We love our pets – there’s no doubt about it. But are we taking the best, and safest, care of our four-legged friends?
Many veterinarians and animal rights organizations would daresay 'no'. So how can we turn that around? It begins with awareness. Here are the top 10 most common mistakes made by pet owners.
1. Playing with potentially dangerous toys
One of the most common, and dangerous, mistakes that pet owners can make is giving their pets twigs, and other potentially dangerous items, to play with. Twigs, sticks, branches and the like can break inside the mouth of your pet, causing splinters, infections or worse yet, serious injuries to their throats. When selecting a toy for your pet, avoid sharp and/or fragile items, because they are potentially dangerous. Hard plastic Frisbees, balls, tough ropes and thick, raw bones are great chew toys for your pet. Cooked bones, twigs and other small, sharp objects are not.
2. Not giving your pet enough exercise
Each breed and species is different in reference to their specific exercise needs, but every animal requires daily exercise, including you. The amount will vary depending on the age, species and breed of your pet, but what’s most important is that they get regular, daily exercise. Exercise can include play time, walks, jogs, runs, agility training and more. To obtain specific exercise guidelines for your pet, consult with your local veterinarian.
3. Being unaware of your pet’s weight problem
A study jointly conducted by the RSPCA and University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science in 2005, found that 41 percent of dogs in Australia were considered to be overweight or obese. Some studies show that most pet owners are unaware that their pets are overweight, whilst others in fact find it cute. In addition, obesity contributes to many other diseases and health complications. So if your pet may be overweight or obese, consult with a veterinarian today.
4. Inadequate Training
Behaviour training is very important when adopting a new dog. Do they know how to take commands? Do you know how to teach them new tricks? Do they respect you? Taking the time to go through behavioral training on the front end can help save you time and frustration in the long run.
5. Adopting a pet that isn’t right for your lifestyle
This is a HUGE mistake made by many pet owners. If you are not an active person, do NOT adopt a dog that is. It’s unfair if a naturally active animal has to keep a sedentary lifestyle because their owner does. It may seem logical, but it makes an immense difference in the quality of your pet’s life.
6. Not providing enough mental stimulation
Pets, like us, get bored as well. To ensure their mental acuity, you can play brain games with your pet, such as teaching them new tricks, to ensure that your pet’s mind is constantly getting developed. If nothing else, mental stimulation is worth your time because it decreases the likelihood of your pet getting bored and eating the blinds in your home when you’re away.
7. Forgetting your pet is an animal
Whilst we love our pets and dress them in gowns and tutu's, it’s also important to remember that our pets are animals. They may chew up your shoes, bark at the mailman, and dig up your garden because, well, they are still animals. Also remember that your pet will have a natural inclination to defend itself when in fear. So always be careful to never back your pet into a corner, disrupt them while eating or physically hit them in the name of discipline, or they may attack you in self defense. Ultimately, have respect for your pet and they will return the gesture.
8. Adopting a pet before you’re ready
Adopting an animal is a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be made unless you’re absolutely certain. There is financial and personal responsibility in owning a pet and if you cannot commit the time, money and love necessary for your pet to enjoy a wonderful life with you, consider fostering instead, or wait until you are ready to adopt.
9. Not keeping up with dental hygiene
Dental hygiene is one of the most important health issues for your pet. Luckily for you and your pet, this is avoidable by regularly brushing your pet’s teeth and checking on their oral hygiene. Anything out of the ordinary may be an indication of infection, but when caught early, can be more easily treated.
10. Infrequent Veterinary visits
Visiting the veterinarian and keeping up with a vaccination schedule is a commitment that can be easily dismissed. These visits are incredibly important however, as they ensure your pet is healthy and thriving for years to come. When we are sick, we decide to go to the doctor. When our pets are sick, however, they rely upon you to take them to the vet to find out what’s going on. If you cannot commit to a regular veterinary care schedule, maybe you should consider fostering instead of pet ownership, since pets are kept for shorter periods of time and already come with updated vaccinations.
If you’re a pet owner, hopefully you gave yourself a pat on the back after reading this list. If you didn’t, however, don’t fret – simply change it today. Do you have other tips for responsible pet ownership? Tell us your thoughts below.
Dr Ben Willcocks is a Veterinarian and contributor to the pet website Vetico - www.vetico.com.au