Welcome back to Buckley Veterinary Hospital’s monthly pet care column. This month, we are highlighting new furry additions to your family. We have combined tips from several animal health organizations to shed some light on what to expect in the way of veterinary care if you just brought a new pet home, or you’re planning on bringing a new pet home in the near future. Either way, congratulations! There’s nothing like a cute, fuzzy new four-legged addition to the family.
While it’s important to start right in on the cuddling and training needed by a new pet, it’s also crucial to get a head start on your fuzzy family member’s health. You want to make sure the get off on the right foot and this means scheduling its first veterinary visit and vaccine series and preventative care. Depending on your pet’s age, expected lifestyle and living environment, there are a lot of different things you can expect from your veterinarian.
When you take your puppy or kitten to the veterinarian for the first time, your vet will start with a comprehensive physical exam before anything else. This is really important – your veterinarian can find physical problems just by looking him or her over, such as poor gait or skin problems, and get your puppy on a treatment plan early in life.
In addition, your veterinarian will want to make sure your puppy is free of a variety of illnesses and conditions, and to do so he or she will perform a variety of tests, including:
• fecal screen to check for intestinal parasites
• start deworming (through the use of prescription medication) to treat intestinal parasites
• protecting both dogs and cats from flea- and tick-borne diseases
• microchipping to provide universal identification for your pet should they ever become lost
• screening cats for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus
• dependent on their age: chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
Vaccinations often depend on a variety of factors, including age, geographic location and travel, day-to-day lifestyle and environment. Some vaccinations require boosters every so often, from once every few weeks (for kittens and puppies) to once annually or every three years. We understand that this might seem confusing, but it’s really important. The best thing to do is talk with your veterinarian, who will set up a vaccination schedule appropriate for your pet. Below are the most important vaccines for dogs and cats.
• Distemper, Parvo, Corona, Hepatitis, and Parainfluenza – these are often combined into a single vaccine.
• Leptospirosis (Lepto), is a primarily important vaccine for dogs located in areas with lots of wildlife: hiking, camping and hunting dogs fit into this category especially.
• Rabies is a vaccine that is required by Washington state law.
• Bordetella (Kennel Cough), is a vaccine is highly recommended for all dogs; this is especially true if there’s a possibility that your dog will be boarded, doggie daycare or have exposure to other dogs regularly.
• Core vaccine that includes antibodies for Feline Herpes Virus, Feline Calcivirus, and Feline Panleukopenia.
• Rabies is a vaccine that is required by Washington State law.
• Feline Leukemia (FeLV), depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations based on you cats lifestyle.
For dogs, depending on where geographically they came from and whether it is older than six months old during this initial visit, he or she may also need to undergo a heartworm test. Because it usually takes 6-7 months for an infected dog to test positive, heartworm wouldn’t necessarily show up in tests on puppies younger than six months of age. The Pacific Northwest has a low prevalence of heartworm cases annually, but the numbers continue to grown each year.
Your pet’s first veterinary visit is also a great time to discuss things like the health benefits of spaying and neutering, dietary recommendations, house, crate and litter box training, socializing, and other ways to keep your dog or cat a well-behaved and well-adjusted member of your family. Remember, don’t be afraid to arrive at your veterinarian’s office with a list of all the questions you might have about your new little one.
Thank you to our readers – we welcome you back next month. As always, send questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.