Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planning for your pet

So this month's theme is spontaneity, but instead we're going to discuss the opposite. Because sometimes spontaneity in pets isn't such a good thing. When they spontaneously run into the path of an oncoming car, when they spontaneously develop cancer or another debilitating disease, or when your kids spontaneously bring home a kitten from the litter the stray cat had - not so good. So, let's talk about planning ahead.

For starters, you need a plan when you get a new pet. Puppies and kittens need multiple vet visits their first few months to keep them healthy and up to date on their vaccines. They need more intense training than older dogs usually, and are more likely to have accidents in the house and chew up things that aren't toys. If you are gone 10 hours of the day and have expensive rugs and shoes, you might want to rescue a pet that's already been trained and is past that stage. If you have lots of time to dote on your new pet and have the patience and room for training, than by all means go for the younger animal. If you live in a tiny apartment don't go for the Great Dane, try the small mixed breed or an adult cat instead. Plan ahead and know what you're looking for before you go to the shelter and fall in love with the first thing you see (because you will).

Then plan ahead for their wellness visits. Just like people, pets need regular medical care. They need vaccinations every year, they need heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, and some of them need grooming on a regular basis. Don't let that slip up on you. Schedule your vet and groomer visits a few weeks in advance and then put it on your calendar or have your phone alert you so you don't miss the appointment. Make sure you have plenty of parasite prevention and don't run out, because it is much easier to prevent these parasites than treat them once they've arrived.

Plan on how you will pay for your pet and their continued care. Pet insurance is an up and coming business. The best time to purchase pet insurance is when you first get your pet. Most likely that's when your rate will be the lowest. You want to get a plan in place before you have an illness or injury occur. There are several pet insurance companies, and no one company is right for everyone. Just like with car or home owner's insurance, shop around and find the right plan for you. Ask your vet for their opinion. Most of the time you still have to pay your vet up front, submit the bill, and then wait for a reimbursement from your insurance company. Some of the plans have exclusions, so be sure to read the fine print and ask questions before you sign anything. The company I am currently recommending is Trupanion Pet Insurance. But again, no one company is best for everyone, so do some research and find the plan that works best for you.

Lastly, how do you emotionally plan for unexpected injuries or illnesses? To be honest, it's hard. You don't want to think about that ever happening. But the reality is that it will, at some point. We need to prepare ourselves and our kids that our pets will eventually leave us. Talk to your kids about any illnesses your pets may have, so they understand what's happening. Be honest with them, don't try to hide the truth. Kids are very perceptive and surprisingly receptive. When I was in grade school my mom read me a book about a child who had a cat who got sick and eventually died. We cried together as we read it, thinking about how someday that would be us and our cat. When we read the Little House books we cried when Jack died (and named our next car after him). Both of those books helped me be prepared when our cat was sick and had to be euthanized. I knew that it was ok to be sad, and I was better prepared to deal with my emotions.

So plan ahead for your pet's well-being. Reserve your spontaneity for tug-o-war battles, racing around the back yard, and special treats brought home from the pet store!

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