This month’s newsletter focuses upon bringing a new pet into your life. The decision to "expand your family" often happens quickly and with great excitement (as it should be!). Yet as the holidays approach, we would like to share considerations when selecting a pet.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle
Before adopting a pet (young or old), it’s vital to be introspective and think about your own lifestyle. Your pet will be eager to see and play with you so it’s important to think about how much time you can spend with your pet. Beyond your available time, you’ll need to think about the size and safety of your home and yard (or proximity to a park) as all pets need exercise. If you already have pets, you should think about the changing household dynamic when a new pet is introduced. Will the new pet experience jealousy or aggression from their furry family members? Will pets of different species get along?

Selecting the Right Pet

You should also think about who in your family will be responsible for training, feeding and general care—considering their age, level of responsibility, patience and compassion. Recall, adding a pet to your family is a long-term commitment. So, evaluate if your availability, financial resources, and current lifestyle are likely to change. If so, then consider if now is the best time to adopt a pet.

Below are several important lifestyle questions to consider: 

  • Why do you want a pet?
  • Do you have the necessary space (and are you permitted by law or rental agreement) for a pet?
  • How many hours per day will your pet be unattended?
  • Who will feed, train and spend time with your pet?
  • What impact will a new pet have upon any current pets?
  • Do you have the financial resources for food, training, check-ups, and medicine?
  • Are you ready for a long-term commitment?

Consider Your Health Concerns
Once you decide it’s time for a pet, it’s important to think about your own health issues—and those of your family (including any current pets). Are there any allergies or sensitivities that might be triggered by a specific breed of pet? Do you need any physical or therapeutic assistance from your pet? Are there any latent fears about pet aggression or bites that might be a cause for concern? The answers to these questions might steer you toward or away from specific breeds.

Select the Right Breed
Meeting potential pets is fun. It’s the opportunity to play with kittens and puppies and to see what type of pet would best fit into your family. Be aware that every breed has its own personality, physical characteristics (height and weight), exercise requirements, health concerns and grooming needs. The objective is to select a pet that complements your family’s lifestyle so there is a great long-term bond.

Active Pets

There are some excellent online tools to help narrow your breed search. Each will walk you through a series of questions and suggest breeds to consider. Examples include:


Beyond selecting the breed, it’s important to consider the age of the pet. Kittens and puppies will require substantially more effort and attention than older pets. And who can forget how much fun housebreaking a pet can be!

Select the Pet Source

Often the best source of available pets is your local shelter or animal rescue. These pets need homes. And while the variety of pets is great, so is the speed in which they are adopted. So, it’s best to have previously considered your lifestyle, health and desired breed characteristics before visiting. The staff at the rescue can answer many questions about a pet’s temperament, but they are unlikely to know the precise breed/mix or have an intimate knowledge of the pet’s prior health or life circumstance.

If you’re searching for a specific breed, you may want to visit an AKC certified breeder. We only recommend certified breeders as they are focused upon providing healthy, genetically sound pets. Beyond meeting the “young ones,” you can often meet the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to experience the breed at different points in their lives. Under no circumstance do we recommend purchasing a pet from a pet store.


Select the Right Pet

Once you have determined the ideal breed, you should determine which specific pet would be a great fit for your family. In this sense, it’s vital to feel a "connection" with a specific pet which is often represented by an immediate approach or kiss from a pet.

For some families, the temperament of a pet is critically important. To explore the topic of temperament, it’s often insightful to gently turn a pet over on their back while holding their chest and then watch their reaction. If they are happy and continue playing, the pet is likely to be "easy going." If they immediately struggle to attempt to turn over, this pet may require some additional attention and training.

In most litters there are leaders ("Alphas") and followers ("Betas"). Alphas tend to be dominant—eating first, climbing over others and generally "ruling the roost." As a pet owner, there can be a dramatic difference between Alphas and Betas. Given these characteristics are innate, their tendencies often extend toward their relationships with people. So, Betas might be a better fit for families with small children.

Contact Kirkwood Animal Hospital

Before making your final selection, it’s a great idea to contact us. We can discuss breed-specific behavioral and health concerns including those related to the eyes, hips and other parts of the body.

The team at Kirkwood Animal Hospital will conduct an initial wellness exam, help you understand what to expect, share nutritional and exercise guidelines, and begin the essential vaccination process. Most importantly, the staff will monitor the health of your pet over their lifetime to help ensure many years of happiness with your pet.