4 Pet Safety Tips For National Pet Month

Keep your dog, cat, bird or amphibian in tip-top shape with this ‘checklist’ for new pet owners.
1 Pet Safety


Anyone with a pet knows that we don’t need a specific day or month on the calendar to celebrate our non-human family members. Still, May is officially National Pet Month in the United States, a consecutive 31 days during which we honor our pets and think about all the joy they bring to our lives. As of 2023, the pet ownership rate of New Jersey is 47.4 percent and 66 percent nationwide, according to Forbes—that’s 86.9 million homes across the country that are proud pet owners.

But if you’re new to the pet parent game, let us enlighten you on a few things to keep your newest addition happy and healthy. Read on for helpful hints, with tips from some Bergen-based experts.

Ensure your pet has proper identification.
You don’t need to worry about this one for your caged-in guinea pig or lizard, but for pets that tend to wander outside like dogs or cats, you’ll want to make sure they have proper identification on their collar, as well as a microchip. A microchip is a tiny device the size of a grain of rice that a vet implants under their skin, used to identify your pet in the case he or she gets lost. “The microchip is one of the best ways of reuniting a lost pet with the owner,” says Deborah Yankow, division director of the Bergen County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center. “We’re required to scan all pets for chips on intake, and we’ve found that more than 50 percent of dogs that are microchipped were never registered with the microchip company.” Without a microchip, it’s harder for your pet to make its way home to you.

Prioritize regular vet visits and vaccinations.
Just as you’ll (hopefully!) visit your primary care practitioner every year, make sure your pet gets yearly vet visits and is up to date on their vaccines and screenings. And because emergency visits can pop up, especially with younger animals, consider purchasing a pet insurance policy, which is a cost-efficient option. “I always recommend that new pet owners get insurance, because you never know when a puppy will swallow something it shouldn’t or end up in an emergency room,” says Gabriel Stein, BVMS, who makes veterinary house calls through his Fair Lawn-based practice, Radburn Vet. “Standard walk-in for blood work and X-rays could be a thousand dollars, especially if your pet needs surgery or an ultrasound.” You’ll also want to chat with your vet about a nutritious diet, as well as whether (or when) you should get your dog or cat spayed or neutered.

Get your pet some exercise.
Senior pets don’t require as much exercise as their younger counterparts, but all animals can benefit from physical activity. Luckily, there are six official dog parks and runs in Bergen County where Fido can get his steps in and play a game of catch, but even indoor pets can get exercise. Let your hamster roam around outside of his cage (though that hamster wheel is good cardio!), and buy your kitty some climbing toys such as a cat tower to inspire him to get moving.

Emphasize proper hygiene and grooming.
If you have a dog, find a groomer in Bergen County that you trust who can help you figure out a nail-clipping, teeth brushing and general hygiene regimen. How often you take your pup to the groomer depends on a few factors, “such as long hair vs. short hair, whether the dog or cat has skin issues and whether he or she is outside a lot,” says Helen Maggi, owner of Preppy Pampered Pups in River Vale. But the average recommendation is every four to six weeks to ensure they’re staying healthy and fresh.

Veteran pet parents, what are your tips for newbie pet owners? Leave your thoughts on Instagram @bergenmagnj.

Categories: Bergen Health & Life