When I was five years old I informed my parents that I was going to be a veterinarian.
“Why?” they asked.
“Because I love animals,” I said. And that same reasoning held true through undergraduate and veterinary school. Then I started working as a vet.
Yes, I was helping animals, but it slipped my mind that with every animal patient to walk in the door, at least one human owner accompanied them. Most of my time is spent interacting with owners, not animals.
A good pet owner makes my job a pleasure. So what makes a good pet owner?
Number 1: A good pet owner understands that adopting an animal is a life-long responsibility. It’s heartwarming when I see an older pet who’s been cared for and loved by the same family through-out her life. Kittens, puppies, and bunnies are adorable, but they get older and depend on us for shelter, food, health care, and love for the rest of their lives—not just for a year or two.
Number 2: A good pet owner maintains their pet’s health. This applies to both the physical and emotional health of your pet. When I have a puppy who hasn’t been vaccinated walk in with vomiting and diarrhea, my own stomach flops. My first thought is Parvovirus—a contagious gastrointestinal virus that kills a high percentage of its victims but is preventable with a vaccine.
It’s important from day one to bring your pet to the vet for yearly health checks, vaccinations, and to establish a plan for flea, tick, and internal parasite prevention. I know these visits aren’t cheap, but your vet may pick up on subtle health concerns before they pose serious risk. And, if Fido gets sick or injured, a good owner may already have invested in pet health insurance to help cover the vet bill.
Health includes maintaining a healthy emotional bond while still being conscious of your pet’s weight. Loads of treats and a bit of your dinner may seem like you’re showing Fido you love him, but being overweight puts strain on joints, the heart, and decreases his lifespan. The best way to show you care is to spend time with them. Going for walks, playing ball, and socializing in dog parks strengthens you and your furry friend’s bond.
Number 3: A good pet owner keeps their pet safe. We regularly get calls from distraught clients who’ve lost their pet—it’s even more upsetting if there’s no way for someone who finds them to identify who they belong to. Getting your pet microchipped and up to date on vaccines is an excellent way of keeping Fluffy safe. Also, by knowing what foods and household products are toxic to her, you’re better able to prevent an accident or illness. And setting limits and walking your pet on a leash can prevent disputes with other pets and keep Fluffy away from busy roads.
Number 4: A good pet owner is admired by other pet owners. Occasionally I have a client who absolutely wows me with their care and attention do detail where their creatures are concerned. When they walk their furry friend out of the clinic I think, “That is one lucky animal,” and I’m inspired to replace the batteries in my cats’ laser pointer toy and walk my dog the full two mile loop in the park.
These are only a few qualities that make a good pet owner—there are hundreds more out there! What key qualities do you think a pet owner should have?