A puppy or kitten for Christmas
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
It is Christmas morning! We awaken with joy and hope as we put on our slippers and head down the stairs to gather around the Christmas tree with our family. We open our stockings and a few small gifts from our parents. But where is that gift from Santa? Mom and dad bring out a large wrapped box which seems to have noises coming from within. We can’t open the box fast enough! Out jumps a happy, tail-wagging yellow lab puppy! As animal lovers, most of us have had this dream and some have maybe had this Christmas wish come true! A puppy or kitten is one the best gifts we can receive. But let’s discuss the reality of owning a puppy or kitten, and make sure this is the right decision for your family.
1. Where to adopt from make sure you are adopting from a reputable breeder and not a puppy mill. I highly recommend not adopting from a pet store. Usually these puppies are overpriced, poorly bred, have a multitude of health problems, and come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are breeding facilities where a multitude of dogs are bred and kept in cages purely for a money making business. These dogs may not be properly cared for, they may not have proper veterinary care, and they may have health concerns or genetic defects from poor breeding. We highly recommend adopting from a local shelter or humane society. Many of these shelters have puppies or kittens, or already trained older dogs and cats that may adjust just fine in your home. These pets may already have their vaccines and be spayed and neutered as well!
2. Questions to ask Have the puppies been health checked by a veterinarian? This is very important before adopting. I have had more than one client bring in a puppy that was never health checked, and these puppies have had a severe underlying heart condition. What heartbreak for a family that has just fallen in love with their new family member to hear that their puppy may not live long.
Have the puppies or kittens been vaccinated? There are still many diseases that are prevalent in our canine and feline populations. Young puppies and kittens are most at risk because they haven’t developed the adequate immunity. Make sure they have been adequately weaned from their mothers, and have received their first vaccines.
3. What breed do I adopt If you are adopting a pet for your children, be sure to adopt a breed that is family friendly. Some breeds that are great with children include Labrador and Golden retrievers, Beagles, Poodles, Boston terriers, and of course a good old mutt from your local shelter! Talk to your veterinarian about the best breed of dog that will fit your family’s lifestyle, and do a meet and greet of the parents of the puppies or kittens.
4. You are making a commitment Be aware that when you are adopting a new puppy or kitten, you are making a commitment to this pet for the time that they are here on this earth. Some dogs and cats can live between 15-20 years. Be aware of the time and work it takes to housebreak a puppy, and be aware of the costs of adopting a dog or a cat. These include food costs, veterinary care including routine vaccines and spaying or neutering, the costs of boarding and/or grooming your pet, and a savings fund in case of an emergency.
We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your family. A new puppy or kitten, dog or cat, is a commitment but can change your life and your family’s life for the better! A pet provides companionship and love, a sense of responsibility for young children, and a lifetime of joy!