What does it take to be a good pet owner? The answer definitely varies from person to person. One person may be comfortable leaving their dog outside to play all day while someone else prefers to carry their dog around in a purse to keep their paws clean. Are they both right? No one can say for sure, but perhaps those who studied to take care of their animals professionally might have a clue.
Reddit user, u/Vischen25, wanted to know:
Here's A Quick List
Vet assistant here. Good owners usually do the following.
- Pay for recommend tests and meds when the pet is sick.
- Have a well groomed and clean yorkie, shih tzu, cocker spaniel, ect
- Stay up to date on preventative care, like vaccines and flea and heartworm prevention.
- Follow the doctors diet advice (not feeding grain free, uneducated raw diets, or sh-t kibble).
- Stay with their pet when it is euthanized. No animal should die without their beloved owner around.
Never Let Someone's Appearance Dictate Your Thoughts
Don't let appearances fool you.
When I was a tech, I had a client come in with a dog who was sick with parvo. He had holes all over his clothes, basically looking homeless. Made an estimate for him and assumed he wouldn't pay for treatment (I've had so many clients do this and didn't help we were located at the "poor" side of town). To my surprise, he signed the estimate, left a deposit, dog stayed with us for a week and got better, and he came in every day to visit and pay. That made me happy and realized that not all people are turds towards their pets.
Asking. Always Asking.
Vet tech, not a vet. To me, one clear sign that someone is a good pet parent is when their pet is fully vetted (appropriate vaccines or titers, preventative medications, yearly or bi-annually check ups, yearly dental cleanings). Another to me is when the client asks questions about what's the best for their pet (food/diet, medications, titers vs yearly vaccines, exercise, etc). While money doesn't automatically make you a good pet parent, when the above are taken care of it indicates, to me, that they're good pet parents and their pets' needs are met.
Enough Love, Just Not Enough Education
Vet assistant here.
We had this big biker cone in with his Bassett Hound. Overweight but not bad. Happy other than "walking funny."
The Dr did the exam and the dog's nails were so long they curled down and back into the pads. Poor guy must have been in SO much pain.
I was seeing red... Yes he brought him in but my GOD how could he have left it that long!!!
I was in the room with the vet when they were showing the owner the injuries and telling him it would require sedation to trim the nails and clean the wounds.
This big burly guy started SOBBING. He said that the dog mostly rode with him on his bike, in front of him on a lambskin covering the gas tank of the bike. He would carry him everywhere not on the bike.
It really hit me then that there was nothing but love for the dog, just not enough education for the human.
Keep The Relationship Split
Controversial: I have a weird aversion to the whole '[pet] parent' thing. I generally think anyone who refers to themselves as Mummy or Dad when talking to their pet is treating them like a human.
Animals should not be treated like humans, they have their own needs and the best animal husbandry reflects that.
"We can tell when you love your pet..."
We can tell when you love your pet, the way you talk and interact with them - it's obvious. I always tell people their pets are cute/handsome/pretty (even when I don't necessarily think so) and the people's whose faces light up and smile and agree are always cute to watch. But honestly just be responsible. Get them their yearly checkups, keep up on their vaccines, when they're sick take them in right away and don't wait, when they're older get them their yearly bloodwork, and keep up on any medications they need.
And if your pet is sick and we recommend tests but you can't afford it, tell us! Sometimes there are other options or resources we know of, and sometimes we can go step by step so it's not so much at once. Oh, and please keep up on your pets dental health. I know it's expensive but the amount of people that tell me their 10 year old dog is acting like a puppy again after losing rotten teeth is astonishing.
Taking them to the vet when they clearly need to go.
My mother ignored our family dog's itchy butt for weeks. Then I brought her to stay over one night, and noticed she dragged her butt across the floor way more excessively than normal. I gave her butt a look and saw rice. Tapeworm. Told my mother that she needed to go to the vet, and she was in denial and f-cking ignored it for another week or so until she woke up in bed one morning and there were tapeworm segments everywhere in bed.
Be Ready To Let Them Go
Maybe a controversial one, but being ready to let go when the time comes. We see it all the time; pet parents who are too scared to say goodbye and keep paying for expensive treatments which can make a pet live longer, but doesn't improve their quality of life. I'm 100% behind putting up a fight and doing anything you can to save a pet's life, but living in pain is very hard and a lot to ask of an animal who can't accurately describe their pain to you.
If there's one thing I've learned it's that some people love by hanging on, and others love by letting go. It's hard, but it's usually the right thing to do.
Do You Consider Your Pets Points Of View?
The biggest thing is really do you think of things from your pets point of view. I don't care if you look up things on the internet and ask about them. You should. There are lots of different ways for pets to die/be euthanized and we do recommend a "hospice" idea that makes their end as comfortable as possible and that a lot depends on the pet and you and the pet's condition. (Maybe they'd like to be outside, for example.)
But if people think from their pets point of view, and if they spend a lot of time with them, it's a good sign. For example, if someone asks "Will my puppy get bored in their crate all day while I'm at work?" (Yes.) I feel a lot better about them than if they say, "He peed in his crate again!" without thinking "maybe he couldn't wait that long." If people go on walks with them, describe activities they like, have games with them, just ENJOY each other, that's a sign there is a real relationship there, and not just some random being lurking around your house that you're not paying attention to.
I don't mind if you treat your dog like a "person." I don't even know what that means. Should you respect them? Yes. Think about their happiness (which you are solely responsible for)? Yes. If you have in your mind that your pet, like you, gets bored, needs exercise, needs attention, likes to have fun, doesn't like feeling itchy or sick or lonely, and you are attentive to those things and getting help when necessary, that's all good!
Counterpoint: Not Everyone Can Be Present
I want to add a comment that someone is NOT a bad owner if they are unable to be with their pet when it is euthanized. I see way too many posts about how they die looking for their owner while feeling so alone and sad. This is not true. I have been present for quite a few. It's a quick procedure that is basically an overdose of sedative. My father is a veterinarian and also holds the same belief; if you are unable to be there for your pet because it will be too difficult emotionally, physically, or whatever reason, you are not a bad owner. When a pet is euthanized at our hospital, there are always at least two assistants providing love and care while the pet is euthanized if the owner is unable to make it.
Be Open And Ready To Listen
- They listen to you, instead of trying to convince you that what they read on google is true
- They can answer all your questions about what the pet eats/where it sleeps/what it does during the day
- They don't try to humanize their pet by treating it like a baby. They understand first and foremost that it's a dog/cat, not a person
Google Is Not A Veterinarian
They take your advice over google. They ask about when should they see a vet again. They know their habits. They prepare for unforeseen events (or try to). They treat them like a member of their family.
Put In Lots Of Effort
Small animal veterinarian here.
1. A willingness to listen to, and gasp maybe even follow, the recommendations I make for care, especially for routine things like vaccines, individualized dietary needs, or preventative health. I can tell when owners think they know more than I do and don't bother trying to inform and educate some who are stuck in their ways...e.g. that feeding raw meat is superior to cooked, that vaccines do more harm than good, or that Dogsnaturally.com is a reputable source of information. I love when my owners want to talk about health matters - if you have an open mind, I am a wealth of information!
2. Putting in the effort at home to care for your pet. Dogs and cats are not house ornaments. Both require socialization, interaction, some grooming, and attention. Not every pet is happy to come to see me, and I understand that, but if you don't pay attention to whether or not your pet is eating (or even what they are eating), never know what their stool looks like, and don't know what medications they are on, it makes my job a lot harder. Knowing these answers to the questions I ask shows you care!
3. Being willing to actually come see me and put in some effort when your pet is sick. Look, I'm sorry, guys. Medical care costs money. Treating your pet for free takes money away from the hospital and the people who work there. Veterinarians aren't rich, and most clinics operate on thin margins. That being said, I will do everything I can to help within your individual limits, even if it's not the best approach medically. Yes, sometimes that means in the worst cases, euthanasia for a problem that is too costly to fix but would cause nothing but pain suffering if left untreated. I understand we all have limits, and you can be a great caregiver without endless disposable income. But if you expect me to magically fix your ailing pet with no exam, no diagnostics, and get angry that we have to charge for these things to keep our doors open, you lose sympathy in my eyes.
In short, look after your pets' health, put in the effort to care for them, and try to listen to your doctor.
One additional edit: If a pet is at a healthy weight. Granted, that is not a guarantee that a pet has a great owner, nor is an owner of an overweight pet necessarily bad, but an ideal weight usually means that the owner is willing to put in the effort to keep a pet healthy!
A Sign They're NOT A Good Owner
On the flip side, a person is generally a bad pet owner if, when frightened in the vet office, their pet goes to a staff member for comfort and reassurance instead of to their owner.
Never Let The Way You Look Be How You Take Care Of Pet
I'll never forget (as an assistant) a big biker dude (tats, glasses, beard, sour expression the whole thing!) Kneeling down besides his cat who was getting his temperature checked, cupping its head in his hands and whispering "Oh baby, I know... Oh my little flower petal, I wouldn't like that too... Don't cry, it will be over soon"
And I absolutely melted for him!
Dude was scary to look at before that but after that I saw a whole different kind of person.
There's No Special Tricks. Just Listen.
Being a responsible owner is completely relative to each situation. Yes, make your preventative care appointments on time and follow all vaccine/diet/annual recommendations. But also how you treat your pet (and your vet) in less routine checkups and sick visits says a lot. People can have all the money in the world and be terrible owners. On the other hand, the way people behave and make decisions in the face of financial limitations is also really telling.
Owners that are willing to listen to me and make reasonable and informed decisions in the interest of their pet (even if we can't reach a gold standard plan) are good pet parents. You don't have to be a millionaire to be a good pet parent. Be nice to your vet and know that the health and wellbeing of your little buddy is always top priority!