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Maine Voices: Caring for pets takes more than love

There comes a point in most people’s lives when they want to get a pet. Whether it’s because they’re tired of living alone, the kids have been begging long enough, or they can’t resist that puppy or kitten staring back from a TV commercial.

Pets can be fulfilling additions to our lives. Whether your needs are for a floppy puppy to cuddle or a tank full of tropical fish, please be sure you can handle the responsibilities of being a pet parent.

Recent news events have underscored the need for humans to fully consider what it means to be prepared to care for your pets. A widespread lack of that understanding has led to a nationwide, indeed worldwide, crisis for the veterinary profession. Pet owners who are unprepared for the financial side of their responsibility are taking their anger and frustrations out on the people who are trying to care for their animals.

Before you welcome a pet into your home, please ask yourself the following questions:

• Why do I want a pet?

• Will I be able to spend quality time with my pet?

• If applicable, am I able to exercise my pet and keep it active?

• Can I train my pet to behave well around people and other animals? (Or can I afford a trainer?)

• Can I afford pet food, a leash and harness, a litter box, a safe carrier, a tank and oxygenator and filter?

• Can I keep my pet clean?

• Can I afford routine veterinary visits and necessary vaccinations? (Plan on at least once a year.)

• Can I afford diagnostic care such as X-rays and blood tests?

• Can I afford emergency care?

• If not, can I afford pet insurance (Depending on the age/health of the animal, roughly between $35 to $85 a month)

Too many people enter into pet ownership with a genuine love for animals and a need for their companionship but without understanding what a pet needs from them. You are their guardian. You are their source for food, safe shelter, a fulfilling life, and for medical care when needed.

Few of us have unlimited means to pay for emergency medical care for ourselves, let alone our pets. That’s what insurance is for. I strongly urge pet owners toward insurance. Puppies eat things. Cats can dart across the road. All pets can fall victim to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses that may require surgery or other interventions.

In truth, if you can’t afford the relatively low cost of pet insurance, or if you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then it’s best to wait until your circumstances change. Pets should bring you comfort and relaxation, and not be a source of stress or worry because you don’t have enough time or money to spend.

Again and again, veterinary doctors are presented with life and death cases that are heartbreaking because the pet’s owner cannot afford to pay for life-saving care. For years the idea has persisted that somehow the doctor should be responsible for saving the pet, not the owner and the situation almost always ends with the doctor being reviled as the selfish party who won’t save the pet for free.

As a physical therapist (for humans) and as a veterinary medical doctor, I understand the importance of insurance on both fronts. Without debating the merits or deficits of our current healthcare system, having insurance allows us to concentrate on getting and staying healthy. It is the same for our pets.

Please be a responsible pet parent and don’t put yourself, your pet, or your vet in a situation that could so easily be avoided by asking yourself a few simple questions.

—Special to the Press Herald


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