Pet Dental Care Month

How to help your dogs and cats stay healthy, starting with the teeth! Did you know that plaque and tarter build-up can lead to systemic infection and to liver, kidney and heart disease? Just like in humans is not just about a pretty face and a healthy set of chompers is the gateway to healthy pets.

Some facts to brush up on:

  • Periodontal disease is the most common health condition in cats and dogs — even though it is preventable!
  • Almost 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have developed periodontal (gum) disease by the age of 2.
  • Poor pet breath may mean serious health issues that might be originating from his teeth!

Just like in humans, without dental care plaque will build up on the surface of teeth and at the gum line. If it’s not removed by brushing, this can become infected and move past the gums to the surrounding teeth and bone. Also, calcium salts from saliva can turn plaque into hard tartar, which becomes rough and forms a perfect bed for more plaque formation. With this process, gums can inflame and become painful with gingivitis. As gum disease advances, gums will become infected, and this infection can move into the bloodstream and can then spread to the heart, kidneys and liver.

We brush our teeth daily so why not brush our pets teeth, too?!

First, check with your local pet store to help point you in the right direction. If necessary consult with a veterinarian to assess your pet’s overall health and the health of their teeth and gums with a dental evaluation.

Will my pet let me brush their teeth?

With effective cat and dog training your pet will enjoy having their teeth cleaned. It is all about positive association and reinforcement. There are 3 techniques to use gradually over a period of about a week:

  1. Let your pet lick a small of bit of Pet Toothpaste from your finger and then give him a tasty treat. Do this for a couple days.
  2. The following couple of days put some Pet Toothpaste on the Pet Toothbrush and let him lick that followed by their favourite treat.
  3. Finally, gently brush a few teeth with his brush and give him a treat. Just a couple teeth gradually work up to more and more. Pretty soon your pet is loving it all!

It is really that simple. Quick, easy and will result in a lifetime of better pet health.

One very important note about toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste as your pet could choke on the foam.

During Pet Dental Month Telling TAILS has many savings available on dental care products.

  • Pet toothpaste, pet toothbrushes, finger toothbrushes, plaque scrapers and dental care kits.
  • Powder supplements like Natures Dentist serve to remove tarter & plaque while your pet eats
  • Toys that encourage chewing to gently clean the teeth like rope toys can help to floss your pets teeth.
  • Toys like Bionic chew toys, can have treats hidden inside that can help to scrape the teeth as the teeth move in to score the goodies.
  • Treats that don’t break down easily like Bull Pizzles have a similar effect to flossing.
  • Chewing on Tarter buster bones and Deer Antlers provide friction against the teeth as your pets chew.

Come in to Telling TAILS for dental care month and both you and your pet will come out smiling.

Pet Winter Care

We have all read or heard the horrible stories and consequences of leaving a pet in a vehicle in the sweltering summer heat. There have been many efforts to increase the awareness around the dangers of leaving your pet in vehicles stressing how quickly the vehicle can become extremely hot. And how important it is to have fresh water available to ensure your pets stay hydrated in the summer.

But what about pet winter care? Temperatures can drop quickly in the winter and vehicles are not well insulated nor do they have a furnace that comes on automatically when the temperature dips. Common-sense safety includes not leaving your pets in a parked car, even if you are only planning on being gone for a few minutes. The line up at the lottery terminal could cause you to be away longer that you expected. Bring them with you if you can they will enjoy a visit to a pet friendly establishment or leave them home and make sure they stay warm.

The cold can be as dangerous and deadly for our pets as to us if we fail to take proper precautions. Wind-chill, frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration are all equally dangerous to animals. As responsible pet owners, we need to learn how to care for our animals when the temperature falls.

My preference is to keep pets indoors, the affectionate cuddles and play are very rewarding in many ways. I understand this may not be everyone’s preference or even your pet’s preference. Growing up on a farm our animals were outdoors except on extremely cold nights. We had one dog, Mr. Peebody, who absolutely refused to sleep in the house and would pester you until he was let out. However we would always check to make sure the dogs were safely inside there dog houses before nightfall and call the cats in before bedtime. The reality is that some animals are outdoor pets, some of our furry friends will have to stay out in the cold.

We need to provide adequate shelter to protect our animals from the weather for example. It should be common sense, but it is the law. Make sure our pets always have access to water. If our furry family members are outdoors we need to break the ice out of the water bowl several times a day and replenishing it. A plastic or ceramic bowl is better than metal, to prevent your dog’s tongue sticking to the metal bowl. We know what happened to the kid who licked the monkey bars when we were in grade school. Consider a heated water bowl to prevent the water from freezing when you are unable to break the ice out of the bowl.

Building a draft-free, weatherproof, elevated and insulated structure with a flap-door that faces away from prevailing winds can be a fun and educational project for you and the kids. I fondly remember building the dog houses with my father for Brandy our St. Bernard and Rex our mixed breed mutt. Insulated with 3 inches of Styrofoam between the double walled construction including insulated roof and floors as well. We put a double flap on the entrance and placed the shelters on cement Blocks so the melting snow would not run inside. Inside there was straw that the dogs could snuggle into. Dad explained cotton blankets and pillows are not as good as straw because if they become damp from snow or the animal’s body moisture, the bedding can freeze and does not dry quickly. And the straw was inexpensive and easy to swap out on a regular basis. Not to forget our feline family members Snoopy and Tiger who had their very own private entrance to the enclosed porch. I thought it was a unfair to the dogs that the cats were allowed indoors and the dogs were not. But I digress. If you are not handy, shelters for animals can be purchased to keep your pets comfortably outdoors.

A few winter pet care tips

Keep our indoor pets active by playing with them indoors. Take them outside for shorter periods on cold days.

Winter air is dry can cause itchy, dry skin for us, the same is true for our furry family members. Consider using a humidifier in your home to regulate the air moisture.

When we give our pets baths, be sure their fur coats are completely dry before going outside for a walk. Remember what Mom used to say about going outside in the winter with wet hair? You’ll get a chill!

Also consider that snow, ice and salt will stick to our pets paws. When you return from a walk, pour some room temperature water into a bowl, grab a towel and rinse that residue away. Alternately, equip your pets with waterproof boots to protect sensitive paws.

Stay current with the weather forecast and adjust your pet care as necessary. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly.

Want to know more about winter pet care or pet care in general? Come into Telling TAILS at 3482 Errington Avenue, Suite D, Chelmsford. Also visit

Nutrience Original, Naturals and Grain Free Dog and Cat Pet Food

The Better Pet Food Choice!

If you’re looking for a dog food or cat Food diet have a closer look at Nutrience pet food for dogs and cats. The formulas contain no corn, wheat or soy, and there is  even a line that has said goodbye to grains altogether – Nutrience Grain Free for Dogs and Nutrience Grain Free for Cats. Whether it’s fresh turkey, cage-free chicken, whole egg, Atlantic herring or any of the many other high grade animal and fish proteins used, they are always the very best that can be sourced.


The low-glycemic carbohydrates in Nutrience foods may lower the risk of diabetes and help prevent obesity. By limiting carbs to those with a lower glycemic index where possible (lower or slower release of glucose into the bloodstream), the pressure on the cells to produce insulin is reduced – as is the risk of diabetes. Includes staples such as sweet potatoes, steel-cut oats, lentils, and green peas, to be not only delicious, healthy ingredients, but to contribute to a longer and healthier life for your pet.

Going Above and Beyond

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements are beneficial to humans and pets alike. In addition to ensuring that our formulas contain all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids our pets require we’ve also added prebiotics, probiotics, glucosamine and chondroitin. While prebiotics and probiotics work together to support a healthy digestive system, glucosamine and chondroitin are incorporated into our formulas to help maintain hip and joint health.

Essential Fatty Acids

Healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are principle ingredients of every Nutrience formula. You can both see and feel the difference when feeding foods of superior value.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride (MCT), that elevates the metabolism, provides a higher level of energy and vitality, protects from illness, and speeds healing. Coconut oil also improves skin and coat conditioning, enhances digestion, and reduces allergic reactions.

Fish & salmon oil

Coldwater fish such as salmon and herring contain some of the highest levels of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. They can improve your pet's skin and coat, reduce inflammation, regulate the immune system, improve cognitive function and assist in prenatal development.


These tiny seeds are packed with nutritional components. They're a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and high in soluble and insoluble fiber.

Protective Antioxidants


Pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, spinach & broccoli:

Their bright colors alone are indicative of the presence of powerhouse nutrient beta- carotene. It boosts the immune system, guards against illness, promotes cardiovascular health and good vision. Moreover, they contain anti-inflammatory properties, cancer-fighting properties and are a good source of dietary fiber.

Blueberries, cranberries & pomegranates:

Known as "superfruits", pomegranates, blueberries and cranberries are renowned for their numerous protective anti-aging and metabolism boosting effects. These include fighting heart disease, memory loss, cancer, urinary tract infections and obesity.

Apples & pears:

Apples and pears provide sources of pectin (soluble fiber) to aid digestion and are rich in potassium, helping to maintain heart and muscle strength.

Nature’s Remedies


Botanicals have been valued for their medicinal and therapeutic properties throughout known history. We’ve been including them in our formulas for over 15 years for their power to naturally strengthen, heal and cleanse the body.


Promotes circulation and decreases inflammation.

Licorice Root:

Stimulates the immune system and is a fast-acting anti-inflammatory that can be specifically useful for pets with arthritis.

Ginger, Fennel & Peppermint:

Support the entire digestive system.

Juniper Berries:

Promote urinary tract health, lower blood glucose levels, strengthen kidney function and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Green Tea:

A rich antioxidant with numerous protective properties that fight against cancer, the inflammatory effects of arthritis and heart disease. It also boosts metabolism and helps burn fat.
Nutrience pet food has a formula tailored to your pet’s life stage and health needs. Nutrience Grain Free, Nutrience Natural and Nutrience Original quality formulas nourish your pet’s body. Remember, Nutrience cats and Nutrience dogs are healthy cats and dogs. Backed by the No Bad Anything promise, Nutrience products contain no corn, wheat, soy, by-products, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

FROMM Four-Star Grain FREE Entrees

All of our FROMM Four Star entrees are specially formulated to compliment each other without digestive upset. You can introduce your pet to a new entree each day, eacy week or each month.

By rotating through the entrees you offer your pet:

  • more pleasure at meal time
  • greater protein/flavour variety to prevent boredom
  • more diverse and complete nutrient intake
  • ease of digestibility - easy on their digestive system
  • a safe alternative to a diet based on the same food day after day

Yeast Overgrowth and Leaky Gut Syndrome

Yeast seems to be a biggy everywhere, mostly due to the over consumption of refined high carb pet foods.

Of course everyone raves about probiotics for yeast control which makes perfect sense if you are human but in the case of a dog not so easy. The pH of the dogs stomach at rest is pH 2, pretty acidic and when he eats it actually goes lower to pH 1 very acidic and may stay that way digesting meat for 8 hours at this pH until the slurry is released into the intestinal tract. So most probiotics and even the ones for dogs are made for human use and have a pH resistance of 3 for maybe 3 hours therefore it is most likely killed off in the lower pH of the dogs stomach, it simply cannot survive the acidity and certainly length of time. There are some that use faecium and other strains that survive acidity levels but they will need to be very potent to have a big effect in terms of improving intestinal tract function.

Sometimes it is just better to stop feeding the yeast, feed the good bacteria, and provide a better environment for the good bacteria.

Lactic acid fermented food will do this very well, like Kefir and lactic acid fermented vegetables. Kefir is not really a probiotic, it isn’t made from milk fermenting bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus) but made from milk coagulating bacteria (bacillus coagulans) and will pass through the stomach. Make sure to buy just plain old simple Kefir and not all the fancy flavourful stuff on the shelves.

BiologicVet’s BioSKIN & COAT and the BioFATS is an excellent combination for this condition. The BioSKIN & COAT will help calm things down due to its antihistamine effect and the added pancrelipase supports the pancreas to help digest those excess carbs better so the yeast don’t like them so much. The base of the product and this is in all of the powders is a certified organic defatted seed blend of flax, sunflower and sesame that feed the good bacteria which will in turn suppress the yeast. The flax and sesame also provide excellent levels of lignans (1mg per pound of dog weight) that balance hormone function supporting the adrenal gland especially when the dog has been spayed or neutered.

The BioFATS is made up of flax, salmon and olive oil along with pancrelipase again for fat digestion this time will help repair the damaged mucosal linings of the intestinal tract closing up the leakage of protein loss into the blood stream the yeast have caused known as leaky gut syndrome.

When there are severe allergies and protein intolerances and the dog is on a protein rotation diet BiologicVet’s BioSENIOR or BioSPORT for the L-glutamine, L-glutamine really works well on repairing the intestinal mucosal linings in severe cases. The BioSENIOR also has the same added pancrelipase so an extra dose of this.

Using BiologicVet is going to help get the intestinal tract back in shape but it is much easier to use this when the food is also changed to a grain free, low carb, low glycemic food. Nutrience Naturals is an excellent food that does meet these dietary requirements. In some cases a raw diet or freeze dried food like Stella & Chewy’s may be necessary to correct the problem.

Telling TAILS carries full line of BiologicVetNutrience Naturals, Stella & Chewy’s and more.

Dog Telling Tails

It is important to understand assuming a wagging tail means a dog is feeling friendly is not always the case. We need to educate ourselves and our children to avoid unfortunate circumstances. Dogs tails are a way for them to communicate. They have a body language they use for talking to other animals including us. Taking time to understand the different combinations of tail positions is part of a conversation the dog is conveying will avoid an incident.

Three important Telling Tails Positions to keep in mind.

How high or low is the dog’s tail? Consider whether it’s a pure breed or mix breed with a typical tail or one, like a Chow, Basenji or Pug, that normally curl their tails over their backs.

If the tail is held high up over the back the dog is on alert. They feel like something’s not right. They may not me looking directly at you. In dog language a direct can be a challenge or it could very well be that their attention is on something else and not you. Relax, look around and don’t approach until you get a better signal.

If the dog’s tail is low, down near or between the hind legs the dog is telling us he is submissive, possibly fearful. This is our cue to slow down, soften and quiet voice. Use a comforting tone and encourage the dog to come to us instead of walking up to him.

If the dog’s tail is held mid-range the dog is telling us he is not threatened by our presence. Typically friendly, hey buddy what what’s going on, position. Often the height of a dog’s tail in this mid-range neutral zone indicates the confidence level. A good sign he’s confident and doesn’t feel he has any reason to distrust or have any fear is tail even with the dog’s back, or just a bit above. Should he start to lower his tail, they may be telling us they are not quite as confident and would like it if you’d let them get to know you a little more slowly

Three important Telling TAIL motions to keep in mind

Wagging tails can be the dog who can barely keep his back end on the ground for the gyroscopic motion of his tail when you get home from work or say “gofer a walk?” If the dog is not yours, prepare yourself for the enthusiasm. But don’t run up to the dog. The dog’s may consider this as impolite and a confident dog displaying a level-with-the-back, wag the dog tail into one that drops lower and changes tone quickly. Mind your manners.

When we see a dog with a barely perceptible, trembling wag. That one’s trying to tell us he’s unsure. If the tail is held high at the same time, these Telling TAILS are typically a warning to back off. If it’s down low, between the hind legs, the dog is probably telling us they are feeling uneasy.

When we see a calm wag we must consider this with position. A calm wagging of a dog’s tail while holding it in the midrange, tells us the dog is content at ease. They are confident, and would probably like a pat or rub.

When we see a dog with a high over the back wag the dog is sizing us up. This Telling TAIL displays the dog’s confidence that they can take us on if they are challenged. They are telling us they are not frightened and do not consider our presence a threat. But they don’t trust us just yet. Mind your manners respect their assertiveness.

When we see a dog with a stiff tail they are telling us we are in their space, to go away, they don’t want to be bothered. Especially if the tail is lashing back and forth. Regardless of the position or motion a dog with a stiff tail is telling us we are a threat and they intend to deal with it. Best to distance ourselves from the dog give them their space. Avoid direct eye contact this could escalate the already tense situation.

A wagging tail is a complex part of a dog’s language that they are telling us to be read. So read up and there will be happy tails to tell.

Cats Telling TAILS

A cat's tail can tell allot about feline behaviour. Cat's use their tails to communicate with us and other animals. Tails positions are good indications of their mood. Take some time to watch a cat's behavior and you’ll start to understand the Telling TAILS. Here are some to watch for.

When a cat's tail position is high - When a cat holds their tail high in the air as they roam around, they are expressing confidence and contentment. A tail that sticks straight up is a tell of happiness and friendly mood. And notice the tip of an erect tail. A little twitch can mean a particularly happy moment.

When a cat's tail position is curved looking like a question mark. This tail position often tells of a playful mood. The cat is ready to have some fun. If you notice a curve in her tail they are most likely telling you they want to play. When a cat's tail position is low. Be careful. A tail straight down can tell of aggression. A lower tail is a very serious mood. However, be aware that some breeds, such as Persians, tend to carry their tails low and may not be looking for a fight.

When a cat's tail position is tucked away. A tail curved beneath the body tells us they are fearful or submissive. Something is making your cat apprehensive.

When a cat's tail is puffed up. A tail resembling a pipe cleaner tells us the cat is agitated and frightened. Cats do this to look bigger and scare off whatever frightened them.

When a cat's tail is whipping. A tail that is rapidly swinging back and forth tells us the can is both fearful and aggressive. It is a warning to stay away.

When a cat's tail is swishing. Usually tells us the cat is focused on an object as the tail sways slowly from side to side. You will see this tail position right before your cat pounces on a mouse or a toy.

When a cat's tail is wrapped around another cat. Conveys friendship. Similar to putting your arm around another person. When they lean on you and wrap their tail around your leg, they are likely saying hey buddy what's going on.

Dog Toys – How to Chews

Playing and chewing are natural canine behaviors.

Though some dogs will play or chew more than others, dog toys are essential items for all dogs.

In fact, behavior problems can develop when dogs do not have the proper outlets to follow their instincts which brings me to the 2 most common questions outside of pet nutrition.

  • What toy will last the longest?
  • What toy will get my dog top stop chewing on everything?

Although I don’t actually have 1 answer to suit every dog’s chew toy needs, I do have quite a few questions of my own to ask in order to guide us through the toy section together and help you decide which toy will suit your dogs pawsonality.

For starters, there are quite a few more that stem off this once you are in the store…

  • What is your pets chewing behaviour?
  • Have you noticed a toy that was more of a favorite, babied more than others?
  • Is there a toy perhaps your pet slept with?
  • Is there a a toy sought out at the beginning of the day?
  • Perhaps a toy your pet welcomes you home with or good night routine?

The common Dog Toys to consider


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Chelmsford OntarioA ball toy is a must-have for any dog that loves to fetch. Ball toys come in many varieties, from the basic tennis ball or rubber ball to glow-in-the-dark and flashing-light balls. Some balls contain squeakers or holes for treats, while others are basic bouncers meant for retrieving. Try a product like Chuckit! to allow you to throw balls further and for slobber-free ball handling.

When choosing a ball for your dog, pick one that is large enough for your dog to carry without accidentally swallowing it. The basic tennis-ball size works fine for most dogs, but there are also extra-large balls for giant dogs and mini balls for tiny dogs. In general, avoid leaving tennis balls around for your dog to chew on.

Material in tennis balls can cause the teeth to wear down and pieces can lead to choking or gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested. I have come across a case where the dogs favorite toy was the tennis balls from the hardware store. This pooch loved to pick all the fur off, unfortunately after a pretty hefty vet bill we learned that the fuzz can actually collect in dogs lungs causing some pretty serious issues.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Hurley Retrieving Disks Flying Squiriel Chelmsford OntarioDogs that love balls and playing fetch also tend to enjoy discs and other retrieval toys. The disc is a bit more versatile than a ball when it comes to fetching, as you can vary the speed of the disc and cause it to change direction, further challenging your dog. There is even a dog sport that involves disc retrieval. Other retrieving dog toys, such as the Hurley by West Paw give your dog a uniquely shaped toy to fetch. They may be made of rubber, plastic, rope or another material.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Plush Skineeez Chelmsford OntarioMany dogs adore plush toys. They will carry them around like babies or tear them apart like prey. Stuffed dog toys usually contain squeakers and poly-fill. Dogs often rip into them and stuffing goes everywhere. Many dogs seem to be trying to “kill” their “prey” by destroying the squeaker. After the toy is “dead” they still sometimes carry them around and shake them. Supervise your dogs when they play with plush toys to keep her from swallowing stuffing or squeakers, which can lead to GI obstruction. If you are not fond of cleaning up the stuffing from your dog’s plush toys, try a stuffing-free toy like Skinneeez. These are basically the outside of stuffed toys with squeakers but no stuffing. Plush toys will not last long with aggressive chewers, but can still be plenty of fun (with supervision). Some companies make extra tough plush toys for longer lasting chew time, such as Kong Ballistic.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Squeaky Bone Chelmsford OntarioNon-plush squeaky toys come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, they are made out of vinyl, rubber or plastic. Durability varies, so choose wisely according to your dog’s chewing habits. Generally, thick rubber is best for aggressive chewers. Thinner vinyl or plastic toys are better for mild chewers or if you will be supervising play at all times. The benefit of thinner squeaky toys is that they are often very inexpensive. The downside is that they don’t typically last very long.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Rope Chelmsford OntarioRope toys are made of braided rope and sometime have rubber or plastic parts. They can be used for fetch, tug-of-war or simply chewing. Many dogs love rope toys, while other have no interest. The action of chewing on a rope toy can actually be good for your dog’s teeth as it creates a brushing-like action. However, aggressive chewers can easily shred rope toys and may ingest pieces. This can lead to serious gastrointestinal obstruction. Never let your dog play with rope toys unsupervised. When your rope toy begins to unravel, it’s time to throw it away.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Tug Chelmsford OntarioMany dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war. It’s a healthy display of a dog’s predatory nature, plus its great mental and physical exercise. There are many types of tug toys on the market in various shape, sizes and materials. Often seen are tug toys made of rope and/or rubber. Choose a tug toy that is comfortable for you to hold in your hand and pull on, as well as easy for your dog to bite and pull on. In addition, tug toys should be durable enough to hold up to the strength of your dog’s pulling. Replace worn or fraying tug toys so they do not break in the middle of a game of tug-of-war and hurt someone.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Floating Chelmsford OntarioFloating toys are great for dogs that love swimming. Usually made of a foam, rubber or plastic material, floating balls, rings and other toys are easy for your dog to find and grab in the water.


Telling Tails Pet Food Pet Supplies Dog Toys Food Dispensing Chelmsford Ontario

Food and treat dispensing dog toys should be in every dog’s household. They offer fun, mental stimulation, and are great way for dogs to funnel their energy. Food dispensing dog toys come in various shapes and sizes and are usually made of rubber or plastic. Perhaps the most popular of all food dispensing dog toys is the Kong, which can be filled with treats, kibble, peanut butter and other foods and can provide hours of fun for your dog.  Of course all of you amazing pet parents are keeping in mind the amount of treats (or calories) your dog eats with these toys.  There is quite a few health wise treats perfectly sized for these types of toys as well as a healthy Dogs Butter product available to ensure we are keeping playtime healthy.

Finally, it is very important to remember that all toys can pose a risk if your dog ingests them, so play should be supervised, especially with aggressive chewers. No matter how durable a toy seems, there is still a possibility that pieces can be chewed off and ingested.

Oh and 1 more really important piece of advice, get to know your independent community pet store.  Bring in your pooch so they can get to know you as a family. It helps us give you proper advice, and suggest special items we can our order that may suit you specifically. As we get to grow together we will help you keep our pets the happiest and healthiest years to come.

Consider when selecting an animal family member

Consider when selecting an animal family member.

Deciding whether or when to adopt an animal companion is almost as important a decision as selecting a human companion, or having a child. This decision is worthy of important thought and consideration. Deciding on a particular species for a companion, and then selecting a breed, and finally selecting an individual animal, are significant decisions that affect the compatibility of a person and animal in the future. For example, dog breeds vary considerably in the type of companion they will be. These traits are genetic, learned, and environmental. Additionally, certain breeds are predisposed to the health problems which pet parents should be aware of.

It is important to note that adults who live with animals tend to have experienced animals as children. They often select species and breeds of animals similar to those they had as children. The selection of a breed due to previous exposure may not always be in an adult’s or family’s best interest.

Companion animals have many benefits:

  • · They provide unconditional love and affection
  • · companionship and comfort
  • · the opportunity to develop a bond between human and animal
  • · They assist individuals with special needs as service animals
  • · social connections and interaction with people
  • · motivation to exercise
  • · enhanced health

These benefits only occur in compatible relationships, when the person loves and cares for the animal. When the animal and caretaker are mismatched, the relationship is weakened and may limit the benefits for both the animal and the person.

Something(s) to think about.

In today’s world where living alone and feelings of loneliness seem to be increasing, it is appropriate to encourage the keeping of more companion animals under the right circumstances for families and individuals. Alternatively, it is essential to discourage mismatches between potential pet parents and companion animals which could lead to crises and separation for both the animals and the people who are involved. There is a growing body of research literature as a resource to assist people in building compatible relationships with animals and making appropriate decisions on the right companion

Depending on a person’s living situation, it is sometimes necessary to consider adopting an appropriate animal that does not distress neighbors, such as a dog breed with low likelihood of excessive barking or aggression.

A person’s expectations are key in choosing whether to adopt an animal, and which species, breed, and individual to select. Is the animal to provide companionship, a playmate for the children, or household protection? Does one want a dog that will rarely challenge authority? Are the expectations realistic? What level of commitment do you as the pet parent have? Does the potential pet parent desire a lap dog or one that will require extensive physical activity? For example, someone seeking an animal primarily to teach a child love and responsibility, and help entertain the child, may be disappointed to learn that the animal requires considerable care and attention. Animals that provide vigilance for strangers may bark excessively at friends who are welcome. Thinking carefully about these choices is perhaps the most important step toward preventing many problems months or years later.

Which Species should I choose?

This depends on what you and your family have decided together, based on your self-assessment.


Birds as companions are on the increase. The keeping of birds is “convenient” for many people who live in apartments, or live in places that do not allow dogs and cats. Species of birds range in their behavioral patterns and appearances. Some form close attachments to a primary caregiver, become affectionate, or even learn to talk.

The commitment of having a bird

Depending on the species of bird, they may require even more care than a dog or cat. Some birds may live for 50-60 years, and in many cases they can outlive their owners. The exact behavior of each species varies considerably, however most birds are extremely social. They may require a lot of attention, and many birds vocalize frequently. People who want birds as pets should realize that they cannot simply be stuck in a cage and fed. Many birds have compulsive behaviors where the will pull out their feathers or chew on their legs if they are not entertained. Birds should be given plenty of toys and things to chew on to prevent them from performing compulsive behaviors. If you don’t have time for a dog or cat, a bird is not an ideal pet either.

Know your bird’s origin

When buying a bird through a pet shop, it is important to figure out if that bird has had a previous owner and is being resold. It is recommended to research bird breeders prior to purchasing a pet as they may have pre-existing health or emotional issues. Also, many birds are smuggled into the Canada & the US and are truly exotic birds that are not meant to be pets. They may have special needs that you may be unaware of, and frequently these animals end up in situations where they need to be relinquished. This can be traumatic for both pets and their owners.

Small Companion Animals

Small companion animals such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and mice, and other pocket pets are very popular, especially with children. These animals provide companionship, yet may require much less care and human social contact than dogs, birds, or cats. Although these animals are similar in many ways, their behavior can vary greatly.

Ferrets and Guinea Pigs

Ferrets tend to require more effort than most owners anticipate. Ferrets have a high metabolic rate, and they defecate and mark their cages and litter boxes frequently. Ferrets tend to require a lot of attention as they have important play behavior, and tend to hide inanimate objects (or “ferret them away”). Enrichment is extremely important for ferrets and they require toys and areas that they can explore, tunnel through, dig, and in some cases destroy.

Guinea pigs tend to be non-aggressive, docile, are responsive to attention, and make affectionate pets. They are an extremely social species, and tend to be very gentle unless provoked. Guinea pigs do well when caged for extended periods of time, so they are often convenient pets for busy families. There are many Guinea pigs that are relinquished to shelters, and many are euthanized as it is difficult to find homes for them. As a result, it might be best to adopt a Guinea pig rather than to buy one from a pet store.

Small Rodents

Rodents vary in size and habitat preference, but they are all nocturnal animals. This nocturnal behavior is something to consider if one is considering housing the rodent in a bedroom. However, if one is aware of their natural behaviors and sleeping patterns, small rodents such as mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters can make great pets. It is important to note that they have a short life span which may be a positive or negative when selecting a rodent as a pet.

Exotic Small Mammals

Chinchillas, Fennec Foxes, Hedgehogs, and Prairie Dogs are all very beautiful animals. They do not make the best pets because they are essentially wild animals in captivity. There is not enough known about them medically to manage their health appropriately. Additionally, these animals have specific habitat requirements that must be met. For example, Chinchillas give themselves frequent dust baths, and if they are not provided with this environment, this could be considered neglect. One must be very careful if they choose to select an exotic small mammal as a pet.


As with birds and pocket pets, the convenience of keeping companion cats contributes to their growing popularity. Because many households have multiple cats, there are, in fact, more households with dogs than cats. People who live with cats describe loving cats’ outrageous antics, their beauty, and just interacting with them. The experience a young cat has with humans often influences how affectionate the animal is as an adult. Most people value the affection they share with their cats, so selecting an animal that has had good early experiences with humans enhances the likely compatibility.

The biggest decisions to make when selecting a cat are whether you desire a pure-bred cat versus a shelter animal, or if you want to acquire a kitten or adult cat. Additionally, some people desire to rehabilitate a feral cat; however these situations often require a high level of commitment and energy.

What type of cat should I select?

In the selection of what type of cat you desire, it is important to keep in mind that pure-bred cats frequently come with associated genetic problems. For example, Persian or other short-nosed cats can develop problems breathing through their narrow nasal passages. These problems are significant to note because having a pure-bred cat will frequently require an owner to spend more money on veterinary care. This can be both an economically and emotionally straining experience for many families. You also should think about long-haired vs. short-haired cats, depending on the time that you have to groom your companion.

What age of cat should I get?

The age of a cat that you decide to adopt should also be a decision that you consider wisely. It is important to take into account how much time you have to devote to your pet based on your schedule and family environment. If you live in a full time working household it’s recommended you stay away from the kittens or adolescents (under 18 months), because they frequently require a lot of attention and playtime. Sometimes having 2 cats of the same age group will make it possible to have a younger cat. An adult cat may make more sense for a family with young children if it is outgoing and friendly. It is also noteworthy, however, that some adult cats have unknown histories and they may be harder to introduce into a new or multi-cat household.

Cats are both social and independent animals who can exhibit remarkable flexibility in adapting to a wide range of living situations. Living indoors or outdoors, singly or in a group, cats can adapt to either solitary or social settings. Many people who live with cats prefer having more than one. Some feel it is more interesting having more than one to watch or play with. Others add additional cats as company for the cat. Problems with house soiling or urine spraying are reduced for those who live with only one cat. It is important to note however, that adding a new cat or kitten to an environment where there is a pre-existing animal can be difficult and often frustrating transition for both the owners and the cat or cats.

Dogs “Choosing a dog” informational table

When adopting a dog, one must keep in mind that adding a dog to a household is as serious as adding another human being. Dogs require a greater commitment of time and resources than some other pets. Dogs need companionship and interaction, and some enjoy and even require regular structured activities, such as walks, games, and agility training. The social interactions and needs of dogs for partnership, while rewarding for many families, may be a bit of a burden for some people who lead a less stable life-style.

Large breed versus small breed dogs?

Small dogs tend to be more active and excitable than larger ones. Thus, while it is tempting to think a small dog is easier to manage than a large one, the temperament of a small dog may be more challenging than many larger breeds. Nonetheless, older people may feel more confident of not being inadvertently knocked over by a small animal, and small dogs take up less space in a tiny apartment.

Male or female dog?

In general female dogs are likely to be less aggressive and more trainable than males. Someone selecting a breed with more aggressive tendencies might choose a female to reduce the likelihood of behavior tendencies, or could also consider a more compliant breed. This problem prevention approach is very important in increasing the likelihood of a compatible relationship.


It is a very important to make the most knowledgeable choice when selecting a pet to become a member of your family. Contact your veterinarian or animal behaviourist for more information on what is best for you and your family.

Once you have selected the pet you feel will fit your household, knowledge of that animal’s normal behaviors can help you avoid behavior problems. Behavior problems such as urine-marking or fear of children are actually a natural part of the instinctual behavior of the animal. Many of what we humans see as behavior problems of our pets is really normal behaviors for that species, but the behavior may be inappropriate for living closely with people. Knowing what to expect and what is normal for the animal and consideration of the environment the pet will be introduced to will help you guide your animal into behaviors that are acceptable to you before behavior problems arise.

Here are some questions for you and your family to consider when selecting the next animal family member.

  1. What is my life history and experience with animals? With particular species? With particular breeds?
  2. To what degree are my current preferences shaped by these experiences?
  3. Am I prepared to provide 24 hour care for this animal for his/her lifetime, or is this not the right time for this responsibility?
  4. How much interaction am I seeking with this animal?
  5. What level of investment of time can I give this animal?
  6. What do I look forward to with this animal?
  7. Am I at a stable point in my life where I can care for it during the duration of the pet’s lifetime?
  8. Am I willing to commit financially and emotionally to the medical care of this animal?
  9. Can I accommodate this animal’s needs during my vacations and absences?
  10. Can my residence comfortably house an animal?
  11. Do I expect this animal to be: a quiet companion, low effort, well behaved, a playmate for children, a jogging partner, a camping companion, a working partner,