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November 25, 2014
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community living

Pets as gifts

By Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, D.V.M.

Have you considered giving a pet as a gift? Or perhaps you have received a pet as a gift? This time of year loved ones are always grappling with what to give during the season of gift giving and cheer. I have noticed that this time of year pets have become a common gift to give to children, adults, parents or grandparents. Recalling the classical Normal Rockwell rendition of a young child wanting their first puppy for Christmas many people feel compelled to give puppies for Christmas.

As with any addition to the family, there are a number of things to consider prior to purchasing or adopting a dog. The first and foremost thing is the time commitment a dog requires and how that impacts your life. The average lifespan of dogs currently is approximately 10 years. It is crucial to consider the financial responsibilities that come along with having a dog—not just the foods, toys, collars, coats and leashes. Your four-legged friend is going to require vaccinations, de-wormers, monthly flea/tick/heartworm preventatives, dental care, grooming and medical attention if they ever become sick. Veterinary care that is of high standards and quality comes with an appropriate price tag and many people do not consider this. If considering giving a dog as a gift to a friend or loved one, follow through to be sure that they are committed to the animal as well as to the financial responsibilities.

The selection of the dog is also very important, and each type of dog should be paired appropriately with their human counterpart. Veterinary professionals are so frequently puzzled when clients acquire a pet that does not complement their way of life or ideals. Such inappropriate matches would include an elderly couple that has mobility limitations acquiring a bouncing border collie puppy. Before purchasing an expensive designer breed dog, please consider visiting local animal rescue groups. There are so many great animals in humane societies or in rescue organizations that really could use a good, loving home. If you are set on acquiring a dog from a breeder, be sure to do your homework. Such background includes seeing if the American Kennel Club (AKC) lists them. Also, ask if you can visit their home/kennel. If they resist or discourage this in any fashion, I would have second thoughts. You may also request a reference from their family veterinarian. Any veterinarian would be willing to give a reference as to the standards of care provided by their breeder clients. Again, if met with resistance, then I would strongly discourage you from pursuing a purchase from that individual. Lastly, be sure to review all contracts or documents thoroughly prior to signing. Currently animals are considered property, just as when you are purchasing a vehicle, and if you agree to something it is often difficult to reverse that agreement.

Prior to bringing the pet home, be sure that the house is “puppy proofed.” The best way to do this is to think of the animal as a young child that would have the curiosity to get into everything and anything if given the opportunity. If you have small children, be sure that all of their belongings or toys are secure and out of reach of the puppy. Teething is often the cause for puppies to start chewing on things around the house. This natural process is what causes puppies to accidently swallow things or even ingest items that can be deadly. Puppies should never be allowed to play with string, small objects, or toys that are easily destroyed. If you have questions regarding appropriate toys, be sure to contact your family veterinarian.

The holidays are a very exciting time of year, and the addition of a new dog or puppy is also a very exciting event. Be sure to plan ahead and be willing to commit to provide for the dog for the rest of its life. Visit the local shelters and humane societies prior to purchasing a dog or puppy, as you will be giving a needy animal a loving home. Lastly, if you ever have questions regarding what to do when purchasing/adopting a puppy, or how to care for them, remember, your family veterinarian is more than willing to help you through those issues. Happy holidays!