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Holidays bring extra issues for pet owners
By Dr. Joel D. Ray Jr.
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As gifts, travel companions or left-behind loved ones, pets need special attention by responsible owners during the holidays to ensure their long-term health and happiness.
Holidays provide opportunities to give pets as presents, but this isn’t always a good idea. Pet ownership involves a tremendous amount of responsibility, and it may be unfair to make that decision for someone else. Unlike other gifts that may be returned, pets are rarely exchangeable. Consider the following questions before giving a pet as a gift:
- Will the pet get adequate health care and preventive health maintenance?
- Does the recipient have enough time to devote to the pet?
- Will the pet be going to a safe environment?
- Who will be responsible for spaying or neutering the pet?
Giving exotic pets requires more forethought as they have different needs than the usual domestic pet. Many exotics have specific nutritional, care and environmental requirements that require research before accepting the pet. Some exotics have a short life span that may create devastation after an emotional attachment develops, while some can live 50 to 70 years, possibly outliving their owner.
Updating vaccinations can prevent sickness whether your pet is traveling with you or being boarded. Many of the conditions pets are vaccinated for, such as rabies, intestinal parasites or lyme disease, can also affect humans. Keeping pet vaccinations updated provides a safeguard for the entire family.
Many boarding facilities require the Bordetella vaccine, and it is a good idea to get this vaccine booster 10 days before the boarding session.
You must have interstate travel certificates if traveling with your pet across state lines in a car or plane. These federal documents are valid for 30 days and may be obtained from a federally accredited veterinarian.
International travel requires more prep work. You must coordinate with the country of your destination before travel documents may be issued. Remember to plan for this, as these papers require federal approval before departure. Ask your veterinarian for further information about obtaining these important travel documents.
Believe it or not, the holidays can cause our pets to become stressed. As you welcome friends and family to your home, pets’ home turf is being invaded by unfamiliar people, sights and sounds. When pets need a break from all of the activities, they sometimes stray from home.
Proper pet identification can provide a quick reunion if the unthinkable separation occurs. A simple tag on your pet that includes contact information for you or your veterinarian is a good safeguard.
Microchipping is becoming increasingly popular. The microchip is a tiny implant placed under the skin of your pet to provide a permanent means of identification. When registration information is current, a found pet can be scanned and identified, and the owner can be notified. Contact your local veterinarian for more information on getting your pet a microchip.
The clinicians and staff at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine want to encourage you and your family to follow these basic safety precautions to help keep pets happy and healthy this holiday season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Joel D. Ray Jr. is a native of Mississippi and an assistant clinical professor with MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.