So, you’ve added a new puppy or kitten to the family and you want to give them the best start possible.
What’s on the daily, weekly or monthly checklist to achieve that for your young pet? An age-appropriate diet is critical, as is exercise. But what about training? There are definitely better ways to prepare them for life than simply teaching them basic commands, says Dr. Jeff Dand with Cadboro Bay Veterinary Clinic.
Practice makes perfect
Did you know physically handling your pet is equally important to their development? Things like playing with or touching your pet’s feet, mouth or ears – mimicking what a veterinarian might do in a checkup, or preparing them for teeth brushing – are also good ideas, Dand says. So is socializing them with many different people and other animals, as well as getting them used to riding in a pet carrier when they’re feeling well.
“A lot of people will train their pets how to sit or stay, but might not get them accustomed to travelling in a car, or having their feet touched so they’re comfortable when it’s time to trim their nails,” he suggests.
Make going to the vet a positive experience
If you only bring your cat or dog to your veterinarian for a potential problem, they’re more likely to suffer anxiety over the experience, Dand says. Normalizing a trip to the vet early in their life is good preparation for having regular wellness exams later, and for those times when they need more specific care.
“Make your vet part of the family so the pet is comfortable seeing them in situations when they’re not feeling well,” he says. It also helps having a reward system in place for good behaviour. “So many dogs don’t like going on the weigh scale, but in our clinic, dogs run in and sit right on the scale and wait for a treat.”
Nutrition is important, so here’s some tips on early feeding:
- Not all foods are created equally, but higher-priced products aren’t necessarily better for your puppy or kitten
- Many vets undertake ongoing education about nutrition. They can help you separate the substance from the claims and pick the best option for your pet
- It’s important your pet doesn’t grow too fast or learn unhealthy eating habits. The routines and patterns they develop in that first year become ingrained
- Usually the ingredients are listed in order by weight and the addition of water or moisture can greatly alter that. Do your research and check with your vet to find whether manufacturers are adding water to boost the weight of proteins, for example.