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A beautiful, yellow-eyed cat receiving treatment. Doug Hall feeding a well-loved client.

Paws For Thought- Article 19

10th October 2019

Choosing A Pet- Part 2


Following on from Part 1 of "Choosing a Pet", I will be discussing dogs and cats in greater detail in this article. Both species have their own benefits/limitations and it depends on your lifestyle and preferences as to which animal will suit you better.
Deciding to get a pet is always exciting, but the decision should never be made lightly. They will require a suitable home environment, a good quality diet and the opportunity to exercise and perform natural behaviours throughout their whole life. Some cats can live for 20+ years, and we have a lot of geriatric canine patients who are well past their 15th birthday, so as you can imagine it is a huge commitment to get a dog or cat!

It is also important to consider the financial implications of owning a pet. On average, the cost of having a dog can be £18,000 over their lifetime, so you should make sure you are able to provide for them financially. We always recommend having a comprehensive insurance for your pet, and we offer a Pet Care Plan to help spread the cost of preventative care such as vaccinations, parasitic treatments and neutering/dentals. If you would like to discuss this with one of the team, please contact us at The Cape Veterinary Clinic on 01483 538990.
There are so many breeds of dogs and cats that we will be unable to write about each one. Instead, I will discuss what characteristics to look out for, so that you can try and decide what pet you would be able to provide for and may suit your lifestyle.

 

DOGS


1. SIZE

There is a huge variation in size of dogs, varying from your 2kg chihuahua to a 70kg St Bernard. Size should be taken into account when getting a dog, as larger dogs obviously require more space and feeding and medication costs will increase dependent on the size of dog that you get.

2. AGE

It is important to consider your lifestyle when deciding what age of dog to acquire. Purchasing a puppy can be really exciting BUT they are a huge amount of work. They require a lot of training and there will be broken nights sleep at least for the first few days. As long as you provide them with a lot of new experiences and socialise with other dogs when they are young, they are generally quick to learn and adapt and can make incredibly loyal pets.

An older dog is generally calmer than a puppy, and if settled in the right home can be a fantastic addition. If you are rescuing a dog it is worth spending time with them to observe their personality and any special requirements in order to find out if you can provide for them on a long term basis. Always find out about any medical or behavioural issues before committing to a dog.

3. EXERCISE REQUIREMENTS

To predict how much exercise your dog might need, it is important to consider different factors- including age, size, breed and any medical conditions that they may have (eg. Hip dysplasia).
Younger dogs are likely to require more exercise than your older dogs, although it is important to limit your puppy from over exercising in the first few months.
Some breeds, such as Greyhounds prefer short, intensive bursts of exercise and then they generally will sleep for the rest of the day whereas a Collie might want to be out for the whole day and won't be suited to a sedentary lifestyle. With brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, they should not over exert themselves, especially in hot weather as this can cause respiratory issues.
It is important that walks are varied so that your dog is mentally stimulated as well as just having physical exercise and they must be walked every day, rain or shine!

4. BREED DISPOSITIONS

As discussed earlier, there is a huge array of different breeds of dog and this can make it difficult to choose the pet that would suit you and your lifestyle. There are too many breeds to discuss the pros/cons of each, and so I will highlight some potential concerns of the most extreme breeds.
• Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed)- This includes Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boxers. These breeds have large eyes and small, flat noses and although this can look appealing to a lot of people, the breeds can come with issues.
To create this look, dogs were bred to select for flattened skull but they still have the same amount of soft tissue to ‘fit' in these smaller heads. This can create serious issues with breathing and their eyes are not well protected in their skull. They can also have problems with their spines and tails which have also been ‘shortened'.
• Breeds with long spines- Daschunds and Basset Hounds are your most recognisable breeds with an elongated spine. Their legs are short, and there is little support for the middle of the spine. These breeds can be predisposed to prolapsed discs and spinal pain.
• Extremely large breeds are predisposed to getting early onset arthritis, partly due to the increased weight load that they carry.
If you find a breed that you particularly like, then we recommend that you research any medical pre-dispositions and if you have any queries then do give us a ring to discuss further.
Every pure-bred dog has been selectively bred from a narrowed gene pool to create the desired look and character. This results in inbreeding and therefore pure-bred dogs can be more likely to have health issues. In general, we find that true cross breeds are healthier. Some cross breeds (eg. Cocker-poos and Labra-doodles) are now so popular that there is increased demand for these crosses and inbreeding occurs to create "pure-bred cross-breeds" which no longer have the benefit of having a wide gene pool.

 

CATS


Acquiring a cat is just as big a commitment as getting a dog, in the fact that you have to provide them with a safe home environment, a good quality diet and provide the necessary health care throughout their whole life (which can be >20yrs!) However, they are generally more independent than dogs and some cats will choose to spend a lot of time outside and might not require much attention. Nevertheless, it is important to provide them with the opportunity to play, seek food and perform as many natural behaviours as possible so that they lead a happy and fulfilled life.
Cats have been less selectively bred than dogs and so they vary less in terms of size and shape. The most common cat that we see is the "Domestic Short Hair" (also known colloquially as a ‘Moggie'). However, we do still see some cat breeds with more extreme characteristics. As with dogs, although some breeds of cats can have desirable features, they can be more likely to have health issues.

 

• Brachycephalic breeds- Persian cats have similar characteristics to brachycephalic dogs. They have smaller, flattened skulls and can therefore have issues with their breathing and ophthalmic health.
• The Sphynx cat has been bred to have very little to no fur, and this can pre-dispose the breed to skin issues, as well as having a higher risk of developing a heart condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).
• A new "breed" known as the Munchkin cat has been bred to have short legs and this can put extra pressure on the joints, causing musculoskeletal issues. They can also suffer from Lordosis (a ‘dipping' of the spine) which can be fatal. Luckily, these cats are not common and there has been a lot of information circulated about the irresponsible breeding of Munchkin cats.

 

As you can see from these series of articles on "Choosing a Pet", it can be difficult to decide what animal would best suit you and your lifestyle. Even once you have decided on a species, choosing a breed can be a bit of a minefield!
If you decide on a certain breed of dog or cat and you want to discuss this further with us, please do give us a ring at The Cape Veterinary Clinic on 01483 538990.
Also please look out for the next part of this series (coming soon!) on how to choose a breeder, as this will go into more detail on how to know that your breeder is responsible and particularly how to avoid the horror of puppy farming.

 

Catherine Hannah BVSc MRCVS