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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inside/Outside Dilemma

Early on in my career I learned an important lesson.  When asking about a pet's environment and lifestyle, don't ask "does he/she go outside?"  Instead ask "how much time does he/she spend outside?"  That's a subtle but important distinction, and one we have to often almost physically extract from owners.

Today is a great example.  I saw a chihuahua mix for the first time, a really sweet little girl.  The owner didn't want to get vaccines done because she never really went outside.  Now at face value, this may make some sense, as many small-breed dogs rarely touch grass.  But it's important to dig a bit deeper, as it can have implications on the best recommendations for the pet.  As we talked more I learned that the dog went outside to potty, and sometimes on walks.  Then the owner started talking about going to parks and interacting with other dogs.  Huh?  Wait, I thought he said the dog never really went outside and therefore didn't need much preventative care!  Yet the dog is really at pretty high risk since it goes to public parks and is around other dogs.

We see similar issues with cats.  I've had so many clients who say things like "Oh, my cat's completely indoors.  He just goes out on the porch and then a little into the yard when we're outside also."  Um, what part of "indoors" extends to grassy areas?  Again, there is a much higher risk of disease exposure with being outside even a little bit compared to truly never going outside.

So you pet owners, try to be a little more honest about whether or not your dog or cat really stays inside.  To veterinarians if your pet moves outside the walls of your home, it's at least partially outdoors, even if only for a short period of time.

And to vet students and new vets, be sure to ask the right questions to get the complete answer.