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Peak Christmas Pet Buying Period: What to Consider

With Christmas just around the corner and many Australian families considering inviting the pitter-patter of paws into their homes, Pet Insurance Australia looks at what to consider when choosing a dog breed alongside Specialist Small Animal Surgeon Dr Sarah Goldsmid.

“It is coming up to the time of year when many Australian homes will be considering getting a pet over the summer months,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. 

“Our data does indicate that this is a busy pet buying time of year, with many signing up for pet insurance around the eight-week mark. Now is the time many pet lovers will be sourcing their new furry friend.”

Pet Insurance Australia has top tips for choosing the right breed for your home and lifestyle.

“It’s imperative to research your chosen breed, as many dogs do have prevalent hereditary conditions that can end up costing pet owners thousands to rectify throughout the lifetime of their pet,” Crighton says. “It’s also imperative to choose a breed that fits your lifestyle and expectations rather than basing it on looks alone.”

Ensuring you can afford these treatments is an integral part of responsible pet ownership. It’s also highly recommended that prospective pet owners do their due diligence on their possible dog breeders and resist quick purchases from backyard breeding establishments.

“Do your homework on your dog breeder and ensure you ask all the important questions regarding hereditary screening and possible breed-related problems or adopt a pet from a shelter,” she recommends. “Backyard breeding and puppy mills only add to the huge amount of unwanted pets around Australia.”

Specialist Small Animal Surgeon Dr Sarah Goldsmid from The Animal Referral Hospital (Homebush) is all too aware of the hugely expensive surgery for hereditary problems with some breeds and the importance of understanding these possible problems before purchase.

“As a specialist small animal surgeon, I see many cases where pets require major and expensive surgery for their hereditary problem,” Dr Goldsmid says. 

“For example, Brachycephalic airway disease, if not surgically treated in time, can lead to aspiration pneumonia, the need for a permanent tracheostomy, predispose to severe heat stress, and worst-case scenario can end in premature death.”

A third of surgical cases at Animal Referral Hospital Homebush are related to spinal disease, mainly due to herniated intervertebral discs, which can occur in any breed or mixed breed.

“However, disc disease is over-represented in certain breeds, such as French Bulldogs and Dachshunds. If we see the patients early enough, we can usually get them back to great function again following advanced spinal imaging (CT and MRI) and spinal surgery – but if they have already lost all feeling and movement, their prognosis is poor for recovery of function.”

Mixed Breeds – Best of Both Worlds?

It is common for many in the pet industry to sing the praises of humble mixed breeds. Known for their robustness, choosing a mixed breed dog could help prevent large veterinary bills for many common hereditary conditions. While many breeds are affected by hereditary conditions, increasing the genetic pool within mating can help reduce the risk of some of these conditions from occurring in that litter.

“This is not a precise science – the offspring may still end up with hereditary conditions related to several different breeds, but in general, a mixed breed is less likely to develop the hereditary problem,” Dr Goldsmid says. 
“I would always recommend sourcing crossbreeds from the pound or shelters first. This will save a life and discourage backyard breeding.”
Pet owners must understand that certain breeds can suffer from more severe and expensive conditions, such as brachycephalic dog breeds – also known as the ‘squishy faced breeds’. 

These breeds will all have varying degrees of breathing difficulties, and many also have spinal deformities and potentially an increased risk of spinal disease later in life.

“Many of these breeds will require airway surgery and or spinal surgery during their lives,” Dr Goldsmid says. “The risk of these diseases may be reduced by breeding to increase the length of the face and opening of the nostrils and also introducing genetics that reflects more normal spinal formation.”

As we come into the peak pet buying season, Pet Insurance Australia is urging pet owners to carefully consider their options of what breed they want and any possible problems those pets could face down the line.

“The peak pet buying season is driven by Christmas, the cat breeding season, and the fact that Australians usually have a few weeks off over the Christmas/New Year break, making it an ideal time to bring a new four-legged fur baby into the home,” Crighton says. “However, most owners will not consider the possible problems their chosen breed may have, leading to high veterinary costs and possible surgeries to rectify the issues.”

Advice When Selecting a Pet – Dr Goldsmid

“You can never completely avoid the heartache of a sick pet, and whatever you do when you obtain a new dog or cat. Do your research, almost all pure-bred dogs have certain conditions that can be a problem. Diseases like hip and elbow dysplasia, gastric dilatation volvulus, spinal issues, skin disease, ear disease, eye conditions, heart disease, etc are all problems that can have a genetic component.”

Dr Goldsmid also suggests when selecting a pet to purchase - as opposed to obtaining one as a rescue from a pound or shelter - it is essential to know that you are getting them from reputable breeders that are ideally registered.

“You should be able to see the parents or at least the mother. A vet check prior to purchase is important, not only for at least one vaccination to be given, but to rule out any congenital issues that would be present at birth (e.g. palate defects, some heart murmurs).”

It is also essential to remember that some conditions only become apparent once the pet is a little older. For example, hip and elbow dysplasia is not usually diagnosed until they are at least six months old. However, unstable hips may be picked up at their second or third vaccination. Ideally, the parents should have been screened for hip dysplasia before mating, but this does not guarantee disease-free offspring.

“In general, it is important for any pet to have regular check-ups and preventative care through a local vet. Vaccinations, worming, heartworm prevention, flea and tick treatments, feeding good quality complete diets, and avoiding obesity are all important factors in reducing the chances of your pet getting sick from preventable problems,” Dr Goldsmid says.

Pet Insurance Australia also recommends anyone thinking of purchasing a pet during the silly season to carefully plan financially for all costs associated with pet care.
“This includes veterinary treatments,” Crighton says.

“According to MoneySmart, a cat or dog will cost between $3,000 to $6,000 in the first year of ownership, with many new pet parents not completely taking the costs of vet care into account until it’s too late. It’s incredibly important that all costs are taken into account before welcoming a new furry family member into the home.”

MEDIA RELEASE, 14th November 2023

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