Preventive Care

Health Exams/Vaccinations

Dogs

You will want to have your new puppy examined by a veterinarian to ensure that it has no major health problems and is started on a program of preventive care. Your puppy’s health care plan includes a series of vaccinations. Vaccination protocols are designed on the basis of your puppy’s risk of infection and may vary depending upon your puppy’s age, breed, and environmental exposures. Vaccinations are usually given at 3 week intervals from 6 to 16 weeks of age. At 15 to 16 weeks of age, the puppy receives its first rabies vaccination. Puppies should be checked for intestinal parasites (usually 2 stool samples 3 weeks apart), fleas, and heartworm disease (depending on age), and appropriate treatment or preventatives administered.

Cats

Have your kitten examined by a veterinarian to ensure that it has no major health problems. Your kitten will need a series of vaccinations. Vaccinations are usually given at 3 week intervals from approximately 6 to 15 weeks of age. At 15-16 weeks old, the kitten can receive its rabies vaccination. Kittens should be checked for intestinal parasites (2 stool samples 3 weeks apart), fleas, and ear mites and appropriate medications given for these problems. Your veterinarian may also recommend a preventative for heartworm disease, which is more commonly associated with dogs, but can also affect cats. These are general guidelines. Remember, your kitten is an individual and need for specific vaccinations, timing of boosters, and risk factors for disease are best assessed by your veterinarian.

Spaying/Neutering

Dogs

Letting children see the miracle of birth is NOT a good reason to breed your dog; only serious breeders who have the desire, expertise, and time to breed well should breed at all. If you don’t plan to breed, spay or neuter your puppy. Spaying your female dog can help to prevent cancers of the reproductive tract, including breast cancer, and will decrease the incidence of reproductive infections. Neutering your male dog will prevent testicular cancer and can decrease the incidence of prostate problems. The incidence of certain behavioral problems has also been shown to be reduced when dogs are spayed or neutered. The decision to spay or neuter your puppy is one of the best decisions you can make for its well-being. Your veterinarian can discuss with you its benefits and the best time to schedule the procedure.

Cats

The decision to breed a cat is not one to be taken lightly. Thousands of cats are euthanized each year simply because there aren’t enough homes for them. If you don’t plan to breed your cat as an adult, spay or neuter your kitten. Spaying and neutering decrease incidence of some tumors and reproductive infections, both of which require more serious (and costly) surgical procedures. A male cat must be neutered if it will be a house pet because the strong urine odor of unneutered males will make your cat an unacceptable housemate. Discuss with your veterinarian the most appropriate time to spay or neuter your kitten.

Declawing

It is part of your kitten’s nature to sharpen its claws so you will need to provide it with a carpeted board or pole to use as a scratching post (unless you want the kitten to use your furniture). Many owners decide to declaw their cats because they believe it makes them more acceptable house pets — easier on the furniture and the kids. For indoor cats, many veterinarians recommend declawing only the front feet, so that if the cat does get outside it has some mechanism of defense. For cats that are outside on a regular basis, it may be possible (and better) to avoid declawing by keeping nails trimmed or using “nail caps.” Whether or not to declaw your cat is an individual and personal decision that is best discussed with your veterinarian.

Dental Care

Pets At Risk: Bad Breath Isn’t Funny Anymore

Frisco caught the guest by surprise in the living room. He planted a big, breathy smooch on her face. “Ugh! Dog breath!” The room erupted in laughter.

It wasn’t so funny the next day when Frisco had his yearly check-up. The 2-½-year-old dog was diagnosed with gum disease, and he was in danger of losing a tooth if he didn’t begin a regular dental care program.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, Frisco’s case is not unique. Studies show that more than 80 percent of dogs by age three and 70 percent of cats by age three show some signs of gum disease. Bad breath could be an early warning sign of the dangerous gum disease gingivitis.

Pets Need Dental Care, Too!

During National Pet Dental Health Month each February, pet owners are reminded that dogs and cats need good oral care. An educational campaign to consumers, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Dental Society with an educational grant provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., helps pet owners understand the importance of regular dental care for their pets.

Particularly at risk are small dog breeds, such as Pekingese and Shihtzu. Experts say these breeds are more likely to develop tooth problems because their teeth are crowded into small mouths. This can create a haven for plaque buildup.

Cervical line lesions (CLL) are the most common dental disease of domestic cats. Studies show that about 28 percent of domestic cats that veterinarians examine have CLL. Because the lesions often begin beneath the gum line, owners usually are unaware that there is a problem until the tooth is seriously damaged.

Prevention


Prevention is the key to helping pets maintain good oral health. The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends that pet owners follow three important steps:
  1. Visit Your VeterinarianJust as dental visits are the cornerstone of a human dental program, visiting a veterinarian is the key to ensuring the health of your pet’s teeth. A veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your pet as part of the dental evaluation.
  2. Start a dental care routine at homeRemoving plaque regularly from your pet’s teeth should be part of your pet’s home dental care routine. Ask your veterinarian about the procedure for brushing your pet’s teeth. Dog owners also may feed specially formulated dietary foods that help reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar from teeth when the pet eats. Your veterinarian can offer more information on dietary options.
  3. Get Regular Veterinary Dental CheckupsThe family veterinarian needs to monitor the progress of your pet’s preventive dental care routine much the same way a dentist monitors your teeth. Regular dental check-ups are essential.

Once a pet’s teeth display the warning signs — bad breath, a yellow brown crust of tartar around the gum line, pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when you touch its gums — gum disease may already be present. For a professional dental check-up, call your veterinarian today!

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