Puppy and Kitten Care
Although every pet's health and risk factors are different and must be evaluated individually, every young pet should be examined by a Veterinarian starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The Veterinarian will evaluate which vaccinations, parasite treatments, tests and surgery are needed by your new little family member. He will discuss a plan which will likely include additional visits, and continuation of care with various products to be given at home. This is also a good time to set up good habits and nutritional practices, and discuss your concerns with your Veterinarian. The average puppy and kitten receive three sets of shots, one month apart. Both external and internal parasite control is a major topic that will be discussed at these early visits. It is recommended that most puppies and kittens be spayed or neutered between 4 and 6 months of age. Depending on the situation and concern, many other topics may be discussed at these visits.
One of our biggest challenges as pet owners is the control of fleas and ticks. These parasites are not only irritating, but also carry a host of diseases to humans and their pets. There are a great many products available and each has its strengths and weakness. Not every pet requires the same level of prevention and control. Our goal as Veterinarians is to match the needs of the patient with the available products. It is important to remember that these products are potentially dangerous and should never be combined unless specified by your Veterinarian.
In addition to fleas and ticks, there are other types of external parasites that can be encountered by the pet and owner. Mainly these creatures live either in or on the skin and ear. These types of parasites are often more difficult to find than fleas and ticks and require different types of control.
There are a number of different types of internal parasites that affect dogs and cats. Some types are more harmful than others. One should suspect internal parasites in every puppy and kitten and in any pet with diarrhea. The best way to test for most of these is to have a fecal sample looked at by your Veterinarian. Since there are different types of worms, they require different medicines to treat them. To adequately treat the infestation, we must identify the correct type medicine to use. Therefore, bring those samples in on every routine visit and anytime you think there might be a problem.
Some internal parasites can also live in the blood of your pet. If your Veterinarian has this concern, he may recommend a blood test. Heartworm is a good example of this type of parasite and is a concern in many dogs that spend a good deal of time outdoors.
Annual Wellness Visit
Each year every pet should see the Veterinarian for an annual physical exam, vaccinations if needed, and to discuss parasite prevention. In addition the discussion includes dental care, weight control and the monitoring and control of any current medical conditions. It is always best to bring a stool sample to this visit and any list of medications that your pet may be on.
The heartworm is a parasite that lives in the heart and blood of dogs. Although cats may get heartworm, they are not the primary host of this parasite. Larval heartworms enter the dog through the bite of a mosquito. During the next 6 months the larvae develops into an adult worm and starts living in the heart. Since the worm is rather large, it interferes with the function of the heart and produces signs of congestive heart failure in the pet. We are not able to kill adult heartworms easily, so it becomes very important to prevent their transmission. The medicines that are given once a month prevent the heartworm from growing in your dog. These medicines are not effective at killing an adult heartworm. Other medicines are required to kill the adult worms. This treatment is frequently accompanied by many complications and even death. Therefore, it is best to prevent heartworms if you have a dog that may be at risk.
Canine Parvovirus is a very common and very serious disease in this area. This infection causes severe damage to the stomach, small intestines and blood cells of the dog. The symptoms are lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. Often the diarrhea may include blood and often can prove fatal. There is no antidote to the infection. Many animals treated with intensive care have survived, but the treatment can be extensive and costly. Vaccinations are very successful in preventing parvovirus infection. Each dog should go through an initial series of vaccines as a puppy. In our area, we recommend adult dogs receive an annual booster vaccination.
Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
These viruses are from the same category of virus that cause HIV and AIDs. They are not contagious to people but can be devastating to other cats. It is important to have your new cats and kittens tested for these viruses in order to protect your current pets. The main source of infection of these viruses is the stray cat population. They are also transmitted from the mother's cats at birth. It is important to discuss this topic with your Veterinarian in order to form a good health strategy for your pets.