With the arrival of the holiday season, and many people adding new feline and/or canine companions to their households, this is a good time to review what to look for when choosing a pet.
If choosing to adopt a new puppy or kitten, it is important to wait until a pet is at least 6-8 weeks old before taking the pet home. Given that there are so many homeless animals throughout the country, I usually recommend people first consider looking at local humane societies and shelters for potential new additions to their homes. While the incidence of certain acute, infectious diseases may be higher in these environments, most can be managed with simple, supportive treatments, and an added bonus is that you will be saving a life by adopting from these places.
The pet should be in a good body condition, not being too thin or heavy. The coat should be shiny and lustrous, as well as free of dandruff and/or fleas and ticks. Since many pets in these environments are exposed to acute upper respiratory viruses and/or bacteria, it is important to look for animals that have minimal to no eye or nose discharges.
One should ask about any relevant medical history on any potential new pet, including any prior or current digestive issues, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as prior vaccination history and whether the pet is on any sort of heartworm and/or flea and tick parasite prevention program. I usually recommend a thorough veterinary exam within 5 days of adoption for a stool check and/or blood tests if needed to make sure that the animal is vital and healthy, as well as to discuss a long term health maintenance program with the new animal guardian.
For my clients who choose to purchase or adopt pure breed dogs from breeders, I will usually suggest the more holistic-oriented breeders, who have a more minimalist approach when it comes to vaccination, as well as feed their lines a more species-appropriate healthy diet, such as raw meat fed dogs or those on minimally processed natural diets. One should always ask breeders about potential genetic diseases in any of their lines, as well as even getting a few personal references on a breeder before making the expensive purchase. In my experience and opinion, I have found dogs adopted from more natural-oriented breeders typically have generations of pets that are healthier and have much less incidence of chronic and/or immune mediated diseases that are plaguing many pets today.