Bringing a pet into your family can be an incredibly life-changing experience, giving you insights into your own personality – but it can also go terribly wrong if you don’t understand some of the basics involved in raising an animal.
And veterinarians in Malta have seen it all.
Lovin Malta spoke to a team of vets in Attard to find out some of the common mistakes they face on a regular basis, and how keeping some simple things in mind can make all the difference for a pet and its future.
1. First off, know exactly what you are getting into when you bring a pet into your family.
Not fully understanding the requirements of a pet before getting one (in the case of cats: to make peace with the fact that curtains and sofas will inevitably become scratching posts and dogs need to be trained properly and exercised with runs, not just walks) can be a quick path to you abandoning them and adding a stray onto the streets.
No one wants that, least of all the pet themselves, who just wants a loving family to be a part of. So do your research and figure out what that species and breed requires before taking the plunge.
2. And do not underestimate the costs involved.
It’s not fun, but it’s a major part of raising an animal you love.
Knowing the expenses, you may run into will make sure you don’t get any financial surprises if an accident happens. A specialist surgery for a fractured leg that requires pins, for example, can cost up to €1,000.
It’s heartbreaking for vets to see a sick animal brought in, diagnosed and set to be given treatment – only for the treatment not to happen because the owner cannot afford it, to the detriment of the pet.
3. Understand that not all food appropriate for humans is good for pets.
As fun as it is, you need to stop feeding your beloved furry friends scraps from the table.
Understanding what pets are toxic to (things like grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, garlic and various plants) and knowing how to react immediately to them can be the difference between life and death.
4. Do not mess around before or after surgeries.
If your vets are telling you not to feed your dog before a big surgery, then you really shouldn’t be feeding them, right?
Surprisingly, be it due to a failure in communication or forgetfulness, the amount of times vets enter surgery to find that some very important steps weren’t followed happens more than you’d think… and this can, unfortunately, lead to fatal consequences.
Having to deal with injured or sick animals is one thing that they are literally trained to do – but having to deal with human error, especially when it’s so easily avoidable, is a whole other ball game.
The vets are giving you those orders for a reason – and that’s in your pet’s best interest.
Some common ones include not fasting the animal for 12 hours prior to an operation and taking a collar off following an operation to stop pets from pulling out any stitches.
5. And if you do make a mistake, do not feel embarrassed to inform the vets.
Everyone makes mistakes, and many times, any serious consequences can be quickly avoided by informing the relevant health practitioner.
However, two wrongs do not make a right – if you did make a mistake, the absolute worst thing you can do is not tell the vet and hope they’ll never realise.
They’ll definitely realise though, so avoid that conversation and just be clear up front – no one is going to judge you for trying to protect your pet.
6. Obviously, get your babies vaccinated.
If you have any concerns over the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Malta, wearing masks in general and Bill Gates, leave them at the door.
When it comes to inoculating your pets, it is absolutely essential that you follow the appropriate programme to avoid pets contracting some serious illnesses, including the dreaded and very deadly parvovirus.
7. And as much as they love it, you probably want to stop giving bones to them to play with.
There is a real potential risk in feeding whole bones to your pet dog or cat to play with or chew on.
Pieces can break off and can cause perforation, or, more likely, the total obstruction of their digestive system which would then require surgery.
If they love to chew on things, no problem – go to any local pet store and you’ll find a plethora of vet-approved chew toys to bring home.
8. Taking certain animals, such as flat-faced dogs, out for a walk in the afternoon sun can lead to heat stroke, and very likely, death.
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs – such as French bulldogs, bull mastiffs and boxers – have problems cooling down when they begin to overheat, seeing as their flat noses and mouths cannot compensate for the heat like in other dogs.
Exposing these breeds to repeated overheating can lead to hyperventilation, and even decomposition and failure of the cardiorespiratory systems. Avoid this by waiting for a cooler moment to go for walkies.
9. And make sure you have an arrangement with your vet for out-of-hours emergencies.
If you think you might need to contact your vet out of work hours – be it for an emergency or anything else – you need to communicate this to your vet beforehand and make sure you’re both on the same page.
This way, next time something suddenly happens in the middle of the night, you’ll have your mind at rest. Medical attention will be obtained, and you won’t need to panic when something happens to your beloved pet.
With special thanks to Dr Daphne Royston and her team at the Animal Medical Centre in Attard.