February 23, 2020

Local animal experts share their pet advice

Williston experts answer the question “What is your top piece of advice for pet owners?”

Be responsible
My advice for ALL animal or livestock owners is simple. BE RESPONSIBLE OWNERS. Care for and vaccinate your animals, show concern for others, follow the rules.
—Marilla Whitcomb,
Williston animal control officer

Keep your pets in good shape
Over 50 percent of dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Several studies have shown that pets in ideal body condition live an average of 2.5 years longer. Our pets don’t live long enough as it is. Maintaining an appropriate weight is the key to longevity and is within our control. We love our pets no matter their size and shape. It is hard to ignore their request for more food or another treat. However, the impact of obesity can be devastating. Overweight pets are at an increased risk for osteoarthritis, diabetes, decreased immune function, liver problems and even heart and respiratory disease. Keeping your pet in ideal shape is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your pet lives a long and happy life.
—Joel English, DVM
River Cove Animal Hospital

Trust your instincts
As an emergency clinic, we commonly get calls from pet owners noticing changes in their pet’s behavior and they call to get our advice on whether they should bring their pet in to be seen. As a pet owner, you’re an advocate for your pet and if you are seeing slight changes in your pet; a lab that’s not eating or a lovable kitty that’s not being social then you have a right to be concerned. Our advice, you know your pet the best and can recognize the onset of something more serious (or not). When in doubt, contact your veterinarian.
—Whitney Durivage, hospital manager, Burlington Emergency & Veterinary Specialists – BEVS

Choose carefully
Choose the right pet as well as the right trainer. Pet owners should be very honest with themselves about what kind of pet is best for them. Pet owners should educate themselves on the training needs and care that is required for any pet they choose.
Pet owners should also research where they are obtaining a pet from. A quick Google search will tell you what the red flags are for finding a reputable breeder or rescue.
Training methods have evolved for all pets and no method that employs fear or pain should be used on any pet. This includes shock collars, aka e-collars, prong collars and choke chains. When looking for a trainer, ask other people who have a pet similar to yours. Ask how the trainer treated both parts of the pet and owner team. If it feels wrong to you or you are uncomfortable with something a trainer asks you to do, look for alternative solutions. Positive, reward-based training methods will make a great family pet!
—Amy Haskell, Show Me the Biscuit

Pets need exercise
“All dogs need appropriate exercise (physical stimulation) and positive training (mental stimulation) on a daily basis.”
—Lori Bielawa, Owner/Instructor of Waggles

Prepare for a pet
It is important to get the type of pet that suits your lifestyle and personality. This may come down to the type of pet and then breed, age, coat type and activity level within a species, too. It is very important to do your research before purchasing or adopting.
Putting in some legwork before you commit to your new pet can make life a lot easier down the road for both of you, so that you can enjoy time spent together. Be very upfront with your breeder or adoption agency about your lifestyle, your plans for the pet and what your perfect picture of life with that animal is. A good adoption agency or breeder will also be very upfront with you about the pet you are considering. After all, they should be there to support you for the life of that pet as a resource of knowledge. They should steer you in the direction of the right pet, or tell you if the pet you are considering is not the best fit for you. It may be hard to have your bubble burst when you have fallen for a cute face, but trust the folks who have experience with the animals in their care and know that this truly is a sign that they care about the pet’s future and yours. Make sure you are fully informed on the care requirements and any special needs that your individual animal may have.
Before you bring your new friend home, ask yourself and your family if you are truly ready to take on those responsibilities for the life of that animal. If you are, then prepare yourself. Locate a veterinarian, look into training options, make an exercise plan which could include anything from a walk around the block, chasing a toy in the hallway or visits to a daycare center or hiking trail. Get supplies, find a pet sitter or boarding option for when you go out of town. By putting time into research, structure and providing the right lifestyle to suit the needs of your pet, you will be off to a great new relationship for both two- and four-legged family members!
—Staff of Gulliver’s Doggie Daycare

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