It’s getting so close to Christmas, we can’t believe it!

Where has the year gone?!  We’re alllmost done with our Christmas shopping, and hope that most of you are done or almost done too because it’s stressful out there!  Although a new puppy or kitty isn’t on our list this year, some of you out there may be considering, or have already committed to bringing a new furry addition to the family this holiday.  While bringing a new puppy or kitty into the home is a joyful and exciting time, it can also become stressful with more responsibility on top of  your normal daily schedule, and not to mention a BIG life change for both you and your new pet!  To ensure you’ve considered everything before bringing home a new pet, we have a wonderful guest post today, courtesy of VCA Animal Hospitals & wonderful Dr. Donna Spector, DVM!

Considerations When Giving A Pet As A Gift

By Dr. Donna Spector, DVM

The holiday season is a common time of year for families to get new pets or for people to consider giving pets as gifts. The bustle and travel associated with the holidays does not provide the ideal stable environment a new pet needs to succeed with a new family.

If a pet is on your holiday list, make sure you have considered the following points:

  • Commitment and responsibility—pet ownership involves more than just providing food and water.  Pets require a rich and stimulating environment, exercise, training and proper healthcare—all of which require a commitment of time, energy and money.  All members of a home or family must be committed to the care of a new pet.  It must be decided who will feed, walk, groom and pick up after the pet in advance. Although pets are often chosen “for the kids,” the full responsibility of caring for a pet is often too much for children.
  • What species is best? Dog, cat, bird, snake, hamster or goldfish?  Pets come in many shapes and sizes and can provide wonderful companionship and give children the benefits of pet ownership responsibility.  Give consideration to what role you want the pet to have in your family before making this decision.
  • Why are you getting a pet? Is a pet coming into your home to be a loving companion for you or your children or is there another intended purpose (jogging partner, working dog, or home protector)?  Some dog breeds are better suited to the role of playmate versus protector. It is important to think about what roles a dog will play in the life of your family before selecting the breed for you.
  • What dog breed is best? It is important to consider your specific needs, lifestyle, activity level and the amount of space you have before selecting the best breed.  If your new dog is to be strictly a companion, choose several breeds that appeal to you in physical appearance (including coat type, size and shape) and then research the other breed characteristics. Keep in mind if a dog was originally bred to herd and protect, these behaviors are the most strongly inherited and you may find your family being herded through your own home like sheep! Although that is a funny picture, if this natural instinct is left unsatisfied, some dogs will become frustrated and develop bad behaviors.
  • Space. Do you live in an apartment or house? What are local dog laws? Do you have room for a kitty condo?  Where will you put a litterbox?  Often people assume that large pets need large spaces and that small pets are fine in small spaces….this is not always true! Huge dogs often sleep most of the day so a small space is just fine…as long as he gets out for walks and some moderate exercise. Some small dogs and cats are huge bundles of energy that require a large space and a lot of exercise to keep them manageable!
  • Size: Larger pets require more of everything!  Larger pets require more food, larger crates and beds, larger toys and increased costs are incurred when they require medication or other veterinary care.
  • Gender: Males tend to be slightly larger in stature than females of the same breed and somewhat more assertive.
  • Grooming: How much do you want to do? Longer haired pets require more daily care to keep tangles and mats under control. Some pets require frequent visits to the groomer for haircuts. How much shedding is acceptable for you?
  • Puppy/kitten or adult? Although puppies and kittens are adorable, they are a lot more work than adults! The training, playing, feeding, and exercising a youngster requires in the first several months can feel like a full time job! Remember the more time you invest in this stage of your new pet’s life, the happier you will both be. Acquiring an adult pet may be a better choice for a family who spends most of the day away from home or doesn’t have the time required to train a younger pet.
  • Where should you get your new pet? Consider adoption first and help support VCA Shelter Partnership Program.  Adoption is rewarding for a number or reasons—not only are you saving the life of a pet; shelters often have a huge variety of pets to choose from, and it tends to be less expensive than purchasing through a breeder.  Many shelters offer training and other classes or support services at very reasonable costs.  If you are purchasing a purebred puppy, a reputable breeder that allows you to visit the home or facility in order to observe the parents is recommended. Puppies from sources with extreme high pet density are often at higher risk for contracting disease and their parents cannot be observed. If you are choosing an older dog there are several breed-specific rescue groups that you can look into (
  • First health requirements? If you adopt through the VCA Shelter Program, VCA will provide your pet’s first vet visit for free at one of their 520 animal hospitals! New clients can also get a complimentary wellness exam, so find the closest VCA Animal Hospital to you. This is a great opportunity to start your pet towards a long, healthy and happy life.
  • When should you see a Veterinarian? Whatever the source, type of pet or breed you choose for your family, it is very important to see a veterinarian early on to ensure a good start for a long healthy life.  Your local VCA hospital offers several programs for new pet adopters and for puppy and kittens.  Young dogs and cats will most likely need vaccine follow ups as well as parasite preventatives while older pets might be up-to-date on vaccines but may require a complete health check up.

If a new pet is part of the family plan, there are several great gift options to consider:

  • Pet toys
  • Books on pet care
  • Accessories—leashes, sweaters, beds, or other gear that pampered pets need!
  • A pet “gift certificate”.  Many local shelters offer a gift certificate in which the gift giver pays for all adoption costs.  There is no holiday rush and when a family is ready to adopt they choose their pet and redeem the gift certificate.

Once you answer these questions and have made your list of “wants”, a little research is necessary to find the breeds that best fit your needs.  You can visit online resources (, etc.), review breed books and your VCA veterinarian is always an excellent resource.  A pet is a companion you will have for up to 15 years—take the time to find the right pet to share your life with!

Happy and safe holiday wishes!

Dr. Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM from VCA Animal Hospitals

Pets make a great gift for that special someone in your life, but be sure that you’re aware of all the things they’re about to take on, and they’re fully prepared to take on that responsibility, and if they’re not, that YOU are ready to do so.  Pets can make a great gift, and we all know that there are so many out there that need a home, but always be prepared and know that they’re a big responsibility and one for life.

Happy gift giving and Happy Holidays, from All Dog Blog!

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