New Puppy or Kitten?

      It finally happened. Your children won the argument and you came home with a new puppy or kitten. Everything was peachy – then it all started to happen: the kitten decided to use your great-grandmother’s rug as a litter box and scratching post, or the puppy found your beloved vinyl records of Elvis or the Beatles and destroyed them with such efficiency, that an industrial shredder would be jealous. You’re now over your head with this young creature. Now what?

     Bringing a new puppy or kitten into the household is not as simple as walking down to the shelter, picking out the cutest animal, and then bringing it home. Time must be spent before ever bringing a new pet home. Most parents don’t have a baby without some sort of pre-planning and preparation, right? The same applies here.

     Research the breed that you are interested in getting. Some breeds are better suited to your family’s lifestyle than others. An owner who doesn’t like to walk or can’t exercise will not fit well with a dog who likes to run a lot. The same is true for certain breeds of cats: some cats require a lot of attention and talk a lot, and some owners might not like that.

     Make sure you have all your supplies beforehand. Crates, chew toys / scratching posts, water / food bowls, appropriate food for the age of the animal and grooming supplies. A leash, collar and ID tags are a must.

     Is your house set up properly? You need to find a place for the crate and sleeping areas. Designating a potty area should be done as soon as your puppy comes home. Kittens need to be introduced to their litter box right away. Put away items that you do not want destroyed.

     Routines work well with animals. Work with your puppy or kitten from the beginning to establish a routine for eating, playtime and exercise. Establishing good habits early on will save you trouble later on down the road.

     Your first visit to the vet can be overwhelming with the amount of information you will receive. The following is a list of typical topics:
          1.Vaccines and diseases
          2. Controlling parasites, both internal and external
          3. Nutrition
          4. Insurance
          5. Behavior – house training, biting, contact with children / other pets
          6. Problems commonly associated with certain breeds
          7. When to spay / neuter
          8. Dental care and grooming
          9. New puppy / kitten kits

     Vaccines are obviously an important topic at the beginning of any puppy or kitten’s life. While there are some risks involved with giving vaccines, the benefits far outweigh the risk. However, anytime an animal receives a vaccine, regardless if it’s the first time or the 10th time, some signs may occur, such as swelling, pain, a low grade fever, or lethargy. More serious reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, can also occur. In cats, a reaction called a vaccine associated sarcoma (a cancerous tumor) may also occur, but this is also infrequent.

     There are a number of required, or core vaccines given to puppies and kittens. Additionally, there are other vaccines that can be given, based on you and your pet’s lifestyle (close contact with wildlife, frequent boarding, for example).

The core vaccines and their schedule for dogs:
          1. DHPP – distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus
               a. These viruses can attack the liver, heart, respiratory tract, central nervous system and the intestinal tract
               b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
          2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
               a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, a booster at 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.

Lifestyle vaccines for dogs can include:
          1. Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease that is spread by contact with urine from infected wildlife. Can be spread to humans. Can cause liver and kidney disease.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then boosters at 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every year after that.
          2. Bordatella (kennel cough) – a bacterial disease that can cause respiratory illness, commonly caught at dog parks, grooming facilities or kennels.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every 6 – 12 months.
          3. Rattlesnake – helps decrease the severity of rattlesnake bites.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every year thereafter.

The core vaccines and their schedule for cats:
          1. FVRCP – feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus
               a. These viruses can attack the respiratory and intestinal tracts. They are spread in the air or by close contact with an infected individual.
               b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
          2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
               a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, and then every year thereafter.

Lifestyle vaccines for cats can include:
          1. FELV – feline leukemia virus
               a. This virus can cause immunosuppression (decreased ability to fight other infections) and death in cats of all ages. It is spread by contact with infected individuals.
               b. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then a booster at 16, and then every year thereafter.

     Getting a new puppy or kitten can be stressful, but don’t worry, you’ll get through it. It requires patience, discipline, and sometimes the ability to step back and calm down. Don’t worry, you’ll do great with a new member in the family!

Byron Bowers, DVM