How can I keep my pet healthy?

Just like people, your pet should have an annual checkup with their doctor (a veterinarian or vet) to stay healthy. Veterinary care and services play an essential role in keeping a pet healthy.

Emergency care and end-of-life care for pets can be stressful and unexpectedly expensive. Before you adopt a pet, you may wish to contact some local veterinarians (vets) to understand the expected costs and care involved.

General Wellness and Vaccinations

During the first wellness appointment, the vet usually examines puppies and kittens, tests them for parasites, and gives them a series of vaccines and boosters to help protect them from viruses.

Older animals may be on a different vaccine schedule and need other care based on age, breed/mix, lifestyle and where you live. For example, city pets have different vaccine requirements than animals that live in rural areas or spend more time outdoors.

Why should I have my pet spayed or neutered?

You should strongly consider having your pet spayed (female) or neutered (male). This procedure helps prevent and reduce the number of serious and expensive health problems. It also reduces unwanted behaviour related to mating and prevents pet overpopulation.

Emergency Veterinary Care

As a pet owner, you must know the difference between standard health issues and a true emergency. Emergency vet visits are often much more expensive than a typical appointment.

Here are the signs your pet needs immediate medical care:

  • Sudden swelling of a body part
  • A car accident or another incident
  • Your pet is visibly hurt and vocal about the pain
  • Sudden limping or other signs of broken or fractured bones
  • Prolonged diarrhea and vomiting (this risks dehydration)
  • Large wounds, especially bleeding ones

If you aren’t sure about what to do in an emergency, talk to your vet about it during a regular wellness appointment. They may have emergency care at their clinic, or they may recommend a particular animal hospital you can visit.

End of Life Care

The most important thing you can do for your pet is to minimize any pain or distress they may experience at the end of their life.

First, talk to your veterinarian and treat any health problems you can. One of your most important tasks is to observe and report any changes in your pet’s behaviour, weight, eating habits, mobility and overall comfort level. If you notice any changes, contact your veterinarian, who will adjust your pet’s treatment accordingly; and discuss options like euthanasia.

Euthanasia is the term used for ending the life of your pet gently and compassionately. It provides a painless, peaceful end for a pet who would otherwise continue to suffer. Your veterinarian has special training to assess and recommend this option at the appropriate time. Some vets will visit you in your home so your pet can be comfortable and calm while they give the medication.

You will be responsible for their remains if your pet dies at home. You can contact your veterinarian, local humane society or municipality for information about processing the remains. Most municipalities will allow you to dispose of small deceased animals (birds, fish and rodents) in the regular trash. You must comply with municipal by-laws if you wish to cremate or bury your pet.

For More Information

  • Avian and Exotic Medicine Services - These services are for birds and exotic pets, often requiring special care. From the Ontario Veterinary College Health Sciences Centre.
  • Animal Welfare - This page has information about Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services and the laws and legislation about keeping animals safe and healthy. From the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
  • Ontario SPCA and Humane Society - Works to prevent animal cruelty, promote animal well-being, end cruel practices, and reduce pet overpopulation through Spay/Neuter Services.
  • HelpingPawsTO - If you are a client of a shelter or 24-hour homeless service in Toronto and have a pet, speak with staff to access free pet services.
  • SafePet Ontario - Coordinates foster care for individuals fleeing domestic or intimate partner violence. The program provides long- or short-term fostering options for survivors' transition to safety.
Last updated: June 23, 2023 4006465