Getting a new pet in the household is an exciting time for everyone involved, but how can veterinary professionals make the transition easy for all?
The National Library of Medicine released an article investigating why pet owners relinquish pets. The article found that 23% of dogs and 25% of cats that are relinquished due to behavioral issues, making it the second highest reason.1 The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) promoted a study that reported pet problems were the top reason at 46% and the most common reasons in that category were aggression, destruction, and health problems.2 There are multiple steps that can be taken by the owner to help prevent relinquishment of a family pet.
Researching what pet to bring home is the first step to preventing relinquishment later. Before bringing home a pet, owners should research the type of dog or cat they want to get. Especially when considering a dog, knowing the energy level, work drive, size, coat maintenance, and genetic health concerns can help an owner choose the correct pet for them. For example, a dog with a higher energy level will need more exercise and stimulation. Without this stimulation the pet will become bored which could lead to destructive behavior. Looking at these factors will also allow an owner to judge what kind of expenses to expect. Long haired dogs will require routine grooming and certain dog breeds are prone to known health conditions that require care. If there are kids in the family, a pet that has the behavioral traits for being around children is preferred.
Creating a space for your new pet is the next step to successfully bringing them home. Before the pet comes home, a quiet area should be set up with a bed. Toys should be placed in an accessible location for the pet to play with. For cats, having elevated places for them to rest and play will allow them to exhibit their normal behavior. Having spaces like this will help the pet feel safe in their new home.
In addition, pet proofing the house will allow the pet to explore their new environment safely. Precautions such as preventing access to cleaners, keeping breakable objects out of harm's way, setting up gates, and picking up smaller objects that could become choking hazards can be done in the home. It can take a few weeks for a new pet to become comfortable in their new home. Pet parents should give them space to explore their surroundings, setting them up for a positive adjustment period.
The final step to successfully bring home a pet is to have a veterinarian that can do a health check in the first 2 weeks. This allows pet parents to set up their pet’s health schedule for vaccines and annual checkups. This introductory visit can also detect any health problems as well as allow pet parents to discuss any behavior concerns that they may have noticed. A veterinarian can recommend trainers and training tips to help the clients new pet adjust.
Bringing a new pet into a household is a major change. Sometimes this change is too much, and it leads to the owner relinquishing their pet. The above steps can help decrease the likelihood of a pet being returned for behavioral problems.
Karwacki is a small animal veterinarian and a Partner Doctor at Heart + Paw Callowhill in Philadelphia, PA. Karwacki has an interest in behavior and soft tissue surgery. She is an advocate for low-stress vet visits to make her patients more comfortable at her vet center.