How pets will make you happier and healthier, and deciding when it’s time for a family to get a pet: Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

To listen to the podcast, click on the play button at the foot of this page

Benefits of pet ownership

A new report in the UK has just extolled the economic and social value of pets, estimating that they save the UK NHS around £2.45 billion per year on reduced doctor visits as well as other savings. See Pete’s article in the Daily Telegraph for details (link at the foot of this page).

    • Dog owners walk more than non-dog owners, experiencing a verysignificant reduction in minor health problems
    • Older dog owners are are likely to walk faster and to maintain mobility than non dog owners
    • Pet owners have lower blood pressure, plasma triglycerides and cholesterol
    • Pet ownership leads to improved one-year survival rates after serious heart attacks
    • Non-pet owners are twice as likely to feel lonely compared to pet owners
    • Pet owners report better health and contentment compared to non pet owners
    • Pets can help with bereavement: people with a close attachment to a pet suffer from less depression on these occasions
    • Childhood exposure to pets has a protective effect against the later development of allergies and asthma as long as the mother does not suffer from allergies
    • Pets offer strong emotional support to children, acting as non-judgemental friends at a time when young people need this support

How can a family decide that it is time to get a pet?

  • Do they really want a pet? All adults in the house need to be on board with the decision: pets are not for everyone. While there are many potential benefits, these only apply if someone is happy to share their life with an animal.
    Is anyone allergic to pets? Sadly, if anyone has a serious allergy to dogs or cats, they may not be able to keep a furry animal of any kind for health reasons
  • Are the children old enough? Parents tend to be preoccupied with child care full time till they are 3 – 4 years of age, so typically, they may not decide that it’s time for a dog till things seem a little simpler, with youngest child around 5 – 6 years old. But of course, many people have dogs and babies, and as long as the parent is aware of the importance of constant supervision of young children and animals, there is not necessarily a problem.
    Do they have enough space? Less of an issue than you might think: animals can fit around all sorts of human homes. Bigger dogs (eg greyhounds) don’t need much extra space.
  • Do they have enough time? A dog needs to be walked twice daily (half an hour minimum) plus cannot be left alone for more than 4 hours at a stretch. A cat needs regular attention – several hours a day. All pets (even hamsters and goldfish) need some level of input for care and cleaning etc
  • Do they have enough money? A budget should be done up for the animal, including aspects like purchase price, ancillary pet equipment, daily pet food, veterinary costs, pet insurance, parasite control, dog boarding and day care – it all adds up and it is quite predictable so there is no point going into pet ownership and just hoping that you can afford it.

Budgeting for a new pet

Set up costs:

  • Purchase – €100 upwards!
  • Neutering (depends on whether male or female & weight) – €100-€250
  • Primary vaccinations (normally two) – €50 each
  • So say €400 “set up cost” – cheaper if get from rescue centre when can make a donation for dog already neutered/ vaxed etc

Maintenance costs:

  • Annual vet health check and vaccines €50
  • Annual flea and worming treatment €50
  • Pet Insurance €120+ annually
  • Boarding Kennels (Summer Holidays etc.) €15+ a day x 2 weeks = €210
  • Food Depends on the dog €10 – 15+ per week = €500 – 750 per year
  • Total at least €1000 per year and maybe more.

Questions from listeners

To find out Pete’s answers to the questions listed below, listen to the podcast: link at the foot of this page.

  • We’ve never been away for a night since we got our dog last year, however we’ve been invited away this weekend for a night. Would Pete recommend getting someone to stay in the house with our dog or should be give her to a family member for the night? We don’t know how she might react to not having us around in a strange place. Or should we consider kennels? She’s usually a very friendly dog, and quite confident.
  • We want to get a family pet – we have two boys aged 8 and 4, and we’d love a dog but the dog would be at home alone from 8.30 til 4pm everyday. Is that too much? And should we consider getting a cat instead?
  • Do I need to bring my cats to the vet: they have been sneezing for 4/5 days & have watery eyes? Rose
  • Do rabbits need daily exercise ? Luke in Galway

Listen to the podcast:

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