What to look for when adopting a pet.
As a founding member of an animal rescue, I've compiled some specific "look fors" that will help you to ensure that you will be able to spend money on chewy toys, cat scratching posts, cuttle bones, and squeeky toys–and not the costly bills that surround the adoption of an unhealthy pet.
- When adopting a dog, first and foremost make sure that the puppy is lively and relates to you. Many times when numerous canines are housed closely together for long periods of times, they develop a pack mentality. These adorable but shy animals will not structure well to humans initially. They will take time, work, and persistance. Although this will pass, if the puppy is purchased for a child, the child may become frustrated by the puppy's lack of attention and the puppy may develop a "flee mentality".
- Does the puppy have a cough? This could mean that it has, what is known as "kennel cough". Kennel cough is treatable but will cost–with the vet visit and medicine–close to $100.
- Are the puppys eyes dull and half-closed? This is a red flag to disorders too numerous to go into in a short blog. Parvo is what I'd be worrying about. Parvo is deadly, insequeous, and contagious to other pets in the home. Although Parvo is treatable if caught in the early stages–it's by far the most deadly of all puppies under the age of 6 months old.
I had a wolf who contracted Parvo from the animal shelter from which he was bought. He seemed fine upon adoption but about two weeks into his stay with me, he developed a severe case of loose stool. This stool was incredibly rank and watery and it contained small red flecks. These red flecks were flakings from his intestinal system. I rushed him to the vet and was told that I could: a.) Put him down because of the pain that Parvo caused. or b.) Give him antibiotics, while forcing 30 to 60cc's of sugar water every four hours. I chose option a. He did not move or drink/eat for 48 hours. He was suffering and I questioned my decision to fight for him each time he looked up at me. I got him through it and he had no lasting affects. Later, I spoke with a woman who chose to nurse a pup through Parvo and her pet wasn't nearly as fortunate. He survived but was deaf and had a distinct, permanent disability to his jaw. I also met a lady who adopted a "Parvo dog" from a reputable pet store. She was told that "Parvo can be treated with Pepto-Bismol. This, of course, is a falsity and the dog died.
Another detractor to the Parvo Virus is that it stays in the ground, where the dog has urinated/pooped, for 5 years. (There is debate over the time period so I'm stating the lowest number of years, for "weighing your options" sake.) This means that should you decide to adopt another pup, after the death of a Parvo dog, you are opening up the new animal to direct and present danger of contraction via the old pet.
So, in summation related to dogs–check eyes for clarity, sound for cough, and the surroundings that the pet is living amonst for loose, smelly stool. Is the puppy active? Does he yap and turn circles? Be pragmatic and watch his behavior.
- Much like the way to spot a healthy puppy, you look for playfulness and brightness in a cat. If it's swatting at your finger when you poke it into the cage and purring loudly, it's probably in good shape. However, if it seems lethargic and fat–it may have worms. Over-the-counter worming medicines (esp. for cats) have been known to kill the pet. In my time in animal rescue, we lost approximately 6 cats to our worming treatment. This IS NOT uncommon and vetrinary treatment needs to be found for worm treatment…especially in kittens, as their weight is a real issue.
- Is the kitten's fur matted? This may be a clue to flea infestation. Again, kittens don't bode well to over-the-counter flea medicine due to the small lungs and the clear danger of over-doing in one's zeal to rid the beloved pet of the pain in the butt flea!
- Do you have another cat? Grown cats don't kindly to the addition to a fun-loving kitten. My personal impression is that they really can't be bothered with the little fuzzy intruder. Most will either adopt them as their own, ignore the kitten with a smug "who do you think you are" nature, or (in worst case scenarios) try to kill the kitten. Yes, kill. A grown cat will try and smother a kitten by forcing their upper chests over the kittens nose. I've seen it! It looks as though the adult cat is playing however, in reality, they are quite literally trying to suffocate the kitten. A kitten in no match for an adult cat and slow integration of the kitten along with vigilance of the possiblity that the cat can hurt it, should be foremost in the adopter's mind.
- Eye clarity, again, is the best indicator of the health of a bird. If it's eyes are dull and listless, chances are there is an unforseen problem internally.
- Always check the birds cage. What is on the bottom of the cage? Is the paper showing a great many feathers? This could mean that the bird has a skin problem possibly pertaining to mites. Depending on the severity of the feather loss, it's a very benign problem. A quick spritz with diluted Listerine will fix it right up! The bird will hate you for a few days, of course. *grin* Are the droppings from the bird solid? That's a good sign! Watery droppings are indicitive of something internal. Beware!
- Did you know that the color over a parakeet's nose is the gender indicator? Pink over the beak indicates that it's a female, while blue indicates it's a male. Male parakeets talk…females don't. AND if you own more than one parakeet, they will converse with each other and not with you! This is important when deciding on your bird.
I hope that this helped some with your brilliant choice to adopt a pet! As a real…REAL…animal lover, I applaud your choice on presents and hope that it will bring you years of happiness.