Welcoming a New Puppy or Kitten into Your Family

Chloe the French Bulldog

Chloe the French Bulldog

by Dr. Michelle Arnold

When you first look into the adoring eyes of a puppy or kitten it’s hard not to be swept away.  Next thing you know there’s a new little pet in your home and you’ve scheduled their first vet visit!  You go to the vet office, the technician gives you an estimate, and you can’t believe how expensive it is.  Then the technician says you’ll have to bring your new pet in every 3 or 4 weeks until it’s boosters are finished.  The room starts spinning and dollar signs are flashing every where.

Things to Think About Before Adopting a Puppy or Kitten

Words you will hear at a first puppy/kitten vet visit: vaccines, fecal test, dewormer, heartworm prevention, flea prevention, spay/neuter, obedience classes, toys, food, crates, potty training, puppy/kitten proofing the home, etc.  First puppy/kitten visits can be overwhelming, especially if you are just learning about all the different aspects of care for pets.  Your veterinarian plays an important role in making you aware of all of these different aspects.

Pet Care Services Your Veterinarian Recommends for Your New Pet and Why They Are Important

Vaccines.  Why on earth do we give so many boosters?! Puppies and Kittens receive protection from diseases from their mothers by way of “maternal antibodies”.  These antibodies last anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks of age, and can prevent vaccines from doing their job.  Since we can’t tell at exactly what age your specific puppy/kitten is no longer protected by these maternal antibodies, 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 us 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. 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 allows us to detect those parasites.  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 recommended to have your pet “fixed” is between 4 and 6 months.  Spaying or neutering 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.

Discussing at Home Care.  As mentioned before, your veterinarian plays an important role in the care of your pet.  He/she is available to discuss all the aspects of puppy/kitten care, from potty training to what what type of food is recommended.  Veterinarians love to answer questions, so write down any you might have when taking your pet in for its appointment.

In Summary

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 life time.  Take the time to review all the necessary veterinary, feeding, entertainment, and grooming costs that may be associated with a new pet before acquiring one so that you may provide them with the best of care and love.