A puppy or kitten can make an exciting holiday gift, and the look on your family’s face when they meet the new addition for the first time can be priceless. But, once the initial excitement is over, you may wonder how to start your new pet on a lifelong health-care program. Here is what you need to know regarding important medical care for your pet in her first year.

Visit the veterinarian with your new pet immediately

Schedule a new pet visit with our veterinary team as soon as possible, so we can welcome your new addition to our family, and begin her health-care routine. Starting her care as early as 6 weeks of age is critical for preventing deadly infectious diseases and parasites.

During your pet’s first appointment, we will perform a thorough examination to ensure she appears healthy, and shows no signs of infectious disease or birth defects. You should bring any medical records or vaccine history you receive from the breeder or pet store, so we know what care she has already received. 

All puppies and kittens need an initial vaccine series

Vaccines should begin at 6 weeks of age, and if your new pet did not receive her first set before you adopted her, she is likely ready—or overdue. If she did receive vaccines before adoption, she may be ready for boosters, or need additional vaccines for full protection. During the initial veterinary visit, we will review your pet’s vaccine records and recommend protection against diseases common to your area and lifestyle. 

Dogs and cats are at risk of contracting different infectious diseases, and receive different vaccines. All puppies should receive core vaccines to protect them against common diseases, including:

  • Canine distemper
  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Parvo
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

We may also recommend some optional vaccines for your puppy, based on her lifestyle and potential disease exposure, including:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Canine influenza
  • Kennel cough

Cats should receive core vaccines to protect them against common feline diseases, which include:

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis
  • Calicivirus
  • Panleukopenia
  • Rabies

Optional feline vaccines that may be administered, based on potential disease exposure, include:

  • Feline leukemia
  • Chlamydia

Your puppy or kitten should receive her first vaccines at 6 weeks of age, and then boosters every three to four weeks until she is a minimum of 16 weeks old. Although puppies and kittens are born with maternal immunity, it starts to wear off at around 6 weeks of age, and they are left vulnerable to diseases if they are not vaccinated. Boosters are also critical to disease prevention, and full immunity may not develop if the full series is not completed.

Parasite prevention is important for your pet’s health

A number of parasites can cause or transmit dangerous diseases to your pet, and parasite prevention plays an important role in keeping her healthy. Prevention against these parasites is important:

  • Fleas — Fleas can cause intense itching, dermatitis, and anemia, and can also transmit diseases and tapeworms. Most flea preventives are applied to your pet’s skin monthly, although other products, such as collars, are also available.

  • Ticks — Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and ehrlichiosis, that can cause severe illness and death. Many flea-prevention products also prevent ticks.

  • Heartworms — Heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquitoes, accumulate in the heart and large blood vessels, and can cause severe inflammation and obstruct blood flow. Untreated heartworm disease is deadly, and prevention is easier than months of treatment and exercise restriction. Heartworm prevention is typically administered monthly as a flavored chewable treat. 

Spay or neuter your pet at approximately 6 months of age

Dogs and cats should have their reproductive organs surgically removed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and behaviors, mating, and hormone-related medical conditions. Females should be spayed before their first heat cycle to minimize chances of mammary cancer in later life, and males should be neutered before urine marking and other unwanted behaviors develop, so surgery is often performed around 6 months of age. Some pets, such as large and giant dog breeds, should be spayed or neutered at a later age to allow time for proper development. 

Your new pet will need lifelong regular health care

Your pet will need regular veterinary visits throughout her life to maintain good health and disease immunity. After her first year, she should visit our office annually for an examination, vaccine boosters, and parasite prevention. You will also need to see our veterinary team should your pet become sick or start acting abnormally. 

Once your pet reaches 8 years of age, veterinary visits will increase to every six months, and may include blood work to screen for age-related organ deterioration. With proactive wellness care and prompt attention to signs of illness, your pet can live a long, healthy life. 

If you have added a new furry family member this holiday season, contact us to schedule your new pet’s first appointment to get her started on the path to good health.