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Getting a new pet

Posted October 15, 2014 in Advice Column, Grimes

Most of us agree that dogs and cats make great pets, but sometimes lifestyle, allergies or other factors make owning these pets an impossibility. Luckily, there are a whole host of options available, so no matter your needs, there is certainly a pet out there for you. Fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other mammal species can make excellent pets as well. Caring for a non-traditional or pocket pet can be both fun and rewarding when you set yourself up for success.

The first thing to do when considering any new pet is a little research. Whether you are looking for a Great Dane or a gecko, you need to know the facts about caring for your potential pet. This is especially important when it comes to non-traditional pets because many of them have very specific habitat and diet requirements. Use multiple resources like books, the Internet, and your veterinarian to learn about the species you are interested in. Here are some of the basic questions you need to answer. How long does this animal live? Does it require a special enclosure? Does it need special lighting? What does it eat? Can I touch it? Is it solitary or social? Can it carry any diseases that I might catch? What special equipment do I need to care for this pet? How much time and money will it take to care for my pet? Performing this fact-finding mission up front will save you some big headaches in the future.

So you did the research and your confident that you have picked the perfect pet. What next? Don’t just run out and buy the first ferret or finch you see. Find a good breeder or a pet store that has healthy animals to purchase; or consider adopting from a rescue. Make sure the habitat is in order and you have all the things you need to care for your pet before you bring it home. Finally, make an appointment with your veterinarian so you know you have a healthy pet.

Not all veterinarians see all species, so you may need to call around to find the right doctor for your pet. At Westfield Veterinary Hospital we see reptiles, amphibians, chickens and small mammals like ferrets, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits, just to name a few. At your first visit the veterinarian will ask lots of questions about habitat and husbandry. He or she will closely examine your pet to look for any signs of illness or injury. Some species require vaccinations and other preventative medications which may be performed at that time. A fecal exam is commonly performed to look for parasites, so bring a stool sample if you have one. This is also a good time to ask questions and get advice about caring for your new companion. Be sure to make a list of questions before you come so you don’t forget anything. By doing this you are assured that you and your new companion will be off to a happy and healthy start.

Information provided by Tera Dupuy, DVM, Westfield Veterinary Hospital, 8789 N.W. 54th Ave., Johnston, 515-986-5738

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