Getting a new puppy or kitten is exciting for all family members involved, but also comes with a lot of responsibility. It is important to begin addressing current and potential health issues right away. Every puppy or kitten is different, and your veterinarian should always be consulted regarding your pet’s health plan.
The first visit is very important and should be scheduled as soon as possible after you acquire your new puppy or kitten to do a thorough physical exam and make sure there are no underlying health problems. Your puppy or kitten will also be started on the proper vaccination and deworming schedule.
It would be helpful to bring with you any prior vaccine history or deworming schedule that your new pet has had. A fresh stool sample is recommended to test for any kind of internal parasites. The first deworming for roundworms will be administered regardless of the results of the fecal floatation test because not all roundworm eggs show up on every fecal floatation test.
Vaccinations are separated into two groups: core and non-core. Core vaccinations are ones that are recommended regardless of your pet’s situation or geographic location, such as the distemper and rabies vaccinations. Distemper vaccinations are actually a combination of vaccines in one shot. FVRCP (feline distemper) includes rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. DA2PP (canine distemper) includes distemper, adenovirus (also called infectious hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
Non-core vaccinations are only recommended for puppies or kittens considered to be at a high risk of exposure to the specific diseases. It is best to only administer vaccinations that are absolutely necessary. Non-core vaccinations include feline leukemia for cats, and bordatella, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease for dogs.
Depending on the prior vaccinations your puppy or kitten may have received, it may be appropriate to begin the first round of vaccinations at your first visit. The core vaccinations are given at 3-4 week intervals until your puppy or kitten is 12 to 16 weeks old.
During the second visit, you will be asked to bring another fresh stool sample. Your puppy or kitten will again be examined, tested for internal parasites and dewormed accordingly. If necessary, your puppy or kitten will receive the second round of vaccinations. We recommend starting your puppy on heartworm and flea and tick prevention at this time. Kittens may or may not need flea prevention but it is wise to discuss this with your veterinarian.
Your puppy or kitten will be examined again for changes not present at the last examinations, dewormed if necessary, and receive the final vaccine in the series as well as a rabies vaccine.
Any non-core vaccinations that the veterinarian recommends should be started at this time; however it is best to limit the number of vaccinations at this visit to 2. The non-core vaccinations will also need to be repeated in a 3-4 week interval to insure adequate immunity.
Anytime between five and eight months of age, your puppy or kitten should be spayed or neutered. It is best to confirm good health with a physical examination and blood screen prior to surgery. With preanesthetic blood work, the veterinary team can identify potential concerns which may lead to an anesthetic episode. Other problems such as umbilical hernias and retained deciduous teeth can be taken care of at the same time as the spay or neuter. It is also a good idea to think about a means of permanent identification such as a microchip at the time of the spay or neuter.
Once the initial flurry of visits is over, your puppy or kitten will only need to visit your veterinarian once a year, providing that there are no unexpected illnesses or injuries. It is important to return for a complete physical examination yearly, even if your puppy or kitten is not due for any vaccinations, to discuss health issues, develop a treatment plan and diet to keep your puppy or kitten happy and healthy, and to discuss which vaccinations or wormers are still necessary throughout your pet’s life. It is also important to visit your veterinarian annually to discuss necessary heartworm, flea, and tick prevention.
By taking early preventative steps, owners can help ensure their pets a long, happy life.