Adopting a new pet can be an exciting time for any family, but it's important that you not allow the excitement to overwhelm your better judgment. Prior to adopting any pet, you need to know certain things about the animal's background, medical history, parentage and temperament. Failing to find out these details can lead to disastrous results for you, your family, and your new pet.
What You See Isn't Always What You Get
Any pet over 9 weeks old should have some kind of veterinary history already established before you agree to adopt the animal. Even if this is simply to administer the first round of vaccinations, and/or spay or neuter them, it really should be addressed before an animal is available for adoption from any shelter or breeder. Unfortunately, this isn't always something you can detect with the naked eye, so make sure you ask about any procedures your new pet has gone through, and ask for the name and phone number of the veterinarian responsible. This way you can confirm what you're told, and you'll already have an existing record with a local veterinary office.
Slightly less important than your new pet's medical history is their parentage, which can tell you a lot about how the animal will grow and develop, as well as providing some insight into what you can expect behaviorally. If you're adopting from a shelter, make sure the person who identified the animal's heritage is qualified to do so. When in doubt, have a veterinarian provide their best approximation based on age, weight, size and other physical characteristics, rather than waiting to find out until it's too late.
Avoid a Ticking Time Bomb
When adopting older animals, and especially animals from a shelter, make sure that due diligence was given to identifying and rehabilitating problematic behaviors and temperament. Food guarding, over-excited behaviors, and any other signs of aggression should never be brought into your home, unless you're equipped and capable of addressing those issues. Nervous habits and anxious behaviors should also be identified, as these can result in nuisances to you or your neighbors, including destruction of furniture and incessant barking.
Background fuels behavior, so it's important that the animal's social history be disclosed as well. If the animal was a surrender to a shelter, find out if there were signs of abuse or neglect during their assessment period. These can lead to future behavioral issues that may not yet have manifested during the animal's stay with the shelter. They can't fix what they don't know is broken, but you should still be ready for the possibility of problems.
There's a lot you should know about any animal you bring into your home. A good dog or cat can be a welcome addition, and should enrich your household, but an animal with behavior or medical problems can be a liability, or even a threat. Don't put your family at risk because of your own ignorance.
Contact a center like Pilot Knob Animal Hospital to learn more.