Make A Smart Choice

As a veterinarian, I do everything that I can to educate people on making smart choices in selecting a pet – whether it be a dog, cat, bird, etc. Unfortunately, most people do not contact a veterinarian before they purchase a pet. The first time we see them is with new pet in hand.

AKC registration does not guarantee a sound dog. I will not recommend based on AKC registration alone. I try to match a breed with the family’s life style – do they have young children, do they work long hours, do they have a fenced in yard, is it an older person looking for a lap dog or someone who wants one to run with them???

I also try to educate people as to the potential problems with certain breeds. Westies are prone to skin problems and a potential owner needs to know this before purchasing one. I encourage people to read about the breed that they are interested in. I will also give them some information on potential genetic problems with their particular breed. I encourage them to check out the parents of the pup for temperament, general health. Check out the conditions that the puppies are being raised in – dirty, clean, lots of human contact? Puppies should not be taken from their mother before 8 weeks of age to allow for proper socialization.

If we get a chance to educate a person before they purchase, I will give them questions to ask about their particular breed – Have the parents been screened for hip dysplasia, hereditary thyroid disease, luxating patellas, hereditary eye problems? Is there a history of congenital heart disease?

A good breeder typically breeds just one breed. They have a lot of knowledge about the breed and will breed to improve the good characteristics and decrease the undesired characteristics of the breed. They are not in it just to make money, they do it because they love the breed and want to improve the breed. They will also screen perspective owners to make sure that their puppy is being placed in an appropriate home.

Unfortunately, most purchases from pet stores are on impulse. A person is walking by the pet store, sees a puppy that they feel sorry for in the small cage, and asks to hold it. Next thing you know they are paying big bucks for a substandard puppy and just perpetuating the puppy mill cycle.

I am a HUGE advocate of rescue pets and PetFinder.com. There are so many wonderful animals out there that are euthanized every single day because there are not enough responsible homes for them. We do a lot of work with rescue groups through our practice, plus part of our mission is to take in homeless dogs and cats in our community, make sure that they are healthy, and then to place them in their “forever” homes.

Carol McKee D.V.M.
Southpointe Veterinary Hospital
Allen Park, Michigan