One of the most common visits I see right now is a new puppy or kitten exam. These are the most fun for me as a veterinarian because I get to see the joy of the family as they introduce me to their new family member, learn why they chose this specific individual and hear about the all the adjustments going on at home raising a new “baby.” This also provides me a great opportunity to teach. For a brief time, I get to share a lot of very important knowledge that is going to impact this family for the rest of this cat or dog’s life. This can be anything from helpful tips about house training to the importance of giving heartworm prevention every 30 days for life.
One of the first things we discuss is the importance of physical exams. I cannot stress this enough—YES!!!! During the initial puppy/kitten visit, a veterinarian should be performing a thorough physical exam. This can determine if there are any congenital diseases or abnormalities present that may not be noticeable with just a passing glance. Heart murmurs, joint defects, skull openings cleft palates and neurologic problems are just a few of the things a doctor may diagnose that an owner may not ever realize were present. Sometimes these pets need medical intervention to correct the problem while others will do fine. Most of them should be spayed or neutered so as not to pass on the condition to any offspring.
Vaccinations for all babies is a must. They need to be done in a series just like children. This schedule must be followed closely, or it may need to be stretched longer with additional vaccines in order to achieve appropriate immunity. For both kittens and puppies, we recommend a schedule of 8, 12 and 16 week. Your personal veterinarian may alter this at their own discretion—and that is okay! Once the kitten/puppy series is complete, they are now on a yearly schedule.
At 8 weeks of age, every pet it is old enough to start heartworm and flea prevention. Living in southeast Louisiana, we are all targets for mosquitos which are the carriers for heartworms, and cats are not immune. Our warm weather also provides an excellent environment for fleas to thrive. Getting our new family members starting on both preventions early is the key to keeping them protected for life.
Finally, each of our new patients is checked for intestinal parasites. It is very common for these little guys to have worms even if they come from the cleanest of homes. Some get worms from mom, and others get them from the environment they in prior to coming into their new home. It is not uncommon for us to find hookworms or roundworms in our patients. Practicing good clean up practices is a great solution when treating—always clean up immediately after you pet defecates and clean the area well (wipe the floors with sanitizer, wash the litter box, hose down the yard). Be sure to clean their paws to prevent reinfection, and always WASH YOUR HANDS.
If you are thinking about getting a new family member or have just added to the family, we would love to meet him or her, and answer any questions you might have. Please call the Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic for an appointment at 504.363.1333.