Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paws and Ponder: Things to know before buying your next pet

I have to tell you ahead of time, that although I am going to cover some things that you may not know about acquiring pets, I may jump on my soapbox a time or two in the process. After so many years as a vet tech and animal cruelty investigator, I have seen a lot of things, so I will be nothing but honest in this article. I also realize I will probably make several people angry, but the welfare of the animals is the important thing to me.

While I would like to think that every pet in the shelter would be adopted, I know that not all people will go to the shelter to adopt. I have even met people who refuse to adopt from rescues because they feel their questions are too intrusive.

For me, in a perfect world breeding pets would be highly regulated. I've heard the statement over and over "Its my d*mn (fill in the blank with species), I have a right to breed if I want to as long as I find them good homes!!!" To which I usually reply "Then you also have the right to accompany me to the shelter to euthanize them when they get older and no one wants them."(Spoken by someone who has  had to do the euthanizing and help manage a shelter, by the way. Sorry)

The purpose of this blog is to discuss a few things about acquiring a new pet that are not always considered.

Some simple things to begin with is making sure the puppy/kitten you are acquiring has been properly weened from the mother. The mother is ESSENTIAL to providing proper immunity. The immunity she gives a properly weened puppy lasts about the first 8 weeks of his/her life giving you time to begin vaccinations at 6 weeks as mom's immunity dissipates. Without that, the chances that you are paying for a puppy that will get parvo, distemper and all manner of other issues is very high.

If the puppy has not had this opportunity, and especially if he/she needs to be bottle fed, you had better be experienced. A bottle fed puppy has to eat every 2-4 hours depending on age. Are you prepared to stay up all night? Take him/her to work with you?

Another issue is something it seems people are afraid to talk about. While a teeny tiny tea cup puppy is adorable, they were not supposed to be bred this small and it leads to a number of HUGE problems. Tea Cup Yorkies/Morkies/Maltese/Chihuahuas, are very popular right now and breeders know it. The problem is, even if these puppies make it through weening, their problems are just beginning. First, it is often difficult to get them to eat properly. Their sugar levels plummet so easily, the breeder will most likely tell you to keep honey, syrup, or some other form of glucose (sugar) ready to put into a syringe and force down the pup's throat in order to bring the levels up and keep the puppy out of a coma. I can't tell you how many of these little guys I have seen die. I had to watch the pet parent of one not too long ago cry as the doctor and I were trying to bring the little puppy out of a coma and then having to do CPR to bring back her heartbeat. No matter what we did, we couldn't save her. These puppies, much like bottle fed puppies can't be left alone for this very reason.

Another issue to consider again deals with the genetic manipulation of man. One of the most widely recognized and loved dogs is the English Bulldog. With the big body, no neck, and a pushed in face only a mother could love, they are one of the most expensive dogs to own. Not only do they usually cost in the thousands to buy, they are riddled with health problems. In fact, if you look at the makeup of the dog, they were bred TO have health problems. They are very heat intolerant, have many skin issues and ear problems, and find it very difficult to breed. In all my nearly 20 years in the vet business, I have NEVER met one English Bulldog that was healthy although I am sure at least one exists somewhere. When you are considering a breed, think about these issues. Be prepared to have a very large vet bill for the rest of that pet's life. Some of the surgeries your pet may have to undergo simply to breathe well are found HERE, and they are not inexpensive surgeries. They are also prone to yeast infections in the folds of the skin around the tail, nostrils, and even in the ears.

To me, an indication that a breed should not be bred is when natural breeding or birth cannot occur. It sickens me to see a vet or breeder masturbate a male to collect his semen and then artificially inseminate the female. French and English bulldogs are both good examples of dogs that often must have this done in order to mate. In my time as an animal cruelty investigator, I received calls of animals being used sexually, and to be honest (and I realize I will make people angry), I don't see much difference between the two.

The females of these two can rarely give birth naturally so every single time they must have a painful C-section, then be expected to feed her pups. I don't know about you, but I find that cruel and don't think it needs to be supported. If we would stop buying these breeds or insist that they be bred back to the point that they are healthy, then breeders would change.

I would hope that by now, most people would know that most dogs sold in pet stores are from puppy mills. Puppy mills are horrid places where the breeding pets are kept, most often, in small cages, never really treated like a pet, but a breeding machine. Raids on puppy mills produce terrible images of neglect, feces covered cages, and worse. Yet by the time the puppies get to the store to sell, they have been cleaned up and made to look beautiful but often have underlying diseases. Not to mention the horror their parents are experiencing back home.

Puppy mills are now finding that pet stores will not buy their pets anymore, so they are resorting to the classifieds. A clue you are dealing with a puppy mill is that they advertise several different breeds for sale. Keep in mind, just because a dog comes with AKC papers does NOT mean it has been well taken care of. The only thing it means is that the sire and dam (dad and mom) are known and that the puppies were born on the property.

Tennessee and Virginia (my two local states) both passed legislation in the past few years. Tennessee''s legislation  requires  licensing, inspection and regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders, which is not enough in my opinion. They were finally forced to face the issue after a huge puppy mill facility was raided near Nashville. Read that story HERE

Virginia's reaction was to reduce the number of breeding females allowed on a property. That caused a ton of animals to be begrudgingly turned over to local rescues throughout Southwest Virginia and East TN. One kennel alone in Gate City, Springvale Kennels, owned by Theda Jennings, surrendered dozens of dogs to reduce her number to 29. For that story, click  HERE

If you go to a home, where the individual refuses to let you in the home/facility, insists on meeting you somewhere else, will not even let you see the parents, then walk away. Its a very bad indication.


Next you have backyard breeders. A backyard breeder is described as someone with all or some of the following characteristics. Excessive breeding of a female to the detriment of her health. Poor veterinary care. Tail docking at home instead of under veterinary care. Not properly vaccinating or deworming the pets. Selling the pets on a first come, first serve basis, instead of concern for the pet's future. Lack of knowledge of selective breeding goals. Breeding for fighting, or as bait animals. Allowing breeding without the concern of finding good quality homes and simply adding to the over population problem. And my favorite pet peeve, not even knowing how to spell the name of your breed. She is a CHIHUAHUA not chiwawa. He is a SHIH TZU, not a shit zue.

 I am of the firm belief that if you want to breed animals, you should be trained to do so,  rescue your breed from shelters, and assist in euthanizing shelter pets at least once before you make the decision to breed. Too many breeders insist that their pets never make it to the shelter, but they do. There are tons of purebred dogs in shelters. As the saying goes "don't breed or buy while shelter pets die". So come see what its like to have to participate in euthanizing before you add more pets to the world.

A recent fad in puppy breeding is "designer dogs". Designer dogs are guess what? Mixed breeds that you will pay hundreds of dollars for. No matter how you phrase it, mix a chihuahua with a dachshund and you get a mixed breed dog, often called a mutt. Know where else you can get the biggest selection of awesome designer dogs? Your local shelter. Check them out first and save a life. 












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