Tuesday 5 April 2016

National Pet Month – Ten tips for responsible pet ownership

April is National Pet Month; a chance for animal lovers to come together and celebrate companion animals everywhere!

This year's theme is promoting responsible pet ownership, and NPM has put together ten great tips to help you do the best by your animal companions. Check them out!

Think carefully before getting a pet and learn about their special requirements. 
Making the decision to add a new member to your family is a big commitment, so make sure you do your homework. Do you have enough space? Will you have the time to take care of your pet properly? Are you committed to caring for a pet for two, four, or even twenty years?
What do you need? Do you have the right equipment to give your new addition the correct living environment? Is your home pet-safe? Does the animal you're bringing into your home require special lighting or heating? Getting a book about the species/breed, talking to the breeder or rescue centre and doing some general research will go a long way toward ensuring that your pet has the best, most natural welcome to his new home.

Ensure your pet is sociable and well trained. 
It's important to start socialising your pets from day one, but make sure you do so in a way that builds their confidence. For dogs, books such as Life skills for puppies, Your dog and you and Helping minds meet from H&H will help you to understand your dog, and give you the tools to socialise and train him through positive, reward-based methods.

Provide a nutritious and well-balanced diet. 

Did you know that, like humans, guinea pigs need vitamin C, but can't produce it themselves? They require fresh, leafy veg every day, or they're likely to develop scurvy!
Make sure you're feeding your pets the right stuff, and that they're getting a healthy, nutritious and well-balanced diet. This is especially important if your pet has any specific dietary requirements. Ask your vet about the best thing to give your pet. Want to be sure of exactly what your dog is eating? Books such as Dinner with Rover and Dog cookies contain easy to follow, healthy recipes that your dog will love!

Provide suitable housing and bedding. 
Imagine moving into a new house and being shown your bedroom, only to find the room doesn't have a bed! Make sure that your new family addition has somewhere suitable and comfortable to sleep, and own space where they can feel safe and secure. A crate or a basket is ideal for a dog; a comfy bed somewhere off the ground will make your cat happy, while your hamster will need somewhere warm and dark where they can burrow and make a nest out of sight.

Clean up after your pet and worm him regularly. 
It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it, and your pet is relying on you! Ensure that you pick up after your dog when you're out and about. It makes for a nicer environment for everyone, and helps prevent the spread of nasty diseases. Make sure you stick to this mentality at home, too. Ensure that you pick up after your animals daily – be that clearing out the litter tray or changing the sawdust in the corner of the rabbit hutch  – and give the whole place a thorough clean at least once a week.

It's also important to make sure your pets are wormed regularly. Worms not only make life very uncomfortable for your pet, they can also make them very ill. Speak to your vet about regular worming treatments.

Protect against disease. Your vet can provide you with advice. 
It's incredibly important to vaccinate your pets. Puppies and kittens require two injections before they should be let out of your home and garden to protect them from nasty diseases, and should be topped up as required. Your vet will let you know when your pet is due a booster, so make sure you keep the appointment!

Prevent unwanted animals: neuter your pet when appropriate. 
Rescue centres around the UK are inundated with unwanted puppies and kittens, so make sure your pets are neutered or spayed when they are old enough. Spaying and neutering can also help with behaviour problems, and reduce the risk of disease or illness as your pet gets older. Speak to your vet to find out when is the right time – and why not ask if they'd be able to microchip your pet at the same time?

Groom your pet regularly. 
Being out and about exploring is great fun, but can leave hair a bit tangled. Regular grooming not only helps keep your pet clean and healthy, but it's a great way to spend quality time with your animal friend that will help to strengthen your bond. It should be an enjoyable experience for both of you, leaving you feeling relaxed and content. Ensure you use the right type of brush for your animal's fur or hair type.

Control your pet and ensure they are properly identified. 
Microchipping your dog will, from the 6th April 2016, be mandatory in England, Scotland and Wales. Speak to your vet, or check out the Dogs Trust FAQ for more information. While not yet a legal requirement, it's also a very good idea to microchip your cat, horse or rabbit, to protect them should they become lost or stolen.
Remember that your dog should also wear a collar with an identification tag. This tag should carry your address or phone number, but not your dog's name.

Take out pet insurance for dogs, cats, rabbits and horses to cover against unexpected veterinary fees and third party liability.
No one likes to think of their pet getting hurt, but should they become injured, lost, or cause damage, it's best to be prepared. Make sure your pet is insured to cover against unexpected vet bills and third party liability. A small payment each month could make all the difference if the worst should happen.

For more information about National Pet Month, visit the website.

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