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According to recent statistics, more and more Americans are adopting not only their first companion animal, but their second and even third. The pervasiveness of multiple pet households indicates just how important pets have become in our lives, and that we want our existing pets to have companions of their own.
Having multiple pets increases everything: the joy, the cost, the hair, and the cuddles. As a veterinarian, I am often asked for advice on how best to integrate a new pet into a home that already has resident animals. In this post, I’ll be focusing on dog-only and cat-only households.
In a Dog-Meet-Dog World
When seeking to add an additional dog to your family, be sure to choose a breed, gender and personality that compliment your current canine. For example, it’s unwise to match a tea cup poodle puppy with a large or giant breed dog, especially an active one. Even if no harm is intended, the puppy could easily be injured. Similarly, be conscientious if you already have an older dog with arthritis, as a puppy could prove overwhelming. In general, opposite genders get along better, as do spayed and neutered pets (procedures I heartily endorse). In general, we would recommend the adoption of a dog younger than the resident dog; if the ages are reversed, tension could result, leading to recurring fights over who claims dominance. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, personality is an important factor. You know your resident dog’s disposition and it’s essential to take that into consideration when bringing a new dog into your home.
It’s always a good idea to have your existing dog as well-trained as possible prior to bringing a new dog into your home. Trust me, it will make your life easier and may even help facilitate the training of your new dog. As pack animals, dogs instinctively pick up the habits of their pack members. If you have a well-trained resident dog, then he or she can show the newcomer ‘how things are done’.
Even if your dogs seem to hit it off great from the get-go, don’t leave them unsupervised until you are certain that they have fully accepted each other. To that end, some experts advise that the dogs have time away from each other, as well as time off from you, too. This will help foster their bonds to you while also teaching them that it’s okay to be alone.
Feeding time can be a challenge with more than one dog. If the dogs compete for food, it may result in snarly spats and possibly overeating (at least, for one of the dogs). In addition, the dogs may develop the habit of ‘bolting their food’, or eating too quickly while not chewing their food sufficiently. Bolting may lead to serious problems like chunks becoming lodged in the throat, or cause GI distress like vomiting or diarrhea. The simplest way to avoid these problems is by feeding the dogs separately. If you have dog crates, consider feeding them while they’re safely ensconced inside their individual crates. Short of that, consider feeding in separate rooms, but be sure to close the doors! Whatever method you choose, make sure the feeding areas are places where your dogs will feel safe and will be able to eat undisturbed. Remember to remove the bowls after your dogs are finished eating.
Lastly, make sure that you purchase separate bedding, bowls and toys for your new dog. Some experts believe that it’s vital that each dog has his or her own property, as this will help your resident dog feel less threatened by the newcomer.
Cat Plus Kitty Doesn’t Have to Mean Catty
Just like with dogs, be thoughtful of your resident cats when bringing a new cat into your home. If your existing cat is quiet or reserved, then a mature companion can be good choice; if you have an active cat, consider getting a cat with an energetic disposition. If you choose to introduce an adult cat, try to find one who has lived in a feline community before. The best combinations are based on personality, so choose a cat with a temperament that compliments your resident cat. Adding together two unneutered male cats can be recipe for conflict. Please make certain that your newcomer has had a thorough veterinary exam and tests negative for intestinal parasites, feline leukemia and AIDS, as the latter two are highly infectious diseases.
The best way to introduce a new cat is gradually. A new feline in the home will likely lead to some measure of stress for your resident cat, especially if your cat has no prior experience living with other pets. Keep the new cat in an area separate from your resident cat, such as a bedroom or bathroom with a shut door, and introduce them in stages, using progressively increasing increments of exposure time. Never leave them unattended until both the cats appear to fully accept one another. Be forewarned, sometimes this process can take between a week and a month, depending on the temperament of both cats. Cats, by nature, don’t like change. Chances are, your resident cat may hide, ignore or hiss at the newcomer for a few days, so give your kitty some time to adapt. In the majority of cases, the household will resume normalcy over time.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to ease the transition. Give the new cat its own bedding, litterbox, food dishes and toys in an area separate from the resident cat’s belongings. Make sure both cats have separate areas where they can retreat to if threatened. Add additional cat trees and scratching posts around the house for environmental enrichment. You might also consider purchasing plug-in Feliway dispensers, which can reduce stress during the introductory period.
With a little bit of forethought and patience, you too will be able to welcome your home (and your heart) to a new companion animal and incorporate them safely into your existing family.
Some cool fipronil images:
Image by Nottingham Vet School
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Courtesy of fipronil. His hind legs were still twitching.
Image by Nottingham Vet School
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Don’t consider adoption unless you can afford a dog. The cost of owning a dog is far more than just the expense of buying food for a pet.
Many people don’t take into consideration all the costs involved in adopting and raising a dog. The time to budget for a dog is before you get one. Financially providing for your dog is a big part of being a responsible dog owner so it’s important that you know in advance what you are getting into.
The cost of owning a dog is estimated to be anywhere between $ 700 to $ 3,000 per year. Contributing factors include your dog’s size and age, the area in which you live, what kind of lifestyle you live, and individual needs of the dog you want to bring into your life. These are important considerations when deciding if you can afford a dog as a pet.
Your Initial Investment
Any new dog or puppy will come with substantial expenses. If you decide to purchase a purebred dog from an established breeder, expect to spend $ 500 to $ 2,000, or possibly more depending on the rarity and popularity of the breed. Spending the extra money on a quality dog from a reputable and professional breeder will cost you less in the long run because the dog will be healthier and will be less susceptible to numerous diseases that may be genetically inbred and not show up until your pet has found a place in your heart; and by then you will probably feel morally obligated to spend whatever it costs to care for your beloved companion.
If you like the looks and personalities of mixed-breed dogs or “mutts” as they are sometimes called, and you want to help dogs in need, then choose your dog from the local animal shelter or a rescue group. Adopting from a shelter or rescue can cost as little as $ 50 to $ 200. Your chances of getting a healthy dog are much higher if you adopt from a reputable animal shelter or rescue group.
If you want a purebred dog, there are many breed-specific rescue groups that are easily found on the internet. Search under “rescue dogs”, “dogs for adoption”, “dogs for sale” (by state), “purebred dog rescue”, and “American Kennel Club breed rescue”. These are just a few of the search terms. Online you’ll find many sites offering rescued dogs for adoption.
Regardless of where you get your new dog, the first thing you should do is take your dog to a veterinarian. Depending on the need for vaccines, preventive medications and special treatments, that first visit will cost you anywhere from $ 50 to $ 300. Vet bills for a young puppy usually range from $ 100 to $ 300 depending on the puppy’s health and the area where you live.
Your next major expense and an important one in deciding if you can afford to adopt a dog, will be dog supplies. You’ll need lots and lots of dog food, a leash, collar, bed, toys and so on. You may also want to send your dog to obedience classes if you’re unable to do the necessary training yourself. The first year with your new dog can cost twice as much as the annual cost in subsequent years.
Feeding Your Dog
It’s important to feed your dog a high-quality dog food and healthy dog treats. This can cost anywhere from $ 20 to $ 60 per month ($ 250-$ 700 per year). Food expense varies based on the size and energy level of your dog. Obviously a Great Dane eats more than a Chihuahua, and a dog that snoozes all day long requires less food than an active one who’s bouncing around the house or yard all day.
Dog toys are an important part of your dog’s mental stimulation and exercise. Plan on spending $ 25 to $ 150 per year or higher depending on how you like to treat your dog and whether it likes to chew and rip up the toys you do provide.
Every dog deserves a cozy bed, and purchasing one for your pet will cost you $ 50 to $ 250. Pricing is consistent with the pricing in mattresses for humans – it costs more for larger sizes and for quality beds. A durable, high-quality and easy-to-clean dog bed will last longer and keep costs lower in the long run.
Leashes and Collars
Your dog must have at least one leash and one collar with ID tags. Depending on size and quality, most dog owners spend $ 20 to $ 50 on a leash and collar. Retractable leashes are very popular and allow for easier roaming and exploration by your dog when out on walks.
Your dog’s grooming needs are going to be based on the type of hair coat. Smooth coated, short-haired dogs require little more than basic grooming, while dogs with constantly growing hair like Golden Retrievers and Sheepdogs will need to visit the groomer on a regular basis. The cost of grooming visits will run you anywhere from $ 30 to $ 500 a year.
Routine Veterinary Care
Routine veterinary care is a major part of keeping your dog healthy. Plan on going to the vet for wellness check-ups once or twice a year. Budgeting is difficult if the need arises for emergency visits to the vet or unexpected illnesses for which you’ll have vet costs as well as medications or possible surgery costs. Vet costs will be higher if your dog develops any serious health problem. As your dog grows older you can also expect expenses to rise in conjunction with your dog’s advancing years.
Preventive Medications and Supplements
All dogs need medications to prevent heartworms, fleas, ticks and other parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend the best products based on your climate and your dog’s needs. Some dogs will also benefit from vitamins and supplements. In general, you will probably spend $ 100 to $ 300 per year for these items.
Though most dogs will only go to obedience school in their first year or two of life, training needs to be ongoing throughout your dog’s life. Whether you are buying books and DVDs for at-home training, or you enroll your dog in obedience classes, budget at least $ 25 to $ 300 per year for training needs.
Pet Sitters or Boarding
Most people will need to leave their dogs behind when taking a vacation outside the country or a long distance from home. This can cost $ 100 to $ 500 each time, depending on where you board your dog and for how long. Boarding usually costs less than hiring a pet sitter, but many dog owners prefer the individual attention a pet sitter offers and are willing to pay the added expense.
Emergencies and Other Unexpected Expenses
You cannot predict the future – the unexpected occurs in every life. Emergencies, chronic illnesses, natural disasters and other unplanned expenses can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. In a perfect world, dog owners would never have to make choices for their dogs based on money alone. You hope it will always be about what is best for your dog.
As you can see, owning a dog is a serious and potentially expensive proposition. Before adopting a dog that you will more than likely fall in love with, consider all the expenses listed above and be sure you will be up to the task of providing a loving and safe home for the pet that has caught your eye and stolen your heart.
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