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Think twice before gifting a pet

 Think twice before gifting a pet

It can be tempting to surprise a loved one with a new puppy or kitten over the holidays, but animal health organizations and shelters across Canada are asking Canadians to think twice before gifting a pet.

As you work through your holiday gift checklist, keep in mind that while owning a pet can be a very rewarding experience, pet ownership may be more responsibility than some gift recipients are prepared for.

According to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), the average annual expenses for the first year of puppy ownership in 2016 totalled nearly $3,000, when vaccines, pet licenses, food, and necessities like leashes and food bowls are taken into account. Kittens are slightly cheaper, around $2,000, but these expenses are still considerable.

Those costs don’t go away after the first year, either. The OVMA’s study showed an average of over $2,000 annually to care for an adult dog and almost $1,600 for an adult cat. While these numbers represent the average expected costs for owning a dog or cat, they don’t include unexpected vet bills should a pet get ill or injured.

Puppies and kittens are notorious for getting into trouble and often eating what they shouldn’t – including that glittery tree ornament. Taking a pet into the veterinarian can result in expensive costs.

That’s not to say everyone should stay away from owning a pet. Many dog and cat owners come into pet ownership financially and emotionally prepared, and are familiar with the costs involved with pet care.  Many responsible pet owners are able to reduce those annual costs – and any other expenses that may come up – by purchasing pet health insurance and protecting their finances against an accident or illness.

Before getting a pet for a loved one, or yourself, consider the following to ensure it’s the right choice:

It is well worth investing in quality food for proper nutrition, development, and health. If you get a large dog, this can add up quickly. What does your budget allow for?

Do you work long days? Puppies can’t hold their bladders for long, so you’ll need someone to let them out if you can’t. Aside from work, what is your social life like? Ensure you can meet your pet’s needs.

Vet Visits:
Pets need vet checkups for routine health exams, vaccinations and any other issues. Aside from planned vet visits, unexpected accidents and illnesses can occur, which can incur large vet bills. Are you going to have pet insurance? Pet insurance can alleviate these large bills, while ensuring your pet will get the best medical care.

It takes time and commitment to train a dog for desirable behaviours. Will you invest in obedience classes? Will you continue training afterwards?

Type of Breed:
Don’t get a dog based on its appearance. Whether a pure-breed or a mutt, some breeds of dogs can adapt to various lifestyles, while others are better suited to specific types of living. Be sure to do your research.

Cats, and some breeds of dogs, can live upwards to 20 years of age, so it truly is a lifetime commitment. Are you planning on moving in the future? Do you have, or plan to have children? While we can’t plan for everything, these are all things to consider before bringing a pet into your life. It’s not fair to anyone, especially the pet, if things don’t work out and it gets surrendered.

Here are a few holiday gift alternatives to consider:

  • Offer to pay the adoption fees should the recipient be prepared to adopt a pet
  • Pay health insurance premium for someone’s current pet
  • Make a donation in the recipient’s name to their local shelter or pet rescue organization  

    More information about responsible pet ownership can be found at

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