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So You Got a New Pet. Now What?

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

According to a survey by pet food manufacturer, Royal Canin, 61% of Americans adopted a pet during this on-going pandemic. As lockdowns and social distancing practices were implemented across the United States, many families opened their homes to new furry friends and in some cases, shelters and rescues had a hard time finding adoptable pets for the demand!

So, if you are one of the incredibly giving individuals who welcomed a dog or cat into your family this past year…THANK YOU! Now, have you properly planned for the care of this four-legged family member? Let’s review a few tips for new (and experienced) pet lovers!

Proper veterinary care is essential and should be a high priority, especially in the first few days after bringing your new friend home. Your veterinarian and his or her team can help you fully understand what vaccinations are needed, the best type of parasite prevention based on your pet’s needs as well as your own concerns about the medication, and those all-important questions that cover concepts like behavior or nutrition. But, if you are like most new pet owners, you might have experienced some challenges in setting a time for your new pet’s veterinary visit!

With an increase in new pets, veterinary offices have been overwhelmed with requests for appointments. It is not unusual for clients to wait 4-8 weeks for a wellness appointment for their new pet and emergency clinics are reporting 6-8 hour waits every day! So, the key here is that whenever possible, plan ahead and call your veterinarian to determine the best options for getting your pup or kitty in for their preventive. In some cases, you might be asked if a drop off appointment (where you leave the pet for awhile and then return after the exam and treatments have been done) would work or you might hear about the availability of walk in clinics for vaccines and other routine care. Please note, walk in vaccine clinics may have a long wait (2-4 hours) and many will not see pets with “sick” problems, like ear infections, chronic vomiting or diarrhea, or lameness issues.

When it comes to preventive care, vaccinations and parasite prevention are top on the list for your new pet. Most all pet owners understand the importance of rabies vaccination and vaccinating for the dreaded highly contagious diseases like canine distemper, canine parvovirus, or feline panleukopenia. But other vaccinations may be important for your pet and include diseases like leptospirosis, canine flu, Bordetella, Feline Leukemia, or Lyme Disease. These diseases are often encountered based on your pet’s lifestyle, so take the time to discuss with your veterinarian whether your pet will encounter these pathogens locally or during any travels you might do. Don’t forget, here in Indiana, rabies vaccination is required by state law for dogs, cats, and ferrets!

Parasites are quite common throughout the environment here in our practice area and, along with the Companion Animal Parasite Council, we strongly encourage year round use of parasite prevention products. Even though we don’t see a LOT of fleas or mosquitoes during our chilly winters here, fleas love the warmth and humidity of our homes and can quickly overwhelm a household with thousands of the blood-sucking insects. Almost every year, someone posts a picture on social media of a mosquito in their house during unseasonably warm days in February. Other nasty pests, like roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms can be found throughout our neighborhoods and even in the local dog parks at any time. It’s really best to play it safe and use parasite prevention every 30 days, for both dogs and cats, all year round. Your pet will thank you and you will be keeping the WHOLE family safe from these worms!

One often neglected area of pet care involves the health and well-being of your pet’s skin and haircoat. Veterinary personnel often take questions about “how often should I bathe my pet” or “How do you trim a pet’s nails”? To be honest, each pet has his or her own grooming needs…but we can say that regular bathing and/or grooming can help minimize matting or accumulation of dead hair/skin which leads to a healthier skin and coat for your furry friend. Certain breeds of both dogs and cats would benefit from an early and long term relationship with a professional groomer!

Finally, stay in communication with your family veterinarian. He or she and their team can provide you with all sorts of advice on the right diet to consider, how to keep the pet occupied when you are at work, or even tips for housetraining that stubborn pup. Appointment times might not be immediately available, but work with your veterinary team to find a time or appointment type that works for both of you. It’s also important to remember that veterinary offices have been considered “essential” during all of 2020 and into the New Year, so please don’t be offended when your long time, “family” veterinarian suggests a visit to the animal emergency room, when appropriate. He or she may not have the resources at that moment to see your pet and getting the right care for your furry friend in a timely manner is important to them as well as you!

While it’s tempting to use your social media feeds and Internet research as a means to avoid a visit to the veterinarian, we urge you to be careful with the advice you find. Well-meaning individuals may try to guide you, but they likely aren’t veterinarians and may not understand the full story (environment, diet, genetics, etc) of what’s happening with your pet. Instead of posting on your Facebook feed, consider using a telemedicine/teletriage application, like AirVet. These apps can connect you with licensed veterinarians who will provide professional advice, helping you do what’s best for you and your whole family.

So, we are eager to hear…did you add to your family during the pandemic?

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