It’s 1 am; you’re on Facebook, scrolling through your feed for the SEVENTH time today. Something catches your eye: that one rescue group you “liked” a year ago posted a photo of the most adorable creature you’ve ever seen. “OH MY GOD IT’S SO CUTE!” you squeal as your bring your phone up to your face to kiss your screen (I know you’ve done it). The next hour is spent browsing adoption/rescue groups near your city, and before you know it, it’s after 2.am. and you have 17 screens open of adorable dogs waiting to be loved. Whether you’ve spent half your workday pinning for French Bulldogs, or have been caught staring at your neighbor’s dog with eyes of glazed over glee, owning a dog can seem like THE BEST IDEA EVER. After all, you just turned 24, and feel like you’re ready for some real commitment because your last relationship was with your sister’s Netflix account or that entire cheesecake you accidentally ate for dinner last week.
But, wait! Hold on, you guys. There are a few [disgusting] things you should consider before diving head-first into pet adoption. Being a dog mom comes with great responsibility and a strong stomach.
1. Poop. If you’re considering getting a pup, I want you to think about poop for a good 20 seconds. Okay. Owning a dog means being around poop that is not your own. Poop bags? Your new best friend! Put them in your car, your purse and by the door. Taking your dog out for a walk? Always bring more than one bag. Your new pal might decide to poop more than once (sometimes, more than twice) on a single outing. Now that we’ve talked about the basics of poop, I’m going to take it one step further: Internal Parasites (aka worms). There’s a fairly good chance you’ll encounter these disgusting squirms at some point while owning a dog. You can start preparing by watching “Tremors.” Really though, worms can cause serious trouble. Become familiar with the different parasites that can affect your dog: hookworms, whipworms, heartworms, tapeworms, and roundworms. When adopting your new family member, be sure to talk to the previous caretaker to see what kind of treatment your dog has had thus far. Many veterinarians recommend treating every six months for roundworms and tapeworms, and monthly for heartworms, but it is best to talk to your preferred vet.
It’s a good thing you’re prepared to handle your dog’s poop, because you should probably give it a once over to make sure there aren’t any parasites infesting its insides. Oh, and people can get worms, too. We can get tapeworms from accidentally ingesting a flea from a dog. *Cue panic attack.*
2. Spay or neuter your dog early. You might have visions of helping your dog raise its own litter, but I’ll tell you this: You’re probably delusional. The responsible thing to do is to keep your dog from procreating and adding to an already overpopulated problem. The appropriate time to get your dog fixed is around 8 weeks; most suggest before 6 months. Want to wait? That’s fine, but you should probably be prepared. A dog will enter heat for the first time around 6-24 months of age (then twice a year). But do you really want to have that awkward conversation with your female dog about her first “period?” Regardless of the gender of the dog, you will have to put up with things you do not want to see.
Some good news: Spayed and neutered dogs do have significant health benefits. Females are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine tumors. Males will not get testicular cancer and have a decreased chance of prostate enlargement.
3. Anal glands, in dogs, are glands that are sometimes referred to as “scent glands,” because they enable canines to mark their territory. However, these glands can spontaneously empty, especially under stress (for instance, your dog is startled by a stranger or thunderstorm), which will cause a VERY unpleasant odor. It is by far the most foul odor I’ve ever smelled. You might faint, vomit, or even die if you come into contact with it. These anal glands, or “sacs” are found on either side of the dog’s anus. This is a very important part of grooming, which can be done by your veterinarian, a groomer, or even you! Make sure you feed your dog a very high fiber diet to increase your pup’s chances of emptying them naturally with each bowel movement. If you see your pup scooting its bum on the ground, this is a sign, and do not take it lightly. If you ignore the problem, your dog’s anal glands can become impacted which can cause serious infections and abscesses.
Why is this a problem? Inherited malformations, and a history of poor-quality foods that produce poor-quality bowel movements. Easy fix: Make sure your dog is eating a well-balanced, healthy diet!