Dogs… A friendly, fun, beautiful friend for life. There doesn’t seem to be any downside to welcoming a four-legged bundle of joy into your life, does there? The truth is, there are some serious welfare and economic implications to consider before you make this massive commitment…
1. Meeting your dog’s emotional needs
Dogs haven’t earned the title of “Man’s Best Friend” through not enjoying human company! Dogs need a lot of attention and entertainment; they are clever and affectionate, and not giving them sufficient time for company or training can result in distressed dogs who resort to chewing furniture, howling and defecating or urinating in the house.
Ideally, dogs should not be left alone all day while we work our “9 – 5”s (or longer!). If your work or family commitments would not allow for you to provide your dog with checks throughout the day, it may be worth considering “doggy day care”, where they can interact with other dogs, be walked and given affection, or hiring a dog walker.
Training and mental stimulation
Dogs thrive on positive training; whether you are rehoming an older dog or getting a puppy, taking your dog to training classes, or classes such as agility, will be good for your dog’s obedience – not to mention a lot of fun for both dog and owner!
2. Meeting your dog’s physical needs
There is so much variety within dog breeds, and it goes without saying that a Springer Spaniel or a Labrador Retriever will need more walking than a toy breed, such as a Chihuahua! Meeting your dog’s physical needs will involve lots of exercise; this is good for stimulating their minds through exploring new environments, and keeping their cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems healthy. Obesity is a growing issue worldwide in the dog population, and ensuring your dog has lots of entertaining walks is one (fun!) way to ward off the health issues associated with obesity.
Another major physical need of your pet is for the correct diet. Choosing a nutritious diet is important, and it’s worth remembering that dogs have slightly different nutritional needs from humans - so feeding leftovers isn’t a recipe for a happy healthy pooch! Instead, we’d usually recommend a balanced dog food from a quality, reputable manufacturer (we can advise you if needed). While it is possible to perfect a home-prepared diet, it takes time and effort, and isn’t for novices! Some dogs require specialist diets, such as diets for sensitive tummies, or lower calorie diets after neutering/spaying. It is worth investigating this, and discussing with your vet which diets are available for your dog’s specific needs.
3. Meeting your dog’s health needs
Buying a puppy comes with more veterinary costs, too. The only place you can legally buy puppies from is petshops who usually source their dogs from overseas. Occasionally, this can be a nightmare with incubation periods of viral diseases - you purchase a seemingly healthy puppy and a week later it comes down with a possibly fatal disease. Parvovirus is common and distemper makes an appearance as well in these puppies - you need to be prepared for sudden and unexpected bills.
But even if your dog doesn’t have any major medical issues or accidents, the cost of regular flea, fly and worm treatments alongside vaccinations can really add up, and are necessary to keep your dog happy and enjoying life. Other costs include dental procedures if your dog is not compliant with teeth-brushing, so these also need to be budgeted for.
Many vets will advise you to neuter or spay your dog when it is old enough, for the long-term health benefits. Such benefits include decreased risk of testicular cancer in dogs, or the decreased risk of mammary and uterine cancers, or womb infections (pyometras) in bitches. A puppy will need a series of vaccinations for its first ever sets of vaccines. Remember, a puppy can be a 15 year commitment or longer!
Sadly, pet insurance is not yet available here. However, you should put aside for a rainy day - to cover both travelling your dogs back to your home country unexpectedly (a significant cost), and severe illnesses which are unlikely but may happen, and may need MRI or CT, or intensive care.
Price alone is not the only feature of your dog’s health; you will need the time and ability to access a vet’s practice, should you need to for emergencies or routine health care. It is always worth discussing with a vet prior to getting a dog, to see whether they think you can meet a dog’s requirements.
To conclude, if you can provide a safe and happy home for your dog, where you are prepared to foot the bills for your dog’s life and provide affection and entertainment, dogs can be an incredibly enriching friend to share your life with. Dogs are also sentient, living creatures with needs which we have a responsibility to meet as owners. Please discuss with one of our vets if you are considering getting a four-legged friend, and we wish you a long and happy life together!
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” - Groucho Marx