Deciding to own a pet is a big decision. You will be welcoming a new family member who depends on you for food, water, shelter and medical care, in return for unconditional love.

A few simple guidelines provided by Dr. Dan Danner of the Animal Medical & Surgical Hospital and Darrin Hough, general manager at Tulsa’s Southern Agriculture, can help make sure that you and your pet will share many healthy, happy and loving years together.

What should I expect when bringing home a pet?

It will take some time for your new pet to feel comfortable in your home, says Danner. Your new dog or cat is in a strange place with unfamiliar people, and may have just been taken away from its mother and litter mates.

That said, he notes that it is very important to set the rules starting on day one, beginning with potty training.

So what kind of pet is best for me?

Hough says there are many factors in finding just the right pet.

First of all, know your space. A large breed dog may not be happy in a small apartment, while a smaller breed dog or cat will be perfectly content.

Danner says people should also think about their activity level. Daily joggers who want to take their dogs with them won’t be able to do so with a chihuahua, he notes.

“A pet should get the same dedication and consideration as when bringing a child home,” Danner says.

What about food?

Is there really a difference between pet food brands? Both Hough and Danner say you get what you pay for when it comes to pet foods.
“You can‘t get a quality cut of meat for 39 cents,” Danner says.

“There is a huge difference between some of the cheap grocery store brands and the super premium diets,” Hough says. “A lot of it is what you don’t want in the ingredients. We tell people to stay away from corn, wheat and soy. You want to see more meat in ingredients.”

“There’s a big difference between ‘nutritionally complete’ and ‘completely nutritious,’” Danner says. “It’s a word game the manufacturers play.”

Danner recommends consulting with your veterinarian to find a quality diet for your pet.

To insure or not?

Most people have health insurance to cover medical costs, so why not our pets?

Just like human insurance companies, there’s a huge difference between insurance plans available for pets, Danner says. Some do well, some do not. Check out the company and talk to your veterinarian, Danner says.

What type of health care should I expect to provide my pet?

The plan is to live a long, happy, healthy life with your pet. Just like with people, regular checkups are vital as your pet gets older, Hough says.

“Preventative care for animals is the key to catching (potential problems),” he says.

Nutritional requirements can change as your pet ages, Danner says. Concerns can shift from urinary tract requirements to osteoporosis. A proper balance of diet and exercise can help your pet live a long, happy time.

Hough and Danner both say pet owners should check with professionals and veterinarians about proper care for their animals.

“The more you understand your pet, the better lifestyle you’re going to have with it,” Danner says.

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