Take care of your fucking pet…A Guide

Recently I started working at a veterinary clinic as a technician in an attempt to bolster my chances of admittance to a proper vet-school. In the process I’ve had the opportunity to acquaint myself with all manner of pet-owners and the many standards, lack thereof, and views accompanying them.

[When I use the word pet I am referring largely to mammals and birds here, organisms of sufficient consciousness to warrant our deeper concerns for their wellbeing. Fish and reptiles, while also deserving of proper maintenance and care are not my primary subject in this article.]

Here in California, as one might expect, we are flush with antiscientific clientele who insist on refusing such guards against ticks and fleas as frontline and trifexis. Vaccines too are suspect and often refused entirely despite state laws demanding at least a rabies vaccination. Others still, despite the Louis Vuitton bag swinging from their elbow, are as miserly with their pet’s health as they might be donating to a random stranger. Worse yet, there are even those who, after one too many visits to the clinic decide rather to discard their animal companion than commit to the effort of reasonable life-saving alternatives.

I haven’t conducted a survey but I would say that for my clinic about one in six or seven appointments expresses a paranoid or even hysterical stance on the topic. But my contention is not only with the scientifically illiterate and conspiracy theorists but also with those individuals who, and unfortunately they are even more common place, treat their pets as though they were a plant or article of furniture.

As a result I’ve decided to create a guide for reasonable expectations of care and commitment for potential and current animal owners. I will also make it clear what I think of those people who fail to meet what I believe to be a minimum standard of care.

Standard 1 – Money

Pets are a financial commitment in the same way children are a financial commitment. Before acquiring a dog, cat or parrot you need to research the cost of their day to day needs and also the cost of their potential needs, such as emergent or exigent circumstances. I would even go so far as to say that if after purchasing the animal you don’t have another grand you could spontaneously drop on its care then you probably want to rethink whether or not you’re really ready for this very financial responsibility.

Some of you might have balked at that last line but consider this. I work at a standard veterinary practice and as a technician I not only perform the very routine tests we administer daily but I also run through cost estimates with all of our clientele. As a result I am intimately familiar with basic costs and can tell you with certainty that routine purchases like flea and tick medication and general diagnostic measures like blood tests and radiographs, all of which inevitably become a necessity at some point, could easily accumulate three digit expenses.

A dental on a dog or cat, especially if it requires extractions due to infection or decay, could range anywhere from 700 to 1200 dollars – assuming your doctors don’t cut you a break. All this being said, to mitigate these wallet crushing costs, I recommend pet insurance which, if purchased early, is both affordable and lifesaving.

Standard 2 – Time

If you don’t have time to walk dogs then don’t get one. If you don’t have time or aren’t inclined to change litter boxes, clean up the occasional mess, or run errands on behalf of your new found furry friend then again, don’t get one. Pets like dogs and cats are not like fish or plants where you can leave them unattended for days on end without concern for their physical or mental wellbeing. They require things of you. In the case of dogs this is simply the result of their breeding. Cats definitely don’t need you in order to survive but they do require your services in order to live well. In either case, the acquisition of something like a dog or cat requires that you invest a considerable amount of time in its care.

Standard 3 – Affection

It is easy to tell the difference between owners who show physical affection to their pets and those who don’t because of what they miss. People that clearly never touch their animals overlook the most obvious problems like cancerous masses while others notice lumps that even doctors will struggle to locate. This always indicates someone who loves on their pet versus someone who just leaves it in a corner to languish while they do whatever it is they are doing. If you’re someone who struggles to prioritize their time or exhibits narcissistic tendencies then pets aren’t for you. A couch is something you buy and then never deal with again, an animal is not. A T.V. is something one can spend time with when it is convenient, dogs and cats are not.

Animals like dogs and cats require physical affection, especially dogs. Without it they quickly become estranged from both their owners and people in general, making them hazards when in the general public. This, I feel, really should go without saying. After all, what’s the point of a fluffy cumquat creature if you’re not going to love on it?

This extends also to the medical sphere. Animals will develop issues that require medical attention, sometimes expensive medical attention. If you wouldn’t be willing to brook a scarring rash or a parasitical invasion, neither should your dog or cat. Remember that they can feel just as much as you can, and hoping their diseases resolve themselves for the benefit of your pocketbook is cruel, selfish and rebarbative. They depend entirely on the decisions you make and have absolutely no agency in curing themselves. In this sense, their life is literally in your hands.

Standard 4 – Research

Before you acquire your pet, research its needs. Research also the laws regarding it. Whether or not you’re a member of the anti-vaccine cult be aware that rabies vaccines are mandatory in most if not all states. It isn’t actually an option, nor should it be.

Things to consider researching include what breeds work best for you and your household, like which breeds suffer from the most debilitating diseases, which are best around children or for small apartments and solitary lifestyles.

It isn’t wise to get an animal you know nothing about or purchase a breed that routinely suffers from a battery of congenital disorders. In fact, I would even argue it is unethical to support breeds that suffer even in the best of health, like English bulldogs.  And if you’re in a ‘rescue kind of mood’ keep in mind that you could be surprised with expensive unforeseen medical bills, so make sure you know who you’re buying from, where the pets have been, and what to expect.

Lastly, learn about the preventative medicine available like frontline or trifexis before dismissing it. It is hypocritical to say that you would never subject your pet to ‘chemicals’ while at the same time subjecting them to all manner of life threatening and debilitating parasites and viruses.

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