Are you planning to become a pet parent? Are you already living with a non‑human creature?
It’s a joy to share your life with animals, and it’s also a big responsibility.
Planning for pet care is part of the process.
Luckily, there are plenty of excellent resources out there to help you choose the right pet for your lifestyle, get your home ready to share it with a pet, and connect you with assistance to make sure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.
Pets Are Good for Us
Living with a pet improves our hearts, bodies, and minds. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has plenty of studies on the animal‑human bond that prove the positive benefits of living with pets.
The organization also tracks how many people currently live with pets: 85 million U.S. households.
In addition to the physical benefits of daily walks with dogs, pets also help people manage mental health problems by providing security and routine and contributing to a stronger sense of identity. They also help distract people from distressing thoughts and behaviors.
And because living with pets keeps us more active, connected, and healthy, HABRI estimates that pet ownership saves an estimated $11.7 billion in health care costs each year.
Choosing the Right Pet
Bringing a pet into your life and household is an important decision. You’ll need to make sure that you’ve considered questions like the amount of time and space you have for your pet, who will care for them in your absence, and the rules of your current living situation.
What are you looking for? A snuggle companion, or an active dog that can go on long walks or runs with you?
Dogs and cats have different needs, and every single animal has a unique personality. Have you thought about your lifestyle and what type of pet could best adapt?
Planning for Veterinary Care
Since animals give us so much in return, part of the deal is that we are responsible for keeping them healthy. Keeping a pet healthy through routine care can get expensive, but resources are available.
Just like humans, dogs and cats need annual check-ups to keep them up to date on vaccinations and boosters, check their weight and body condition, look in their mouths for signs of dental problems, and test their skin, blood, poop, and pee for possible health issues.
As dogs and cats get older, other needs arise. Sometimes they need to visit the vet more often as they develop health issues. Some health issues can be slow to develop, while others can be noticed quickly. When our pets reach the ends of their lives, we have some important decisions to make about how to keep them comfortable, how many tests and treatments to do, and whether euthanasia is a good option.
It helps to have a list of questions to ask your vet before visiting a clinic.
Making Veterinary Care Affordable for All
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 6.3 million pets enter shelters every year.
We know that one of the top reasons why pets are dropped off at shelters is because their owners cannot afford the veterinary care their pets require. Often, shelter veterinarians can provide the necessary care, and the pet can then become healthy enough to be adopted out. We think it’s silly to ask someone to hand over their pet to a shelter so that the shelter can provide the necessary veterinary care and then try to find a new owner. Many shelters are asking themselves why they should continue doing that.
With active discussions about how to reduce pet homelessness, some shelters are now offering veterinary care for those pet parents who otherwise couldn’t afford it, such as dental procedures and surgeries other than the traditional spay or neuter. Of course, if an animal is suffering and no amount of care can sustain that animal with a reasonable quality of life, then that animal may be euthanized for humane reasons.
The ASPCA estimates that fewer than one million shelter pets are euthanized each year. These numbers are decreasing as shelters and rescues work to increase the number of pets returned to their previous owners and provide more comprehensive veterinary services for the pets in their care. We love that shelters are starting to work with pet parents and not just with homeless pets.
A nationwide movement is growing to address the needs of people who struggle to get access to quality veterinary care. Access to vet care is a social justice issue and a public health issue, not just a poverty issue. More and more vets are offering hardship discounts, and organizations are springing up to address this growing need.
I founded One Health Organization in 2008 because I believe that all pet owners deserve access to high‑quality veterinary care. I continue to be amazed at the difference we are making for low‑income pet parents in northeast Ohio. From 2014 to the time of this writing, our Veterinary Care Voucher Program has provided 1,204 vet visits for dogs and 625 visits for cats. With the generous support of our donors, we’ve helped 1,170 households by covering necessary veterinary care and keeping pets and people together. By the time you read this, those numbers will be higher.
That’s a lot of healthy animals. And healthy animals make humans happier and healthier.