Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
We all want to be responsible pet owners but what does the word
responsible mean when applied to how we
care for our beloved pets? No doubt, there are as many definitions as there are
breeds of dogs and colors of
Here is my personal top 10 list of “essential responsibilities,” all of which have been gleaned from three decades of work as a small-animal veterinarian.
adopt a pet, you are committing to care for the animal for its entire life. Now, we all know that life has a way of changing unexpectedly. Should your ability to care for your pet change, or if your pet has the potential to live for many decades (such as a
parrot or tortoise), your responsibility should be to
carefully plan who will be the next care provider for your pet.
Just as in human relationships, commitment to a pet is to provide love and care “for better or for worse.” Undoubtedly, there will be struggles — delayed
separation anxiety, destroyed furniture, chronic health issues (no doubt, you can add to this list). When opening your home and your heart to an animal, be willing and prepared to invest the time, energy and financial resources necessary to successfully manage any rough spots. Such challenges are a normal part of life. The silver lining is that they help us appreciate and enjoy the smooth times so much more.
Perhaps the most obvious responsibility on this list, provision of the basic necessities of life, is an important one. Water and
nutritious food are a must, as is protection from the elements. Here is where I will present my plug for providing shelter within the home. Given the choice, I firmly believe that the vast majority of dogs and cats would prefer to be
housed indoors, living side-by-side with their favorite humans. From their perspective, a bed in the garage or a doghouse in the backyard is invariably a second choice.
The kitty who persistently meows at an unanswered door and the dog who is chained to a tree in the yard are both in heartbreakingly inhumane situations. The need for emotional nourishment is just as great (if not greater) than the need for what is in the food bowl. Every animal’s emotional needs are different, but every animal deserves to have their emotional needs fulfilled. Your responsibility is to
recognize and fill such needs (overfilling is perfectly acceptable!).
There is a rather long “to do” list when it comes to proactively preserving your pet’s health. Protection from harm, balanced nutrition,
regular checkups are a good start to any list. I encourage you to work with your veterinarian to create your own “to do” list for your pets.
If I possessed a magic wand, I would personally like to see all the homeless animals in this country placed in loving homes before any more
dogs or cats are bred. Without that magic wand in hand, my best bet is to appeal to you to do whatever it takes to
prevent your pet from reproducing. If you are not convinced this is an important issue, I encourage you to visit your local animal shelter or
Petfinder.com to see for yourself how many pets are currently homeless.
Should the unthinkable happen and your
pet becomes lost, the likelihood of a happy ending is greatly enhanced if he or she has been
microchipped (and the microchip registry has your current contact information). Another critical safeguard is a collar sporting a
current identification tag.
Behavioral issues are the number-one reason dogs and cats are relinquished to shelters and other humane organizations. Rehoming such animals is a huge challenge, and the unfortunate end result is often euthanasia. Do the work early on to create a model citizen by participating in
training classes or one-on-one work with a trainer. You and your pet will both benefit.
Whether selecting a
vaccination protocol or making a
life-or-death decision, your active involvement as a medical advocate for your pet is imperative. You may not have realized it, but at the time of adoption, you accepted “power of attorney” to make medical decisions on your pet’s behalf. Yes, your veterinarian’s recommendations are important, and he or she is an important member of your pet’s health care team, but you are “team captain” because
no one knows your pet as well as you do.
Unfortunately, sick or
aged animals rarely simply pass away peacefully and comfortably in their sleep. In most cases, it is incumbent upon their human family members to decide upon and create an
end of life for the pet (whether via
hospice care) that is managed humanely. If you share your life with pets, you will undoubtedly find yourself faced with this all-important responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure your animal is as comfortable, free of pain, and well-loved as possible.
This is my top 10 list of essential pet care responsibilities. What would you add to the list?
Dr. Nancy Kay graduated from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and is the author of
Your Dog's Best Health: a Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet and
Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
. Dr. Kay is a specialist in small-animal internal medicine at Upstate Veterinary Specialists, with offices in Asheville, N.C., and Greenville, S.C.
More on Vetstreet:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Kramer, a Goldendoodle, is finally back
home with his owner after disappearing
nearly two months ago.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Valentine's Day is here and our cats and
dogs have some romantic poems for you.
With Westminster coming up, here’s our
expert list of everything you need to know
for you and your pup to follow…
One of the few breeds to originate in the
United States, the “tuxedoed gentleman”
tends to be happy and…
Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello made
his predictions for the annual dog show,
and the top contenders may surprise you.
Ahead of the Westminster Dog Show, the
American Kennel Club will host its
seventh annual Meet the Breeds event.
The Boerboel, a South African Mastiff, is a strong and territorial breed who is not suited to inexperienced dog owners.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.