Choosing the right pet


You never know what you might run into in the UK!

My family and I are getting ready to come home to Iowa soon, and much to my girls' disappointment we haven't seen any dragons in our time here. If we had, they might have wanted to take them home along with the hedgehogs they were hoping to see, which are all sleeping the winter away. As a veterinarian, I can't recommend wild animals as pets. It's not fair for the animal and can be harmful to the keeper!

But what about other creatures we might decide to keep in our home? Dogs, cats, small rodents, horses? Ok, only small horses inside…

Shelters are full of animals that need our love and care. Some things to think about when deciding to bring a new animal into your home:

1. Do I have the time to give this animal the daily care and attention he/she needs?

- All animals are living beings and require regular exercise, feeding and a clean, safe and emotionally secure environment. Most dogs need regular walks and cats need daily clean litterboxes!

2. Do I have appropriate housing and space for this animal?

- Different animals have different housing requirements and space needs. Small puppies and lizards can grow to be quite large as adults. A big dog is not usually an appropriate choice for a city apartment, and all living beings need protection from weather, predators and other dangers.

3. Is this an appropriate match for me and my family members?

- Very nervous animals are usually happier in a quiet home with few comings and goings. Some are able to adapt, but many develop anxiety and health problems as a result of the emotional stress.

- Animals that live with children need to be tolerant just as children need to be taught to treat animals with respect and kindness. It can be wonderful for all involved in the right setting with the right match.

- Other animals in the household need to be considered as well. Will they be compatible or will they be a danger to each other? Will the energy of a new young animal be too much for a geriatric animal?

- Physical care needs are also a consideration especially with disabled or elderly pet owners. Will you be able to handle the energy of a puppy or physically care for your animal as he/she ages?

4. Do I have the financial resources to provide food and care?

- It is a fact of life. Animals, like people, need nourishment and regular medical care to maintain optimal health. Young animals need vaccinations and neutering, while older animals begin to have age-related health problems. Plan ahead for emergencies and your pet's senior years.

This is an important discussion to have with your children when they are begging for a pet dragon, believe me, I know…