Take action to make sure 2016 isn’t a ruff year

AFTER the thrill of getting a new pet for Christmas comes the reality for both owner and animal.

Pets do require work to look after, and if you are still trying to get away in the school holidays, will the pet be able to travel with you or do you have to find alternative accommodation for them?

Dr Magdoline Awad, PetSure's Chief Veterinary Officer, and former Chief Veterinarian of the RSPCA NSW, is urging Australians to make a list and check it twice to ensure their pets - be they old or new - are starting 2016 happy and healthy.

"Whether your pet comes as a gift this Christmas or is already a member of your family, this time of year really highlights the need to give all pets the best of care," said Dr Awad.

"Most animal shelters, pounds and vets experience a surge in lost, injured and homeless animals until late January due to many reasons including pet owner's personal or financial situations, the holiday season and poor choices when it comes to choosing their pets."

Dr Awad offers the following basic steps for safeguarding your pets' wellbeing.

1. Prevention is better than cure

An annual vet check-up is a must to flag health conditions early when they can often best be cured or managed, and to ensure vaccinations, tick, flea and other preventative treatments are up-to-date.

2. Register and microchip your pet

As well as a collar and tag with name and address details it's essential to micro-chip your pet and register it with your local council - and remember to keep your contact details up to date. Many people change phone numbers or move homes and forget to update their details, leaving their pet high and dry when most in need.

3. Desex non-breeding animals

No one needs unwanted puppies and kittens. The number of animals euthanased because they can't find a good home is heartbreaking. Don't add to the statistics. Whilst many animal welfare organisations, pounds and rescue groups do everything they can to rehome abandoned animals, the reality is that not all animals find new homes. Desexing is also associated with other benefits including less likelihood of serious diseases such as some cancers and uterine infections. There are also behavioural benefits associated with desexing pets.

4. Get pet insurance

Significant advancements in vet care in recent years spell good news - but they come at a financial cost. It means your pets can live longer than ever before, and that treatments for diseases previously considered incurable are now within reach. Pet owners are seeking out the best for their pets-after all they are considered part of the family. However, these costs can also mean too many families are facing the terrible prospect of saying "no" to lifesaving treatments for their pets because they can't afford it. There is no medicare system for pets so pet insurance is a way people can manage their financial risks in terms of veterinary expenses. It removes the stress of having to make those difficult decisions around their pets' medical needs.

"As vets we see an increasing number of Australian households viewing pet insurance as an "essential" list in the household budget, along with car, home and life insurance," said Dr Awad.

"However, for the country with one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world, the insurance levels are still too low.

"For pets, having insurance in place can mean the difference between life and death. For pet owners, it means the difference between happiness and heartbreak."

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