When you get a new pet, chances are you’ve done your research – figuring out what Fido or Fluffy’s diet should be (and having plenty of that food on hand), deciding where they’ll live and sleep, and learn what common health and behavioral issues are, to name a few topics. But there are some things you might not be able to get from a Google search. Read on to hear from veterinarians and pet experts about common things new parents forget and the biggest mistake of all. These preparations aren’t difficult, and as long as you stay organized, your new best friend will be happy and healthy for years to come.
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The last thing you’ll want to do when you get home with your new pet is leave it alone while you run out of supplies. That is why Shannon Griffin, a dog groomer and owner of Hound Therapy, says preparing your home for the pet’s arrival is so important, as is how expectant parents will protect their living spaces for babies. “As a responsible new parent, you need to have the essentials not only to take care of your pet, but also to train it. You will need a collar, food, leash and a crate if it’s a puppy and a litter box if it’s a cat, bowls, toys and any treats you want to give them.”
Unless you have a lot of other pets at home, you’ll want to “socialize your pet as early as possible,” says Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tale. “Early and frequent socialization is fundamental to a well-behaved pet. Puppies and kittens that never interact with other animals, strangers or children can develop into hostile adults. This can be a nuisance to life since you won’t be able to visit dog parks or let your pet mingle with the company.” Professional dog trainer Corrine Gearhart recommends finding a socialization class and scheduling the first session for about a week after your pet arrives.
Gearhart says it’s also important to have grooming appointments if you’re bringing home a dog that has a high grooming need, like a doodle. If you’re worried that their vaccinations aren’t complete, she suggests booking a mobile groomer.
And, most importantly, vet appointments often have to be scheduled weeks in advance, especially if it’s your pet’s first visit. Gearhart advises new pet parents to find a good vet (online reviews are always helpful) and have an initial check-up appointment scheduled for the next business day after bringing your new pet home. If you’ve adopted a pet from a shelter, viruses like upper respiratory infections are common, so it’s a good idea to get veterinary screening right away.
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One thing people worry about is the cost of medical care for a pet. You’ve probably heard scary stories about emergencies and even routine pet care that drain bank accounts. Pet insurance is a good way to offset these costs, but just like human insurance, it’s not something you should rush into.
“Pet insurance can wait until you have more experience caring for your pup. This is because some of the conditions you may be covered for may not yet have arisen,” says Jen Jones, professional dog trainer, behavioral scientist and founder of Your Dog Advisor. That’s why that first appointment with the vet is so important. “If you are a new furry parent, the best thing you can do first is to be able to identify your [pet’s] needs fast…during the first week (or even months) of owning a pet, we don’t know what our pet needs in terms of care and attention,” says Jones.
Just because experts say it’s fine not to have pet insurance immediately, neglecting it in the long run is a major mistake. And one of the most important things to pay attention to is the price of the plan. “I wouldn’t look for the most affordable, I would look for the most reliable,” says Amanda Takiguchi, veterinarian and founder of Trending Breeds. “Pet insurance covers unexpected accidents and illnesses. Depending on the plan you choose, you can also choose to add Routine Care, which provides coverage for preventative health care such as dog cleaning. teeth, vaccinations and deworming up to a certain limit.”
To help choose an insurance provider and plan, Takiguchi says new pet parents should do their research on “the type of animal, its basic needs, the financial projections it needs, the food, the nearest veterinarian, common behavioral problems, common illnesses, the animal’s psychological needs, etc.
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It can be quite confusing trying to decide which type of plan to choose, especially if the money is an object for you. Accident and sickness plans are the most common options, covering accidents and illnesses such as digestive issues, allergies, cancer and infections. Like all insurance, premiums depend on many factors, including the age of the animal, pre-existing conditions being excluded and the deductible.
“Many pet insurance companies offer quotes and tools to find what best suits your needs. You should check them out and do your homework on their coverage. It doesn’t cover routine things like injections and exams. Know what you’re buying,” advises Takiguchi. .
Also consider the age of your pet, as puppies and kittens have different insurance needs than adult pets. “Look for an insurance policy that offers a puppy package,” Caughill says. “Puppies and kittens incur considerable veterinary expenses during their first months.”
Griffin adds that you might want to “pass on a wellness plan since bonuses and routine care appointments end up costing about the same.” She also notes that if your pet has a pre-existing condition (it’s gotten sick or injured), it might be best to suspend coverage altogether. “Pet insurance will only cover new ailments, so you’ll be wasting your money buying it for a current condition.”
If your new pet has an existing condition, Caghill notes that there are certain insurance plans available that “will cover issues unrelated to the pre-existing condition.” He adds that it’s important to be proactive about your pet’s care and be aware that if your pet becomes ill because it hasn’t been vaccinated according to your veterinarian’s advice, many insurance companies will reject a claim.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers a good list of guidelines to follow when selecting pet insurance.