Search Our Smart Money
|Sign up to receive Our Smart Money|
When you first look into the adoring eyes of a puppy or kitten, it’s difficult not to be swept off your feet. Next thing you know, you and your new little companion are at the veterinarian’s office and the technician is rattling off all the services and products it will need. Then the room starts spinning and dollar signs start flashing.
Here are some things you will hear about when you take your puppy or kitten on its first vet visit: vaccine, fecal test, dewormer, heartworm prevention, flea prevention, spay/neuter, declaw, obedience classes, toys, food, crates, potty training, puppy/kitten proofing the home … and more. First puppy/kitten visits can be overwhelming, especially if you are just learning about all the different aspects of pet care. Your veterinarian plays an important role in making you aware of all of these different aspects.
To help prevent a case of pet sticker shock, become familiar with some of the things your veterinarian may recommend and why they are important:
Vaccines. Why on earth do we give so many vaccine boosters? Puppies and kittens receive protection from diseases from their mothers by way of “maternal antibodies.” These antibodies last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks of age and can prevent vaccines from doing there job. Because we can’t tell when your puppy/kitten is not protected by these maternal antibodies anymore, we start giving vaccines between 6-8 weeks of age, and continue to give boosters until 16 weeks of age. This is to make sure they are not being blocked by maternal antibodies and to protect the puppy/kitten from viruses and bacteria that they might be susceptible to as early as 6 weeks of age.
Fecal test and dewormer. Looking at a stool sample allows your veterinarian to detect parasite eggs that puppies and kittens are frequently infected with. They are usually infected from their mother, either inutero (while in the uterus before birth) or through their mother’s milk. Why do we run a fecal at each visit? Due to the life cycle of the parasites, the eggs may not show up on the first or even second fecal test. Even when puppy/kitten fecals are negative, we tend to deworm the pet because most puppies/kittens are infected. Certain parasites are not susceptible to the most common dewormer, so continuing to run fecals even after we have dewormed a pet is very important. Most of the parasites are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed from pets to people, and children and the elderly are most susceptible. Make sure to always pick up stool from the backyard and clean out the litter box as often as possible when you have a puppy/kitten.
Heartworm and flea prevention. These parasites are pesky and can be harmful to your pet, but are easily preventable. It is best to start using these preventions when you first get your new pet. There are many different products to choose from, and it is best to discuss the options with your veterinarian. Most of the time you can purchase one product that will take care of heartworms and fleas together, along with other pests such as ear mites and intestinal parasites.
Spay/neuter. The most common age recommened to have your pet “fixed” is between 4 and 6 months. Fixing your pet can prevent mammary cancer, certain prostate problems, unwanted behaviors, and unwanted puppies/kittens. Many people deal with unwanted pregnancies because their unaltered pet escaped from the backyard and mated with another unaltered pet. Unaltered males are known for escaping and getting hit by cars. At Sheabel we frequently spay and neuter at 16 weeks of age when the last set of boosters are due.
As mentioned, your veterinarian plays an important role in the care of your pet. He or she is available to dicuss all the aspects of puppy/kitten care, from potty training to which type of food is recommended. Veterinarians love to answer questions, so write down any you might have and take them with you the next time your pet has an appointment.
Puppies and kittens are adorable and will love you with all their heart. They are also a huge financial commitment, not only when they are small, but throughout their entire lifetime. Take the time to review all the necessary veterinary, feeding, entertainment and grooming costs that may be associated with a new pet before aquiring one so that you may provide it with the best of care and love.
Dr. Michelle Arnold is a veterinarian at Sheabel Pet Care Center, a full-service veterinary center in Lexington. She received a bachelor’s from Asbury University in 2006 and a DVM from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. For more information, visit sheabelpets.com.