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13 Things You Should Know About Canadian Pet Stores

These tips from Canadian pet store employees will help you make the best choices for your furriest family member.

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Dog food in bowlPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Know Which Canadian Pet Stores to Shop At

You may find lower prices for pet food in big-box stores or online. But as Beth Cowley, a former pet store employee based in Hamilton, notes, independent shops usually offer a wider food selection: raw foods if your dog requires them or smaller brands that contain more nutritional bang for your buck.

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Dog food and treatsPhoto: Shutterstock

2. Don’t Be Fooled by Price

“The quality of pet foods is not directly proportional to the price,” says Christina Nosotti, a Montreal veterinarian and blogger. If your pet has allergies or a medical condition, follow your vet’s advice about what food works best; if not, Nosotti recommends picking a reputable food company that has board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff.

Plus: The Real Reason Why Dogs Stick Their Heads Out of Car Windows

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Chihuahua in pet storePhoto: Shutterstock

3. Watch Out for Accidents!

Visiting animals pee and poop in pet stores all the time—that’s why all the products on the lower shelves are sealed in plastic! Emp­loyees don’t mind, as long as you alert them to the mess.

Just how unhealthy is it for a dog to eat goose droppings? Our dog expert weighs in on how to correct this potentially dangerous dog behaviour.

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Bunny rabbitPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Small Animals Need Adoption, Too

Are you looking to bring home a hamster, rat or rabbit? Many independent shops partner with shelters or rescues to foster small animals, and you can find them at the SPCA, too.

Here are 13 of Canada’s Cutest Animals!

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Cat playing with toyPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Be Realistic About Your Budget

Before you get a pet, do the math. A hamster may cost you less than $40, but you’ll probably spend another $100 on a cage, food, bedding, toys and treats—plus you’ll have to restock monthly. Nicole Collingwood, a Hamilton-based pet store manager, recommends coming in to chat about what your pet will need before you adopt.

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Dog shelterPhoto: Shutterstock

6. Adopt, Don’t Shop

According to the Humane Society, most of the puppies sold in Canadian pet stores come from puppy mills. At the same time, thousands of cats and dogs are euthanized at shelters every year. Instead of buying from a breeder, consider adoption. Many retailers, including PetSmart, foster pets from rescues or shelters instead of selling them.

Here are The First 5 Things to Train Your Puppy.

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Veterinarian examining dogPhoto: Shutterstock

7. See a Vet A.S.A.P.

No matter where you get your pet, it may be harbouring parasites, a respiratory infection or a more serious disease. “Rescue organizations are unregulated and aren’t all equal in the standards of care they provide to the animals,” cautions Nosotti. Book an appointment with your vet after you bring your furry friend home—and before they meet other household animals.

Make sure your pet is as healthy as possible with these Essential Vaccinations For Your Dog and Cat.

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Pet store employee organizing pet food bagsPhoto: Shutterstock

8. Know Where to Save

To save money on pet food, ask for a bulk discount. Some stores will give you a deal, especially if you’re a regular.

Prefer to make your own? Read The Scoop on Homemade Pet Food.

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Cat stepping out of litter boxPhoto: Shutterstock

9. Choose the Right Litter

Choose a natural cat litter, both for your own safety and for the safety of your pet. “They give off no dust and won’t get into the cat’s lungs,” says Collingwood. Instead of clay-based litters, opt for corn, wheat, nut or pine. Some litters are even flushable!

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Canadian pet storesPhoto: Shutterstock

10. Questions Are Always Welcome

If you’re a first-time pet owner—or even a pro who’s struggling with a tricky situation—try your local independent pet store. Emp­loyees test products and educate themselves on everything from litter to leash training.

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Cutting cat's nailsPhoto: Shutterstock

11. Learn From the Pros

Nervous about trimming your dog’s or cat’s nails? Canadian pet stores such as Pet Valu often offer in-store grooming sessions or workshops.

For more grooming tips, check out Ask The Expert: Dog Grooming a Nightmare!

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Owner brushing white dog's furPhoto: Shutterstock

12. Don’t Spring for Newfangled Gadgets

Instead of spending money on a pooper scoop-er (bags will do), Cowley suggests that dog owners invest in good-quality basic accessories such as the proper comb for their dog’s fur type.

Here are 13 Things to Know About Dogs.

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Dog playing with toy in fieldPhoto: Shutterstock

13. Not All Toys Are Created Equal

When choosing toys for your dog, says Cowley, it’s important to know your pet’s personality. If the canine is an aggressive chewer, pick out a tough toy that will withstand abuse—and make sure you avoid, say, a rawhide bone, which could be dangerous (your dog could accidentally swallow shards).

Plus: 53 Secrets Pets Won’t Tell You

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada