Including a pet in your family can be incredibly rewarding—but it's also a large responsibility. Here are some surprisingly simple steps to becoming a more conscious, caring pet owner:
1. Spay or neuter your dog, cat, rabbit or ferret. To prevent the companion animal overpopulation from getting worse, spaying or neutering is the most effective means. The ASPCA estimates that 5 to 7 million animals enter shelters nationwide each year.
2. Schedule an annual veterinary checkup. Most animals are experts at concealing pain and illness which is why it’s so important for your pet to visit the vet each year for a full check-up. Remember, a healthy lifestyle and regular vet visits are the first steps to a long, happy life with your pet.
3. ID and/or microchip your pet. Current ID tags on your dog or cat’s collar can help ensure that they get home safe and sound if they should wander out of your sight. Also, talk to your veterinarian about getting a microchip for your pet. If your pet is ever lost, a quick scan will provide rescuers with important phone numbers and addresses to help them reunite you with your pet.
4. Be prepared. Pet first aid kits can be purchased fully stocked or you can create your own using this list from the American Red Cross.
5. Travel Safely. You up for safety (and to avoid tickets); and your dog should follow suit. A survey by AAA found that almost 60 percent of dog owners have driven while distracted by a free-roaming pooch. Curb dangerous driving with these restraints:
Roadie Canine Vehicle Restraint This vet-approved, super-strong harness comes with a strap that attaches to your car’s seat belt system and doubles as a leash during pit stops. ($45 and up; ruffrider.com)
Kyjen Outward Hound Car Smaller dogs will love the view from this bucket seat, and an adjustable tether attaches to a harness or collar. ($39; kyjen.com)
Firstrax NOZTONOZ Sof-Krate This light, foldable crate has front and top doors, side windows and rounded corners to protect your car’s interior. ($85 and up; amazon.com)
CLIX CarSafe Harness This is a dual-purpose lead and harness that easily clicks into the car’s seat buckle. ($18 and up; amazon.com)
6. Pet proof your home. Dogs and cats are curious by nature, so there’s always the possibility that they’ll get into anything. Because of this, it’s important to avoid bringing potentially hazardous products into your home. Being educated about the dangers of certain houseplants is a good place to start. Click here to view the ASPCA's list of plants to avoid.
7. Feed your pet right. A recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 54 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for more serious problems such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancer. So make sure your pets stay active, monitor their caloric intake (treats are treats, use them sparingly) and ask your vet to help you draw up a diet plan if Fido or Fluffy keeps getting fatter.
Pet image via Shutterstock