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How Do You Make Sure You’re Taking Proper Care Of Your Pet?

April 2, 2019 1:29 p.m.

GUEST: Dr. Gary Weitzman, author, “The Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, And Happiness, The Veterinarian's Approach to At-Home Animal Care”

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Speaker 1: 00:00 When you adopt a pet, all you think about is the fun you'll have with this wonderful new creature and you will, but you'll soon also realize that you're a pet depends on you for just about everything. How do you make sure you're taking proper care of your pet through the good times, the CIC times the difficult times and even the end times. San Diego humane society, President and CEO, Dr Gary Weitzman is the author of a new book published by the National Geographic Society. It's called the complete guide to pet health, behavior and happiness. Dr Weitzman joins me now, a Gary, welcome to the program. Thank you. So good to be back. Talking to, you know, at the humane society you see pet adoptions all the time. Do you think a lot of people are unprepared to take care of the pets they adopt?

Speaker 2: 00:46 No, not necessarily. I think we can all learn more about the animals that we adopt and just like our regular family members, but no, I think a lot of people are prepared. We really make it a situation where they're having a lot of very comprehensive time with our adoption counselors or veterinarians or behavior people. So anything we know about animal animals, we want the public to know when they adopt and we're there for them, but everybody can learn more. And that was really the purpose of the book.

Speaker 1: 01:12 In your book, you talk about the five freedoms of pets that people commit to when they adopt. What are they and why are they right

Speaker 2: 01:19 important? Yeah, they're really important. So they came out in the 60s and um, they basically were a turnaround for the animal welfare industry, but only about livestock, not necessarily about dogs and cats. Uh, we extend them to all animals because all animals deserve the five freedoms, but five freedoms are all things not to do. So make sure animals are not never fearful. Make sure they always have the right environment for themselves and make sure they are free of pain, free of discomfort, free of fear, anxiety, all those things. And it's a freedom from things that would distress them. What we really talk about in a progressive society is how do we make sure our animals are having the happiest, best life they can have. And so I think we've evolved from the 1965 freedoms to really what makes our animals happy.

Speaker 1: 02:02 And let's start out with how do you choose the right pet

Speaker 2: 02:06 one. For a lot of people it really is. And it's so funny, you know, at San Diego humane, we have about 40,000 companion animals come into us, uh, to go home every year and they'd successfully do. Um, but it's amazing how many times someone comes in and they are thinking about this dog they want, that's in their mind, but they fall in love with something else. Now, there are definitely people that know they want a border collie or they want a docksin or they wanted a German shepherd. I'd like to talk to them privately about the German shepard situation since I've got one and he's a handful. But, um, what we want to do is make sure that people have the options to fall in love and then we want to support them through that entire lifespan of that pet. And that's exactly what the book is hopefully going to help people do.

Speaker 1: 02:49 Also points out practical considerations like the size of your house and whether or not you have enough time.

Speaker 2: 02:55 Yeah, exactly. And then uh, you know, certainly don't want as an example, don't want people to get a cat because they don't have time for a dog because cats take just as much time as a dog. They, they're definitely easier in a lot of ways. But yeah, there are things you should be thinking about before you get a pet and cover that in the book as well. Of course, we covered at the shelter, we cover it hopefully anytime. We talked to people about a pet. But do you have enough time? Are you gonna do you have a full time job? That's great. Nearly everybody does. Are you able to get a pet sitter? You know if you have a very long day, do you have a big enough backyard for a dog that really needs to run or someplace safe that you can take that dog? You know the animal industry animal welfare's changed so much so it's been an area medicine, but it used to be that we would actually prevent an adoption.

Speaker 2: 03:38 Not we at San Diego he made necessarily, but the industry as a whole. If someone had a full time job because they weren't able theoretically to spend enough time with their animal, now we know it's just reality. There are options in your book, the complete guide to pet health and happiness. You can give a lot of health advice. Is that supposed to help pet owners decrease their visits to the vet? Yeah, it could, I suppose, but that's not the primary goal for the book. The book is to really help people have a better partnership with their veterinarians. Now vet spent a lot of time talking to their clients about their animals because animals can't talk per se. We were, we need all the information that a family member, the human member can tell us. So we have to spend more time with people. But what the book has a has a goal is to give people more of an idea of what might be happening earlier so that they can then go to their veterinarian and get treatment earlier.

Speaker 2: 04:28 And then of course, just as you just ask, there are other cases where, and I've heard this for the 30 years, I've been an animal welfare. Oh my gosh, I had to go to the emergency clinic last night at 2:00 AM because my dog threw up. And so what I want to say is, well how was your dog otherwise? I mean, well there was some blood in there in the, in what the dog removed from, from her stomach. And I would say, okay, that is a little bit more concerning, but what else happened? How did your dog feel? So here's some things you can look at. One is to maybe put your dog on a lander diet for a day or so. There's some over the counter medications that you should clear with your vet, but we list them in the book of things that you could do just like you would with a child.

Speaker 2: 05:06 So those are the common sense things that try to bring up in the book. But the whole goal is to have you be a better partner with your veterinarian. And one of the things you do and emotional health of pets more than we usually hear about. Is that a topic that's often overlooked? Yeah, it is, but less so. Now, you know, there's a lot of discussion about really let's just take dogs for instance. So there are recent studies in Hungary and then they'd been substantiated throughout the United States and university of Milan about the connection between animals, uh, their brains and how they work and hours. And there's one great study by a university in Hungary, which actually maps and area of a dog's brain. They use 16 border collies to actually check whether or not their brains, quote unquote lit up for the same reasons that ours did.

Speaker 2: 05:51 And those areas mapped lit up just like ours do. So we know that there's a lot of consciousness in these animals that can learn 200 of our words and identify things. So I think for us now and 2019 approaching 2020 it's time to really consider these beings have social structures. They have hopes, they have needs, things make them happy, and it is our responsibility really as stewards of the planet to ensure that those less fortunate or less able to speak have the happiest lives possible. And all of us are loving animals. That's our goal. Gary, you mentioned in your book that you intend to be buried with the ashes of your, did I say okay, I forgot that. That's one of the best examples though I've ever heard of how important pets are in our lives. Do you think that's beginning to be understood that deeply emotional role that animals play in our lives?

Speaker 2: 06:38 You know, I might have an abberant, a picture of what people understand at this point, being in animal welfare and animal shelters as long as I have, but I do see it every single solitary day, the deep connection that people have with cats, dogs, with birds, with fish, with reptiles. It's incredible and I don't think it says less of us to have the connections with other than human animals. I think it says a great deal more and down through the ages. We've seen wonderful quotes gone D, etc. Who have really a tested to the bond, the deep, deep, deep bond between human and animals. So I don't think my views of being buried with the remains of my dogs and cats is really that that abnormal. I love those animals to death. I wish they could have spent their entire lives with me. It is the hardest part of the relationship is the end part.

Speaker 2: 07:25 And I do touch on that in the book as you as you mentioned, but I think this is more and more common. And here in San Diego County, this I believe is truly the most pet loving area in the United States. I honestly do, and I didn't worry, you might remember an earlier conversation we had. I didn't actually feel that way when I moved to San Diego seven years ago, because everywhere I've ever lived, people say that they are the most animal friendly place. But this place, San Diego, I think truly, truly is, had been speaking with doctor Gary Weitzman in his new book is called the complete guide to pet health and happiness is published by the National Geographic Society. So great to talk to you. Thank you.