Preventive Care - Dog and Puppy
We all know that preventing disease or catching it in its early stages is far better than treating it once it has had time to progress to a more advanced stage. Preventive health care on a regular basis will help you do just that, and save you and your pet from needless suffering and a larger financial burden. This article explains what preventive measures you can take to keep your dog and cat healthy.
The old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" certainly holds true when it comes to pet health. The cost of prevention is often a fraction of the cost of treating a disease or problem once it has become more advanced, and early diagnosis and treatment of developing problems or diseases can increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.
Preventive healthcare involves a multi-faceted approach that includes veterinary evaluation of your pet's overall health and risks of disease or other health problems. Based on the findings, your veterinarian will provide you with recommendations for your pet's nutrition, dental care, vaccinations and heartworm/flea/tick prevention, as well as recommendations specifically tailored to your pet's health status and risk factors.
Vaccine FAQ and General Information
Why do puppies and kittens Need a Series of Shots and how many do they Need?
When a baby kitten or puppy is born, its immune system is not yet mature; the baby is wide open for infection. Fortunately, nature has a system of protection. The mother produces a certain kind of milk in the first few days after giving birth. This milk is called colostrum and is rich in all the antibodies that the mother has to offer. As the babies drink this milk, they will be taking in their mother's immunity. After the first couple of days, regular milk is produced and the baby's intestines undergo what is called closure, which means they are no longer able to take externally produced antibodies into their systems. These first two days are critical to determining what kind of immunity the baby will receive until its own system can take over.
How long this maternal antibody lasts in a given puppy or kitten is totally individual. It can depend on the birth order of the babies, how well they nursed, and a number of other factors. Maternal antibodies against different diseases wear off after different times. We DO know that by 14-20 weeks of age, maternal antibodies are gone and the baby must be able continue on its own immune system.
While maternal immunity is in the puppy’s system, any vaccines given will be inactivated. Vaccines will not be able to "take" until maternal antibody has sufficiently dropped. Puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccines ending at a time when we know the baby's own immune system should be able to respond. We could simply wait until the baby is old enough to definitely respond, as we do with the rabies vaccination, but this could leave a large window of vulnerability if the maternal antibody wanes early. To give puppies and kittens the best chance of responding to vaccination, we vaccinate intermittently (usually every 3-4 weeks) during this period, in hope of gaining some early protection.
When a vaccine against a specific disease is started for the first time, even in an adult animal, it is best to give at least two vaccinations. This is because the second vaccination will produce a much greater (logarithmically greater) response if it is following a vaccine given 2-4 weeks prior.
If a Vaccine Lasts a Person his or her Whole Life, why do I have to Vaccinate my Pet Annually?
In the U.S., vaccines are licensed based on the minimum duration they can be expected to last. It is expensive to test vaccines across an expanse of years so this is not generally done. If a vaccine is licensed by the USDA for annual use, this means it has been tested and found to be protective to at least 80% of the vaccinated animals a year after they have been vaccinated. Some vaccines are licensed for use every three years and have been tested similarly. Do these vaccines last a lifetime? We cannot say that they do without testing and this kind of testing has yet to be performed.
It is also important to realize that some diseases can be prevented through vaccination while others do not. For a vaccine to generate solid long-lasting immunity, the infection must be fairly generalized to the entire body (such as feline distemper or canine parvovirus) rather than localized to one organ system (such as kennel cough or feline upper respiratory viruses). Vaccination for localized infections tends to require more frequent boosting, whereas there is potential for vaccination for systemic disease to last for many years.
Since the mid-1990s most veterinary teaching hospitals have restructured their vaccination policies to increase the duration of some vaccines from one year to three years based on independent studies rather than on the studies used by the USDA for vaccine licensing. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has vaccination guidelines for cats living in different exposure situations, and the American Animal Hospital Association has guidelines for dogs.
It is important to realize that these are just guidelines and different regions and different pet lifestyles will justify modifications.
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Prolong Your Dog's Life
St Clair east animal hospital provides a full range of canine preventive care services to help your dog live a longer, happier life and to increase the odds of detecting problems early, before they become severe and costly.
Our veterinarians make their annual preventive care recommendations based on the guidelines established by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). We then customize our recommendations based on your dog's hereditary factors, age, medical history and lifestyle.
Annual preventive care for dogs typically includes:
• At least one annual Physical Examination at which time our veterinarians will take a complete medical history, make nutrition recommendations, assess behavior, and review any known medical conditions.
During the exam our doctors will perform a:
o Ear and Eye Examination
o Cardiopulmonary (Heart and Lung) analysis
o Temperature Reading
o Abdominal Palpation
o Dental Exam
o Dermatological Exam
o Musculoskeletal Evaluation
• Vaccines based on your dog's lifestyle and/or breed. Core Vaccines include Rabies and Distemper/Parvo. Our veterinarians may also recommended additional vaccines such as Leptospirosis and Bordetella (Kennel Cough).
• Parasite Control Products to control parasites such as heartworms, intestinal parasites (such as round worms), fleas and ticks. Controlling these parasites helps protect your dog and your family members from easily transmitted parasites.
• Diagnostic Testing to confirm the absence of heartworms or other internal parasites and early disease screening tests to help identify any internal issues which cannot be detected during a thorough physical exam.
• Your veterinarian will also discuss other services, such as dental care or microchipping that will benefit your dog's overall health and wellbeing and advise you on any questions you might have regarding your dog's health.
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ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAM
Just as annual physical exams are recommended for humans, they are recommended for our pets as well. If your cat is older or has medical problems, he may need even more frequent examinations. A year is a long time in a cat's life. Assuming our cats will live to their early or middle teens, receiving a yearly exam means they will only have about thirteen exams in a lifetime. That is not very many when you think about it.
During your cat's annual physical exam you should review these aspects of your cat's health with your veterinarian:
• Vaccination status and potential for exposure to disease (i.e., indoor or outdoor cat)
• Parasite control for intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, mites, andheartworms
• Dental health - care you give at home; any mouth odors, pain, broken teeth, or other signs of disease you may have observed
• Nutrition - including what your cat eats, how often, what supplements and treats are given, and changes in water consumption, weight or appetite
• Exercise - how much exercise your cat receives including how often and what kind; and any changes in your cat's ability to exercise
• Ears and Eyes - any discharge, discomfort or pain, redness, swelling, or itching
• Stomach and intestines - any vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, belching, or abnormal stools
• Breathing - any coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sneezing, or nasal discharge
• Behavior - any behavior problems such as inappropriate elimination, aggression, or changes in temperament
• Feet and legs - any limping, weakness, toenail problems
• Coat and skin - any hair loss, pigment changes, lumps, itchy spots, shedding, mats, changes in hair quality, or anal sac problems
• Urogenital - any discharges, heats, changes in mammary glands, urination difficulties or changes, neutering if it has not already been performed
• Blood tests - especially for geriatric cats, those with medical problems, and those who are receiving medications
You may have heard about the current controversies regarding vaccinating cats. Some researchers believe we do not need to vaccinate annually for most diseases. But how often we should vaccinate for each specific disease in adult animals has not yet been determined. We do not know how long the protection from a vaccine lasts. It may be 5 years for one disease and 3 years for another, and less than 2 years for another.
Almost all researchers agree that for kittens we need to continue to give at least three combination vaccinations and repeat these at one year of age. They also agree that rabies vaccinations must continue to be given according to local ordinances.
Against what diseases?
Experts generally agree on what vaccines are 'core' vaccines, i.e., what vaccines should be given to every cat, and what vaccines are given only to certain cats (noncore). Whether to vaccinate with noncore vaccines depends upon a number of things including the age, breed, and health status of the cat, the potential exposure of the cat to an animal that has the disease, the type of vaccine, and how common the disease is in the geographical area where the cat lives or may visit.
In cats, the suggested core vaccines are feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calici virus, and rabies.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends vaccinating against feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis, and feline calici virus every three years. But they also suggest that cats at a high risk of exposure to these diseases may benefit from more frequent vaccinations. There are now one year and three year combination vaccines and rabies vaccines available for cats. The decision to use either a one year vaccine versus a three year vaccine must be made by each cat owner. Consult with your veterinarian to determine what is best for your cat.
The noncore vaccines include feline leukemia (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), ringworm, and chlamydia. It is suggested that all kittens, because they are most susceptible and their lifestyles may change, should receive an initial FeLV vaccination series and also a booster at one year of age. The AAFP recommends that only adult cats with risk of exposure to FeLV continue to receive the FeLV vaccine. FIP and ringworm vaccinations are not recommended. The choice to use a chlamydia vaccine is based upon the prevalence of the disease and husbandry conditions.
CONTROL OF INTESTINAL PARASITES
As with vaccinations and heartworm testing, you will find different opinions on when or if fecal examinations should be performed and when or if cats should receive regular "dewormings." Decisions on testing and worming should be based on circumstances such as:
• The age of your cat
• The likelihood your cat is exposed to feces from other animals
• Whether your cat has fleas
• Whether your cat hunts
• Whether your cat is on a heartworm preventive that also controls intestinal parasites
• If your cat has been previously infected
• If you plan to breed your female cat
• If there are children who play with the cat
Regular deworming is recommended by the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).
Roundworms and hookworms of cats can cause serious disease in people, especially children who may not have good hygiene habits. Treating your cat for worms is important for your pet’s health as well as your own.
Many veterinarians would agree that at a minimum, animals should have an annual fecal examination performed. Fecal examinations are advantageous. By having a fecal examination performed, you will know if your cat has intestinal parasites. If she does, you may need to change her environment and access to other animals. You will also know what type of parasites she has so the proper medication will be selected to kill all of them.
GERIATRIC OR 'SENIOR' SCREENING
Many veterinarians recommend screening tests for our older pets. Just as we have our cholesterol and blood pressure checked more often as we grow older, it is suggested our older pets need some routine checks too. Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and some hormonal diseases occur much more frequently in older animals. To test for these conditions and identify them before severe and/or irreversible damage is done, blood tests and sometimes radiographs are helpful. An abnormal result means we can diagnose and treat the condition early. Normal results are helpful in giving us a baseline with which we can compare future results.
Many of our older animals are also on medications and may require tests to evaluate the medication level and/or potential harmful effects on various organs.
Oral health is also extremely important in our older pets, so they may require more frequent dental check-ups.
If you have an older cat, discuss these options with your veterinarian.
In summary, annual exams along with recommended blood screening in older animals, vaccinations and parasite control will help your cat live a happier and longer life.