Most people are aware of a book published in 1990 by management guru Dr. Stephen Covey titled ‚??The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.‚?Ě While the habits detailed in his book seem easy to understand, they are not always easy to apply. With that in mind, consider the following list of seven habits of effective ‚??pet people‚?Ě that I have observed during my tenure caring for pets from cradle to grave. Pet owners who routinely practice these habits will enjoy longer, fuller relationships with their pets.
1. Routine veterinary care (of course!) ‚?? As a veterinarian, I am trained to educate people how to properly care for pets. Informed pet owners have the opportunity to make better choices for their pets‚?? general and health care. Use your veterinarian as an advocate for your pet‚??s health and well-being, then follow her advice. Your pet will live a healthier, longer life.
2. Proper nutrition ‚?? In the pet world as in the human world, you are what you eat. Follow your veterinarian‚??s diet recommendations to give your pet the building blocks for excellent health during every life cycle stage. Keep in mind pet foods and individual pet nutritional needs will vary, and that weight control promotes longevity through better joint health and disease prevention. Ask your veterinarian to identify your pet‚??s ‚??body condition score‚?Ě to insure that your pet‚??s daily ration is appropriate in type and volume.
3. Dental care ‚?? The most common ailment diagnosed in senior pets is dental disease, and the impact of poor oral health can be far-reaching. Besides causing the obvious halitosis and unsightly tartar accumulation, oral bacteria readily enters the bloodstream and airways. Eventually, this bacteria will take up residence in the kidneys, liver, heart valves, throat and large and small airways. Brush your pet‚??s teeth daily to avoid these potentially life-threatening consequences.
4. Spay or neuter ‚?? While this seems like it should be an obvious habit for all pet owners, many still don‚??t understand why routine sterilization promotes better pet health. Neutered pets have far lower risks for hormonally-related diseases such as malignant breast, prostate, and perianal cancers, life-threatening uterine infections, and various prostate and testicular diseases. Neutered pets are also less likely to bite people (the majority of bite incidences involve un-neutered male dogs). In addition, ‚??Tom‚?Ě cats are the greatest source for spreading fatal diseases such as Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Schedule an appointment today to have your pet sterilized.
5. Pet socialization/obedience ‚?? One of the best innovations in animal behavior was the introduction of puppy kindergarten classes. Dog social skills are learned between 8 and 16 weeks of age, so it is important to focus on teaching acceptable pet behavior during this period. Puppy kindergarten classes are widely available and conducted by experienced dog trainers who can help you better understand your pet‚??s behavior. Through appropriate guidance, recognition, rewards, and obedience training, your dog will become a more social, acceptable pet. Don‚??t let your dog become a statistic in a rescue facility because of bad behavior. Seek the help of a reputable trainer early in your puppy‚??s socialization period.
6. Wellness testing ‚?? With the advent of in-house blood testing, veterinarians have become more efficient and pro-active in identifying pet disease. Most veterinarians offer ‚??bundling‚?Ě of wellness tests including blood profiles, glaucoma screening, blood pressure measurements, urinalyses, cardiac testing and more. Early detection of illness allows for expedient intervention and more pet lives saved. With this in mind, why wouldn‚??t you want to have your pet wellness tested? Make it your habit to have your pet‚??s wellness testing done annually, and more often, if your pet is a ‚??senior citizen.‚?Ě
7. Human/animal bond ‚?? Pet owners who enjoy the fullest lives with their pets are those who have discovered the beauty of the ‚??human-animal bond.‚?Ě I have always held the belief that pet ownership is a ‚??luxury,‚?Ě and not a ‚??right.‚?Ě If you choose to own a pet, that decision comes with a large investment in time, money, and health care. But, what you will receive in return will be far greater than your investments. Take time to truly love, interact with, and care for your pet. The end result will be that BOTH of you will live a longer, more fulfilled life.
Unlike Dr. Covey‚??s seven habits, these seven pet people habits ARE easy to apply. Work with your veterinarian to become a ‚??highly effective pet person.‚?Ě Your pet will thank you with a longer, healthier life, and I will thank you, too.
Dr. Bonnie Jones is co-owner of Delphos Animal Hospital which she operates with her husband, Dr. John H. Jones. She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.