"I See Far Too Many Pet-Owners Doing This": Veterinarians Are Sharing Their Most Important Tips For Raising Happy, Healthy Pets

·9 min read

Maybe you have a pet, or maybe you're thinking about getting one. I, for one, got a dog almost six years ago, and it was the best decision I ever made. Taking care of him and giving him the best puppy life has become my top priority.

A dog sitting between a person's legs.
Hannah Loewentheil

That being said, I'm always interested in ways to be a better dog mom and give my dog the best (and longest!) possible life, which is why I couldn't stop scrolling when Redditor u/Feeling2Leafy asked, "Veterinarians of Reddit, what do pet owners ignore the most?" Here's what people said.

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Please note: Every animal is different — and this post is not meant to replace medical advice from a licensed professional. When in doubt, consult your local veterinarian.

1."Research the type of dog breed you are getting to make sure it's the right fit. Of course your dog is bringing you dead mice, he's a Terrier. Your husky needs a lot of exercise. A German Shepherd is probably going to be overprotective. It's in their nature."

A German Shepherd with a toddler.
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2."Shop around for a good vet that you and your pet like and trust. And if something isn't an emergency situation, get a second opinion before doing any big procedures."

A small, white dog at the vet.
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3."Oral hygiene. Personally, I started brushing my dog's teeth early when he was a puppy, and he likes it still today because he likes the flavor of the toothpaste. I'm surprised by how many owners won't even consider tooth brushing. If you start very early, take it slow, and create a positive atmosphere around it. Your dog will learn to not hate it."

4."Unless you can provide the right exercise, do not get a working breed dog. Kelpies, cattle dogs, sheepdogs, huskies, hunting breeds, herding breeds — these breeds are made to run all day, not to sit in your backyard."

A husky sitting in grass.
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5."Get pet insurance ASAP before you start discovering all the lovely pre-existing conditions your pet will have. If you can’t afford a minimal monthly pet insurance, you sure as hell can’t afford a pet."

A woman using a laptop with a puppy sleeping on her.
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6."Stick to vaccine schedules, and go for a booster as soon as your pet is due. Don't wait a few months or even a few weeks. I've seen dogs die of leptospirosis because their owners were behind on the vaccine. Preventative medicines are another thing. Give your dog tick and flea medicine year round, and don't mess with maintaining heart worm medicine — it's not something to mess around with."

A dog wearing a cone.
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7."Please put your unwanted pets up for adoption, or at least put a little effort into finding your pet a future home. Summer is prime season for abandoning pets in the wild, even though many won't survive in nature. Just because a poor pet suddenly doesn't fit into your life doesn't mean it should have to suffer."

A young girl hugging a black dog.
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8."I'd like to see more people focus not just on quantity but quality of their pet's life. The best thing you can do is just incorporate your pet into your life as much as possible. Pay attention to them, love them, give them lots of walks, and play lots of games! You'd be surprised what they can learn. Play hide and go seek, play fetch, sit beside them when you watch TV, pet them, train and socialize them early and well so they are well behaved."

A dog with a sandy nose.
Hannah Loewentheil

9."Look up what plants are toxic to your pet. You'd be surprised what common houseplants are deadly to them. For example, lilies are extremely toxic for cats: Getting some pollen on their fur and licking it up or drinking water out of the vase is enough to cause kidney failure in a few days."

A cat sitting on a window sill.
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10."Deciding the time to put your pet to sleep. Some people say they aren’t ready, which is sad, and I know it’s going to be the hardest choice you’ll ever need to make regarding your little one. But the hard truth is it’s not about you. If your pet is whimpering all night, not eating unless you force feed them one bite at a time, and can’t even walk on its own, it’s time. Most of the time, our animals tell us when they’re ready, and they trust that you’ll do what’s best for them. We have an amazing opportunity with animals, which is to let them go when their quality of life just isn’t there anymore."

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11."Obesity. It's a huge problem for pets. Such a large number of animals are obese that people think it’s normal. They think that even at a totally appropriate weight, animals are too thin. All of those human snacks and treats really add up, so be careful with what you're feeding your pet."

A woman feeding a dog popcorn.
Maryna Terletska / Getty Images

12."Socialize your pup when he's young, and don't let him be possessive over you. When your dog is eating, pick up his food and see his reaction. Is he possessive, or does he not care? Next, try having someone who lives outside the household do the same (be safe, be smart). It may seem like a little thing, but it can help indicate if your dog might have personality traits that would lead to it being possessive or defensive toward the owner, which can be a problem."

A dog and a cat snuggling.
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13."This may seem obvious, but prioritize medical advice from veterinarians. Lots of pet owners are great, but some will blatantly tell vets that they are wrong and that their eight-plus years of education is less valuable than the medical advice they heard on some TikTok or a kid who stocks shelves at the local pet store."

A vet with dogs in crates.

14."Don't be afraid to call your vet and ask questions. I would much rather have an owner ask me rather than Google the answers and self treat or diagnose. Never be afraid of looking stupid when it comes to caring for your pet."

A cat lying on its back.
Fjola Dogg Thorvalds / Getty Images

15."Keep up with preventative care. Once you get a pet, you'll need to stay up to date with vaccines, de-worming, wellness exams, X-rays, dental cleanings, and more."

A dog having its teeth brushed.
Oscar Wong / Getty Images

16."Pay attention to any pain your pet may be experiencing. I have met many owners who have had lame dogs for weeks, yet they didn’t think the animal was in pain. Sometimes, we have even discovered after X-rays that the animal has a fracture. If you think your pet might be in pain, have it checked out."

A person wrapping a dog's paw.
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17."Watching their diet in general. I see a lot of animals being fed inappropriate diets, but the owners refuse to stop feeding their pet an inappropriate diet because 'the animal likes it.'"

A dog looking at a cookie.
Hannah Loewentheil

18."Consider your finances before you choose to get a pet. Yes, you may have paid a pretty penny for your animal, but the costs don't stop after you bring your pet home. They will need a constant supply of food, vitamin and mineral supplements, toys, at-home grooming supplies or trips to the groomer, crates and cage upgrades, etc. And of course, you'll need to pay for vet visits. If you are unable to pay for these things, it's not a good idea to get said pet. You need to consider the pet's needs over your own."

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19."If you own a pet with your spouse or a significant other, make sure to be on the same page and communicate with each other about matters concerning your pet. Determine who should be the contact person for medical decisions and more."

A couple sitting with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.
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20."Please, please, if you live in a place where summers are hot, make sure that you walk in the morning or evening with your dog. And always check if the asphalt is too hot to walk. Put your hand on the road to check. If it is uncomfortable for your hand to be placed on, it'll be uncomfortable for your dog as well."

Closeup of a dog's paw
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21."I believe that one of the best things you can do for your new pet, particularly a puppy or kitten, is to handle it frequently when it is young. Getting them used to having their feet handled, nails trimmed, mouths opened (even more benefit if you get them used to brushing their teeth daily), and ears touched (especially breeds prone to ear infections)."

A person cutting a kitten's nails.
Lekcej / Getty Images/iStockphoto

22."Consider the long-term horizon. A lot of people don't seem to realize that some birds like parrots can potentially live for decades. People are just nonchalantly like, 'Oh, I want a funny talking bird,' and don't realize they will be living with said talking animal for 65 years."

A colorful bird in a cage.
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23."Give your pet proper exercise. 90% of the behavioral problems I see are because your 20-minute walk each day isn't enough for your large breed canine in the house who needs lots of movement and exercise."

A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever jumping.
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24."Rather than just getting them a bunch of toys and hoping that keeps them entertained, just sit on the floor and actually interact with them! Play time establishes a connection and is cheaper than a bunch of fancy products that you toss to them and hope they get enthralled."

A Golden Retriever puppy playing in grass.
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25."Please stop feeding fad diets. Grain-free diets are linked to heart disease in dogs. That farmer's or raw diet you've been feeding your dog isn't formulated by a vet, so it could be less nutritious or even deadly. Feed a trusted brand. We say this not because we get kickbacks, but because these brands have veterinary nutritionists make their formulas."

A person holding a bowl of dog food in front of their dog
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Are you a vet? What advice would you give to pet-owners? Or if you're a pet owner, what do you wish you knew sooner?