High-Risk Mistakes Pet Owners Make


Did you know there are many mistakes pet owners commonly make? We’ve compiled a list of twenty common mistakes pet owners make and how you can fix them!

1. Your Dog is in Control

Obedience training is extremely important for dogs, especially when walking. There are many reports of ER cases where a poorly trained dog caused harm to its owner while on a walk because the owner did not have control. This could be from the dog pulling, pushing, or even the person tripping over them. To prevent this, owners should begin obedience training immediately to show dogs they are in charge.

2. Lack of Tick Checks

When you come back from a walk in the woods, you likely check yourself for ticks immediately. But do you check your dogs as well? The same diseases ticks can pass to humans can also be passed to your pets and cause them health issues as well. Cats are at high risk for many tick-borne illnesses also, so it’s important to keep that in mind if you have both. In addition, when your pet comes indoors from exploring, the tick could drop off and decide a human in the house makes a better meal, leading to risk for their humans as well. If you find a tick on your pet, use sharp-pointed tweezers to pick the tick off, making sure you get the head out and do not squish it.

3. Ringworm Goes Unnoticed

If you notice a round bald patch on your pet’s body, ringworm is likely to blame. This fungus can also be spread to humans by touching the pet's fur at the infection site. Most times, ringworm will show as a red, ring-shaped rash on the skin or even baldness in a ring shape. With unexplained hair loss, your best bet is to take your pet to the vet to ensure proper treatment.

4. You Don’t Deworm

One of the most common parasites for pets is roundworm, which can also cause issues for humans too! In pets, these parasites can cause vomiting and diarrhea, putting your beloved pet at risk for dehydration and other serious illness. The eggs can also be spread through soil and sand, where children may unknowingly ingest them while playing. If these eggs hatch inside a human, they can cause severe complications, such as blindness and damage to other tissues. You should check with your vet about proper deworming treatment for your pet.

5. Skipping Flea Treatments

Another important treatment pets should be receiving frequently is flea treatment. Similar to roundworms and ticks, fleas also pose a risk to humans when your pets bring them into your home. Once fleas have set up a home on your pet’s skin, they will soon be laying eggs and hatching larva within your house, quickly leading to a flea infestation. Some people are sensitive to flea bites and end up with sores. Some fleas even spread illness to humans, such as the bubonic plague. Check with your vet for their recommended flea treatment and ensure your pet receives it on the recommended, regular basis to avoid these pests.

6. Not Spaying or Neutering Pets

Many cats and dogs end up in shelters from unwanted litters or even planned litters by irresponsible breeders. People are often reluctant to spay or neuter their pets, afraid it will cause problems for the pet over time. However, the opposite is usually true. Spaying a female pet can help prevent breast cancer while neutering a male pet can help prevent testicular cancer. Males who are neutered are also less likely to try escaping or behaving aggressively. Discuss with your vet the proper age for spaying or neutering your pet to prevent illness and other problems.

7. Food is Always Available

Keeping food constantly available for your pet is one of the most common mistakes owners make. Many times, dogs and cats do not stop eating when they are full and will continue eating way too much. When there is always food available, pets are likely to eat too many calories and gain a lot of weight. Following the directions on the food label should result in your pet eating the right amount, but if you still have concerns, you should check with your vet.

8. Sharing your Vegetarian Diet

Sometimes vegetarians decide their pets should be vegetarians as well. Most pets will not survive on a vegetarian diet and this can be especially harmful to cats as they are considered “obligate carnivores” and must have meat to survive. Dogs may be able to survive on a vegetarian diet under close observation by a vet. However, if you’re planning for your future pet to share your vegetarian lifestyle, you may be better off with guinea pigs or a rabbit.

9. Not Enough Exercise

Pets need movement to stay healthy, just like people. When pets do not exercise regularly, they are at risk for obesity, which can also cause other problems, such as respiratory difficulties and joint problems. Your pet’s exercise needs will be determined by their type and size, but a minimum of 30 minutes a day is usually recommended. Plus, keeping your pet active will help keep you active as well!

10. Misreading Pet’s Body Language

When getting a pet, you need to learn to read their body language. Most people assume when an animal wags their tail, they are happy. In reality, this is often not true. Dogs on alert will often have their tails straight up and “wagging” back and forth. Many ways cats wag their tails can signify either irritation or illness. Sometimes this can also be dependent on the individual pet. Learning about body language can help you know your pet and ensure they are truly happy.

11. Not Enough Attention

Pets can get bored easily when they are not played with enough. Bored dogs often end up being destructive dogs, chewing, digging, or barking. Bored cats can end up destructive as well, scratching and meowing. You can keep your pet busy with treat puzzles (yes, there are even some available for cats!). Cats will enjoy chasing toys that work their natural hunting instincts. Dogs often enjoy playing fetch, tug, or even games that work the breed’s instincts.

12. Multiple Cats to a Litter Box

Many people just have one litter box for multiple cats. Felines are picky, territorial, and clean animals. When a litter box smells like another cat, they may refuse to use the litter box, resulting in accidents around the house. Many experts recommend one litter box per cat, plus an extra. Keeping the litter boxes in different areas of the home can help as well.

13. Not Socializing Your Pet

The first 7 weeks of a pet’s life are crucial for socialization. During this time, your pet should be building trust through gentle handling and play. Many breeders will do this and you should continue when your puppy gets home. Playing with your pet every day when they come home will encourage this positive association with humans.

14. Too Much Alone Time

Leaving your pet alone for 8-10 hours every day is too much for most pets, especially dogs who are often confined to crates or small rooms. With dogs, this can lead to separation anxiety, resulting in howling, digging, chewing, and other destructive or inappropriate habits. Some pets can even become depressed without proper interaction. Instead of leaving your pet home alone for these periods, you can look into doggy daycares, visits from pet-sitters, or even canine companions.

15. Not Setting Rules

Yes, your new pet is cute, but there should still be rules for them to follow. Human etiquette is not natural for pets, so you need to teach them the rules of living with humans when they first arrive in your home. Teach your pet that jumping on people, scratching or chewing furniture, and pottying outside of a designated area are not okay from day one. Continue to teach these things with consistency and reward your pet for good behavior.

16. Scolding for Accidents

When you find your pet had an accident in your house, your gut reaction may be to yell or otherwise reprimand your pet. Most animal behavior experts agree this will not help the behavior. If you are not correcting them immediately, your pet will not understand what they have done wrong. You may also find your pet becoming fearful of you and sometimes even having accidents when you come near because they are afraid. Instead, focus on positively reinforcing the behaviors you are looking for.

17. Not Supervising Pets with Kids

Children and pets often get along wonderfully and adore one another. Sometimes young children may accidentally be too rough and hurt their pet, leading the pet to lash out at them. When you have young children and new pets together, you should supervise them at all times. Be sure the kids know how to correctly interact with your pet and the pet knows how to interact with children as well. You should also teach children to be respectful of pets' boundaries and understand when their pet is acting tired or just doesn’t want to play with them.

18. Feeding Cats Milk

One of the biggest misconceptions about cats is that they need milk to drink, but In reality, most cats are lactose intolerant, leading to difficulties digesting milk and making them sick. Some cats can tolerate a bit of milk, but most experts will recommend just not giving them milk altogether to avoid issues.

19. Feeding Your Dog Spoiled Food

Many dogs try to steal food out of the trash or owners may feed them food that is no longer fresh. Dogs should be trained not to eat out of the trash for their safety and if food is no longer safe for human consumption, it is likely not good for pets either. Dogs who eat trash could end up with food poisoning or even pancreas problems. Spoiled foods can also contain mold, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.

20. Feeding Bones to Your Dog

Some people mistake bones for tasty treats for their canine companions. Bones are dangerous to dogs, injuring teeth, tongues, and even the mouths of dogs. Shards of bone may also get stuck in the digestive tract, requiring surgery to remove and save your dog. Instead of chewing on bones, offer safe chew toys or dental chews appropriate for your dog’s age.

Have you found yourself making any of these mistakes? If so, don’t beat yourself up! You can still fix the mistakes to help your pet live a more fulfilled, healthy, and happy life. If you’re having an especially hard time changing any of these things, you should discuss them with your vet or a professional trainer for the next steps!