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Santa Paws is Coming to Town

Well, I hope you are adjusting to the time change. I don’t know about you, but once we fall back and the days get short, it starts to feel like Christmas is around the corner. One of my dearest friends called me today to ask questions about vizslas since another friend of hers wanted to purchase a puppy for a present. So, I actually decided to change my blog topic this week. I was planning to compare CT and ultrasound, but I think I will postpone that for another day.

Puppy in a present box

First, a word of caution – make sure someone wants a pet before you give them one. What is your motivation for giving the pet? Do they really want a pet? What kind of pet best suits their lifestyle? Although we typically think of dogs and cats as pets, other animals may make more suitable pets. Guinea pigs and other pocket pets may be easier for apartment-dwellers or for people with limited time for their pets.

Activity levels of the pets should be considered. Activity is often related to the size of the dog. Larger, energetic dogs can cover more space than smaller, equally energetic dogs. The age is important in activity, too, as young dogs tend to have more energy than older dogs. Purebred dogs have been selected to exhibit certain traits, and this plays a role in the amount of activity that they need. Bichon frises were bred to be lap dogs whereas schnauzers were bred to be ratters and guard dogs, so they tend to be busy. Blue heelers were bred to work and herd cattle, and without enough work, they get into trouble.

Blue Heeler herding cattle

Poodle getting groomed

Individual expectations for your dog should be considered. Do you care if your dog sheds? Do you want a sweet dog or an intelligent dog? For example, I personally like non-shedding dogs because I don’t want to vacuum hair every day. A Labrador retriever would therefore not be a good dog breed choice to meet my expectations. If you want a quiet dog, a beagle or a coonhound are unlikely to make you (or your neighbors) happy.

Appearance and grooming of your dog should be considered. A dog breed with a heavy coat and a dense undercoat will shed like a fiend, and they will need regular brushing. Bathing will be a big job, especially if you blow them dry. Your non-shedders need to be groomed regularly. Otherwise, they look shaggy and unkempt. This will need to be a budgeted expense.

As an internist, I need to throw in one more consideration. Certain breeds have predispositions for heritable diseases, and you should educate yourself about your breed of interest. Then, you can ask the breeder if they are screening appropriately. A good breeder will do everything they can to better their breed. You may pay more for your puppy on the front end, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Puppy being screened for abdominal problems

To help learn more about breed characteristics, you can start with the American Kennel Club website, and to learn more about what screening tests are recommended for individual breeds, go to the CHIC (canine health information center) website.

Lest you think I have tunnel vision, let me mention rescue. There are so many wonderful pets that need to be re-homed (often because of poor planning by their original owners). There are breed rescue groups as well as groups that take in all breeds and mixes. So, you have lots of options for adoption. Just remember, a rescue dog may come with baggage (wouldn’t you if your family gave you away?), and you may need to give them 3-4 months to completely settle into your household and show their true personality. There are lots of wonderful pets, though, that really need you. And there are some great test kits that let you know the breeds that comprise your dog’s makeup as well as their genetic mutations. Cool stuff!

Mixed breed dog that has had genetic analysis performed

Another huge aspect of gifting a pet is the financial responsibility that you are asking someone to assume. In the first year, your puppy will need its whole series of vaccinations along with heartworm/flea preventive and either an ovariohysterectomy or neuter. That is a big financial commitment!

Puppies (and other pets) are awesome! They make us happy. They often understand us better than our friends do, and they are certainly more loyal and forgiving. Make sure someone wants one before you give that gift of a 4-legged friend. Do your homework, and select a breed that fits your lifestyle. Spay and neuter. If you do it right, you’ve got a wonderful companion for years, and they won’t need to be re-homed.

Golden Retriever Puppies in a gift box

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