Helping Pets Adjust to New Pets in the Household
Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR
Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital
My heart went out to a client last week. I often cry when a client cries because they are having to put their pet to sleep or when a client gets the bad news that their pet has cancer. This client wasnâ€™t in either predicament. Her dog was going to be fine.
You see, the story ending just didnâ€™t match up with her expectations. She had decided to adopt two rescue dogs and give them good homes. She painstakingly chose from all the dogs at the shelter and went over all their â€śtraits and personality quirksâ€ť with the agency. She sought out neutral ground to introduce them as she had been told to do. She kept them under control with leashes.
The dogs did not like one another. In an instant, they were fighting and one had to be brought in for sutures and wound treatment. The clientâ€™s agony over what her next steps would be was tangible. Here she had been trying to give a loving home to two dogs and it had turned out poorly. She felt guilty that they had gotten hurt and distraught over how to proceed in the future.
Even for the friendliest of animals, introducing another pet into your home can cause stress. Here are some tips that hopefully will help.
Â· Have your veterinarian check out the new pet before bringing her/him home. This will ensure that the pet is healthy and wonâ€™t be bringing external or internal parasites into the home or exposing your existing pet (s) to any disease. Your veterinarian might be able to gain some insight watching how your pet interacts at the veterinary hospital as well.
Â· Always supervise pets until you know how theyâ€™ll get along.
Â· Keep pets, including those of the same species, on opposite sides of a closed door to allow them to sniff each other without coming into full contact. Once they are comfortable with each otherâ€™s scents, use a baby gate to visually introduce them to one another.
Â· Keep dogs leashed to maintain control during introductions to new people.
Â· For new cats, consider creating a â€śrefuge roomâ€ť to which they can safely and comfortably retreat.
Â· Separate pets when leaving home for the first few weeks or months.
Â· Be careful with items that will cause possessiveness-food, favorite toys, and even your attention
Â· Donâ€™t get in the middle of a fight if one breaks out, you may get injured in the ruckus. Throw a towel or blanket over the pets fighting and take advantage of them being startled to break them apart.
Â· Dogs donâ€™t want to feel trapped and may react badly when they do. When introducing two dogs, have a leash on them that you can grab quickly but allow them to be in a room or fenced area without being tethered to a person. This way, the dogs can move at will away from each other if they feel the need.
There is no real way of knowing how pets are going to get along. Usually, time will help them become best buds or, at least tolerant of one another. There are many great articles on Animal Behavior Network (can be found on our website at www.casevet.com) so do some homework before you take the plunge and add another member to your household. Parents go through similar situations when they bring a new baby home to the siblings. Time and patience becomes a definite virtue!