Some thoughts for the new year Print E-mail
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Saturday, 22 January 2022 06:25
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

The other day I saw New Year’s resolutions described, probably realistically, as a “to do” list for the first week of January.

Let’s face it, we are unlikely to change habits of old unless there is really a good negative or positive incentive, but let’s try a few on behalf of our pets.

Mine are snoring in the bedroom as I write this. I am sure that many of us, not just those who are die-hard dog and cat lovers, came to realise the value our pets have for our wellbeing. Over the past two years with Covid lockdowns, self-isolation, getting Covid and the stress of an extra work load, my animals have really helped me keep my sanity.

They bring together the perfect combination of loyalty and companionship without strings, goofiness and silly play and also the feeling of personal safety when you have your dogs with you – be it at home or on a trip. All you have to do is . . . well, a whole lot of stuff. You have to feed them, house them, keep them healthy, pick up poop and love them back.

Let’s begin 2022 by making some healthy choices for your pets. Looking after your pets to the best of your financial ability is one of those responsibilities and it’s not a one size fits all approach.

Parasite control is vital, especially on the outlying suburbs where ticks are prevalent. There are a range of products to do the job: The more expensive ones being convenient and lasting longer; the less expensive ones are no less effective, but require a little more effort and frequent application.

Buy the best food you can afford. Don’t judge supermarket brands against premium brands in a cost per kilogram manner. Expensive food often lasts longer as the dog or cat needs to eat less of it.

So, compare products by calculating the cost per day to feed. Balance this against the amount of poop you need to collect. Expensive food is more digestible, so less leaves by the back end and what does is generally of a firmer consistency, which is a distinct advantage in a smaller property or if you have a weak stomach.

From a health perspective and as a veterinarian I want to advise that instead of avoiding things you notice are wrong, rather have them attended to earlier. Wanting to stick your head into the sand is a natural reflex – what I don’t see can’t hurt me. Even I do it when I notice something is not right with one of my pets.

One just doesn’t want to have to deal with what it might all be – either you’re stressed or too busy or don’t want to imagine anything too serious or too expensive. But, delaying these things often means that by the time you do visit your vet it is too late for effective treatment. Or the treatment is more expensive than it would have been.

Rather bite the bullet, visit the vet and get a probable diagnosis. You can then make an informed decision on how you want to proceed further. It may still be a big, serious problem or you may have nipped something in the bud.

Set aside a small health care budget for your pet as an insurance policy, or better yet, take out pet health insurance. There are several offerings available, all underwritten by big insurance firms.

Make sure you read the small print and exclusions. You can get accidental cover only – dog bite wounds, broken bones, foreign bodies, poisonings, laceration, motor vehicle accidents – for less than R100 a month.

Having this financial backup can take a lot of the awful cost-related decision making on treatment options away from you and your veterinarian. This allows us to do what we should be doing – treating animals we can treat – and not euthanizing due to financial constraints.

And finally, the New Year’s resolution we all love to hate: Weight control. I leave you with one thought . . . Your pet does not open the fridge or cupboard and pour food into their own bowls.

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