Welcoming a new pet into the household is an exciting and trying event. Questions about this new family member’s health, physical, and behavioral requirements are concerning. The health of a pet introduced into a home is important for both animals and humans as diseases can be transmitted. To make sure your human and pet family stay healthy during this introductory period, the following guidelines are recommended to prevent disease transmission.

Get a good pet history. Find out any pertinent information, both normal and abnormal. Try to get any paper work or printed medical history about this pet. If there are any concerns about the pet’s history, contact your veterinarian.

Make sure a veterinarian has examined your new pet before bringing it into your household. A veterinarian will help ensure fleas, intestinal parasites, heartworms, Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, infections and other diseases are not present. Often your veterinarian may reschedule a follow up recheck evaluation after a few weeks of home observation.

Determine the right diet for your new pet. Whether young, adult, or a senior pet, choose a pet food specific for the stage of life. I prefer to use hard food if possible to help keep the teeth clean and prevent excessive tartar formation that may occur more readily with moist foods. Try to use a pet food that has an AAFCO statement. This ensures that proper feeding tests have been done so that the diet has complete, balanced nutrition for that specific stage of life. If a diet change is indicated, switch by gradually mixing the old food with the desired diet. Gradually increase the amount of new diet over a 14 day period to avoid any digestive upset.

Isolate, quarantine, and observe your new pet for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks. Some diseases have incubation periods. This means that a pet may be harboring a disease and not show any clinical signs initially after exposure. Monitor for any signs of abnormalities. During this period, wash your hands regularly after handling or cleaning up after you pet, especially children. Initially keep you new pet in an area that is in a low stress environment, is easily disinfected and not exposed to other pets or humans. This refers to both indoors and outdoors environments. Should your pet start acting sick, it is unlikely to have infected or have been infected by any other animals or humans.

These guidelines help monitor health and prevent disease transmisson of animals and humans. With a careful beginning, new pet owners will be more able to focus on behavioral and environmental issues while enjoying the love a new pet family member brings to all of us.