Responsible Pet Ownership

Firstly, if you cannot afford to care for a pet properly, don’t get one. Responsible pet ownership means that you are financially able to feed it, take it to a vet when necessary and provide it with love, care and respect. It also means that you’ll ensure its physical, mental and emotional health and happiness. Your pet has to be provided with its basic needs for food, fresh water daily, shelter from the elements and warm blankets. Your pet will also need regular de-worming, tick and flea treatments and annual vaccinations. In return, you will be rewarded with unconditional love and a best friend for life.

Does my pet really need vaccinations?

Yes, vaccinations are there so that your pet can build up immunity against the most common diseases. When your puppy or kitten is vaccinated, it builds up its immunity over a period of time with the vaccinations spread out over a period of a few weeks. It needs all these vaccinations (usually three) to be strong enough to fight a virus that it may encounter. If you forget to give even one of these vaccines, its immunity will not be strong enough, and the vaccines that you did remember will not help. They must get all three vaccines at the correct intervals to be effective. After the initial puppy or kitten vaccines are done, your pet will need an annual booster and a rabies vaccine.

How dangerous are worms?

Worms can cause a lot of damage to the internal workings of your pet’s organs. They can also make your pet lose a lot of weight and their general condition can deteriorate drastically. Young pets are especially susceptible to worms and can die quite easily from worm infestations. Young animals should be de-wormed every two or three weeks. As they grow up you can decrease the frequency of de-worming, but do not de-worm less than twice a year in adult dogs.

What about ticks, fleas and flies?

Your pet should be treated regularly for both ticks and fleas. Tick bites can cause biliary (tick bite fever), which is very serious and can kill your pet. If your dog is listless and does not want to eat, or his gums are pale and he does not seem to be his usual self, take him to your vet immediately. He could have biliary (tick bite fever) and needs immediate medical treatment. Never give your pet aspirin! Biliary (tick bite fever) causes the blood to thin and aspirin will make the blood even thinner, putting your pet in serious danger.

Remember also, that fleas can live on your dog, in their bedding and in your home and carpets. Fleas can cause a lot of discomfort to your pet, including raw patches of skin, hair loss and hot spots. Regular treatment of your animal will ensure that your pet and home do not get infested.

Flies can be a big problem to your pet, especially in the summer months. Fly strike is usually on the tips of the ears and causes pain and discomfort to your pet. There are several treatments available for the prevention and treatment of fly strike.

WHY SHOULD I STERILIZE MY PET

The most obvious reason for sterilization is to prevent unwanted litters. South Africa has millions of homeless animals because of owners not sterilizing their pets. Everywhere you go you will find stray dogs and feral cats breeding or someone trying to get rid of unwanted puppies or kittens.

Some more good reasons:

Did you know that sterilizing your pet can prevent cancer?

Mammary (breast) cancer is extremely prevalent in unsterilized animals. Every time your pet comes on heat, her chances of mammary cancer are increased. However, if you spay her before she comes on heat for the first time, her chances of mammary cancer are reduced by over 90%. Male dogs very often develop testicular cancer, which of course cannot happen if they are neutered.

Did you know that a male dog can smell a female on heat for up to 7km?

Animal shelters are full of male dogs that have run away from home in search of a female on heat. Often they get injured on fencing or get hit by cars, or they never find their way back home again. They are not naughty, they can’t help it. Once they have been sterilized, they no longer have the same drive that causes the urge to get to a female on heat and they will settle down and stop running away.

Did you know that male dominance issues are often solved by neutering your pet?

More than one male on a property can sometimes cause conflict as to who the “top dog” is going to be. Very often, this problem can be solved by neutering your male pets.

Did you know that your pet can get TVT (a sexually transmitted disease)?

TVT is a terrible disease, is extremely difficult to treat and is very contagious. Your pet could be infected due to running after females on heat or a male dog coming into your garden when your female is on heat.

Did you know your pet could become aggressive if he is not sterilized?

Male dogs that are not able to mate can become frustrated. This has been known to cause aggression in many male dogs.

Did you know… most animal behavioral problems come from unsterilized males? Once a male is sterilized, he will be less frustrated, more content and be a better pet for your family.

Did you know that sterilizing your pet will actually SAVE you money?

If you thought sterilization was too expensive for one pet, how will you be able to afford to look after, de-worm and vaccinate a litter of puppies or kittens? The question is actually, can you afford not to sterilize your pet?

LET’S LOOK AT SOME OF THE MYTHS SURROUNDING STERILIZATION

“I want my child to experience the miracle of birth”

We are not living in 1920. With all the amazing nature programs available to us on TV these days, your child will be able to see an animal giving birth in all the detail you could wish for, without adding to the over population of unwanted animals in this country!

“I believe that my pet should have one litter before I spay her”.

Why? It is not going to change her in anyway, except to increase her chances of getting mammary cancer. You will have the added medical expenses of the litter and you will have to find homes for them. What if she needs an emergency C-Section in the middle of the night? You will also put her through the unnecessary trauma of having her litter taken away from her.  You will be adding to the population of animals, where instead of taking one of your litter, that person could have given a homeless animal a home. Is it worth it?

“My pet is so awesome that I want another one with the same personality.”

Are you exactly the same as your mother or father? Your pet, no matter how awesome, will not produce a litter with exactly the same personality traits and demeanor.  You obviously love your pet very much, so why put her through it? Rather adopt a homeless animal and experience another, different awesome personality.

“My dog will not be a good guard dog anymore.”

Is your dog a good guard dog now? If yes, then nothing will change. Your dog will not decide that you are no longer worthy of his/her protection.

“My pet will get fat.”

Weight gain is caused by overeating and lack of exercise.  Often sterilization is blamed for weight gain after a puppy has been sterilized at a few months old. Remember that as he/she grows up, energy levels will decrease, which means that pets are often overfed.  If you ensure that your pet is eating the correct amount of the correct food and getting enough exercise, you should not have any problem.

“My poor pet will lose his manhood.”

No, your pet will lose his need to run after females on heat, he will lose his frustration and bad behavior, he will lose his chance of testicular cancer, and he will lose his need to mark your furniture! He will not lose his manhood.

Tail docking, ear cropping and de-clawing

This subject is one of many opinions. There are those who believe that an animal should conform to breed standards, while most animal lovers and all welfare organizations see this issue as mutilation and cruelty to animals. There is no valid reason for these procedures and it is illegal in South Africa.  Any person performing these procedures, or allowing them to be performed on their animals, can be prosecuted under the Animals Protection Act.  Let’s not chop off bits and pieces of our beloved pets, but rather leave them just the way God made them!

The basics of teaching your dog

There are many different methods of training, and not all animal behaviourists agree on some of the methods. However, without going into too much detail, there are a few basics that almost everyone will agree on.

  1. It does not help to discipline your dog after the fact. In other words, you cannot come home from work and shout at your dog for doing something wrong during the day. You will just confuse him. At the time of being shouted at, he was doing nothing, which he will interpret as getting into trouble for doing nothing, he should rather do something else!
  2. Do not hit your dog. If you catch him in the act of doing something naughty, a stern voice or a loud clap is enough to let him understand that you do not approve.
  3. Running out the gate when you open it is usually due to unsterilized male dogs wanting to roam.  His instinct to get out is stronger than his fear of retribution. Discipline will not work, but neutering usually will.
  4. Rubbing a dog’s nose in his urine will just make him resent you. Rather take him outside regularly, especially after meals and reward him for doing his business outside. If you catch him in the act, a loud “NO” or clap will also work, and then take him out straight away.
  5. Destructive behaviour can have many causes, but it is usually due to boredom, lack of exercise, attention seeking or separation anxiety. Make sure that your dog’s mental and emotional needs are met. If you are not able to solve this kind of problem, consult an animal behaviourist. Do not smack your dog, rather try to find out what the reason is for his behaviour.

These are just a few of the aspects that we try to educate animal owners on. Every animal lover should understand why some things, like sterilization are so important. With your help, little by little, the important educational aspects will eventually be heard. Wouldn’t it be great to eradicate the myths and ignorance that cause neglect? Let’s all get involved in educating the public on responsible animal ownership.