Puppies should start their “puppy vaccine” series beginning at 6-8 weeks of age and should receive a booster vaccine every 3-4 weeks. It is very important to give the final DA2PP booster at 17-18 weeks because the antibodies passed from the mama dog to the puppy (maternal antibodies) can override the vaccine if given before this age, in some puppies maternal antibodies do not drop until 16 weeks of age which is the reasoning behind the latest recommendations that puppy vaccines continue until 17-18 weeks of age (especially in higher risk breeds such as pitbulls and rottweilers). This vaccine should contain parvovirus, distemper virus, parainfluenza virus, and hepatic adenovirus (frequently referred to as DA2PP). It is not the number of vaccines but the timing of these vaccines that is important to protect the puppy from contracting one of these potentially deadly viruses. If you are planning to take your puppy to a kennel, puppy classes, dog parks, or grooming it is recommended to have him/her vaccinated against bordetella (often referred to as kennel cough) which is given as early as 8 weeks of age. One rabies vaccine is given at 12 weeks of age or older and provides protection for 1 year at which time it should be boosted. The DA2PP vaccine should be boosted 1 year after the final puppy vaccine was administered (typically around 16 months of age).
Kittens should start their “kitten vaccine” series beginning at 6-8 weeks of age and should receive a booster vaccine every 3-4 weeks with the last vaccine given at 16 weeks of age or older. This vaccine should contain rhinotracheitis virus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus (commonly referred to as FVRCP). It is not the number of vaccines but the timing of these vaccines that is important to protect the kitten from contracting one of these potentially deadly viruses. If your kitten is going to be outdoors unsupervised it is recommended that he/she be vaccinated against feline leukemia virus. This vaccine series requires 2 vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart starting as early as 8 weeks of age. A single rabies vaccine is also recommended at 12 weeks of age or older which provides protection for 1 year at which time it should be boosted. The FVRCP vaccine should be boosted 1 year after the final kitten vaccine was administered (typically around 16 months of age).
Typical signs of an allergic reaction to a vaccine is hives, swelling of the face, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy, fever, and itching. Most vaccine reactions can be treated with antihistamines and steroids depending on the severity of symptoms. It is always recommended that you have your pet seen immediately if he/she is having symptoms of a vaccine reaction as there are rare cases of anaphylaxis following initial signs of reaction. Anaphylaxis can result in swelling of the airway, shock, and even death. Vaccine reactions can occur to any vaccine and are typically seen within a few hours after a vaccine is administered but there are very rare cases of delayed reactions occurring days after administration of a vaccine.
There are many new boutique diets available for purchase these days, many of which are unfortunately not balanced and complete which can result in joint and bone problems for a growing puppy. I recommend a premium brand food that has been through AAFCO feeding trials (will be labeled as such on the bag), this is important to ensure that there is proper nutrients for your pet. AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials which is a voluntary association that regulates the sale and distribution of animal feeds. Examples include Royal Canin, Iams, Eukanuba, and Purina One. I recommend that you look at the ingredients and choose a food where the main ingredients (the first ones listed on the label) are a whole meat protein, such as chicken or beef. It is very important not to overfeed but to go with recommended amounts for age and weight of your animal as there are growth-related diseases that have been associated with overfeeding. Grain Free foods are no longer recommended due to the potential link to heart disease in some animals fed these diets.
There are alternatives to declawing that I encourage owners try prior to considering declawing. Trimming nails frequently, offering appropriate scratching posts or cardboard clawing boxes in both horizontal and vertical positions, and applying “Soft Paws” (plastic nail covers that can be glued on to your cats toenails) are all alternatives to try. Declawing can lead to chronic pain & lameness as well as behavioral issues including inappropriate urination, which is one of the primary reasons cats are relinquished to shelters.
We recommend spaying (ovariohysterectomy involves removing the uterus and ovaries in females) and neutering (removing testicles in males) small breed puppies around 6 months of age. We typically recommend in the small breed dogs waiting until the adult canine teeth are in place as these pups often don’t lose their baby teeth like they should. Therefore, if there is an adult and baby tooth in the same place we remove the baby teeth while they are already under anesthesia for the spay/neuter surgery to prevent future dental issues. We typically recommend waiting until over a year to spay and neuter larger breed puppies as long as there is no sign of aggression and if you do not have other intact dogs in the home. There have been many recent studies in larger breed dogs (those that will weight over 50 lbs as an adult) of which preliminary studies have determined that there appears to be a link between certain types of joint diseases and cancers in dogs spayed/neutered under a year of age. It is still strongly recommended to spay and neuter these larger breed pups at around 12-18 months of age given the risk of mammary cancer and uterine infections in older female dogs and to prevent behavioral problems such as testosterone-related aggression, urine marking, and prostatic problems. Most female puppies first heat cycle occurs between 7 and 9 months of age but can occasionally occur as young as 6 months and bleeding typically lasts 10-14 days. We recommend spaying and neutering kittens around 5 months of age, even earlier (closer to 4 months) if you have both male and female kittens as female kittens can become pregnant as young as 4 or 5 months of age!
Socialization is extremely important for puppies with the critical age to provide socialization between 6 and 13 weeks of age. Socialization is the process of exposing your puppy to a variety of people, places, and things so that he/she will be less fearful of these things in the future. Inadequate socialization as a puppy is one of the primary causes of behavioral problems in pets later in life. Unfortunately, the best age to socialize your puppy is also the age where they are most susceptible to catching parvo and other viruses, therefore it is important to stay away from areas where many other dogs visit, especially grassy areas where parvovirus can remain active for years. Safe ways to socialize your puppy include taking him/her for walks around the neighborhood taking care to stay on the sidewalk avoiding grassy areas where certain viruses can survive for years. Other safe places to socialize your puppy include visiting friends and families homes with well-vaccinated pets and having these animals visit your home as well. Carry extra special treats with you on these excursions and ask friends and strangers if they wouldn’t mind feeding your pup a treat.
Grapes and raisins have been found to cause kidney failure in some dogs. Onions and garlic can cause red blood cells to pop (hemolysis) in dogs and cats. Sugar free chewing gum and candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can cause liver failure and death in pets. Avocado can be toxic to birds. Macadamia nuts, alcohol, chocolate, bread dough, and caffeinated beverages can also be toxic to dogs and cats. High fat foods can lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, which can be a very serious condition.
Valley fever is caused by a fungus (coccidioides immitis) that lives in the soil of southern Arizona and parts of California. This fungus is inhaled into the lungs and if not cleared by the immune system can lead to respiratory disease, bone lesions, neurologic disease, ocular disease, and draining skin lesions. Most of our animals (and us as well) clear the infection and do not develop any long term problems, however some will go on to become severely ill with one of these manifestations. Typically the initial symptoms include a dry cough, fever, decrease in appetite, and lethargy. Later in the course of disease we can see seizures, limping, eye problems, or draining wounds. Most cases of Valley fever can be successfully treated with oral antifungal medication administered twice daily typically for a minimum of 9 months. Please have your pet seen as soon as possible if any of these symptoms have been noticed in your pet.
Heartworm disease is a disease caused by a roundworm that is deposited into your pets skin by mosquitos. These worms migrate through the body to eventually mature within the heart causing severe changes to the heart and lungs. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms occur (coughing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, inappetance) the disease is advanced with many mature worms living in the heart. Because heartworm disease is spread by mosquitos this disease is much more prevalent in the southeastern United States however we do see a fair share of cases in Arizona as well. Just think of how many times you have been bitten by mosquitos in the summer. Heartworm disease is considered to be on the rise in the southwestern United States in recent years and is thought to be associated with the displacement of so many infected pets to this region following hurricane Katrina. Heartworm disease is extremely easy to prevent with administration of once a month doses of heartworm preventative, typically costing less than $10 a month. Treatment of heartworm disease is very painful, very risky as dead and dying worms can break apart and lodge in the lungs and elsewhere, and very expensive.
“Kennel cough” is a term used to describe many different highly contagious upper respiratory infections. Most of these infections are caused by a virus (many different viruses can be involved) and a bacteria (bordetella). When we vaccinate against “kennel cough” we are vaccinating against bordetella and parainfluenza virus. This vaccine does not completely prevent an animal from developing “kennel cough” but will help to decrease the severity of symptoms and hopefully prevent severe infections and pneumonia from developing. The primary symptom of “kennel cough” is a severe hacking cough often followed by a gag or wretch, often times bringing up a small amount of foam or fluid. In many cases the dog acts completely normal other than the horrendous cough, no change in appetite or activity. There is no treatment for viruses other than supportive care, they must run their course, however we often will treat with antibiotics to treat the bacterial component of this infection (bordetella) and hopefully prevent secondary bacterial infections.
Vomiting can be a symptom of many very serious problems (parvovirus, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction) many of which can be life threatening. It is always recommended that you have your pet examined by a veterinarian if he/she is vomiting. Diarrhea can also be a symptom of a serious problem as well. Diarrhea can also be seen commonly with intestinal parasites and even stress in some cases. A bland diet consisting of boiled chicken breast (or boiled hamburger meat) and rice can be offered in small frequent meals to pets with a simple gastroenteritis, or upset stomach, however if vomiting and/or diarrhea continue please have your pet seen as soon as possible. If vomiting/diarrhea resolves with a bland diet be sure to gradually transition them back to their regular food over a few days time.
Difficulty getting up and down is a symptom of arthritis commonly seen in older -pets. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight can help tremendously to alleviate (and prevent in many cases) symptoms of arthritis. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements have been shown to help alleviate pain associated with arthritis in many pets. There are many of these supplements (both human and animal products) on the market, however these types of supplements are not FDA regulated therefore it is difficult to know what you are really getting. I recommend using a brand name product such as Cosequin or Dasuquin that have clinical trials to support their efficacy. Unfortunately, many of the dog foods on the market that claim to contain glucosamine contain just enough so they can make this claim, it is not at therapeutic levels. Fish oils are another supplement that can be given and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and can help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Acupuncture, therapeutic laser, and physical therapy are other modalities that can be used to help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can also help tremendously in many severe arthritis cases. I never recommend aspirin in dogs as studies have demonstrated that dogs given aspirin will develop intestinal irritation ranging from inflammation to ulceration. There are much safer NSAIDs made just for dogs that carry less risk of GI ulceration than aspirin, however it must be noted that all NSAIDs must be used with caution as they all can have negative side effects. It is always recommended that blood work be completed prior to administering NSAIDs and again 2 weeks after starting NSAIDs to be sure there are no elevations of liver or kidney values. It is also recommended that you discontinue NSAIDs and call your veterinarian if your pet develops diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, or black/bloody stool while taking these medications. Although these medications carry risk of side effects they do help many dogs to feel much better providing a significant improvement in their quality of life and have even given many owners more time with their pets that they otherwise would not have had.
Dental care is much more important to an animal’s overall health than most people realize. When an animal has periodontal disease, which consists of halitosis, tartar accumulation, gingivitis, and/or gingival recession, this can lead to bacterial translocation or bacteria from the mouth being transported through the blood to other internal organs including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Unfortunately animals cannot tell us when they have a toothache and many times we do not realize the extent of the dental disease and oral infection until an animal is anesthetized and a full oral exam in completed. It is amazing the number of times I have heard an owner say how much happier and playful their pet is after a dental cleaning. The best way to address dental care in pets is the preventative approach with frequent tooth brushing to prevent plaque accumulation and gingivitis. The food an animal eats, the way they eat their food, and genetics all play a role in the need for routine dental cleanings as some pets will require more frequent dental cleanings despite the most diligent tooth brushing efforts by their owner.
This increasingly popular procedure involves using instruments to scale tartar from the visible areas of the teeth in a non-anesthetized pet. This procedure is purely cosmetic and can definitely cause more harm than good. The mouth is full of blood vessels and tartar is full of bacteria, therefore there is the potential for bacteria released into the blood stream through the process of scaling to infect other organs, this is why we routinely administer intravenous antibiotics at the time of every routine dental cleaning in our animal patients. Periodontal disease is most active below the gumline, in the area you cannot see. An animal that is not anesthetized will not tolerate scaling below the gumline and attempts to do so with sharp instruments used for scaling can be dangerous for your pet. A full oral examination simply cannot be performed in an awake animal making it very likely that serious problems will be missed, it is not possible to determine if there are deepening pockets or significant bone loss in an awake animal. The process of scaling and polishing the teeth of a non-anesthetized animal can be terrifying for an animal as they do not understand what is happening. The animal may initially tolerate the scaling only to become increasingly frightened and intolerant. If the teeth are scaled and then not able to be polished the resulting grooves made in the teeth through the process of scaling makes a perfect place for bacteria to colonize and in turn causes much more harm than good.
Calling during clinic hours is always the best way to contact us.
Animals can have both seasonal allergies and allergies to foods, just like us. If your pet’s allergy symptoms persist all year round and do not seem to resolve during certain times of the year, there is a good chance they may have an allergy to a certain ingredient in their diet. Chronic ear infections, thickened skin, chewing at the bottom of their feet, and scooting or licking at their anus are all very common symptoms of food allergies (but can also be seen with environmental allergies as well but these often have a more seasonal occurrence). The protein source is much more commonly the culprit (with chicken being a very common food allergy) than the grain source although in recent years “grain free” diets have become all the rage. If I am suspicious of a food allergy I commonly recommend looking at what the main protein source is in the food that the pet is eating and change to a diet that has completely different ingredients, taking care to pay attention to the main ingredients in treats and table food that is also being fed to the pet and give the food 2-3 months to see the full improvement you can expect to see. In some pets, if the allergy to an ingredient is severe, you may not see any improvement with over the counter (OTC) diets because most production plants process foods on the same machines without sterilization between batches. This means if your pet has a severe chicken allergy, there still may be traces of chicken in many OTC diets even though chicken is not listed as an ingredient. This does not mean all hope is lost if your pet does have a severe food allergy, there are many different kinds of prescription diets that may be very efficacious for your pets food allergies. Recent studies have shown there appears to be a link between grain free diets and heart disease, specifically heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). The FDA warns that diets high in legumes such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, and sweet potatoes may be associated with a deficiency leading to heart muscle disease, however the reasons for this diet related cardiomyopathy in dogs are not yet completely understood and research is ongoing. For this reason, I recommend avoiding grain free diets until more research is completed. The following article is written by Dr. Lisa Freeman, a well respected veterinary nutritionist who has an emphasis in cardiac nutrition and is advising the FDA on the Taurine deficiency warning http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/06/a-broken-heart-risk-of-heart-disease-in-boutique-or-grain-free-diets-and-exotic-ingredients/. FDA article link-https/www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/outbreaks-and-advisories/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy#diet