Why a dog (or cat or rabbit) is for life, and not just for Christmas: What does that really mean?

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas

The focus of the vet spot this week was that phrase coined by Dogs Trust that has become a part of common speech: “A Dog is For Life, Not Just for Christmas”.

Despite the message that goes out every year, people do still get pets for family members at Christmas time, and the strong message that needs to be repeatedly sent out is that a pet is not like a toy that can be put back in a cupboard when you’re bored – instead, you have a 24/7 commitment to care for that animal for its entire life. That could been 10 – 15 years. So before getting a pet, you need to think about the different aspects of care that you’re committing to.

Apart from just being aware where the animal is, at all times, you need to budget for the predictable costs of pet ownership. You also need to allocate your time e.g. 30 mins twice daily to exercise.

The cost of owning a pet

Set up Costs

For a pedigree dog:

  • Pedigree puppy: €500+
  • Bed, bowls, toys, collar, leash: €150
  • Microchipping, worming, flea control, vaccines: €150
  • Spay/ neutering: €200

Total initial costs: €1000

If you get a rescue pet, the costs can be much lower:

  • Donation to rescue group: €200
  • Bed, bowls, toys, collar, leash: €150
  • Microchip, worm, flea, vaccines – often already done
  • Spay/neuter – often already done

Total initial costs: €350

Ongoing costs

These are the same whether you get a pedigree dog or a rescue dog but vary a lot (e.g. small dog eats less than big dog)

  • Nutrition: From 50c to €3 per day, so that’s €185 to €1095 per year
  • Health care: Once yearly visit to vet for health check, plus wormers, flea control: €100 to €150 per year
  • Pet insurance: To prepare for that unexpected accident or illness: €15 to 30 per month = €180 – €360 per year
  • Holiday care: Boarding kennels for two weeks every year @ €15 per night = €210 per year
  • Unexpected costs: From that chewed pair of shoes to a new jacket to keep him warm: €100

Total annual costs: €565 (small dog, no boarding costs & no accidents) to €1915+

The “time” costs

  • Half an hour twice daily for walking
  • Always being aware of the needs of your pet

Ten Commandments of Pet Care

The most important aspects of pet care are summarised in the “Ten Commandments of Pet Care” that have been put together by VICAS, the association of pet vets in Ireland:

  1. Remember your pet’s annual health assessment and vaccinations.
    It’s far better to prevent health problems than to wait until a crisis before dashing to the vet
  2. Feed the right food.
    Pets need a balanced diet: household scraps or continual treats aren’t enough.
  3. Neuter or spay at 6 – 7 months
    There are too many animals in Ireland; it should be the natural choice of all pet owners to get their pets “done” when they’re young, before they’ve had a chance to contribute to the problem of over-population.
  4. Microchip identification
    Permanently identifying your pet makes sense; microchips are now cheaper and more widely available than ever before. And it’s now the law.
  5. Pet health insurance
    If your pet has an accident or falls seriously ill, the best veterinary care can be prohibitively expensive. It makes sense to budget for a monthly payment to a pet insurance company, so that if it’s needed, your pet will be able to receive life-saving care without causing you a financial crisis.
  6. Dental care is vital
    It’s easy to forget about pets’ teeth, but dental care is as important for animals as it is for humans.
  7. Prevent fleas and worms
    Parasites will always be around, but modern medications make it easier than ever to ensure that pets don’t bring these into your home.
  8. Train your pet well
    Animals are intelligent, but they don’t teach themselves how to behave. Part of the responsibility of being an owner involves teaching both dogs and cats how to fit in well with human households.
  9. Exercise for life
    Dogs need 25 minutes of exercise twice a day, and cats love as much attention as you can give them.
  10. Have fun!
    Keeping a pet can be hard work, but it can also be an enjoyable way of spending time. Don’t forget that it’s meant to be fun.

These tips are summarised here: http://loveyourpet.ie/

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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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