CHOOS­ING A PET

Australian Health Today - - Contents - Dr mark reeve Aus­tralian Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion

The health ben­e­fits of own­ing pets are well recog­nised. How­ever, choos­ing the right pet for you can be con­fus­ing. Tak­ing the time to ex­am­ine the dif­fer­ent op­tions avail­able will help to en­sure you get a pet that works well for you and your life­style. Cats and dogs are the most pop­u­lar choices as pets, but birds and rab­bits are also very pop­u­lar. When con­sid­er­ing your pet, think about how much you are home or whether you will be tak­ing your pet out with you reg­u­larly. What sort of en­vi­ron­ment do you have for your pet? Is there a lot of room to run around? Do you have any al­ler­gies to dif­fer­ent an­i­mals? Hav­ing the an­swers to th­ese sort of ques­tions will make a big dif­fer­ence to your se­lec­tion.

Own­ing a bird as a pet can be very re­ward­ing. Birds come in all shapes and sizes. Smaller birds like Ca­naries and Bud­gies make for a low main­te­nance pet. Larger birds like Conures and Par­rots are more like cats and dogs in terms of the level of care and time they de­mand from their own­ers. They spend a large pro­por­tion of time out of their cage, they are very in­tel­li­gent and in­ter­act with their own­ers a lot. Par­rots will learn a large vo­cab­u­lary so be care­ful with what you teach them to say! Hous­ing a bird is very im­por­tant as they need to be in a cage or aviary that is com­fort­able for them and al­lows them to dis­play their nat­u­ral be­hav­iours. The type of food you pro­vide your bird will vary a lot de­pend­ing on the bird. Seed mixes are not ap­pro­pri­ate as a com­plete diet for some birds. Birds that have out­door aviaries will need a par­a­site pre­ven­ta­tive and find­ing a lo­cal vet­eri­nary prac­ti­tioner with a spe­cific in­ter­est in birds can be more dif­fi­cult.

When it comes to house­hold pets, dogs are def­i­nitely more com­mon than birds. Just like birds, dogs come in a wide va­ri­ety of breeds which means you need to do some

re­search be­fore get­ting a dog to de­ter­mine which breed best suits your needs and your life­style. Large dogs will need more ex­er­cise and larger yards. Smaller dogs make great com­pan­ions for those with less mo­bil­ity. Food re­quire­ments will also vary de­pend­ing on the breed – a Great Dane will ob­vi­ously need more food than a Chi­huahua. Dogs can of­ten be very fo­cused on their owner and will de­mand a lot of in­ter­ac­tion. They also like hav­ing daily rou­tines as it makes them more re­laxed. Dogs need yearly health checks with a vet­eri­nar­ian as well as pro­tec­tion against in­fec­tious dis­eases and par­a­sites. De­pend­ing on where you live and your dog’s daily ac­tiv­i­ties, th­ese needs may change and your vet­eri­nar­ian will be able to ad­vise you about what is re­quired to best pro­tect your dog.

Peo­ple of­ten think of cats as aloof an­i­mals, but re­ally they are just more self-re­liant than a dog. They still crave a lot of in­ter­ac­tion with their owner but it is of­ten on their terms. Dif­fer­ent breeds of cats will of­fer a va­ri­ety of tem­per­a­ments. Rag­dolls are nor­mally very quiet and re­laxed and en­joy long pe­ri­ods of groom­ing. Turk­ish Van cats, on the other hand, are much more ac­tive and love to play, even in wa­ter! An im­por­tant de­ci­sion to make for your cat is whether it will be an in­side-only cat or whether it will be al­lowed out­side ac­cess. The Aus­tralian Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion rec­om­mends that cats are kept in­side or al­lowed out­side ac­cess but not al­lowed to roam freely. This helps pre­vent dis­ease while also pro­tect­ing our na­tive wildlife. Your vet­eri­nar­ian will help you de­cide what pro­tec­tion your cat needs against in­fec­tious dis­eases and par­a­sites and this will be up­dated dur­ing your cat’s yearly check-ups. Fi­nally, rab­bits are be­com­ing a very pop­u­lar com­pan­ion pet. Af­ter cats and dogs they are the third most com­mon four legged pet. You will need to check lo­cal own­er­ship re­stric­tions be­fore get­ting a rab­bit, for ex­am­ple, rab­bits can­not be kept as pets in Queens­land. Rab­bits cope very well as in­door pets and they are very af­fec­tion­ate. The house will need to be rab­bit proofed as they like to chew on things. Rab­bits can be toi­let trained quite eas­ily but they will not ar­rive in a new house trained like kit­tens. Diet and den­tal health are the most im­por­tant care as­pects for a rab­bit and your vet­eri­nar­ian will be able to help you with both of th­ese. Good qual­ity meadow or ti­mothy hay should make up the ma­jor­ity of your rab­bit’s diet and this will take care of their spe­cific gut and den­tal needs.

If you’re think­ing about get­ting a pet, be sure to do your re­search be­fore­hand to de­ter­mine what pet will best suit you and your life­style. Get your pet from a source that has a good rep­u­ta­tion – word of mouth and then vis­it­ing them are the best ways to en­sure this. Once you have your new pet, your vet­eri­nar­ian will be able to an­swer any ques­tions you have about its care. Hous­ing, food and wa­ter and dis­ease pre­ven­tion are the most com­mon things to dis­cuss with your vet. But don’t for­get about groom­ing or coat care and be­hav­iour ad­vice. This will help to en­sure your new pet is happy and healthy.

CHOOS­ING THE RIGHT

PET

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