Adopting a dog? This guide will help you decide. Included are reasons for dog adoption, how to know if you should adopt a dog today, a list of the six most common dog diseases, and information on pet insurance.
These tips for adopting a dog are inspired by a reader’s question about getting a new pet. It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll make, especially if you’ve never adopted a dog before. Angie is a Blossom reader who works as a dog walker, groomer, and caretaker; in response to Should You Get a Dog After Your Dog Died? she said:
“One of my clients recently lost her dog and asked how to know if she should adopt a dog today after work. Not alot of time to decide because the dog is a popular cutey at the local dog shelter. But I don’t know if dog adoption is such a good idea so soon. I have heard some people say they need to get another dog immediately – probably to ease the pain and the emptiness losing a pet leaves. I know of one person who got a puppy before her old dog even became sick for the same reason. Me? I couldn’t think about it for well over a year after my dog died. I now have another beautiful and loveable little dog – he’s nothing like my last dog. Do I miss my dear girl that I loved for so many years? Yes, and I always will. I still cry about her after all this time. Sometimes just seeing her photo can start me off. But I feel very blessed that I adopted my new dog, and I treasure him.” Below, I share all the information on dog adoption that I gathered from a variety of resources – including veterinarians, pet hospitals, dog humane societies, and even research studies.
Here’s why it’s crucial to think about whether adopting a dog is a good idea for you today: giving back or rehoming a dog is one of the most painful things you’ll ever experience. It’s not exactly a romp in the dog park for your dog, either!
Read How to Cope After Rehoming a Dog for an inside look at what it’s like to return a dog to the humane society or shelter. It’s like “adopting a dog” in reverse, and it is devastating. That’s why I researched this information on dog adoption for you – and I’m really glad you’re here.
I adopted two dogs. My terrier Georgie was adopted from the BC SPCA (British Columbia Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); my toy poodle dog Tiffany was adopted from an elderly woman who couldn’t take care of her anymore because of chemotherapy treatments. The woman’s chemo, not the dog’s.
How did I know I should adopt my dogs? I was never 100% sure, but I listened to the still small voice. I was mostly sure that dog adoption was a good idea.
Adopting a dog is definitely a huge commitment. That’s why I want to encourage you to really, really, really think about these tips on how to know if you should adopt a dog today! The idea of owning a dog – or a cute little puppy – can be more fun and exciting than the actual day-in and day-out act of taking care of a dog’s exercise, food, health, and training needs.
Dogs are fun. And, dogs are very good for your health. If you’re struggling with any emotional or physical health issue, you might benefit from the physical and social activities a dog will bring into your life. Unless, of course, you’re dealing with serious health issues.
If you’re not sure how dog adoption will affect your health – especially if you’re feeling “old” – read Adopting a Dog – Tips for Women Over 60.
4 Health-Related Reasons for Dog Adoption
According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog will make you healthier. According to me, adopting a dog makes you happier :-) Why? Not just because of the “feel good” hormones (oxytocin) that get released when you pet your dog, and not just because the joy of seeing your dog boosts your mood and lowers your stress level.
Here are a few health-related tips that may help you figure out if you should adopt a dog today:
- Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among cardiovascular and other types of patients. However, these studies aren’t definitive and do not necessarily prove that adopting or owning a dog or other pet directly causes a reduction in heart disease risk. It’s possible that healthy people adopt dogs because they’re happy – or at least okay with – doing all the walking that dogs require.
- Dog ownership in particular may help reduce cardiovascular risk. People with dogs may engage in more physical activity because they walk them – or in my case, run up the mountains with their dogs! In a study of more than 5,200 adults, dog owners engaged in more walking and physical activity than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.
- Owning pets may be associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity. Again, dogs in particular help with all those health issues because they require dog owners to get out and move around.
- Finally, pets can have a positive effect on your body’s reactions to stress.
Those tips are from a research study called Owning a pet — particularly a dog — could help lower your risk of heart disease on the AMA’s website.
Does that settle it for you – are you ready to adopt a dog today? Read The Dog Breed Bible: Descriptions and Photos of Every Breed Recognized by the AKC by Caroline Coile.
Before you start searching for “where to adopt a dog”, make sure you have an idea of what type of dog most suits your personality and lifestyle. This might make the difference between having to sadly rehome a dog or happily living ever after with your beloved animal best friend.
The Dog Breed Bible offers clear descriptions of each dog, including its origins, physical and temperamental traits, average life span, and all major health concerns. You’ll also learn about each dog’s special needs such as training, grooming, exercise, and adaptability to specific environments. A color photo shows an example of each breed in its show pose and an adjoining photo provides a detailed head shot. This book was written by an expert on dog breeds, and will help you decide about dog adoption today.
After you decide which breed you want to adopt, read What Your Favorite Dog Breed Reveals About Your Personality.
1. Know your reasons for thinking about dog adoption
My friend – let’s call her Vanessa – called me the other day. She said her kids decided they want a dog, and she was having a hard time saying no.
“How do I know if I should adopt a dog for them?” Vanessa asked me. “I’m sure I’ll be the one who ends up taking care of the dog.”
I asked her if she was willing to be the dog’s sole caretaker. The adoption is the easy part – would she be able to take care of the dog, walk the dog, feed the dog, clean up dog hair, and take the dog to the veterinarian when he cuts his paw?
“No, doggonnit,” she said sadly. “I have enough to do as it is!”
And that’s it. The decision about dog adoption can be as simple as that. If it’s not that simple for you, make a list of reasons – preferable pros and cons – for adopting a dog. And, read through my list of 6 Common Dog Diseases and Pet Insurance Considerations below. Get clear on the problems that adopting a dog can bring. That information will help you know if you should adopt a dog today.
2. Let every family member share their honest opinion
Make sure everyone is on board with the dog option, and that they understand how much work a dog can be. My husband wasn’t keen on adopting a dog, but I really wanted one. I think our dogs make us more of a “family”, and I love walking through the forest with dogs. My husband was a bit more concerned about the financial commitment than I was (and that is a definite way to know if you should adopt a dog today. Can you afford the veterinarian bills, flea treatments, dog food, dog toys, pet insurance? If not, you need to seriously reconsider dog adoption).
Luckily, Bruce was willing to give our second dog Tiffy a try. We fostered her for three nights before committing to adopting her. Even more luckily, she didn’t give us a single reason to send her back where she came from. Our only challenge with her was barking at strangers when we’re out walking – but she responded well to the negative reinforcement of a spray bottle.
3. Consider fostering a dog before making the commitment to adopt
If you want to adopt a dog, ask if you can foster her for a few days to see how she fits with the family. This is one of the best ways to decide about adopting a dog because it gives everyone at home a chance to interact with her.
Fostering a dog will also give you and your family an idea of how much exercise she needs. If you’ve never had a dog before, you may be surprised and even dismayed at how much exercise some dogs require. This is why researching different breeds is so important before you actually proceed with the dog adoption.
If you are able to foster a dog, remember that the first couple weeks are the easiest. I was reluctant to suggest fostering before adopting a dog because the first little while is the most fun. It’s the honeymoon period, and may not always be the most reliable indication that dog adoption is a good idea.
4. Decide if adopting a dog is more suitable than adopting a puppy
Many people wonder if they should adopt an older dog (at least two years old) or a puppy (a few weeks to a year old). Here’s a good summary from VetMD:
“What if you are considering adopting a puppy?” asks Rob Swatski on Should I Adopt a Dog? “Yes, puppies are adorable, but they can end up being more work than adopting an adult dog. Adult dogs are calmer and will have already developed a personality, giving you the ability to handpick a dog that fits your needs, according to the staff’s suggestions. An adult dog is also toilet-trained and has (hopefully) already been through its chew-on-everything-I-can-find stage.”
Some dogs – not just puppies – can be very curious when you bring them into a new environment, so make sure all your valuables, chemical products, and dangerous items are locked away. Dog adoption is when a puppy is involved is similar to having a new baby – especially since neither of them sleep through the night! And they pee alot.
5. Make your new dog’s transition smooth
Make sure your adopted dog has her own water dish, leash, collar, dog bed, toys, and kong. Pet supplies such as the paw print doggy bed are often much cheaper on Amazon than at PetSmart – but you should shop around.
My dog Tiffy brought her own doggy bed, fleece, dog treats, and even a huge folding double door dog crate, which we never use when we have to leave them at home alone.
Don’t forget about researching the different types of food when you’re learning about dog adoption. Again, it can be much more convenient and cheaper if the dog food delivered to your door by Amazon than buying it at your local pet store.
I make homemade chicken soup for my dog Georgie because she has tummy problems. When we adopted her from the SPCA, she brought a whole slew of health problems with her. That’s why researching “dog adoption” is so important, and why I included the most common dog diseases and information about pet insurance in this article.
Causes of Gurgling Noises and Stomach Problems in Dogs is actually one of my most popular dog articles, which tells me that many dogs have stomach issues. I wrote it because my dog Georgie has IBS (intestinal bowel syndrome), so I feed her a special diet. Luckily my dog Tiffy has a cast iron stomach.
Which brings us to…
6 Most Common Diseases in Dogs
Remember that when you adopt a dog, you also adopt his health issues. If you can’t decide about dog adoption today, take time to think about the possible health conditions that some dogs have.
Here are the six most common diseases in dogs. Don’t let this informations scare you, or stop you from deciding you should adopt a dog. Just be aware that dogs get sick! And, sometimes dogs have pre-existing health conditions.
1. Diabetes in dogs
Signs of a diabetic dog may include increased thirst, frequent urination, rapid weight loss, abdominal pain, depression and fatigue. These indicators can also be symptomatic of kidney disease, so your veterinarian’s diagnosis is important for proper treatment.
Diabetes can be caused by obesity or it can be age, gender or breed related. Onset for dog diabetes is at about age 8. Diabetes is a dog disease that occurs twice as frequently in females as males. This disease is more common in dogs such as Samoyeds, miniature schnauzers and poodles and bichon frises. Keep this in mind, because it might help you know if you should adopt a dog – and what kind of dog to adopt.
According to a report called the State of Pet Health: Dog Facts by Banfield Pet Hospital (the world’s largest veterinary practice), diabetes is increasing. Management of the disease includes proper nutrition and exercise, and possibly insulin medication.
2. Arthritis in dogs
Another common disease among older dogs, arthritis may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, joint supplements, possibly acupuncture, physical and/or hydrotherapy and balanced nutrition. Signs of this common dog disease would be stiffness, hesitation in taking stairs, slowness and tiring quickly on walks and possibly some acknowledgement of pain in affected areas.
Arthritis may be caused by a variety of factors including age, excess weight and breed. Certain breeds – such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers – have a greater tendency to become arthritic. Other possible causes of this common dog disease are hereditary conditions and cartilage damage resulting from an accident and infection.
If you’re considering adopting a dog that is older, make sure you ask about the possibility of arthritis – and other diseases.
3. External parasites in dogs
Not only do these parasites cause irritation to your dog’s skin but they can be transmitted to you as well. This is a common dog disease – so don’t let the thought of parasites or fleas stop you from adopting a dog today! It is a normal for dogs to get fleas or parasites.
External parasites can be seen by the human eye. Careful examination of your dog’s skin is essential to detecting these bugs which include fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitoes, mites and mange. Ticks, which are most prevalent in the spring, can spread infections such as Lyme disease and babesiosis. Fleas, in addition to being skin irritants, can transmit some types of tapeworms. Lice, mange and ear mites all cause skin and/or ear inflammation and possible infection.
To learn more about dog fleas and treatment, read Is Trifexis a Safe Flea Treatment for Dogs? This may not be crucial information when you’re considering dog adoption, but it may come in handy in the future.
4. Internal parasites in dogs
Internal parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms. While heartworms are caused by the bite of a mosquito, the other variety of worms lay eggs that are passed in the dog’s stool when they eat soil that has been contaminated by the worm eggs. Coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing can be symptoms of heartworm in dogs. If left untreated, heartworm can cause heart disease and death.
Signs of internal parasites in a dog include diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, anemia and in the case of a pup, stunted growth. Treatments for this common disease are not always successful, but preventive medications for parasites are available. Your veterinarian can give you more information about parasites, and so can the dog adoption places you visit.
5. Dental disease in dogs
Dental disease in the form of plaque build-up, gingivitis and cavities is a very common occurrence in dogs. It is estimated that 80% of dogs are affected by it by the age of two. Regular tooth brushing with dog toothpaste is one of the best ways to prevent this common dog disease. Treatment itself involves the removal of plaque to the extraction of teeth if necessary.
A dog toothbrush and toothpaste such as the Petrodex Dog Dental Care Kit – Toothpaste with 2 Toothbrushes can help prevent dental disease in dogs. If you adopt a puppy, start brushing her teeth as soon as possible – even before she needs it! This will help your puppy get used to the feel and taste of the toothbrush.
If your dog’s teeth or dental problems are not looked after, she may develop periodontal disease which destroys the gums and tissue supporting the teeth. Your dog may also be prone to infections that can affect other organs in the body such as the heart and kidneys.
If you’re still wondering if you should adopt a dog today, that’s good! It means you’re taking the dog adoption decision seriously, which is awesome.
6. Obesity in dogs
Unfortunately obesity has become an all too common problem in dogs, and is increasing. Just like in humans. At highest health risk are mature adult dogs – large breeds in particular. Obesity in dogs is linked to a variety of health issues such as heart and respiratory problems, arthritis and diabetes. When you’re adopting a dog, you should ensure that you can feel his ribs. If not, he may be overweight.
Most often it is dog owners who are at fault because we tend to overfeed and underexercise our dogs. The best treatment plan for dog obesity is simply to reduce the treats and increase the exercise! When you’re adopting a dog is the perfect time to adjust his diet. Restrict caloric intake by examining what and how much the dog was eating before you adopting him. Give him an extra walk before bed or allow him extra play time at the dog park.
7 Tips for Getting Pet Insurance for Your Dog
Adopting a dog is the most common time people decide about pet insurance. Below, I share why I decided not to get pet insurance when I adopted my dogs Georgie and Tiffy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get pet insurance when you adopt a dog, but it might be helpful for you to know my reasons for not getting insurance.
Whether or not you decide not to get pet insurance for your dog, I encourage you to get a book such as The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats by Amy D. Shojai.
I’ve dealt with cut pads on my dog’s paw, eye infections, stomach issues, and diarrhea without taking my dogs to the veterinarian. If you have a first aid kit for dogs and a book to help with emergencies, you’ll be prepared to deal with almost anything.
When you’re wondering if you should adopt a dog today, you really have to think about pet insurance. Whether you adopt a puppy or a 10 year old dog – you will experience health issues and problems.
Here’s what I considered when I decided not to get pet insurance after both my dog adoptions. It took me a few weeks to make this decision – and the best thing I did was talk to other dog owners.
When talking to other dog owners, these issues came up most often:
1. The cost of pet insurance for a dog
To get an estimate of how much pet insurance will cost for your dog breed, search for different pet insurance estimates and companies in your area. Do the research, especially when you’re still wondering about adopting a dog today. Knowing how much pet insurance costs might help you decide if you should adopt a dog.
2. Your financial situation and budget
I think this is the most important consideration when you’re trying to decide if you should get pet insurance. Pet insurance is essentially a savings account. You pay $10 or $20 or $50 a month, and when your dog gets sick, the veterinarian bills are covered. Or, you could not get pet insurance for your dog, and pay the veterinarian directly when your dog gets sick or injured (which is what I do).
The key deciding factor is whether or not you have a couple thousand dollars at any given moment to spend on veterinarian bills. I usually keep a $2,000 financial safety net for emergencies, and I feel like I don’t need pet insurance for my dogs because I have enough money to pay what a veterinarian charges.
If you can’t afford pet insurance and you can’t afford to pay for the cost of a veterinarian, you might reconsider dog adoption.
3. Your dog’s breed
Some breeds are more prone to health problems, while others seem to be healthier more often. Just like people! But, just because your dog’s breed is generally healthy or unhealthy, remember that your dog may be the outlier. Some of the healthiest breeds might come down with serious diseases or health issues.
This is another reason The Dog Breed Bible – the book I listed about – is so important when you’re wondering if you should adopt a dog today.
4. Your dog’s health
Georgie has had stomach problems since we adopted her five years ago, and I still decided not to get pet insurance for her (or my other dog). I don’t regret it because I found natural ways to stabilize her tummy troubles. But, she’s only six years old and may develop other problems in the future. I didn’t think about this when I talked about dog adoption with my husband.
Even if you adopt a puppy, he may have health problems from birth. You may not even know about those problems for awhile. Don’t let this stop you from adopting a dog, though…just be prepared for anything.
5. How old and healthy your dog is
We adopted our dog Tiffy when she was three years old. Her teeth were in terrible shape – almost as brown as chocolate. The woman who gave her to me also gave me two toothbrushes and toothpaste – like ones I included above.
Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Liquid Tartar Remover is an excellent way to keep your dog’s teeth clean. You just add it to water, and it will help remove the tartar from her teeth.
When I called the veterinarian about Tiffy’s brown teeth, they said dog teeth cleaning would cost upwards of $200, depending on the size of the dog and how bad the teeth are. I didn’t want to spend the money – but I also don’t have pet insurance for my dogs, so I definitely don’t want to pay a veterinarian for dental work.
I decided to change what Tiffy eats in order to promote natural dental care and avoid getting pet insurance.
6. What your dog eats
My other dog’s teeth (Georgie) are white as snow, and she’s the same age as Tiffy (they’re both almost six years old now). I thought I’d try feeding Tiffy what I’ve been giving Georgie: Greenies Dental Chews, Bully Sticks, and beef marrow bones from the butcher.
Guess what? Tiffy’s teeth are now almost as white as Georgie’s! It took a year, but she slowly cleaned her own teeth.
I’m not saying that if you feed your dog Greenies, pizzles and marrow bones from the butcher then you don’t have to get pet insurance when you adopt a dog…I’m just encouraging you to think about how your dog’s food and treats affect her health. This is an important tip when you’re wondering about dog adoption today.
7. The fine print of your pet insurance agreement
Just because you get pet insurance for your dog, doesn’t mean every health issue will be paid for by the insurance company. This is one of the biggest reasons I didn’t get dog insurance when I adopted my dogs. Not only do I not believe in insurance in general, I’m also a little suspicious of insurance companies. I’d worry that my dogs’ health issue wouldn’t be paid for by the pet insurance because of something in the fine print, and I’d be so mad that I paid for pet insurance but didn’t get any benefits!
So, if you decide you should get pet insurance for your dog, make sure you understand what health issues are covered and what aren’t.
All said, though — don’t let pet insurance stop you from adopting a dog. You don’t have to decide about pet insurance right away. Sometimes if you adopt a dog from a shelter, you get the option of a free trial of pet insurance, which gives you time to think.
When it comes to getting pet insurance for your dog, the bottom line is that there is not right or wrong answer. You need to do what you’re most comfortable with given your dog, lifestyle, financial situation, and emotional well-being. I don’t want to pay for pet insurance, but I am not looking forward to the day my veterinarian tells me that one of my dogs has a health issue that will cost thousands of dollars to treat!
When you adopt a dog, get him vaccinated. Many dog diseases can be prevented through vaccinations that begin in puppyhood. Yearly booster shots should follow – and this will help reduce the chances of needing pet insurance.
If you already have a dog…
Are you thinking about adopting a second dog? Here’s what one reader – Helen – says on Signs You’re Ready to Adopt a Dog:
“Two dogs are definitely better than one. We ‘found’ both our dogs, abandoned in the valleys near where we live. Rocky, 2 months old at the time, was found in a quarry and just over a year later, we came across two week old Arni (named after the Greek for lamb “arni” which was what he looked like!). They hit it off straight away and from day 1, have spent hours playing together. Which means we only need to walk them once a day. Yes it’s more costly to feed two dogs, but the love and affection they give more than makes up for it!”
Are you still wondering about adopting a dog? I welcome your thoughts below. I can’t give advice, but you may find it helpful to write your “pros and cons” list here. What’s your biggest fear about dog adoption, and what would it take to get you to adopt a dog without any concerns at all?