by Barry B. Burtis
October 1-7, 2006 is Animal Health Week in Canada. It is a time when the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association asks Canadians to celebrate the importance of animals in our lives and to think about the importance of keeping them healthy.
As a veterinarian, an unabashed admirer of animals and a pet owner myself, I feel qualified to offer my thoughts on what people should be as pet care givers to ensure they have a healthy pet. The initials in my name are BBB, so I'm going give the three 'B's' that I think are necessary for an owner to have a healthy pet and a healthy relationship with their pet.
Be Educated: We all recognize the power and value of knowledge in today's world, no matter what field of endeavour we are dealing with. Well, to be a good pet owner you must be educated and knowledgeable in all aspects of your pet's life. Last spring I spoke to a group about choosing a puppy. I stressed that the very first step in that process needs to be careful consideration of the characteristics, temperament, and behaviour of the breed you are thinking about for your pet. Then you must think about yourself and what you can bring to a pet relationship. This thought, of course, can be expanded beyond just dogs to any animal you may consider for a pet. It will be very difficult for your pet to have a happy healthy life if your lifestyle does not match the needs of your pet.
I don't know of any program in an educational institution where you can enroll and get your degree in pet care. However, there are many sources for you to acquire this education. There are excellent books written about pets. They do not all need to be textbook in nature. Read a book like John Grogan's, Marley & Me, a New York Times Bestseller and you will be educated about pet relationships as well enjoy a good read. There are wonderful television programs and videos to learn about pets. Nowadays there are television channels devoted totally to learning about animals. The internet, properly used and appropriately refereed, can be a tremendous source of information about pet issues. Learn from people with experience in the area you are studying. Talk with breeders, professional dog trainers, groomers, veterinarians, and dog and cat owners. In order to make proper health care decisions and to provide the necessary pre-requisites for a healthy pet you must be equipped with proper knowledge. Also, remember if you successfully acquire the skill of being an educated, informed pet owner, you cannot stop and rest on your laurels. Skills can only be maintained with a dedication to continued learning.
Be Caring: Love may not be all you need but it sure is a vital first ingredient in the recipe for making a healthy pet. With that emotion in place, it is usually very simple to provide the other physical necessities for a pet. Good diets, fresh water daily and comfortable shelter, are essentials. Good grooming makes a pet healthier and happier. Any pet will need exercise to have a healthy body, strong bones and keep muscles in good working order. Exercise also can promote mental stimulation and provide pleasure. Medical, surgical and dental care now available for pets is outstanding. Vaccines protect against life threatening diseases, parasite controls can eliminate age old health threats and medicines are available to improve quality of life like never before. Pet health insurance is available to allow budgeting for proper health care. Play with your pet, enjoy your pet and you and your pet will reap the health benefits from it.
Be Responsible: Just like you, your pet is a member of society and there are rules included in that membership. It is a pet owner's responsibility to ensure their pet lives by those rules. If they are broken the chances are the pet's health and happiness will be affected. Dogs, in particular, must be socialized in order to meet and get along with other people and animals they may encounter. Stoop and scoop poop guidelines, leash laws and other municipal or provincial by-laws and regulations must always be respected. Rabies vaccination protection must be kept current throughout most of Ontario. Being a responsible pet owner also demands that a pet does not contribute to the shocking number of unwanted animals that must be euthanized every day in Canada. Spaying or neutering your pet helps control the pet population explosion and has health benefits for your pet at the same time.
These are the three 'B' rules I ask you to remember during Animal Health Week.