20 Things You’re Probably Doing That Veterinarians Wouldn’t
Vets went to school to learn the dos and don’ts of animal care. Here are the mistakes they’re not making with their own pets that you likely are.
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You don’t trim your pet’s nails regularly
If you don’t love getting scratched by your cat during playtime, you probably already understand the value of trimming your feline’s nails. Dogs need this care, too. Too-long nails can make it hard for them to walk on certain surfaces. And sometimes, nails can grow in a curved fashion, going full circle and breaking skin. This leaves your furry friend prone to infection. “Start giving your puppy or kitten nail trims early in life, so they get used to it,” says Elizabeth Welch, DVM, Medical Director at Stand for Animals Veterinary Clinic. “It makes it so much easier for the groomer, veterinary technician, or doctor to trim toes when the animals are used to having their paws touched.” This also happens to be one of the secrets pet groomers wish they could tell you.
You listen to Dr. Google instead of your vet
The Internet is a treasure trove of information—and misinformation. It’s OK to use trusted websites for information on pets, but it’s not a great idea to follow a website’s advice without consulting your vet. “Oftentimes, pet parents jump to a solution they find online, and it might not be best for their pet,” says Travis Arndt, DVM, Director of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America. “We see this quite often when it comes to pet diets and supplements. Before you change pet foods or give your pet dietary supplements, put in a quick call to your veterinarian. Some diets and supplements can be harmful for some pets. Your veterinarian knows your pet’s health history and can offer more individualized advice.” That said, you may want to ask about these dog food brands veterinarians feed their own pets.
You didn’t safety-proof your home
Before you bring a new pet home, take some time to examine your dwelling for hidden dangers. Things to look out for include:
- Open windows that animals can jump onto or reach
- Downed areas of fencing they can escape through
- Pools or bodies of water they can fall into
- Stacked objects that can fall on your animal
- Edible hazards they can gulp down before you know it, such as sugarless gum, chocolate, alcohol, raw meat or chicken, and chicken or fish bones
- Poisonous houseplants, such as aloe vera and poinsettias
- Hidden chemicals, such as flame retardants
Don’t forget: Animals are just as curious as kids, and they need to be protected from danger just as much.
You don’t socialize them with other animals
While your pet needs you more than anything and loves spending time with you, social time with other animals is also important. This is especially true for very young kittens and puppies. “Puppies and kittens are like sponges, just like toddlers, in their young lives before six months of age,” says Dr. Welch. “They need to be socialized with other animals that have been safely vaccinated so they can learn how to have fun with others and not feel threatened or put in the position of always trying to protect their owner.”
If you have a dog, let them get used to other dogs that are on leashes and friendly. If you have a cat and will be bringing a new, furry pal into your home, try acclimating them to each other’s scent before they make contact. Of course, not all animals like each other. These are the pet combinations that are most likely to not get along.
You don’t socialize them with other people
The more you acclimate your pet to other people, places, and things, the more they will enjoy life and feel safe in a variety of situations. This will make it easier for you to leave them with others, like when you want to go on vacation. Try to introduce your pet to lots of different types of noises, experiences, and types of touch. Of course, don’t push them past their comfort point or let them be roughly handled by a stranger or well-meaning child in any way. While any dog can feel uncomfortable around little ones, these 18 dog breeds tend to be best around kids.
You switch their food for no good reason
You may get bored eating the same-old, same-old, but your pet doesn’t. “As humans, we try to put feelings and thoughts into our pets’ heads about being bored with food. This is actually not the case,” explains Dr. Welch. “There are times when a food change is necessary for health reasons, but dogs and cats do not care that they eat the same thing every day. It’s actually beneficial for their gut to digest the same things consistently. This helps to prevent diarrhea and/or vomiting from something they aren’t used to digesting/eating.” By the way, this is the very best diet for dogs, according to vets, and this is the best one for cats.
You poo-shame your pet
Your dog or cat wants to please you more than just about anything, and yes, they do feel emotions such as sadness when they don’t. So don’t shame your new pet if they have a potty accident in the house. This technique is not recommended and does nothing to bond your animal to you. Instead, it’s better to use positive reinforcement techniques, says pet expert Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, author of The Supposedly Enlightened Person’s Guide to Raising a Dog. “Dogs need to be trained with positive reinforcement for their good behavior, and never punished for negative behavior,” she says. “You do this by ignoring unwanted behavior and praising them for the good behavior you want to see.”
Plus, when dogs have to go potty, they go. It’s up to you to train them to go in the proper place. To do this, Tenzin-Dolma suggests waiting about 20 to 30 minutes after mealtime and then bringing them to the spot. Just keep in mind that dogs may not always want you to watch them do their thing. In this case, give them a little space but stay close by so you can praise them when they get it right.
“Dogs want to please their caregiver, so shaming them or spanking them or using any kind of punishment doesn’t make any sense to a dog. They only associate mean, painful and negative behavior with the person administering it,” she adds. “Dogs respond to positive reinforcement, praise, and kindness. If the new pet parent does not know how to do this, there are plenty of non-violent training books on the market as well as the Internet. Negative methods result in a fearful and untrusting dog.” Here’s what veterinarians wish you knew about potty training a puppy.
You assume that your cat knows how to use a litter box
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It’s true that most cats are trained by their birth mothers to void appropriately. However, if your kitten was abandoned or separated from its mother prematurely for any reason, it may not understand what to do. “If your cat or kitten does not know where or how to potty, you will have to become their trainer. As with dogs, praise and reinforcement of the desired behavior is the best way,” says Tenzin-Dolma.
Start by placing your kitten in the kitty-litter box and waiting to see what happens. If they don’t dig and void, take their front paws and gently dig for them. Kittens typically start to understand this behavior when they are about one month old.
And don’t chastise them for accidents. “A cat has a delicate set of emotions, and any harsh treatment can cause them to retreat and not trust their caregiver,” explains Tenzin-Dolma. “The best way to train a cat is to always use positive reinforcement. If you remain neutral when a cat does something unwanted, you will consciously not be reinforcing the undesired behavior.” Once you’ve got the litter-box thing down, here’s how you can train your cat to do 5 life-changing things.
You don’t buckle them in
Animals require safety measures when they’re riding in cars and trucks, just like people do. It’s not cute or funny to have your cat or dog in your lap while you’re driving: This behavior is downright dangerous, not only to your pet but also to you and to other people on the road. Animals can and do jump out of car windows, leaving them vulnerable to being injured, or hit by other cars.
So when you travel with an animal in a car, make sure they are buckled in with a seat belt or other type of restraint. Some dogs enjoy being strapped into booster seats that allow them a good view of the great outdoors. Animals can also be crated in vehicles, but make sure that the crate is tied down and held securely in place before you hit the road.
You don’t know the warning signs for sickness or disease
Young and old animals can become ill. Before you choose a pet, become familiar with the maladies and illnesses that typically befall the breed. Also, be on the lookout for telltale signs that your furry honey isn’t feeling well. These include:
- A change in toileting habits
- A change in the consistency or color of stool
- Blood in the stool
- Not eating
- Not drinking
- Weight loss
- Loss of balance
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
If your animal has any of these symptoms, seems sick, and does not rally within a day or two, don’t delay. Get medical help ASAP. As with people, early treatment can often help avoid the worst outcomes. Just so you know, these are the warning signs of cancer in dogs.