Health Care

Vet Visits

Next to you and your family, your veterinarian is one of the most important people in your pet's life. You should identify a veterinarian for your new pet before you bring it home and arrange for a first appointment as soon as possible. The first vet visit gives you and your veterinarian an opportunity to establish your pet's baseline level of health and identify any potential long-term or chronic health problems. This visit can confirm the health status identified when you purchased your pet.

When you meet with the vet, be sure to discuss your daily care routines, home environment, any anticipated problems or concerns you may have, ask questions about any behaviors about which you need more information and your grooming preferences, particularly nail clipping. Your vet will examine your pet to ensure healthy bones, joints and muscles, and good heart, eye, ear and other organ functions. The vet will also do a blood test if needed to check to make sure your pet has the right levels of nutrients and minerals.

Your pet may experience some stress going to the vet. The best way to alleviate this is with positive reinforcement, attention and happy visits. Stop in at the vet's office with your pet a couple of times when it doesn't need to be examined so that your pet associates the clinic with positive experiences. Pet your pet and give it praise when it behaves calmly and well at the vet's office. Take some treats to help keep your pet happy and to have staff give your pet. You can also try pet pheromones such as Adaptil or Feliway to help with vet anxiety. Fortunately, vet staff is experienced at handling dpet of all sorts and will likely make your job much easier.

After the first visit and your pet's initial vaccinations, you should plan on getting your pet checked by the vet once a year, more often for senior pets or longterm disease. During your visit we will guide you on our recommendations and set up reminders in the computer to keep your pet on track.




A basic vaccination series should be a part of your pets's schedule during the first four months. A combination vaccine is given once a month from two months through four months and then once annually. It protects your pet from leading infections and illnesses. If you acquired a pet that is older than four months and that has not been vaccinated, the vet will use a different protocol -- two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart and then annual vaccinations. Some vaccines can be given every 3 years once the pet has completed the correct series. Vaccines that can be every 3 years include; rebies, DHPP & FVRCP.

Your pet will also need a rabies vaccination. However, laws around the country differ about when this vaccination must be given, so check with your vet about scheduling a rabies vaccination for your pet. Your vet can also tell you about other vaccinations that may be appropriate depending on where you live.



Spaying and Neutering

Most pets are spayed (females) or neutered (for males) to remove reproductive organs and prevent pregnancy. But health issues provide other compelling reasons for spaying and neutering pets.

Female dogs have a high incidence of cancers of the reproductive system. Spaying removes the ovaries and the uterus, preventing the production of estrogen, which leads to most of the reproductive cancers. A vast majority of unspayed older females contract a life-threatening infection of the uterus, call pyometra. This infection is caused by problems with progesterone, another female hormone which is eliminated through spaying. Female dogs should be spayed before their first heat, if possible, which generally occurs between six months and one year of age.

Males that are not neutered often exhibit extremely aggressive behaviors, which can be dangerous to them, other animals and people. A pet that was well-behaved and calm in its youth can suddenly show a pack mentality and become more aggressive, try to get loose to roam freely, or vocalize lot -- all as a result of high testosterone levels. Many of these habits become hard to break. A male pet neutered between six months and one year of age will retain its youthful calm.

Spaying and neutering are common surgeries. They require anesthesia but will be able to go home that day. Your pet may be under the weather for a few more days as a result of the surgery, but will heal within a matter of a week or so.



Common Health Issues

Your pet is likely to have some health issues during its life. The worst can be prevented through vaccinations and spaying and neutering. Others, such as cancers and other diseases may not be avoidable. That's why it is important to maintain your pet's diet, nutrition and exercise at all times. However, there are a few common health problems you need to take care of to keep your pet well.

Fleas and Ticks. Fleas are external parasites that cause a skin allergy, a common skin disease for dogs and cats. Ticks latch on to the skin and burrow in to feed on blood. Both can be itching, annoying and unhealthy for your dog and you. Keeping your dog/cat flea and tick free is easier today thanks to new products that can be applied once-a-month. However, you need to visually inspect your pet's skin for signs of fleas during daily grooming and check for ticks after returning from an area known to have them.

Heartworm. Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm are other parasites that can enter your pet's bloodstream and create serious health problems. Heartworm parasites are passed on to pets through mosquitoes. Hookworm and roundworm larvae end up on your pet's feet, which, through licking, enters its abdominal system. The best form of treatment is early and regular prevention. A monthly pill or topical will help your pet avoid these parasites. If your pet does contract a worm, it is important for your vet to do testing to determine which kind it is suffering from and what level the development the worm has reached. A correct diagnosis is needed because the treatment for one worm is not the same as for another. Symptoms of a worm parasite are an occasional cough, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing. Talk to your vet about how often she recommends checking for worm parasites, since the symptoms may not present themselves before serious damage occurs. For healthy pets we recommend having a fecal parasite test once a year and for dogs a yearly heartworm test. Testing for heartworm disease in cats is not as easy, thus the reason to make sure they are on prevention.

Poisoning. Many common indoor and outdoor plants can be poisonous to pets. Before your bring your pet home, get rid of any houseplants that appear on the list below. Don't let your pet eat plants and leaves when outdoors. If you do suspect poisoning, get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. You should also keep the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center hotline number near your phone in case of emergency. You can reach this 24/7 hotline by calling toll free (888) 426-4435.

Following is a partial list developed by the ASPCA's Poison Control Center of common plants that are poisonous to dogs and cats:

Aloe vera
Apple seeds
Apple leaf croton
Apricot pit
Asparagus fern
Autumn crocus
Avocado (both the fruit and pit)
Baby's breath
Bird of paradise
Branching ivy
Buddhist pine
Calla lily
Castor bean
Charming dieffenbachia
Cherry (seeds and wilting leaves)
Chinese evergreen
Christmas rose
Corn plant
Cornstalk plant
Cuban laurel
Cutleaf philodendron
Devil's ivy
Dracaena palm
Dragon tree
Dumb cane
Elephant ears
Emerald feather
English ivy
Fiddle-leaf fig
Florida beauty
Fruit salad plant
German ivy
Giant dumb cane
Glacier ivy
Gold dieffenbachia
Gold dust dracaena
Golden pothos
Hahn's self-branching ivy
Heartland philodendron
Hurricane plant
Indian rubber plant
Janet Craig dracaena
Jerusalem cherry
Lacy tree philodendron
Lily of the valley
Mother-in-law's tongue
Madagascar dragon tree
Marble queen
Mexican breadfruit
Miniature croton
Morning glory
Needlepoint ivy
Peace lily
Peach (wilting leaves and pit)
Pencil cactus
Plumosa fern
Poison ivy
Poison oak
Potato plant
Purgatory bean
Red emerald
Red princess
Red-margined dracaena
Ribbon plant
Saddle leaf philodendron
Sago palm
Satin pothos
Silver pothos
Spotted dumb cane
String of pearls
Striped dracaena
Sweetheart ivy
Swiss cheese plant
Taro vine
Tomato plant (green fruit, stem and leaves)
Tree philodendron
Tropic snow dieffenbachia
Weeping fig