Factors to consider when buying a new pet

Costs, breed among things to consider, veterinarian says

HOUSTON – A new dog is a popular gift for families during the holiday season, but bringing a new pet into the home comes with a lot of responsibility and added costs to the family budget.

Before picking a new pet, veterinarians said people should consider the breed and potential health risks.

For Lambra Holloway and her family, ringing in the holiday cheer this season means adding a new dog to the family.

"My son has been begging for a dog," Lambra Holloway said. "All he reads is dog books, and he dreams about dogs."

The family's last dog, Bo, a labrador retriever, died in 2016 after a brief illness.

"He was the best dog ever. He was perfect," Lambra Halloway said. "He was part of our family until he passed away at 12 years old."

Now they're finally ready to find a new dog.

"I'm looking for my next best friend," Lambra's son, Eli Hollway, said. "After having our dog Bo, I kind of don't see myself with anything other than a lab.

Dr. Andrew Novasad of Sugar Land Veterinary Specialists said pet owners need to consider much more than how cute and fluffy a dog is before they decide which breed to get.

He said costs – even for needs as basic as food – should factor in tremendously.

"You're going to need to have them evaluated by a veterinarian," he said. "If they are not spayed or neutered by the time that you get them, you need to be thinking about that, heartworm care, routine vaccinations ..."

According to Novosad, families need to also do their research to find out if the dog breed has any inherent health issues.

"You have some dogs that will be more predisposed for arthritis, some heart disease, some cancer," Novosad said. "Ones that we think about with heart disease –
cavalier king Charles spaniel, German shepherds – (are) going to be your kind of classic example for hip dysplasia."

When it comes down to mixed breeds versus pure breeds, Novosad said it all comes down to the dog.

"Some mixed breeds have been known to have fewer problems," Novosad said. "When we see pets that are mixed – the golden doodles, the labradoodles and things like that – I mean, basically what you're doing is you're taking two breeds that you know, and you have a nice idea of what you're dealing with, and you're sort of mixing them."

One way to really save on a dog is to consider adopting from a local shelter. The pets come already vaccinated and spayed or neutered, which can save hundreds of dollars.

"I do have the owners that are like, 'Nope, I'm a lab person,' or, 'I'm a golden person,'" Novosad said. "You can look up rescue groups for that particular group and you can find some wonderful, amazing dogs that are breeds for whatever you want."

Novasad said pet insurance is also a big cost-saver. The policies usually run around $30 to $40 a month, and can save pet owners a lot of money in the event of an emergency or unexpected trip to the vet.

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