or rescue animal or a “free” one from the newspaper. More importantly, however, you need to think about what the cost of upkeep will be for your pet. Big dogs eat more food and their flea and heartworm prevention costs more because they are bigger. The initial cost of the animal is only the beginning. Be sure you can afford to provide for their needs after the purchase. There will be expenses with food, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, flea control, heartworm prevention, grooming and any “toys” you might want them to have.
- Health concerns: You should also be aware that certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to specific health problems. For example: Boxers are prone to melanomas, Retrievers to hip dysplasia, Bulldogs to upper respiratory issues, Cocker Spaniels to ear infections and immune mediated hemolytic anemia and Great Danes to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). If you want to know the predilections of the breed, call our office and ask.
- Time. In my opinion, dogs require more time than cats; cats require more time than hamsters; hamsters require more time than fish or tarantulas. Be sure you have time in your daily life to care for your new pet. Consider how often you travel away from home, how many hours at a time are you gone from your home on a typical day? Will you have time to feed, exercise and play with your pet?
- Lifestyle. Consider your normal activity level when choosing a pet. If you are somewhat of a coach potato, adopting a greyhound or buying a Jack Russell Terrier is probably not your best choice. If you are a marathon runner, a Basset Hound will not likely make a good running buddy. Do you entertain guests in your home frequently? If so, you should consider a pet that is more social and not highly territorial.
- Are you a neat freak? Dogs and cats shed. That is a fact of life. Many a salesmen have tried to promote various shampoos or nutritional supplements that reduce or prevent shedding. The bottom line is if you have a dog or cat, they will shed. Some breeds like poodles or Schnauzers do shed less, but the trade off is that their hair grows long and needs to be cut.
- Space. If you live in a small apartment, it would be challenging to own a Great Dane. Cats out in the country can become prey for coyotes if let outdoors in the night. Tarantulas need live crickets, even in the winter time. All are things to consider when wondering which new pet is ideal for you.
Granted, each animal has its own personality and I’m sure there is a calm Jack Russell Terrier out there (although I have never met one) and I’m sure there are Great Danes who live quite well in small apartments and greyhounds who like to be couch potatoes. The point is to not get caught up in the latest pet craze and choose a pet that fits you and your lifestyle.
Our family recently went through this process. After much consideration, we elected to adopt a rescue dog out of Kansas City. He is a 1 year old yellow Labrador retriever my son has named, Finnick. I’m sure he will eat us out of house and home, demand more attention than we think we have time for, shed and slobber all over my furniture, and dig holes in my yard. However, you cannot look into the eyes of the boy and dog who are thrilled to be new partners in crime and think that any of that will really matter!
Submitted by Lisa Tokach, DVM