Ask the Vet: Keeping a new pet safe from disease

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Nov 7, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

Q: I just adopted a puppy from the shelter and was advised to be careful about exposing him to other dogs since he has not had all his shots. How careful do I have to be to prevent him from being exposed to diseases?

A: Good job adopting from the shelter! There are so many animals in local animal shelters that need homes that I advise anyone that is thinking of adopting a pet to start looking at the local animal shelter first. I also recommend volunteering at the local shelter by walking dogs or having some other interaction with them to help get a better idea of the personalities and behaviors before you adopt.

You were advised correctly that it is important to be careful where you take your puppy prior to being fully vaccinated. Typically, a puppy will be fully vaccinated once they receive their last round of puppy shots which is usually around 4 months of age. You can ask your veterinarian as to when they are fully vaccinated if you are not sure. Until that time, you must balance exposing your puppy to diverse experiences with trying to protect your puppy from being exposed to infectious diseases.

It might seem that keeping your puppy completely secluded would be best as that will protect them against infectious diseases. However, the first 4 months of a puppy’s life are very important in their development. This is the time when they should be exposed to other dogs, noises, experiences and all sorts of different people. So, I typically recommend having healthy older dogs come to your house to play with the puppy to help expose them to normal dog type behavior and playtime.

If you already have another older dog in the household this is helpful in training the puppy how to be a dog. Also, I recommend having your friends and family come over to pet, play and interact with the puppy. That way they are getting exposure to different people and experiences while minimizing exposure to infectious diseases.

Once the puppy is fully vaccinated then it is important to get him into a puppy training class to further expose him to multiple experiences, dogs and people.

Q: Do rats make good pets?

A: Despite their negative reputation, rats are gentle, sociable, affectionate, clean and highly intelligent.

The modern pet rat averages 16 inches in length including the tail, and lives 2-3 years. They come in a variety of coat lengths and colors. They make a great family pet and will interact with family members affectionately.

Rats can be trained to use a litter box and will also groom themselves and each other and therefore are very clean. They have great personalities and can be very entertaining and interactive. It might surprise you to learn that rats are very intelligent and can be trained as you would a dog. They can be taught to come when called and various other tricks.

Rats are also very easy to care for and, as long as they have clean housing, food and water, and interactive activities, they can live quite happily. They are very social so it is recommended to get more than one rat to help keep each other company.

So, if you are considering getting a “pocket pet” for your family, I understand that a rat might not be your first choice but you may want to reconsider. I recommend checking with your local rat rescue, checking at the local shelter, or getting a rat from a local breeder before going to a pet store and buying a rat.

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