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Pet Health

 Preventive Care for Dogs

Our recommendations for routine preventive health care include a preventive vaccination protocol starting in puppies and kittens at 6 to 8 weeks of age and continuing through 14 weeks old; and in adult animals ranging from annual vaccinations to every-three-year protocols.

For most puppies, a combination vaccine with 4 common diseases (distemper, parainfluenza, parvovirus and adenovirus) is recommended every 3 to 4 weeks until at least 14 weeks of age. The same vaccine with the addition of leptospirosis is recommended annually for most adult dogs. This is considered a core vaccine that is recommended for every dog. It is typically required for dogs that will be boarded at commercial kennels.

Vaccination for Lymes’ disease can start at 12 weeks and requires a booster 3 weeks later and then annually. This is recommended for dogs that will be hunting or camping routinely, that spend a lot of time “in the field”, as well as dogs that will be traveling to northern Michigan or to areas of the country where Lymes’ disease is more prevalent. It is not considered a core vaccine for dogs that live strictly in St. Clair County. Bordatella (or kennel cough) can be given as young as 8 weeks and then every 6 to 12 months depending on the dogs’ risk level. It is highly recommended for puppies and dogs that will be around a lot of other dogs, whether in puppy or obedience classes, at boarding kennels, grooming facilities or dog parks or “doggy daycare” centers. It may be given orally, intra-nasally (in the nose) or by injection. It is not considered a core vaccine for every dog but is strongly recommended, and may be required, for those situations listed above.

Rabies vaccination can be given any time after 12 weeks of age. We typically will administer it at the same time as the last distemper combo vaccine at about 14 to 16 weeks. According to St. Clair County law, it must be given by 4 months of age and the dog must be registered with county Animal Control at that time. A first rabies vaccination is good for one year. The second vaccination given after the pet’s first birthday is good for 3 years, and must be kept current to purchase dog licenses each year.

We recommend year-round use of heartworm preventive and annual testing. Some Michigan veterinarians only recommend heartworm preventive be given 6 to 8 months of the year, and pet owners often question the necessity year-round use. There are several reasons that we recommend year round use of preventive. First, weather patterns have become less predictable in recent years. In 2011/2012, St. Clair County had almost a week of 50 degree temperatures in December, and again in March had a long enough warm spell to cause many fruit-bearing trees to set buds too early. Every time one of these warm spells occurs, there is the chance for mosquitoes to be out and active and for heartworm infections to be transmitted. Second, most heartworm preventives also prevent intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms, some of which have public health significance because of the potential for causing health problems in people. Third, many of the manufacturers of heartworm preventive offer guarantees on their medications, but the guarantees only apply if the drug is given year-round with annual testing. And last, the recommendation for year-round preventive is endorsed by the American Heartworm Association, a group of medical experts that continuously study disease trends and make recommendations for the best medical standards of care for our companion animals.

Spaying or neutering of puppies is recommended at 6 months of age. In some cases when required for contracts with rescue organizations, we will do these procedures as young as 4 months, but prefer to wait until 6 months. We strongly recommend that every companion animal be spayed or neutered to help prevent unwanted litters as well as reduce risk of health problems such as mammary cancers, uterine infections and prostate tumors later in life.

Routine dental care can be started at the time of spay or neuter with an initial fluoride treatment. For some breeds such as toy dogs (yorkies, maltese, poodles, etc.) and for higher risk large breeds such as greyhounds, a dental care program for home use is recommended as well as annual exams and professional cleanings as necessary.


Preventive Care for Cats

Vaccinations in kittens are recommended starting at 7 to 8 weeks of age with a feline “distemper” combo and boosters every 3 to 4 weeks until 14 weeks of age. This is considered a core vaccine that is recommended for every cat.

Feline leukemia is a viral disease similar to AIDS in people but spread more easily from cat to cat. It is especially prevalent in multiple cat households or in cats that live indoor/outdoor or predominately outdoor lifestyles. Leukemia testing vaccination is recommended in these cases. A blood test for leukemia is required before a vaccination can be given because the vaccine can be harmful if given to a cat that already carries the virus. Once a negative test result has been determined, an initial leukemia vaccination can be given as young as 8 to 10 weeks and boostered 3 weeks later. It is then good for a year and requires annual boosters. This is not considered a core vaccine but it is strongly recommended!

Rabies vaccinations in cats are not required under county laws. However, due to their lifestyles, cats are often more at risk for exposure to rabies than are dogs so vaccinating for this deadly disease is considered a core vaccine that is highly recommended for every kitten after 12 weeks of age and every 3 years in adult cats.

Spaying or neutering is recommended for every kitten as early as 14 weeks of age (at the same time that the last kitten vaccinations are due). Female cats can go into heat cycles and get pregnant as young as 5 months old, and male kittens can begin to show secondary sex traits such as urine marking as young as 5 months. Spaying and neutering before this age eliminates any risk of unwanted kittens.

While heartworm infection is often thought of as a condition of dogs, cats are also susceptible to the disease. While it is somewhat less prevalent in cats, it is more likely to be fatal in a cat than in a dog, so prevention is the key. Cats do not need an annual blood test because the heartworm life cycle is different in cats compared to dogs. As well, many cats more readily accept a topical (applied to the skin) heartworm preventive such as Revolution or Advantage Multi compared to oral medication such as Heartguard for cats.

Well-puppy and well-kitten rebates are offered at our practice. Each visit for routine preventive healthcare and vaccinations in the puppy or kitten series qualifies the owner for a $10 rebate that is applied to the cost of the pet’s spay or neuter surgery. These rebates are only valid if the surgery is done before the pet is reaches its’ first birthday.