Care for Every Stage at Every Age

Puppy & Kitten Care

Puppy & Kitten CarePuppies and kittens are a lot of fun to have in the home, but they require some special attention in order to assure they are a happy and healthy companion for years to come. This means that comprehensive physical exams at key developmental stages are important.

In particular, the first year of your new friend’s life should include an initial wellness exam, screening for damaging parasitic infections such as worms or giardia, an initial dental exam, and more. For puppies we advise the start of medicines to prevent heartworm. Additionally, at six months of age we recommend spaying or neutering your pet.

These additional visits also provide you with opportunities to ask all the questions that come to mind regarding your pet’s care and behavior and give us a chance to become acquainted with your blossoming cat or dog.

Puppy & Kitten Vaccines

Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic puppy or kitten series of vaccines. The number and frequency of vaccines given to kittens and puppies is based on age and the status of their immune system.

When puppies or kittens are born, they receive colostrum from their mother in the first two days of nursing, which gives the kitten or puppy a passive immunity. In other words, everything that she is immune to, the puppy or kitten will be too. If mom has had a good vaccination history, she will convey her immunities to everything she has been vaccinated for to her babies. These maternal antibodies start to sharply decline in kittens and puppies when they are 8 weeks old. At this point, we begin their vaccinations.

If the mother has not been vaccinated or if her vaccination status is unknown (in the case of a stray), it is recommended to start vaccinations at 6 weeks of age. However, this is the only time that this is recommended.

If the mother has been vaccinated, starting vaccinations before 8 weeks can actually create what is called a viral window. The vaccine can be completely overridden by the maternal antibodies, or the two can cancel each other out leaving the kitten exposed to these deadly diseases.

Under the age of 16 weeks, a kitten’s or puppy’s immune system is immature, and can only hold onto the immunity from a vaccine for about a month. So, we vaccinate once a month until the immune system is mature at 16 weeks of age. At this point, the kitten or puppy will respond as an adult animal and hold onto the immunity for a period of a year when the vaccines should be boosted.

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Geriatric Wellness Program

Geriatric Wellness ProgramAs your pet ages, changes occur in his physical condition that warrants more frequent visits to the veterinarian. If medical problems are recognized and treated when they are first detected, the treatment may be easier for your pet and less costly for you. Twice-a-year wellness examinations are recommended for older dogs and cats in order to catch the early signs of illness as well as to assess overall health and make adjustments to diet and other lifestyle factors.

A geriatric exam is more extensive than a simple check-up and includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examinations as well as recording of body weight and body condition. Your veterinarian also examines your pet's ears, eyes, and internal organs. Laboratory work will be done, including a complete blood count, chemistry profile, endocrine blood tests and other complementary examinations. Establishing a base line is an added benefit that can ultimately help your pet should there be any changes, even small ones, to his or her health.

Additionally, geriatric care is an area of professional focus for Pets First Animal Hospital owner Dr. Ricia Walker. Throughout her years of practice, Dr. Walker has developed a high degree of specialized training and expertise in this area of veterinary medicine.

As Your Pet Ages

As dogs and cats grow older, their organs may become less efficient and they may be less able to resist infections and other diseases. As a responsible pet owner, you want your pet to remain healthy and active for as long as possible so it is important to be aware of any condition that may warrant your veterinarian's attention.

The following information should help you be a more informed owner of a dog or cat in its senior years:

Diet – There are several reasons why a special diet may be needed for an elderly pet. He or she may be less active than a younger animal, and therefore may require fewer calories. The digestive organs may become less efficient in digestion and absorption, and a highly digestible diet may be more appropriate. Phosphorus and protein content may need to be decreased if your pet has kidney problems. Under certain circumstances the vitamin and mineral needs of elderly pets may be different from those of younger animals. Some of the special senior diets have mineral and vitamin content carefully adjusted to help provide the appropriate balance for elderly pets that have failing kidney or heart function.

Joints – As your pet gets older, joint pain and stiffness may develop. This may mean that your pet becomes less active and his energy level may decrease. He may become tired more easily and want to nap more often. Dogs with arthritis should still be exercised; however, they may need a diet containing fewer calories to prevent them from putting on weight. Medication and supplements can be prescribed to relieve your pet's pain and greatly improve their quality of life.

Hearing, sight and smell – These can all become less acute with age and you may need to make allowances for these changes. Watch for signs of impaired sight such as bumping into furniture or loss of hearing if your pet stops reacting to its name or command. Eye infections, cataracts, decreased night vision, or even blindness is common. However, these can also be symptoms of a larger problem. Your veterinarian can help you distinguish between the normal aging process and an acute problem.

Dental – Older pets are more likely to develop tooth and gum conditions. If your pet has sore gums or loose teeth, he or she may be reluctant to eat. Gum disease not only leads to loss of teeth, but can also cause heart and kidney infections if bacteria enter the bloodstream through the inflamed gums. Bad breath may be a symptom that your pet has dental disease. Ask your veterinarian for advice if the teeth or gums do not look healthy.

Urinary – Often associated with hormonal imbalance in spayed females or a disorder of the nervous system that controls bladder function, urinary incontinence or inappropriate urination is common in an aging pet. Inappropriate urination may also be the result of a urinary tract disorder, prostate problem or symptomatic of a larger problem. Consult your veterinarian if your pet suddenly becomes incontinent or begins to urinate more frequently.

Behavior – As your pet ages, his or her behavior may change significantly. You might interpret this as simple aging, but it actually might be due to a treatable geriatric disease, such as cognitive dysfunction. Some typical signs include confusion, disorientation, decreased activity, changes in the sleep/wake cycle, loss of housetraining, or signs that suggest a decrease in your dog's interest in, or ability to interact with his environment or with you.

Kidneys – Excessive thirst and frequent or uncontrolled urination are often signs of kidney problems or diabetes. Since the kidneys process and eliminate body waste products into the urine, it is important that these organs remain healthy. If your pet’s kidneys are not functioning properly, your veterinarian may recommend a diet specially designed for kidney problems.

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