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Pets Are Family, Too: Seven Things Every Pet Needs

Pets Are Family, Too: Seven Things Every Pet Needs
By Sue Skelding

This month we want to focus on our furry family members. Our animals are so much more than just pets. And taking good care of them is our responsibility and privilege. Owning a pet is a long-term commitment that comes with financial responsibility. Here are the most important things you can and should do for your pet.


Springtime to a small-animal veterinarian is often signaled by an overabundance of sick puppies and kittens.

In young pups, Parvo-virus infection and hookworm anemia are common and potentially fatal. Both illnesses can easily be avoided by early vaccination and deworming.

Kittens often suffer from intestinal parasites, upper respiratory infections, and feline leukemia. These conditions can also be prevented by timely immunization and parasite control.

Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccines, several dewormings, and monthly flea and heartworm pills. When age appropriate, they should be spayed or neutered.

Annual Vet Visits

Adult dogs and cats require annual exams, bloodwork, vaccine boosters, heartworm testing, deworming, and dental care. Monthly flea and heartworm preventative is also advised.


Adequate housing that is out of the elements and has sufficient ventilation is a must in hot and humid weather. Adding air conditioning, fans, or sprinklers to the environment further helps prevent heat stroke.


Daily exercise is recommended for most dogs and cats. With canines, this can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as leash walks, running, dog parks, playing fetch, or swimming. For kitties, keeping the litter box and food at opposite ends of the house helps ensure even the laziest felines stretch their limbs.


Ample clean and fresh water should always be available.


With a plethora of foods on the market, being aware of your pets’ nutritional needs helps them maintain a long and active life. Read labels and avoid trends like grain-free or raw, unless your pet has a medical condition requiring it.

Love is the Best Medicine

Carolyn Henry, the Secretary for the local charity Pretty Kitty TNR, explained how important the mental state of an animal is for the general wellbeing. Carolyn is concerned about the animals staying in captivity for extended periods of time, whether in a hospital or in a shelter. She is a big advocate for pet fostering and adoption. Carolyn explains: “According to multiple researches by The Humane Society of the United States, International Fun for Animal Welfare, Maddie’s Institute, Best Friend, Animal Sheltering, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and others, a pet’s immunity is directly related to its state of being. A cat in captivity may have all of its immediate needs met, such as food, shelter, and medical care. But without proper exercise, social interaction, mental stimulation, and love, this cat cannot and will not be healthy. A pet that is loved and cared for will be happier of course, but also physically stronger and healthier.”


Dr. Sue Skelding is a small-animal internal medicine and emergency veterinarian who enjoys writing, horseback riding, and entertaining her four English mastiffs.


Most Common Toxic Items in Your Home

Things that are completely safe for humans aren’t always safe for their pets. Here is a list of potentially dangerous items, if consumed by a pet.

Poisonous Plants

Lilies, Sago Palm, Oleander, Azalea, Tulip Bulbs, Poinsettia, Castor Bean, Amaryllis, Autumn Crocus.

Human Foods

Grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, xylitol, chocolate, coffee, energy drinks, macadamia nuts.

If your pet ingests a poisonous substance, immediately contact your veterinarian as most treatments are time-sensitive. If you have questions whether an item is toxic, contact Poison Control: 888-426-4435.


Average Costs at the Humane Society of South Mississippi’s Wellness Clinic

Dog Altering (spay – $105-165; neuter – $105-125). Adult Dog Vaccine Package – $95 (includes exam, fecal, heartworm test, distemper/parvo, kennel cough, and rabies vaccines). Puppy Vaccine Package – $80 (includes exam, fecal, kennel cough and distemper/parvo vaccines, and fecal). Cat Altering (spay – $70; neuter – $75). Kitten Vaccine Package – $80 (includes exam, vaccines, fecal). Adult Cat Vaccine Package – $80 (includes exam, vaccines, fecal). Cat / Dog Baseline Bloodwork: $50.

(All prices from HSSM website.)

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