Caring for a dog is a commitment many dog owners underestimate. And when you make a mistake your veterinarian will likely be there to set you straight. Below are 7 common mistakes vets see pup parents make when caring for their dogs—and how to avoid them.
Underestimating cost of owning and maintaining a dog
According to Rover.com, the initial cost of getting a dog in 2020 can range from $610 to $2,350, including adoption fees, spay/neuter, food, treats, and toys. After that, the yearly cost of caring for a dog can range an average of $650 to $2,115 a year, depending on where the pet lives. Rover conducted a survey of dog owners in 2020 and found most people surveyed actually spend more than that—about $3,400 on their dogs yearly, but they only budget $100 or less per month for their dog’s expenses.
Certain breeds like bulldogs and other flat-faced dogs are associated with higher than average cost because the features that make these dogs so cute are often the same features that make them more prone to disease. Forbes offers this helpful overview of the costs of certain dog breeds using data from pet insurance companies.
To help keep your pet care budget on track, you can also ask your veterinarian for a cost estimate of treatments. There are several companies that offer health ‘credit’ cards that can be used for higher veterinary expenses. Pet insurance is almost always a good idea, especially for unplanned and higher costs like hospitalization. Of course keeping costs more manageable starts with preventive care—good nutrition, weight management, exercise, and routine vet checkups, which brings us to the next mistake on our list.
Missing yearly vet checkups
Pets age faster than people. They have also evolved to hide illness. For example, they can hide arthritis, have asymptomatic urinary tract infections, and have ear infections localized to the deep part of their ears with no odor or discharge. And because pets can’t clearly communicate how they are feeling, having yearly checkups allows less obvious health problems to be discovered early. Early detection is best for your pet’s health and less expensive than treating advanced disease.
Not taking care of their teeth
Your pet’s yearly checkup includes a dental exam, but proper oral hygiene should be practiced in-between checkups. Dogs can be trained to tolerate (and even enjoy) daily tooth brushing, which will help keep their teeth clean and allow problems to be spotted early. Small breed dogs are more prone to dental disease and often need teeth extracted if their oral hygiene is not a focus.
Giving human medications to your pets
When your pet is ill, it can be tempting to give a home remedy. There is a plethora of information online that gives advice on how to treat your pet at home, some even including doses of human medications. But it’s important to remember that pets metabolize medications differently than people and certain illnesses (like kidney and liver disease) require dose adjustment of medications. Medication recommendations and dosing should only be followed when given by your veterinarian.
Listening non-veterinarians for medical advice
Related to the above, a pet owner can find endless information online about how to care for their pet. It is tempting to listen to advice from a breeder, trainer, groomer, pet store employee, etc. when one is searching for answers for their pet’s illness. Although advice-givers are surely well-intentioned, their advice can be in direct conflict with what a veterinarian would recommend and may lead to more problems.
Letting your dog get overweight
Obesity is a common problem in pets and can lead to medical problems including arthritis and diabetes. Research by Banfield Pet Hospitals found that the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to 2 1/2 years shorter than dogs with a healthy body weight. The American Kennel Club has a helpful article here (including a video filmed by Dr. Andrea Tu) to help you identify if your dog might need to lose a few pounds.
Letting your pet sunbathe
Like humans, dogs can get skin cancer from sun exposure (including squamous cell carcinoma and hemangiosarcomas). In fact, many dog breeds with short, sparse hair coats—like pitbulls, whippets, Boston terriers, bull terriers, and short-coated Chihuahuas—are prone to sun damage. Some of these breeds have lighter skin as well as a thin coat, making them doubly prone to the dangers associated with sun exposure. Pitbulls and pitbull mixes especially, are known for loving heat, and can be found laying in the sun even when the temperatures are triple digits. This is a surefire recipe for burned dogs!
The best way to help prevent sun damage to your dog’s skin and coat is by preventing your dog from sunbathing in the first place. But if your dog is determined to catch some rays, have them wear a sunsuit and make sure to apply a dog-safe, zinc-free sunscreen to sun-exposed areas like their nose, ears, and belly. Many people assume that baby sunscreen is safe for dogs, but many of these sunscreens contain zinc, which can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Many chemical sunscreens (as opposed to mineral sunscreens like titanium dioxide) contain salicylates, which can also be harmful when ingested and cause skin reactions. The gist: what’s good for human babies isn’t necessarily good for furry ones.
We know pet parenthood can be hard, but we hope this list helps you avoid some common mistakes, so you can spend less time fretting and more time petting!