Your pet is part of your family. Their home is your home, and chances are you want to make their lives happy and comfortable. A big part of that is taking steps to protect your pet. Here are our 12 tips for making sure your furry, feathery, or finny friends live their best lives.
1. Get pet insurance
Taking care of an animal companion costs money. Just regular veterinarian bills can range from $700 to $1,500 per year for your average dog owner, which is why more pet owners have turned to pet insurance in recent years.
Pet insurance companies typically determine their rates by looking at your pet’s age, breed, and where they live. These factors can also impact the level of insurance you’ll want to purchase.
Most pet insurance policies are structured like human health insurance:
- Standard policies include monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.
- There are also coverage limits, typically either annual or for the pet’s lifetime.
- Some policies only cover veterinary care within a specific provider network, while others offer more flexible coverage.
You can buy a pet insurance policy that only provides emergency coverage for a low monthly premium, or you can opt for a plan that offers a balance of accident, illness, and wellness coverage.
While what your pet insurance covers varies by policy, most have the following exclusions:
- Preventative care
- Dental disease
- Hereditary conditions
After the exclusion of preventative care, the main difference between pet insurance and human health insurance is how claims are paid. Unlike our health insurance, pet insurance companies typically require you to pay out of pocket the day of service and then reimburse you once the claim has been processed.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a policy that has a co-pay you can afford and an annual deductible that won’t drain your savings if your pet is involved in a serious accident. A cheap pet insurance policy may not be worth the small monthly premium if the deductible is higher than you can afford to pay out of pocket.
2. Buy dog-friendly home insurance
The personal liability insurance included in your standard homeowner's insurance may or may not cover damage caused by your dog. That includes property damage, but the bigger concern is likely dog bites. About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
Even if you can’t find a dog-friendly home insurance policy, you may be able to get animal liability insurance. This protection is essential if someone holds you responsible for their bodily injuries or property damage. Animal liability insurance can help cover the injured person’s medical bills and repair costs.
While animal liability insurance isn’t required in most states, it’s wise to consider this coverage, especially if you’re a dog owner. It’s hard to predict your dog’s behavior, as different people and circumstances may trigger unforeseen reactions. And dog bite probability isn’t necessarily breed-dependent – even small dogs like Pomeranians can bite unexpectedly.
Bonus tip: Studies that examine dog bites by breed note that the top reason for dog biting was teasing. One way to avoid dog bite incidents is to make sure guests at your home are aware of your dog’s behaviors. Supervise visitor interactions until your dog is comfortable with them.
3. Secure doors, screens, and fences
You may not think that Rover would ever want to run away, but it’s pretty common, especially during events like Fourth of July fireworks. Scared animals often use small openings to escape, so check any outdoor fences or exterior doors for holes or gaps where a small pet might slip (or dig) out.
Loud noises aren’t the only thing that might put your pet at risk. Some animals are so interested in what’s going on outside that they push their snouts right up against window screens to see and smell everything that they can. It’s awful to imagine a pet falling out of a window, but it happens so often to cats that veterinarians have a name for it: high-rise syndrome.
4. Make a pet disaster plan
Would you know how to protect your pet if you were facing a tornado, hurricane, or fire? Disasters like these affect thousands of pets every year, but you can help get your animal companion to safety by making a pet disaster plan. Items in your plan might include:
- Putting together a pet disaster kit.
- Identifying evacuation shelters that allow animals.
- Finding a reliable temporary caregiver for your pet.
5. Tie up anything that can be pulled
Electrical cords, blinds, and curtains can all be sources of amusement for your cat or dog until they pose a serious hazard. Your pet can get choked by curtain pulls or suffer a shock if they bite through electrical cords. This is why you want to hide these items or secure them with tiebacks.
It’s also important to train your pet to leave cords alone. This may take some work, but it goes a long way toward keeping your animal companion safe and healthy.
6. Keep poisons away from your pet
This may sound extreme, but there are hidden poisons everywhere until you remove them. Find out which indoor and outdoor plants aren’t safe for your pet and get rid of them before you find out the hard way.
It’s also a good idea to use childproof clips on cabinet doors to protect your pets from cleaning chemicals kept under your sink. While you’re puppy-proofing the area for chemicals, take some time to secure the kitchen trash. There are a lot of human foods that are toxic to animals and you don’t want your pet getting into things he shouldn’t.
Finally, be thoughtful about where you leave purses and small bags. These look like fun toys to many pets, but they can be full of choking hazards or human medicines that pet bodies just shouldn’t ingest.
Bonus tip: If you think your pet swallowed something poisonous, call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. It’s open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
7. Organize your garage and basement
The items you store in your garage and basement can be risky in the wrong hands – or paws. You already know that poisons like antifreeze, paint thinners, and lawn care chemicals need to be kept away from your furry friend. But there can be other risks for your furry friends, including metal shards, trash, and batteries.
Keeping these areas organized is actually a good way to protect your pet. Put hazardous items in plastic storage bins and on high shelves to reduce the chances of Fluffy getting into them. You also want to check the floors for oil spills so you can clean them up quickly.
8. Get a pet first aid kit
Just like having a first aid kit for people, having one for your pet can minimize the impact of injuries should your pet experience an injury. You can purchase pet first aid kits online, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers a list of items to put in a do-it-yourself kit. Some examples include:
- Gauze pads.
- An ice pack
- Adhesive tape.
- Disposable gloves.
- Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.
Please note that injured animals may bite, so only administer first aid if you can do so safely. Some pets may need to be muzzled before you tend to their injuries.
9. Socialize your pet
Pets need to be introduced to various situations in order to feel comfortable. This process is called socialization, and it usually needs to happen when the pet is very young. If an animal isn’t socialized, it can become fearful and reactive, which increases the chances that they will bite or scratch someone.
Socializing your dog or cat typically involves exposing it to various experiences. For example, you might take your puppy out for walks where it meets a variety of people and hears different noises, all while providing positive reinforcement with treats or praise. You want to reward your pet’s engagement without forcing them to interact with the new experience.
10. Create a safe space for your pet
There are times when your pet wants to be left alone, so it’s important to give them a safe space of their own. For example, many pet owners use crates, kennels, or even certain rooms in their homes as safe spaces for their pets.
You want your pet to feel comfortable and happy in their safe space, so never use it as punishment. Rather, give them treats or toys that they love while they are in their safe space. That way, your pet will be happy to retreat to their safe space whenever you need to protect them.
Pet insurance is one way to make sure that your pet gets the care it needs, but as a pet owner, you also want to keep your pet safe from harm. Taking steps to protect your pet goes a long way toward curbing vet bills and liability claims.