Here’s why pets shouldn’t be given as presents: Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

Pets as Christmas presents and listeners’ questions featured today: listen to the podcast at the foot of this page.

A dog should never be given as a Christmas present

“A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas” is a catch phrase invented by Clarissa Baldwin of Dogs Trust. It’s become part of our daily speech: the message is so clear and easy to understand. Despite this, people keep doing it: buying puppies as Christmas presents.

What’s wrong with giving a puppy as a present?

A young animal is a major responsibility. Before taking on a pet, you need to be sure that you can give a significant amount of your time and money to that animal’s care, for the next ten to fifteen years. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t choose to have a pet. And you should never presume that someone else is able to do this, which is exactly what you are doing if you give a pet as a present. And if you are getting the present as a surprise for your own family, you still need to think hard about your own capabilities, not just for today or next year, but for the next fifteen years.

The financial cost of pets

It probably costs around €1000 to get set up with a new dog, including purchase price, equipment and veterinary costs such as vaccines, spay/neuter, microchip and parasite control.

If you choose a rescue dog rather than a pedigree animal, the cost may come down to around €350, but it’s still a substantial amount of money.
Ongoing costs are the same whether you get a pedigree dog or a rescue animal, with a typical annual bill between €500 and €2000 per year, depending on many factors.
If you combine the set up costs with the annual budget for keeping a pet over 10 – 15 years, the total lifetime amount of money for one animal comes out at a minimum of around €5000, an average of around €10000 and you don’t want to think about the maximum (it’s over €20000).

 Owning a pet is a luxury, and if you don’t have the financial wherewithal to afford one, then sadly, you may need to think again.

The time cost of pets

You need to spend at least half an hour, twice daily, exercising a dog, and you can no longer head off for a night out or a weekend away without organising for someone to care for the animal.

While 91% of people agree that it’s important to care for pets properly, one in three dogs (35%) do not get any daily off the lead exercise, one in four dogs are left alone for five hours or more on a regular basis, and six out of ten young dogs don’t go to any dog training classes. If you cannot agree to these simple guidelines, really you are not in a place where you should introduce a dog into your life.

Questions from listeners about pets

  • There’s a fox in my garden who seems unwell. Should I feed him or what should I do about him?
  • My 13 year old Labrador has started pooping indoors (not urinating). Why should this be?
  • Is it safe to put coconut oil and a sweetener (maple syrup or agave) in home-cooked treats for dogs?
  • Can elderly cats suffer from dementia?
  • My dog humps all the time when she sees strangers. Why is this?

To hear the answers to the questions, listen to the podcast below.

Listen to the podcast:

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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