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Pet essentials – 10 things you really need to buy for your pet

If you’ve just acquired a new pet – whether that’s a rescue or a puppy or kitten, part of the fun is shopping for all the things they need. But before you splurge or buy with your heart rather than your head, make sure you have all the pet essentials. While potentially less glamorous, the pet essentials will ensure that your pet is healthy and happy.

1.       Vaccination

Most people are aware that a new puppy needs to have vaccinations (sometimes just referred to as injections, or jabs) but adult dogs must have booster vaccinations too. The full course of vaccination needs to be given to provide protection and includes two or three vaccinations a few weeks apart. If you have taken on an adult dog you should have been supplied with proof of vaccination and the vaccination card should tell you when your dog’s next booster is due. If you don’t have the name of your pet’s last vet, or a vaccination card, then do speak to your own vet and find out whether your dog needs to have a primary course of vaccinations (starting from scratch) or if a booster vaccination is necessary. Cats and kittens also need to be vaccinated, both with a first course of injections (usually two spaced several weeks apart) and subsequently boosters.

2.       Parasite control

Worming is an essential part of puppy and kitten care – protecting not just your puppy or kitten but also the health of your family. A good breeder will have put in place a good worming routine and your new puppy or kitten should already have had treatment for worms. However, regular worming should continue once your puppy or kitten is in its new home and adult dogs should also be wormed regularly.
Roundworms can affect the health of children if the worm eggs are swallowed, therefore all dogs should be wormed regularly for roundworm, you should always pick up dog waste straight away (or at least daily in your own garden) and make sure that everyone washes their hands after handling dogs and cats, especially puppies and kittens. There are also other parasitic worms that dogs and cats can pick up that can be harmful to their health, so ask your vet about regular worming.

3.       Pet insurance

As with human medicine, there have been tremendous advances in veterinary care. From MRI and CT scans to chemotherapy, pets can benefit from top quality diagnostics and medicines and some vets are specialists in treating certain diseases. But this care does come at a cost. Pet insurance can be there for the times when your pet gets ill unexpectedly and means that financing the cost of treatment doesn’t have to be your first concern, allowing you to focus on helping your pet get better.  The cost of insurance and the level of cover can vary a lot between providers, so do shop around to get the best deal  and level of cover and ask other pet owners for their recommendations.

4.       Neutering

Preventing your female pet from having unwanted litters is the most well understood benefit of neutering but there are health benefits too. A male pet is neutered by castration – which means removing the testicles. Female pets are neutered by removing their ovaries and uterus. In male pets, the neutering operation also helps prevent male cats from roaming and getting involved in fights and in dogs it can sometimes help prevent some kinds of aggression and wandering. In females, removal of the ovaries means the pet no longer experiences ‘heat’ or ‘seasons’. This is one of the reasons that the simpler operation of ‘tying the tubes’ isn’t usually performed as leaving the ovaries would mean the pet would still come into season with all the difficulties that entails.
Cats can get pregnant at an early age and get pregnant again shortly after giving birth. This continuous cycle quickly wears down female cats so many are neutered at around 5-6 months or even earlier.
Depending on the age at neutering, some protection against mammary tumours (breast cancer) can be gained and womb infections which are common in older dogs can be prevented.  Talk to your vet about the neutering routine at their practice and the benefits to your pet.

5.       Food bowl (and food!)

You are what you eat – and a healthy diet is a must at any stage of your pet’s life. There is a great deal of choice about how to feed and any food must be nutritionally balanced and provide all the nutrients your pet needs.
Cats are obligate carnivores – meaning they must be fed meat and dogs also have specific nutritional requirements. It might seem tempting to feed your pet the same food as you eat, but that’s not going to be nutritionally appropriate, nor is it necessarily what your pet would choose to eat. Unless your pet has been fed a totally inappropriate diet it is better to keep to the same food at least in the short term after first arriving at your home. Make any changes gradually by adding new food to the previous food and increasing the amount of new food over a couple of weeks.
Think about how you offer food. Stainless steel bowls are easy to clean while ceramic bowls don’t tend to be moved round the floor during eating. Plastic food bowls may have to be replaced from time to time as they can absorb odours and some dogs will chew them. How food is presented does matter a lot and some pets will refuse food if the presentation differs from what they have become accustomed to – for instance placing food bowls on a mat, or in a certain location in a room.

6.       Water bowls

We have used the word bowls rather than bowl quite deliberately here. Pets should not have restricted access to water unless there is specific veterinary advice applying to an individual pet. Several drinking stations around the home will ensure that your pet always has the opportunity to stay hydrated. Ceramic bowls are a good choice or stainless steel bowls in weighted stands. Drinking fountains are a great choice for pets that prefer to drink from running water.

7.       Training aids

Whether it’s a food treats or a clicker, rewarding good behaviour is a real essential if you want a well behaved pet. From walking on the lead, to toilet training and responding to you when you call, all positive behaviour should be rewarded. Even old dogs (and cats) can learn new tricks, so give it a go!

8.       Brush or comb
A matted coat can cause pain, pinching and pulling at your pet’s skin. Regular brushing or combing is the only option. Long-haired breeds will usually need to be combed to remove tangles but many short-haired breeds can be brushed to remove dead skin scales and stimulate oil production to bring back shine. Dogs with pendulous ear flaps may benefit from regular cleaning to remove wax build up and those with deep skin folds may need regular cleaning using wipes formulated for dog skin.

9.       Toothbrush

While we are on the topic of pet personal hygiene, yes pets’ teeth need to be brushed too! A bit of time and patience at the start is needed but regular brushing can keep your pet’s gums and teeth clean and healthy. Infected gums can have a big influence on your pet’s overall health, so it’s well worth the effort. Use a veterinary toothpaste that’s formulated for cats and dogs – as the enamel of their teeth is softer than human enamel and also they can’t rinse and spit so can suffer an upset tum if they swallow toothpastes designed for people.

10.   Collar and identity disc

Did you know that even if your dog is microchipped – and by April next year that will be compulsory for dogs – it must still wear a collar with the owner’s name and address attached as a plate or disc? It’s a legal obligation of dog ownership. Many cat owners choose not to put a collar on their cat for safety concerns. Do keep in mind though that a collar with a bell provides a warning and protection for birds and wildlife if your cat is a hunter.
Sometimes a collar alone isn’t the best option when taking your pet for a walk especially if training isn’t complete and the dog still pulls on the leash, has previously suffered a neck injury, or if it is difficult to fit a collar in such a way that the pet is safe and secure. A headcollar or harness can be a good option in these cases.