Bringing Up Baby

According to a recent Kynetec poll (formally Ipsos) conducted on behalf of the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), pet ownership in Canada is on the rise. Colleen McElwain, CAHI programs director, mentions: “Overall, approximately 41% of Canadian households include at least one dog, and similarly around 37% include at least one cat.” Will this year bring a new puppy or kitten into your life? Adding a new pet to your family can be an exciting time! To ensure a smooth transition for your new pet into your home, the following are some Do’s and Don’ts to consider.


Don’t let your heart rule when choosing a new family member. Impulse decisions often end poorly for everyone involved. Adding a new furry family member to your household requires serious thought and consideration. Although those sweet puppy eyes may lure you in, consider what is best for the animal and your family.

Do consider the following points to ensure you have picked the best pet match for your family:

  • The expense of providing food, grooming and veterinary care;
  • The time involved in exercising your pet, both physically and mentally;
  • Grooming requirements;
  • Temperament and common breed characteristics;
  • The amount of space you have available both inside and outside the home;
  • How your current pets will deal with a new addition, and how you will introduce them to your life;
  • Whose responsibility it is for caring for your new pet on a daily basis; and
  • Who will care for your pet if you go away and can’t bring them along.

BRINGING THEM HOME Don’t get swept away in the moment and bring a new pet home without putting some serious thought into it. Planning for your new pet’s arrival makes for a less stressful situation and allows you to consider their safety and comfort needs.

Do plan ahead to welcome your new friend:

  • Buy a proper collar, leash or carrier with which to safely transport your new pet home;
  • Puppy- or kitten-proof your home before they arrive to keep them safe as they investigate their new territory;
  • Purchase any necessary accessories like food, food and water dishes, beds, litter boxes, litter and toys;
  • Set up a safe area in your home where you can bring your new pet to acclimate to their new surroundings and safely eat and rest;
  • Provide a planned introduction to other family members, both human and animal; and
  • Focus on a routine (feeding, sleep, play and potty breaks) for your new pet to keep them on track .


Don’t hold off arranging your pet’s first veterinary exam and consultation. This should be at the top of your list of things to do when bringing home a new family member. Your veterinary team is a great resource for all your new pet questions!

Do arrange a veterinary appointment as soon as possible after acquiring your new pet. It is a great idea to arrange an appointment for the same day (on your way home from picking up your pet if possible) so you can ensure they have the best chance of a healthy start. Your veterinary team can offer the following:

  • An examination to ensure your new pet is healthy;
  • Preventive vaccination to keep them free from common disease in your area;
  • Parasite testing and treatment (fleas, ear mites and intestinal parasites are common in puppies and kittens and can be passed to other animals and people);
  • Nutrition, behaviour and training advice; and
  • Pet-related service recommendations (boarding facilities, grooming salons, training etc.).


Do follow the advice of your veterinary healthcare team regarding the appropriate time to spay or neuter your new pet. Spaying and neutering your pet before they mature allows for:

  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancy;
  • Prevention of behaviours associated with heat cycles in females (spraying, excessive vocalization and affection);
  • Prevention of behaviours associated with intact males (territorial spraying, aggressiveness and roaming); and
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer, testicular cancers, prostate issues and potentially fatal uterine infections.


Don’t choose your pet’s diet lightly. As with the selection of our foods, some are more nutritious than others. It is also important to stay consistent with the food you feed and not switch it around from brand to brand regularly.

Do chose a high-quality diet that is created for your pet’s life stage. Animals require different levels of nutrients as they grow and mature, and special considerations as they age. Proper nutrition is the foundation of your pet’s health. When you chose the right food for your pet’s life stage, it:

  • Gives them the best opportunity to function optimally by decreasing the risk of disease and, for those with disease, it can prevent disease from progressing;
  • Helps to maintain their weight;
  • Will give them they energy they need on a daily basis; and
  • Allow them to have healthy skin and coat. Your veterinary healthcare team is a great resource for what food is best for your new pet.


Don’t expect your pets to entertain themselves.

Do kept your pet active both physically and mentally. Pets, just like us, require a fulfilled life that includes exercise, mental stimulation, affection and interaction with their people. For dogs, this may include a leashed and supervised walk around the neighbourhood or on a trail, a game of fetch in the backyard, a treat puzzle ball, a day at doggy daycare or learning a new trick. For cats, this may include a scratching post, catnip mice, a laser toy, a treat scavenger hunt or time outside in an enclosed area or supervised on a halter and leash. There are benefits to keeping your pet active, including:


  • Less anxious behaviour and risk of separation anxiety (pacing, panting, waking at night, destructive chewing and improper elimination);
  • Helps to maintain proper body weight; and
  • Increases the human animal bond when these activities are enjoyed with their people.



Don’t wait until their nails are long and fur is matted before considering a trip to the groomer. Regular skin, coat, ear, teeth and nail maintenance is just as important to your pet as it is to you. See page 18 for information on grooming and page 16 for more on oral health.


Don’t realize until it’s too late what the municipal and provincial animal laws are in your area. It is every pet owner’s responsibility to know what is required of them by law as a pet owner.

Do get up to speed on what is required of you as a pet owner in your area. This information can usually be obtained by your town office or city hall. The following are common animal laws that may be enforced where you live:

  • Pet microchip and licensing;
  • Poop and scoop;
  • Off leash/off property roaming;
  • Bites; • Damage caused by pets;
  • Number of animals allowed;
  • Species and breed of animals allowed;
  • Proper care (food,water and shelter); and
  • Barking.

There is a lot to consider before bringing home a new pet. Thinking ahead about everything involved in welcoming your new family member home will prove beneficial as you integrate them into their new family.

Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technddicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter.  With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health she is currently the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at