Puppy and Kitten Wellness:
Getting Off to a Healthy Start
Congratulations on the newest family member! Welcoming a new puppy or kitten into the home is wonderful and exciting. There’s nothing quite like watching puppies and kittens getting to explore the world for the first time. This wonder can present challenges for their owners, especially if it has been a while or you are new to such activity. It is important that they be provided a safe and healthy environment where they can explore, learn, socialize, and mature. At the Animal Hospital by the Sea, we believe in partnering with our clients to ensure that all our dog and cat patients have everything they need for a lifetime of health and happiness.
New pet counseling
Often clients have questions about how to care for their new puppies or kittens. The following is a list of answers to some frequently asked questions to help get you started.
How do I prepare my home for my new pet?
Think of bringing home a puppy or kitten as similar to bringing home a toddler. Growing up means exploring (climbing on, tasting) their surroundings. It is important to be sure that your house is safe for curious mouths as well as welcoming and fun. The American Animal Hospital Association has several good articles regarding bringing home a new puppy or new kitten.
When should my new pet first visit the veterinarian?
New pets should visit the vet within the first few days of getting settled in. This allows your veterinarian time to get to know your new pet, evaluate his or her general health, and help work through any issues you may have. If you are introducing a new pet to a home where there are others already established, it may be a good idea to visit us before you first arrive home so that we may screen for certain infectious diseases and/or parasite infestations, which are frequently contracted from the pet’s mother or early surroundings. We will conduct a thorough nose-to-tail exam of your new pet, checking his or her coat, skin, eyes, ears, mouth, baby teeth, gums, throat, heart, lungs, abdomen, muscles, bones, and so on. If your pet is purebred, we will also discuss any potential breed-specific health issues that could arise.
What kind of food should I feed? How much? How often?
It is important to feed your puppy or kitten a diet formulated for growth. Large breed dogs often benefit from eating the specially formulated large breed puppy diets, and there are small breed diets available as well. We will be happy to guide you through choosing a diet that is right for your situation. Every diet’s energy density differs, and it is important that you use the provided feeding guide and your pet’s body condition to determine how much to feed initially. Most puppies and kittens benefit from being fed three or more times a day until they are mature. Should you decide to change the primary ingredients of your pet’s diet, it is important to do so gradually over a week or so to avoid upsetting his or her digestive system.
How do I housebreak my new puppy or kitten?
Housebreaking your new pet can be a tedious task. Kittens often take to their litter box more easily than their canine counterparts take to going outside. Place your kitten in the litter box after meals and supervise him or her closely until you are sure that there are no accidents. Puppies also require close supervision to ensure housebreaking. Consider crate training your puppy to help ease the process.
What type of veterinary care will my new pet need?
Puppies and kittens are very vulnerable and initially need more attention than adults. Young animals are growing and changing so quickly, they will need several visits to help your veterinarian identify emerging issues and help you with training problems and questions as they occur. Vaccinations are an integral part of caring for them, especially during their first few months. Your veterinarian will discuss with you which vaccines are most appropriate as part of your pet’s wellness plan. New pets need a series of vaccines in order to ensure full protection from debilitating and potentially fatal illnesses.
Should I get my pet spayed or neutered?
Most pets should be spayed or neutered if they are not intended for breeding. Spaying or neutering not only prevents unwanted litters but these procedures may reduce the incidence of diseases such as mammary (breast) cancers, testicular tumors, and pyometra (infection in the uterus). Keeping a female dog is much more settled when not dealing with heat cycles, and spaying or neutering may also decrease roaming behaviors and certain aggressive tendencies. The age at which these procedures are recommended will vary based on your pet’s personality, lifestyle, and the potential influence their hormones can have on growing bones and joints. Please contact us for a specific evaluation.
How do I stop my pet from biting and scratching?
Playful pets can hurt! Preventing pets from play biting or scratching can be difficult. It is important, however, to make sure your new dog or cat knows what behavior is expected to prevent damage to yourself, others, and your property. Be consistent and provide an outlet for these behaviors. Puppies should have access to appropriate chew and play toys and kittens should have an acceptable scratching post or pad in a prominent area of the house.
At the Animal Hospital by the Sea, we are extremely careful when it comes to vaccinating our patients. While we administer core vaccines to all pets that are able to receive them, we do not have a “one-plan-fits-all” approach. We believe in protecting our patients from the diseases they are most likely to be exposed to, while not over-vaccinating against those diseases that are uncommon in our area. We will review each pet’s individual lifestyle and risk of exposure when determining which vaccinations should be administered, as well as how often boosters are required.
We believe strongly in using the most advanced, safest vaccines available for your pet—the health risks that are often associated with the “discount” vaccines are not worth the savings
Puppy and adult dog core vaccinations
- This combination vaccination protects against canine distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis,) and parvovirus. These diseases have a high fatality rate, and parvovirus in particular has become a major problem in the last few decades as the virus will survive and remain infective in the environment for many years. Puppies receive these shots in a series, starting when they are 7–8 weeks old, repeated every 3–4 weeks until they are at least 15 weeks old for maximum immunity. After a repeat booster in a year from their last puppy series vaccination, we recommend adult dogs be revaccinated every 3 years.
- Rabies vaccination is now required for all dogs in Washington State by law. The first shot they receive is a 1-year rabies vaccine given after they are 12 weeks old. The next year’s booster and all adult boosters will then protect them for 3 years.
- While it has been called “kennel cough,” infectious tracheobronchitis (bronchitis) can actually be spread airborne anywhere, just as colds and strep throat are in people. Dogs and puppies that visit the dog groomer, kennels, or dog parks regularly or are routinely exposed to other neighborhood dogs should receive this vaccination. We recommend an initial intranasal vaccine to build up antibodies on your dog’s nasal membranes followed by a regular injectable version.
Puppy and adult dog non-core vaccinations(recommended based on specific lifestyle or risk factors)
- Whidbey Island’s pastoral settings and abundant wildlife, while admittedly presenting an ideal world in which to enjoy our pets, do bring about certain exposure risks. Leptospirosis, transmitted through exposure to wildlife urine, is an especially dangerous bacterial disease as it may be transmitted to humans. It causes very serious illness through kidney damage and is sometimes fatal. The leptospirosis vaccination is recommended for dogs that are at risk of exposure to the urine of wildlife including rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and deer, all of which can carry the bacteria without getting sick. Dogs are especially at risk if their exposure includes a water source such as a pond, creek, pool, or wetland.
- Lyme disease
- Lyme disease is caused by an infection of Borrelia burgdoferi, a bacteria transmitted by bites from certain types of ticks. In our area it can be transmitted by the bite of western lack-legged ticks that pick up the bacteria after feeding on infected rodents. These ticks live in forested or brushy areas of western Washington, which pretty much covers all of Whidbey Island. Though possible, a Lyme vaccine is not routinely required for dogs that stay in Western Washington as our tick numbers, and therefore risk of exposure, are low. However, we may recommend it in certain situations, such as when a canine is traveling east of the Cascades or south out of the area, and especially to those traveling to the Midwest or east coast between Virginia and Maine, where there is a high risk of exposure to this disease.
Kitten and adult cat core vaccinations (recommended for all felines)
- Feline distemper/viral rhinotracheitis/calicivirus
- Kittens and cats with no history of vaccination should receive two vaccinations 3–4 weeks apart, starting after 8 weeks of age. The next year they receive a booster shot that will protect them for 3 years. Regular combination booster vaccinations are then recommended every 3 years.
- Feline leukemia
- Here on Whidbey Island we appreciate that outdoor cats are at significant risk of exposure to the fatal feline leukemia virus and recommend this vaccination for all Whidbey cats. We strongly suggest that all cats be tested prior to receiving this vaccine. Kittens over 10 weeks of age and adult cats with no history of vaccination should receive two vaccinations 3–4 weeks apart. Annual booster vaccinations are repeated starting 1 year later. Cats that go outdoors, as well as those who may come into contact with other cats that go outdoors, should receive annual boosters. If a cat remains exclusively indoors and isn’t exposed to other cats at risk, he or she may not require the vaccine after the second booster unless a subsequent change in lifestyle takes place.
- Kittens over 14 weeks of age and cats of unknown vaccination history should receive a 1-year rabies vaccination. The following year they will be boostered with a 3-year vaccine. A rabies vaccine is required for all cats in Washington State by law.
Animal Hospital by the Sea rocks! Jean is a fabulous veterinarian, the environment is warm and relaxing and there is great communication between Jean and her staff. We are all so very happy to have found them!
—Jodi Starcevich, Matt Costello, Groovy Roux and Salinger
Dr. Dieden’s surgical technique allowed our dog a quick and trouble free spay recovery without the stress and discomfort of an Elizabethan collar (head cone). We are very grateful to Dr. Dieden and staff who assisted with Rena’s surgery.
—Bob and Jayme Holmberg
Meshuggeneh was the most relaxed cat during her visit to Dr.Jean that I think she would have stayed longer. Thank you both Holly and Dr. Jean for your time and help. Best find in Langley... a great vet!
Jean and staff Thank you so very much for the care given to our Lab, Lily We are so appreciative of your time, concern and love given to our pet. Lily is forever grateful and so are her humans, Nina and Chris We hope the next visit will be just the standard check up and not an emergency, again thank you for the excellent care. Animal Hospital By The Sea, you rock!
Dory a Golden on the island says thank you.
The staff and Jean are fabulous. We are so lucky to have them on the Island.
Thank you Dr Jean Dieden for taking such good care of my labrador, Kinsey. Kinsey had a raging hot spot. Thanks to Dr Dieden’s caring and effective treatment, Kinsey is much more comfortable and on the mend.
It doesn’t get any better than this animal hospital for care for your pet. Jean Dieden and her team of Holly and Stacy are top notch and they are genuinely caring. I also like the fact that this is a animal hospital and part of that terminology means they do their own blood work.
Dr. Jean held my hand throughout it all and, had it not been for her professional intuition about a prescription Lena was given during emergency treatment, my little girl would not be the happy, healthy kitty she is today. As for how my other cat Dexter feels about Dr. Jean, you can see for yourself around this website.