How to Be a Better Pet Owner: Finalist 19

by Gayla on June 10, 2013

Since I was a little boy I always had pets; from dogs to cats, cattle to horses, and every critter in between. My passion for furry, feathered, and four legged animals grew into a dream of becoming a veterinarian. And now, as I am fishing up my first year of veterinary school at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, my dream is becoming a reality.

    As I continue down this path of veterinary medicine, I have learned many things about pet ownership through working at veterinary clinics and veterinary school, but a majority of my knowledge of pet ownership has been learned through personal experience.

    I feel that this wealth of information should not be bottled up, but shared to others. And it is with that I give you advice as how to be a better pet-owner through the eyes of a veterinary student.

    One of the basics of pet ownership is providing quality food, shelter and water every day. As my undergraduate professor Dr. Williamson always said, “Water should be cool, clean, and abundant” and no, leaving the toilet seat up does not count.

    Another basic care tip is to take your pet(s) to the veterinarian whenever they are ill as well as for their yearly check-ups. It is also important that as a good pet owner, you get your pet(s) vaccinated and keep them up to date on their vaccines. Vaccines are very important in helping to prevent diseases. A good pet owner will also keep copies of their pets’ records on file as well as phone numbers of their local and emergency veterinary clinic.

    We all hate fleas and ticks! Prevent your pets from getting these little critters by putting them on a flea and tick prevention. Trust me when I say it is better to prevent fleas and ticks from getting in your house and on your pets. Trying to rid of these pests after they have made themselves at home in your carpets, sheets, and you and your pets’ body is hassle.

    Give your pets pet-friendly toys and treats. It is better to pay the extra cash for a pet friendly toy/treat from a pet store than to pay that extra cash to have a veterinarian perform surgery to remove the non pet-friendly toy/treat from your pet’s stomach. After getting the vet bill, you will wish you had bought appropriate pet toys.

    While we are on the topic of costly vet bills, my advice to pet owners is to not be your pets’ personal physician/pharmacist. A medication that works for humans does not mean it will be safe for Max or Fluffy. Consult your veterinarian before administering any human medications to your pet. You don’t want to do more harm than good to your pet nor make that trip to the veterinarian due to owner error.

    While you might not be able to be your pets’ doctor, you can be their best friend. One way I was able to bond better with my dogs was taking them to basic dog training classes. As a pet owner, I found it to be very rewarding for both dog and human. Having my dogs learn basic commands has proven life saving. It has made my dogs more obedient and prevented them from getting seriously injured. As a pet owner and a future veterinarian, I highly advise dog owners to have their dogs learn and respond to basic commands. It makes the dog more obedient, can help prevent them from getting in harmful situations, and it will help build a strong bond between dog and handler. As for cats… well, they are not known for being man’s best friend, but it is good to interact with your cat(s) through toys and even teaching them basic tricks. With any animal, the more you spend time with them, the closer the bond is between animal and human.

    Our country has seen many disasters over the years, from earthquakes, to floods, to hurricanes. It is important that we are prepared for disasters not only for us but for our pets. As a responsible owner, we should be prepared and ready for when disasters hit. Many animal organizations like the ASPCA have links on their websites that provide information on how to prepare for disasters. Many pets get displaced from their families during a catastrophe. It is important that as a pet owner we make sure our pets have some type of identification on them. A collar with identification tags as well as micro-chipping pets is the best way for them to be reunited with owners. According to the ASPCA, one of the best ways to be prepared for any type of disaster is to have a rescue alert sticker inside your home. This lets rescuers know how many pets need to be rescued from your home. The second thing is to arrange a safe haven for your pet(s) in the event of an evacuation. Keep an evacuation pack ready that is filled with supplies for pets. Have a designated caregiver that can take care of your pet(s) if disaster strikes while you are away from home and cannot reach them. And lastly, know what natural catastrophes can happen in your area and be prepared to evaluate with your pet(s) if these catastrophes should occur. More information can be found on ASPCA’s website concerning disaster preparedness. It is our jobs as pet owners to keep our beloved companions safe.

    From vaccines to preparing for disasters, there are many ways pet owners can better themselves in pet ownership. As a veterinary student and pet owner, the last and best advice I can give to pet owners is to love your pet(s). Treat them with the upmost kindness and respect; cherish the love, joy, and companionship they bring to your life and treasure the moments you have with them on this Earth.

C. Bernal

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