Let’s Talk About Puppy Vaccines:
The current recommendation for puppies is to follow a vaccine protocol running roughly from the age of six weeks through sixteen weeks. Of course some pups may not come in for their first visit at exactly six weeks, so we tailor what’s needed to your pet’s individual needs. As a general rule, we would recommend vaccines be given at roughly 6, 9, 12, and 16 weeks. We administer two puppy vaccines during the time when those maternal antibodies are starting to decline at 6 and 9 weeks, and we re-stimulate the immune system with the follow-up adult vaccines at 12 and 16 weeks. As a legal side note in all of this talk of immunity, it is also required by law that your pet be vaccinated for Rabies at or around 16 weeks of age.
Also, during these visits, it is likely that your puppy will be examined for any underlying health issues that might not be noticeable to you at home. Concerns such as hernias, joint problems like luxating patellas, heart murmurs, and even parasites, as well as a whole list of issues can be detected and addressed before they become problems. A physical exam every three weeks as he or she grows is essential to good health later in life.
Other routine health considerations should be addressed. It is recommended that your puppy be started on a heart worm preventative before 4 months of age. This is the ideal time to get in the habit of giving them that monthly, life-saving tablet. Keep in mind that there is no ‘NATURAL’ heart worm prevention that has been found to be effective in protecting your dog from contracting heart worms. We will discuss this in a subsequent post. Puppies should begin a flea and tick control program that best fits their lifestyle. Also, if you are not planning to breed your dog, it his highly recommended that he or she be altered- neutered or spayed- at roughly 4-6 months of age.
Let’s Talk About Kitten Vaccines:
Many cats live a much different lifestyle than do most of our companion dogs. They are either cats-on-the go, out and about in their cat kingdom all time time, or they’re happy to occupy a warm, sunny window for about 22 hours each day. Regardless of what your kitten’s future might hold, he or she should be administered a vaccine protocol.
For our feline friends, as mentioned in the discussion about immunity, their systems work a bit faster and thus they generally require fewer vaccines in their first few months of life. Typically we recommend vaccines at 6, 9, and 12 weeks of age. This might vary depending on your cat’s health at the time of exam as well as the projected lifestyle your cat will have. Generally kittens are given three distemper/kitten vaccines and similar to our dogs, are required to have their rabies vaccine between 12-16 weeks of age.
Other health concerns that should be addressed by your veterinarian include physical exam, routine parasite check, Feline Leukemia/FIV testing, which will be discussed in a later blog, and beginning a parasite control program that includes heart worm prevention- yes cats can get heart worms, too- and flea & tick control. Also, if you’re not planning on breeding your cat, it’s highly recommended that they be spayed or neutered at 4-6 months of age.
For The New Adult Addition To The Family:
You might’ve been handed a packet of information about the healthcare your pet has been given at a shelter, rescue or private home situation. This can be extremely helpful in providing clues about your pet’s needs. It’s recommended that you bring this information to your pet’s first visit to the veterinarian.
Just like puppies and kittens, adult pets should be taken for a health check in the first week or so following their adoption. They may or may not need follow-up vaccines, heart worm testing and/or prevention, as well as other parasite control. If you’ve adopted a mature dog or cat, they may benefit from blood testing or a dental cleaning. And, similar to our youngsters, that fist visit may detect issues that can be handled and helped quickly so they don’t become problems in the future.
So, what if you haven’t been handed a packet and you have no information at all about your new pet? Maybe you were a warm-hearted good Samaritan who rescued an animal in need and you don’t know anything about them. The best thing you can do is to seek the advice of your family veterinarian. In most instances, a good physical exam is the first step to take. Beyond that it’s likely some testing such as heart worm or feline disease will be recommended. Since we’ve been talking about vaccines, it is also likely that vaccines will be recommended. If your new friend is young, obviously they will need to go through the same steps that any other pup or kitten would follow. If they’re an adult, an attenuated protocol will likely be recommended.
In summary, those first few visits are essential in protecting the health of your pet in so many ways. Your pup or kitten, adult or senior friend will be vaccinated, perhaps dewormed, started on vital preventative medications and care that will help to keep them healthy for the rest of their life.
Remember, a healthy start makes the journey ahead a lot more fun!