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Top 10 Pet Owner Mistakes You Should Avoid

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I am not about to discuss the general everyday mistakes owners make in training and disciplining their pets. Such mistakes are all too common, like letting your pet have his/her way all the time, having no rules, leaving pets alone at home for too long or providing too few opportunities for physical exercise.

This article is about the mistakes you make that will undoubtedly affect your pet’s health. These are the mistakes that you must avoid in order to make sure your companion will live a long and happy life.

1. Skipping regular health checks at your vet.

Your veterinarian needs to see your pet at least twice a year in order to have a clear image about how your cat or dog is doing. Information gathered during routine health checks can prove useful in the future. For example, you may not notice a minor weight loss or a small bump on your pet’s belly, but your vet will.

We tend to go ourselves to the doctor only in times of sickness, so it’s no wonder that we do the same with our animals. However you should keep in mind that your pet is unable to alert you when he/she starts feeling sick and by the time it becomes clear that there is something wrong it may be late or even too late.

A good example is kidney disease/kidney failure in cats: by the time your cat will show clear symptoms approximately 75% of the kidney will have been damaged.

Regular health checks are the best means of prevention. They are far cheaper than having to treat your pet for any disease and give you the certainty that your companion is doing well.

2. Not vaccinating indoor pets.

I have heard many owners saying “my cat lives indoors, so she doesn’t come in contact with other animals, there is no need for vaccinating her.” Your pet may not be directly exposed to the outside world, but indirect exposure is just as dangerous.

Even if your cat doesn’t leave the house, you do. Your shoes, clothes and hands come in contact every day with millions of germs and you will most likely bring some of those germs back into your home. This way you can expose your cat to a large number of infections and potentially lethal diseases. For some of these diseases there is no specific cure, so the only way to keep your pet safe is to vaccinate him/her.

3. Skipping flea medicine.

Not treating your pet against fleas every month puts both your pet and your family at risk. Once they infest your dog or cat, fleas multiply quickly, particularly in summer and fall. In a very short time they will fill your home with their eggs and young, making them so much harder to get rid of.

Fleas will not only cause your pet to scratch constantly. They can transmit serious diseases to animals and people which is why you don’t want them in your home.

The best way to make sure these little bugs stay away from your pet and family is to have your dog or cat treated for fleas every month. You should talk to your veterinarian about the best flea medication for your pet and add a monthly reminder on your calendar.

4. Overlooking ticks.

Ticks thrive on long grass, bushy vegetation and especially moist environments, like lake or river shores.

Tick bites put your pet at risk from many diseases out of which the most common is babesiosis. This is a malaria-like parasitic disease caused by an infection with Babesia canis. The parasite reproduces within the red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia.

If you find a tick in your pet’s coat, remove it gently with tweezers. Don’t try to pull on it- won’t come off easily and you will probably tear it apart leaving the mouth piece of the tick embedded in your pet’s skin. This can cause local irritation and skin infections. In order to successfully remove the tick, grab it with tweezers and rotate it on its axis gently pulling outwards.

To keep your pets and your family safe from ticks talk to your veterinarian to select the best anti-tick medicine for your pet.  

5. Not deworming your pet regularly.

Intestinal parasites can cause diarrhea, vomiting, malnutrition and weight loss and may lead to serious illness. They can be transmitted to humans as well, so you need to make sure your pet is worm free, in order to keep them and your family safe.

Worms are transmitted through eggs found in an infected animal’s feces. This is why soil and sand can become contaminated with microscopic worm eggs that you could bring home on the soles of your shoes.

Deworming medicine should only be administered to your pet after talking to a veterinarian because if you get the substance or the dosage wrong you could do serious harm to your cat or dog.

6. Not spaying or neutering your pet.

Many owners are reluctant to spay or neuter their pets even nowadays, when information on this matter is widely available. The basic fact is that spaying and neutering is a healthy choice for your pet.

In females it considerably reduces the risk of breast cancer and eliminates the risk of ever developing uterine or ovarian cancer. In males, neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer and prostate related conditions. Neutered males are also less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior.

7. Forcing your pet into an unnatural diet for his/her species.

I have seen vegetarian people trying to force their cats into all-vegetarian diets. I am a vegetarian myself but I would never try to force my cats into eating carrots and spinach. This would be a sure way to get them sick and, eventually, dead.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat meat in order to survive. They are highly dependent on specific nutrients, such as the amino acid called taurine, that are only found in animal tissue. You may be able to live a normal life on vegetables alone but cats are simply not designed for this kind of diet.

8. Not being able to provide details.

This is one problem I encounter quite often unfortunately. Many owners will tell me just that their pet is sick (which is quite obvious sometimes). But, they are unable to provide the simplest information, like when did the problem first start manifesting, whether or not their pet had any other symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea, and so on.

Lack of reliable information is a major setback when trying to determine an accurate diagnosis. Things like when was the last meal your pet had or if he/she is urinating properly can seem like minor details to you but I can assure you these details can make a big difference in coming to the right medical conclusion.

9. Stopping treatment when your pet seems better.

This is another case of human bad habits reflecting on our pets. Let’s face it, if your physician prescribes you antibiotics for a week, and by the third day you feel better, you will stop taking the pills altogether. By doing so you’re not actually treating the disease, you’re just managing it for the time being. Chances are it will come back and next time it may not be just a matter of a few pills of antibiotics.

It’s the same with our pets. No veterinarian will have you treat your pet longer than necessary and just because your cat or dog seems better doesn’t mean he/she actually is better.

There are many conditions that require lengthy treatment, like weeks or even months: urolithiasis, mange, gastric ulcers and many more. The results of medication therapy may be visible pretty soon but bare in mind that your pet is only getting better and there is still some way to go before being cured.

Respecting the exact recommendations of your vet is especially crucial for pets recovering from orthopedic surgery.

It may sound cruel and restrictive, but one week of cage rest means exactly that: seven days of no movement, confined in a rest cage. One wrong movement, the smallest amount of strain and all the delicate balance of bones and joints being put back together will fall apart.

I know very well that giving a pill to an un-cooperating animal can be a living nightmare, let alone a dozen of pills during the course of a week. But if this is what it takes to have your pet healthy again I think it is an effort worth doing, but without cutting corners.

10. Asking around instead of asking a veterinarian.

We all have people we rely on for good advice in our day to day life, but animal health is much more complicated than common sense medical guessing. No matter how good the intentions of a person may be they cannot replace training and experience.

One tendency among owners is to ask each other for advice. Giving your cat the same medication for a seemingly resembling problem of another cat can do more harm than good. For example, your friend’s cat might have just a food reaction but your pet could be experiencing the symptoms of a viral disease, yet they will both exhibit diarrhea. Identical symptoms don’t always come from identical causes, which is why treatments will differ.

No matter how well your pet’s condition may resemble a story, an article you read or the experience your friend had with his pet, don’t assume it’s the same situation and don’t resort to the same remedies. It usually isn’t the same situation and you could easily (and unwillingly) harm your pet.

If you wouldn’t allow a surgeon to fix your car or if you only take an accountant’s advice when it comes to your income and taxes then it is wise to take animal health advice from no one else except a veterinarian.