Most people who get pets do so with the very best of intentions. We want to invite them into our families, to love them and be loved, and to enjoy their company and affection for as long as their lives will allow.
That said, even having the best intentions doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes – we’re not experts, after all.
These 17 veterinarians are, though, and here are some mistakes they see even well-meaning pet owners make.
17. They do feel pain.
Obesity and sadly, pain. I have met many owners who have had lame dogs for weeks and didn’t think the animal was in pain. Sometimes we have even discovered after X-rays that the animal has a fracture.
My favourite is when clients come in to get the stitches removed from their dogs spey and hand back the pain meds (that they paid for???) for us to dispose of because “I didn’t need to give any, she wasn’t in any pain”
Like I’m sure having your guts cut open and an organ ripped out is just a walk in the park for you, but I think fluffy would have appreciated some pain relief
16. Handle them frequently.
I believe that the finest thing you can do for your new pet, particularly a puppy or kitten, is to handle it frequently when it is young.
Getting them used to having their feet handled, nails trimmed, mouths opened (even more benefit if you get them used to brushing their teeth daily – gold standard for at-home dental care), ears touched (especially breeds prone to ear infections – huge benefit in the future if you have to administer topical ear medication)…
Restraint is also crucial. I constantly advise my clients to train their animals to be restrained. Because it hasn’t learned to be okay with restraint, that wriggly puppy that is cute when it nips when you hold it grows up to be a massive dog that can’t be properly examined.
15. Don’t treat them like an afterthought.
I am a veterinarian. I’d like to see people focus not just on quantity but quality of their pet’s life. The best thing you can do for that is just incorporate them into your life as much as possible. Pay attention to them! Love them! Lots of walks! Lots of games! You’d be surprised what they can learn. Play hide and go seek. Play fetch. Sit beside them when you watch TV, pet them. Train and socialize them early and well so you won’t avoid them because they’re not well behaved.
We’re all so busy, it’s so easy to make them an afterthought. You are their whole world and unless you live on a big farm where they run free, you are their only outlet for activity and happiness. They get bored fast, just like we do. They can’t wait for you to get home. They’ve missed you! Take them for a walk. Do a fun training or agility class with them if you’d like.
For health, the biggest things are 1. Exercise, 2. Pay attention to what can be dangerous/toxic for them and avoid it (heads stuck in potato chip bags is one people miss lately, and keep your drugs out of their reach! They’re small and more easily affected), 3. Brush their teeth.
Enjoy your pets! They love you!
14. Give it a try!
Teeth and quality of life in older senior animals.
If we’re talking dog/cat. You’d be surprised how many animals will allow you to brush their teeth if you work up to it slowly over time and start young.
13. A very common answer.
I know it’s been said already but my girl cat (9yrs) had teeth that looked fine.m according to the vet. Her brother didn’t so we booked them in together for check up and a scale and polish etc. her too because of their age.
All the ‘stomach’ issues she had went away. No more random vomiting of food. All her energy went back to kitten speed.
I feel like the worst human for not getting it done earlier even though it looked fine.
Edit to say I’m not a vet but it might help someone else.
12. Keep a close eye.
Prevention and maintenance, mainly. Prevent issues through a diet that is right for your specific pet, regular checkups and vaccinations, good oral hygiene, plenty of exercise, opportunities to play and bond, mental stimulation, training (a well mannered/trained pet is good for the owner, the animal, and others), grooming, proper socialization, etc.
Then maintain that threshold as the animal ages. You’ll adjust things accordingly – like maybe downshift from a five mile hike each day to a shorter leisurely stroll at a park – but the basic tenants remain the same.
Plus, if you’re dialed in, you’ll know when your pet is “off” from their normal behavior. Early detection can save your pet’s life or lessen a developing issue…and it might save the owner’s bank account if something is caught early.
11. If you ask for advice, take it.
Not a vet (yet! still in school), but probably medical advice from veterinarians. Only halfway joking, lots of owners are great but lots also will blatantly tell vets that they are wrong, their 8+ years of education is less than the medical advice given to them by some random tiktoker or the kid who stocks shelves at the local pet store.
On a serious note, obesity. Such a large number of animals are obese that people think it’s normal and animals at an appropriate weight are too thin. My SO has even fought me on what the dogs should get to eat vs what he feeds them. It took another vet to tell him that his dog was fat to actually listen to my advice.
A funny, related story. My clinic has handouts with common treats for dogs like cheese, ham, PB and the human caloric equivalents in donuts. My parents, who are notorious for owning morbidly obese animals, tried to calculate how many slices of ham my dog “needed” to get each day while they were pet sitting because it was “only X number of donuts”. My plan to prevent them from over feeding my dog backfired, she ended up gaining over 5lbs in 3 weeks, which is a lot for a 45lb dog. All of those human snacks and treats really add up.
10. They’re still dogs.
“People who carry their toy breeds everywhere and feed them human food instead of dog food… they are killing their pets slowly.”
My vet said this to me as we were as we were walking our dogs on the beach. Apparently lots of small breeds get very little exercise and are extremely overweight.
9. Make sure you budget.
vet tech here, i mainly work with “exotics”, basically any animal beyond farm/dog/cat though a lot goes hand in hand with ALL pets.
1- obesity. yes large animals are cute, but their health is not. i’ve seen MANY obese lizards with severe liver issues that cause nasty irreversible damage to their bodies, same in dogs if not worse. chihuahuas are not meant to be 20+ pounds, for example. they’re a small breed with a small frame, they cannot handle all that weight on their tiny bodies!
2- diet/nutrition. far too many carnivorous pet owners come in that their pet is having issues going to the bathroom, not holding weight, having malnutrition issues such as vitamin deficiencies. cats and ferrets for example, are obligate carnivores. meat is the biggest and should be the main part of their diet, a treat here and there of other things is no issue but should not be more than 5% of diets in many pets.
3- husbandry. tanked and/or caged animals need the space to move and get SOME exercise if they are not given time outside of their cage. and for god’s sake, please do not get parrots if you cannot let them out of their cage for a MINIMUM 4 hours a day. even then, that’s very little interaction and can cause hormonal and behavioural issues.
4- unfortunately, finances. yes you may have paid a pretty penny for your animal, but costs do not stop after you leave the place with your new pet. your pet will need constant supply of food, vitamin and mineral supplements, toys, at-home grooming supplies, cage upgrades, etc etc. if you are unable to provide any of those, not even mentioning vet visits, it is not a good idea to have said pet. we all end up in a pinch from time to time, and we as vets and vet techs understand that wholeheartedly.
we have experienced those moments as well, but there comes a time where you need to consider your pets needs over your own. companionship via pets is a privilege, and we should fully accommodate all needs that arise for our animals, and if we can’t then we need to consider what is best for that animal, many times resulting in a rehome situation, or someone who can help while we work things out.
there’s so much more, but many are mainly pointing out dog and cat related issues, so i just wanted to pipe in with some insight on other pets. 🙂
8. Weight is a real issue.
Husbandry advice, but dietary advice in general. I see a lot of animals being fed inappropriate diets, which owners will refuse to stop feeding because “the animal likes it.”
7. Know what you’re getting into.
Have a bird. Green cheek conure, he’s 17 now. People underestimate the lifespan of birds. My bird could live to be 30 – bigger birds live even longer.
People are always so excited when they find out we have a bird – oh how cute, I’ve always wanted a bird!
I tell them don’t get a bird. They’re messy, and they’re eternal toddlers.
In the wild their job is to spread seed. Which they do by throwing their food around, and by pooping everywhere. In your home, they throw their food everywhere and poop constantly.
And you know how toddlers have a phase where they only want mommy, or only want daddy? And want to be held all the time? Yeah, just like that… Birds often pick their person and then don’t change. And it might not be you. It might be someone who doesn’t want anything to do with the bird.
Our guy loves my husband. He’s fine with me, and happy to hang out with me, but he loves my husband, and wants to be constantly in line of sight of my husband.
And we try to socialize him, but it’s hard when the bird is unsure of new people, and the first instinct is to bite when they offer a hand to step up. Because he’s testing the perch, to see if it’s stable – but people get anxious and jerk their hand away, so they end up being bit.
He hangs out with us as we work from home, but he greatly disliked the headphones I use when on calls. He tries to bite me as I put them on, and he is noisy and wants to be part of the conversation. It’s cute, until it’s not.
We tell people: don’t get a bird if you haven’t had one before.
6. They can’t choose their own food.
It’s actually frightening how many people feed their dogs chocolate and sweets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had customers tell me that the chocolate biscuits they are buying are for the dog,
I try and tell them how dangerous it is but no one ever listens because “it’s his/her favourite kind and they have been eating them for years”. Family always moan that we are too strict with our dogs diet but he’s 14, in perfect health and still acts like a puppy while most dogs I know of his age have serious health issues.
Pet ownership is a serious business, they depend on you for literally everything. A child will grow up and be able to take responsibility for their own diet but your pet never will.
5. It’s not about you.
This might not be the most ignored, but it’s the one that if ignored cause the most suffering.
Deciding the time to put your pet to sleep. Some people tell us that “they aren’t ready”, which is sad, and I know it’s going to be the hardest choice you’ll ever need to make regarding your little one.
But the hard truth is, it’s not about you.
If your pet is crying all night, not eating without you force feeding one bit at a time, and can’t even walk on it’s own, it’s time. Most of the time our animals tell us when they’re ready, and they trust that you’ll do what’s best for them.
We have an amazing opportunity with animals, which is to let them go when their quality of life just isn’t there anymore, and selfish owners that refuse just because they “can’t handle it yet” is half the reason why working in the industry will not be long term for me.
4. Listen to the experts.
My avian vet is an arsehole, but he’s the best in the country. His attitude towards me changed so much between the first and second visit as he saw the change in my birds after I took his dietary advice onboard.
My birds sure as s**t weren’t happy about it (less treats), but they are much healthier. I was doing everything the internet told me to, but can’t beat expert advice.
3. The hard truth.
Insurance for specialty breeds will save you thousands.
2. Don’t let them suffer.
Please give your unwanted pets up for adoption, or at least put a little effort into giving your pets a future home. Summer is season for abandoning pets in the wild, even though many wont survive in nature, let alone the cold climate in some countries.
You have responsibilities ffs… Just because the poor pet suddenly doesn’t fit into your lives, it doesn’t mean it has to suffer.
1. Make sure you have the time.
Cost of ownership > cost of obtaining animal. Most people freak out that cost of keeping the animal is more expensive than getting the animal. Go figure.
Preventive care. (Vaccines, deworming, wellness exams, laboratories, x rays and dental cleanings etc.)
Basic hygiene. (Not brushing their teeth, not grooming or brushing fur, not clipping their nails, not bathing them, not cleaning ears, not cleaning their a**holes, its worse for the older pets.)
Basic physiology (yes your mammal pet has nipples. You think its an emergency that your both intact male and female dog are “stuck” for 2 min? No sir, that’s a vulva. Bird beaks do keep growing.)
Basic behavior (dogs do have s*xual behaviors, many do reproduce s*xually. Tail wagging does not mean happiness. Yes your dog barks. Yes your cat likes scratching items.)
Basic enrichment. Your pet is likely bored. Give them something to do or else it will start chewing things, pushing things off shelves etc.
Basic nutrition. Don’t feed them crap. If I were to eat the same meal every day at least make it wholesome. Ask your vet.
Keep the cone on! Does your pet understand “Fluffy dont f**king touch that sore, or I swear to god you are paying the vet bill.”? I don’t think so. Plus they dont pay the bill.
Know the meds your pet is on. God forbid you need to go to the ER and you have no clue what is in their serum.
If you and your spouse own a pet…dramatic pause for all support staff… be on the same page and communicate with each other. OR, just tell us to only contact person A for all matters concerning Fluffy, and ignore person B for medical decisions.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely taking notes!
What are some things you learned from your first pet? Let’s share some knowledge in the comments!