By Bernard Freeman
Finding a Good Vet
It’s not easy placing your furry friend in the hands of a stranger. You’ll need the advice and guidance of an expert in order to keep pets healthy, safe and happy.
Finding the right fit isn’t easy, however, since prospective veterinarians have to be both learned and a good fit with your particular animal. They’ll be there for regular checkups, offer informed answers when concerns arise, and supply emergency help should there be a mishap. So you need to have the utmost comfort in the relationship.
That may mean visiting a number of offices in your area, asking specific questions while providing detailed information about your pet and their health history.
Your pet will likely arrive at the vet’s office in an agitated state, if for no other reason than the unfamiliar surroundings. Check that the staff will give them comforting, personalized service. Does the staff and doctor work with a friendly disposition, discussing things completely with you while genuinely caring for your pet? Try to meet as many members of the care team as possible, in order to make sure your comfort level is where it needs to be. Ask neighbors and friends, and read online reviews to see a full picture.
Beyond regular checkups, some issues with your pet may take place after regular work hours. Discuss the prospect with the vet’s office. Find out the practice policy for after-hours care and emergency visits, including whether they handle these issues on site and extra charges. Is there a separate emergency number, or should you call the regular office? Does the veterinarian make emergency calls to your home, or must the pet be brought in? How these offices handle these critical services could play a huge role in choosing.
Caring for a pet unfortunately involves more than cuddles and long walks together. The costs of health care can quickly add up, depending on the vet’s pricing structures. Ask how much they charge for specific regularly needed services, including wellness checks, basic surgery and flea treatments. If the practice lists costs that are out of your budget, you may need to continue shopping around. Note that some veterinarian offices offer targeted discounts for those who’ve served in the military and for seniors, so inquire if you qualify. Those with more than one pet can sometimes receive discounts too, since the practice will garner lots of business from one family.
Spaying and Neutering
You can play an important role in the fight against pet homelessness. There are also key behavioral and medical benefits associated with getting this simple procedure done.
Millions of healthy dogs and cats are euthanized every year because they’re never adopted, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pets also may develop negative behavior traits if they’re not spayed or neutered — particularly at a young age.
KNOW THE BENEFITS
Neutered males are less likely to mark their territory, meaning few messes around your home. Male pets also tend to wander more while looking for a mate when they aren’t neutered. This puts your pet at risk for injuries due to fighting with other animals or neighborhood traffic.
Common diseases are also associated with animals that haven’t been fixed, including breast tumors which can happen quite often in both dogs and cats. The chances are lessoned even more if you have this procedure done before their first round of heat.
HOW IT WORKS
Surgical sterilization involves the targeted removal of the pet’s reproductive organs. When pets are spayed, the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes are removed. Neutered pets have their testes removed. In both cases, surgery eliminates behavior relating to the breeding instinct. While these are the most common procedures, others may choose a hysterectomy, where the ovaries remain; a vasectomy, where the connecting tubes from the testes are removed; or an ovariectomy, where only the ovaries are removed. There are also nonsurgical options, but in these cases breeding-instinct behaviors may remain.
KNOW THE MYTHS
Many misconceptions have grown around neutering or spaying pets. Some people believe that the procedure leads to issues with being overweight, but this problem is related to lack of adequate exercise and overfeeding. The surgery is straightforward and without huge risk. Anesthesia is required, and there is a slight chance that related problems may occur. But getting your pet fixed is one of the most common veterinary procedures. While it’s true that getting this done can be expensive, there are low or no-cost options. Some clinics specialize in helping those who can’t afford it, while others have special programs where spaying or neutering is offered as a discount and bundled with adoption. Visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website for more information and to find a clinic located in your area.
Becoming a Pet Sitter
Animal lovers can be a source of comfort while owners are away. If you’re passionate about pets, you may be able to earn a living caring for them.
Pet owners looking for more personalized attention may look to pet sitters instead of commercial boarding options when they’re away. Staying home or with a familiar friend can create a familiar, comforting environment for animals who may be stressed about being left behind.
Typically, these pets need to be looked after for lengthy stints when people are away on business trips or vacations. That may involve staying over at the owner’s home, or sometimes bringing the pet to your own. Some even employ pet sitters for every day absences during work hours.
WHAT THEY DO
It all starts with TLC. People are leaving their pets with you in the hopes that they’ll be cared for in an individualized, loving way. That means tailoring play and interactions to the individual pet, taking care of any unique dietary requirements, administering their medicine, cleaning up cages, aquariums or litter boxes, some individual grooming, and monitoring and communicating any concerns while offering regular updates on how the pet is doing. Clients may want sitters to stay over, while others only ask that you regularly check in. In some cases, pets may stay with you.
Starting a pet-sitting service may require little up-front investment and a sharp marketing plan. You won’t have a brick-and-mortar store, or the need for any costly specialized equipment. The key needed characteristic is a love of animals, and a comforting disposition. Still, you may choose to become a credentialed pet sitter, in order to learn all you can about this service and as an additional selling point for your business. Some community and technical colleges offer certificate courses where you’ll learn more about working as a pet sitter and running this specialized business.
WHAT TO CHARGE
Hourly rates for pet sitters can vary widely from state to state, and are also dependent on the services rendered. Rates average around $13 per hour in the U.S., though sitters in states like Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island tend to make more. In the end, however, this job is like any other with an entrepreneurial bent: The harder you work, the more you earn.