articles for pet owners

10 things I want to tell every pet owner

A few times each week, I get approached by a client who (after apologizing profusely) unleashes all their concerns, worries and quirks about their pets. As the mother of a rambunctious 4-year-old Golden Retriever, I know what it’s like to obsess over your animal. Everything seems as important as caring for your human child, but you feel silly because your pet is, you know, technically not a human. Most of the time, I don’t get the chance in those interactions to tell my clients everything I would like to, but as someone who helps care for your pet, I need to.

Here are a few things I sometimes miss the chance to say, but think you should know:

Trust your gut.
In veterinary medicine, we have a term called “ADR – Ain’t Doin’ Right.” If your pet is acting “off,” call your veterinarian.

Chicken is not your only option.
Dogs love chicken, beef and bacon, but also sweet flavors like peanut butter and marshmallow. Cats are extremely finicky and while some love smelly seafood flavors, they do prefer alternatives. Just see what vanilla butternut can do for the fickle feline palate!

Veterinary pharmacists are important.
Pharmacy schools don’t teach us to care for animal patients. Unless they’ve done some sort of additional training, many pharmacists lack the knowledge and expertise in veterinary pharmacotherapy to make sure prescriptions are filled correctly.

Don’t dry-pill.
If you must give your pet a tablet or capsule (there are such better options!), place the pill as far back on the tongue as you can reach. Close your pet’s jaw, stroke their neck and blow a puff of air at their nose. Follow with a chaser of water or food.

Don’t use over-the-counter medications without talking to your veterinarian.
Over-the-counter products in the pharmacy are over-the-counter products for humans. Not animals. Some of them can seriously harm your pet.

Familiarize yourself with common pet toxins.
The most common pet toxins people don’t seem to be aware of include: xylitol (found in many sugar-free products), caffeine, grapes, avocados (birds esp.), hops (used in brewing beer), macadamia nuts, onions and onion powder, raisins, cocoa mulch, OTC pain killers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen), and lilies. For a complete list, refer to

Keep 3% hydrogen peroxide on hand.
Dogs get into everything. Keep a stock of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Small doses (5-10 mL) of hydrogen peroxide can be administered via oral syringe until vomiting occurs. If this doesn’t happen after 10-15 minutes, you can try again. After that, you need to go to the veterinarian immediately. Note: this isn’t reliable in cats.

All dogs need heartworm preventatives.
It doesn’t matter if your pet is an “inside” dog. You (and mosquitoes) bring the risk of exposure inside. All dogs are at risk of being infected with heartworms. Routine heartworm preventative medication (as directed by your veterinarian) is extremely important. Given the life stages of heartworm larvae, it’s also important that you give this medication on the same day each month (or as close to the same day as you can).

Brush those teeth!
Dental care is important! Dental disease is one of the most frequently diagnosed medical disorders in adult dogs and cats. Oral disease can lead to severe infections, tooth loss and damage to internal organs.

Grief is normal.
It is ok to experience grief and sob uncontrollably after losing a pet. Watching your best friend slip away is brutal. It will hurt your soul and that’s normal. Don’t be ashamed.

Lastly, thank you for allowing us to help care for your pets. This isn’t just a job for us at Realo. We truly care about you, your family and your pets.