Adopting a pet brings great joy and excitement to individuals and families, but it also introduces new responsibilities and concerns. Your new family member deserves the same health and safety considerations you would want for the people in your life.
Before you even bring your new dog or cat home with you, take steps to “pet-proof” your home. Homeowners may need new strategies for dealing with household objects and situations that never posed to a threat to the home’s human residents.
Medicines or household chemicals, for instance, must be put away behind closed and secured doors to prevent the accidental poisoning of curious pets. Even ordinary food items such as citrus fruits, certain nuts, chocolate, garlic, onions, alcoholic drinks and coffee should be kept away from animals, because these products can cause violent illness or other reactions if ingested.
Hide any exposed wires or cables so your new pet won’t be tempted to chew on them, or place the cords in PCV pipe, and remove small objects that might pose a hazard if swallowed. Lilies are very toxic to cats, and ingestion of sago palm or oleander can be very serious for dogs.
Schedule a Health Exam
A visit to the veterinarian should be among the first stops for your newly-adopted animal. Veterinarians not only provide important initial care to check for existing health problems and guard against new ones, but they can also give you a wealth of advice from home dental care to proper nutrition, especially if you’ve never owned an animal before. Don’t put this visit off; your pet may be vulnerable to serious ailments until vaccinations and other wellness services can be administered.
Make Introductions Carefully
If you already have other pets in your home, you may find that you need to introduce your newest addition to the family with discretion and sensitivity. Dogs tend to assume dominant or submissive pack relationships, so your canines may require time to figure out the new pecking order. (Ideally, you have already assumed the role of “top dog.”) Cats can be particularly sensitive and stressed when their routine is disrupted by another feline presence. Keep your new cat in an isolated room at first, with his own food bowl and litter box, gradually letting him explore more and more of the home while both cats gets used to each other’s smells and company.
Enroll in Training
Training is a great next step for a newly-adopted dog — not just for housebreaking but also for simple commands such as “Sit,” “Stay” and “Down.” Obedience training helps you enjoy a peaceful, happy, well-socialized pet.
American Humane Association, “Pet-Proofing Your Home.” 2013.
American Veterinary Medical Association, “Importance of Wellness Exams.”
The Humane Society of the United States, “Introducing Your New Cat to Other Pets.” July 3, 2013.
Your Pet’s First Wellness Exam
Your veterinarian will perform several services essential to the animal’s immediate and long-term well being. A typical evaluation will include blood and fecal tests to check for parasites or diseases that might require immediate treatment. Your pet may also be started on medications to prevent pest and parasite infestations. Core vaccinations will also be administered, and spaying or neutering may be recommended for animals more than a few weeks of age. Make sure to schedule this first appointment as soon as possible.