East Hills Animal Clinic

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VACCINE ALLERGIC REACTIONS

Today your pet received one or more vaccines. Adverse reactions can potentially occur with any vaccine, at any age and regardless of a pet’s past exposure to a vaccine. We want to make sure you are aware of what to look for, what to be concerned about and when to get medical help.

It is common for your pet to experience mild side effects from vaccination.  Symptoms typically start within hours of vaccination, are most often mild and usually do not persist for more than a few days.  This is a normal response by your pet’s immune system during the process of developing protective immunity.

Common symptoms are usually mild and include increased sleepiness, decreased appetite and activity, and mild irritation, pain, swelling or redness at the injection site for 1- 2 days following an injection, and mild fever. With intranasal vaccines, there may be transient sneezing or coughing. Generally, these mild reactions resolve without treatment.

Rare side effects, such as allergic reaction, may occur.  Your pet may experience symptoms of a more serious reaction to the vaccine within minutes or hours of the vaccination.

Rare symptoms could include generalized or whole body hives and itching, weakness or extreme lethargy, repeated vomiting or diarrhea, or the swelling of the soft tissues of the head, especially around the eyes, mouth and ears. While swelling of the soft tissues of the head is very alarming to see, it seldom causes serious harm to the animal. The animal will frequently rub its mouth and eyes on the ground or with its paws.  **These reactions DO REQUIRE TREATMENT and should be treated as soon as possible with antihistamines and/or steroids by a veterinarian to reverse the reaction and alleviate discomfort to the animal. **  Please phone our clinic ASAP to receive instructions on what you can do at home for your pet.

The most serious and severe allergic reaction is anaphylactic shock. The most common signs of this are restlessness, difficulty breathing, severe diarrhea and/or vomiting, collapse, seizures, coma and can result in death if not treated IMMEDIATELY. If any of these signs occur, IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY CARE IS REQUIRED. Fortunately, these reactions are very rare.

In cats there have been incidences of injection-associated sarcomas. The incidence of this reaction is about 1 in 10,000 injections given in vaccinated cats. Any soft tissue swelling near an injection site that persists for more than 3 months should be examined by your veterinarian.

NOTE: The recheck examination for a vaccine reaction, if performed at East Hills Animal Clinic, IS A COMPLIMENTARY SERVICE. However, you will be responsible for fees for any medical treatment (such as an antihistamine/steroid injection) rendered.

East Hills Animal Clinic Hours

**Doctors Present**
Mondays & Wednesdays:  9:00am-8:00pm
Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Fridays:  9:00am-6:00pm
Saturdays:  9:00am-2:00pm
Phone:  503-698-8374

VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists

**Emergency Hospital**
24 HOURS EVERY DAY
16756 SE 82nd., Clackamas, OR 97015
Phone:  503-656-3999

Recommendations for Owners of New Puppies

We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition on your new puppy.  Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, and it also carries with it quite a bit of responsibility.  We hope this document will give you the information needed to make some good decisions regarding your puppy.

First, let us say that we are grateful that you have chosen us to help you with your puppy’s health care.  If you have questions concerning any subject related to your puppy’s health, please feel free to call our clinic.  Our entire professional staff is willing and happy to help you.

Puppy Playing

Stimulating play is important during the first week.  Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development.  If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities.  The best toys are lightweight and movable.  These include wads of paper and rubber balls.  Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided.

Discipline

Disciplining a young puppy may be necessary if its behavior threatens people or property, but harsh punishment should be avoided.  Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior.  However, remote punishment is preferred.  Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem behavior.  Examples include using spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the puppy to startle (but not hit) it, and making loud noises.  Remote punishment is preferred because the puppy associates punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

Vaccinations

There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs.  Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines.  In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections.  Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors.

The routine vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from six diseases: distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza virus, parvo virus, corona viris and rabies.  The first five are included in one injection that is given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks old.  Rabies vaccine is given at 24 weeks of age.  There are two other optional vaccinations that are appropriate in certain situations.  Your puppy should receive kennel cough vaccine (bordetella) if a trip to a boarding kennel is likely or if it will be placed in a puppy training class.  Lyme vaccine is given to dogs that are exposed to ticks because Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks.  Please advise us of these needs on your next visit.

Why the Series of Vaccinations

When the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk.  This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies.  For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.  This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity.  Vaccinations are used for this purpose.  As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system.  The mother’s antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations.  These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy.  Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations.  We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease.  A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity that is so important.

Rabies and bordetella vaccine are an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

Intestinal Worms

Intestinal parasites are common in puppies.  Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk.  The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites.  We recommend this exam for all puppies.  If we can not get a stool sample, please bring one at your earliest convenience.  Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of Drontal, a deworming product that is safe and effective against several of the common worms of the dog.  It is given now and repeated in about 3 weeks.  Food should not be withheld before or after administering the tablet.  It is important that it be repeated in about 3 weeks because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms.  Within 3-4 weeks, the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated.  Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms.  Periodic deworming throughout the dog’s life may be recommended for dogs that go outdoors.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs.  Puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea.  When the dog chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed.  The flea is digested within the dog’s intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining.  Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool.  The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice.  They are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool.  They may also stick to the hair under the tail.  If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color.

Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them.  We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, then you may find them the next day.  If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate drug for treatment.

Heartworms

Heartworms are important parasites, especially in certain climates.  They can live in your dog’s heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs.  Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed.  Fortunately, we have drugs that will protect your dog from heartworms.  These drugs are very safe and very effective if given regularly.  Heartgard, a chewable tablet and Revolution, applied to the skin, are given once monthly.  We recommend the product that is most likely to be given on a regular basis.  Be aware that having a long haircoat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection.

Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog’s weight.  As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase.  Please note the dosing instructions on the package.  These products are very safe.  You could overdose your dog by two or three times the recommended dose without causing harm.  Therefore, it is always better to overdose rather than underdose.

Food for Puppies

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a dog’s life, and there are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your puppy.  We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national dog food company (not a generic or local brand), and a form of food MADE FOR PUPPIES.  This should be fed until your puppy is about 12-18 months of age, depending on its size.  We recommend that you only buy food that has the AAFCO certification.  Usually, you can find this information very easily on the label.  AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry.  It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition.  Most of the commercial pet foods will have the AAFCO label.  Generic brands often do not have it.

Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of dog food is acceptable.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive.  It can be left in the dog’s bowl without drying.  The good brands of dry food are just as nutritious as the other forms.  As a rule, most veterinarians will recommend dry food for your puppy.

Semi-moist and canned foods are also acceptable.  However, both are considerably more expensive than dry food.  They often are more appealing to the dog’s taste; however, they are not more nutritious.  If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a dog with a finicky appetite.  In addition, the semi-moist foods are high in sugar.  They also lead to increased plaque and tarter build up on teeth.

Table foods are not recommended.  Because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food.  If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least 90% of its diet is good quality commercial puppy food.

We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet.  However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them.  Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.

Commercials for dog food can be very misleading.  If you watch carefully you will notice that many commercials promote dog food on one basis, TASTE.  Nutrition is rarely mentioned.  Most of the “gourmet” foods are marketed to appeal to owners who wants the best for their dogs; however, they do not offer the dog any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food, and they are far more expensive.  If your dog eats a gourmet food very long, it will probably not be happy with other foods.  If it needs a special diet due to a health problem later in life, it is very unlikely to accept it.  Therefore, we do not encourage feeding gourmet dog foods.

In addition to table foods, it is also important that you not give certain other things to dogs.  Bones of birds (chicken, turkey, etc.) are hollow and splinter easily producing very sharp pointed pieces of bones.  These can easily pierce the esophagus, stomach, and intestines resulting in peritonitis and death.

Feeding Schedules

There are several “right” ways to feed puppies.  The most popular method is commonly called “meal feeding.”  This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day.  A measured amount of food should be offered four times per day for 5-12 week old puppies.  What is not eaten within 30 minutes is taken up.  If the food is eaten within 3-4 minutes, the quantity is probably not sufficient.  Puppies fed in this manner generally begin to cut themselves out of one of those meals by 3-4 months of age and perhaps another one later.  If a meal is ignored for several days, it should be discontinued.

“Free choice feeding” means that food is available at all times.  This works well with dry foods and for some dogs.  However, other dogs tend to overeat and become obese.  If there are signs of weight gain after the optimal weight is reached, this method of feeding should be discontinued.

Housebreaking

Housebreaking should begin as soon as your puppy enters his new home.  How long the training must continue depends on both the puppy and you.  Some pups learn sooner than others.  Your dog wants to please you.  But a puppy’s memory is short, so your patience is important.  A home with a badly trained puppy is not a happy home for you or the puppy.

-The puppy’s bed may be a box, open at one end and slightly larger than the puppy.  If the bed is too large, the puppy may defecate or urinate in a corner rather than go outside.  If the bed is smaller, the puppy will do its “business” outside rather than soil its bed.

-Enclose the bed in a small area, such as a laundry room.  Cover this area with newspapers to be used at night, or when your pup is left unsupervised.

-The secret to housebreaking is a scent post.  A scent post is created when your puppy has an “accident.”  The problem becomes one of locating the scent post in the place you want it.

-To create a scent post, leave a smear of stool from the last “accident” or wet paper on the clean paper in the place you want it, and coax or scoot the puppy to that area.  The same is true of an outside scent post, but without the paper, in an out-of-the-way place in the yard.  This will solve the “mine-field” problem.

-The first thing in the morning, the puppy should be scooted to the scent post.  This is so he can learn his way to the door and the scent post.  Let him sniff about.  The moment he has relieved himself, pat him on the head and immediately bring him into the house.  Do not let him play about.  The toilet period and play period should be definitely separate in the puppy’s routine.

-The puppy should then be fed.  In a short while the puppy will become uneasy and walk in circles sniffing at the floor.  The puppy should then be scooted and coaxed to the scent post as quickly as possible.

-This routine should be repeated every hour or two throughout the day, especially after meals and naps.

-When the puppy is taken out to play, it is wise to leave the house by another door and avoid taking him near his scent post.  Never play with your pup until after he has been taken out and has eliminated.

-There will of course be some “accidents” in the house.  Never let one of these slip by unnoticed; punishment five minutes after the offense is too late.  Verbally scold (not whip) the puppy and rush him to the scent post.  Then scrub the area of mishap thoroughly until all odor is gone.  Sprinkle the area with red pepper or vinegar.

-Positive reinforcement of proper urine and bowel habits is just as important as properly applied discipline.  When your puppy urinates or defecates in the correct place, spend several minutes stroking and praising him.

Socialization of Puppies

The Socialization Period for dogs is between 4 and 12 weeks of age.  During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences.  If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life.  If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them.  Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible.

Three Curious Things about Puppies

Puppies may be observed to make unusual sounds or movements during their sleep.  This is called “activated sleep.”  It probably occurs because your puppy is dreaming and trying to participate in the dream.  This behavior lasts a few months but rarely continues into adulthood.

Puppies also have “puppy breath.”  There is a characteristic smell about a puppy’s breath.  It is not particularly offensive or desirable.  It maybe present for the first several months.

Puppies also frequently have episodes of hiccups.  They may occur for 10-20 minutes at a time then spontaneously disappear.  They are probably related to swallowing of air when eating and do not produce any significant distress to your dog.  They will stop as your puppy gets a little older.

Flea Control

Fleas do not stay on your puppy all of their time; occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host.  Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new puppy before they can become established in your house.  Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than 4 months of age.  Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies.

There are four products that are given only once per month; some can be used in puppies as young as 6 weeks.  Program is a tablet that causes the adult fleas to lay sterile eggs.  It is very effective, but it does not kill adult fleas that usually live 2-3 months.  Advantage, Frontline Top Spot, and Revolution are the monthly products that kill adult fleas.  They are liquids that are applied to the skin at the base of the neck.  They are very effective and easy to use.

Chewing

One of the characteristics of puppies is chewing.  Puppies are trying their new teeth so chewing is a normal behavior.  The puppy’s baby teeth are present by about 4 weeks of age.  They begin to fall out at 4 months of age and are replaced by the adult (permanent) teeth by about 6 months of age.  Therefore, chewing is a puppy characteristic that you can expect until about 6-7 months of age.  It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects.  You should provide items such as rawhide chew bones, nylon chew bones, and other chew toys so other objects are spared.  Always supervise your puppy while chewing on such objects or toys.

Trimming Toenails

Puppies have very sharp toenails.  They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats.  If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur.  If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again.  Therefore, a few points are helpful:

1. If your dog has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail.  Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick.

2. If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until the dog begins to get sensitive.  The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel.  With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail.

3. If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.

4. When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers.  Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.

5. You should always have styptic powder available.  This is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs (and cats).  The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears.  Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out.  The instrument we use for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to allow us to see the mites.  Sometimes, we can find the mites by taking a small amount of the black material from the ear canal and examining it with a microscope.  Although they may leave the ear canals for short periods of time, they spend the vast majority of their lives within the protection of the ear canal.  Transmission generally requires direct ear-to-ear contact.  Ear mites are common in litters of puppies if their mother has ear mites.

Ear infections may also cause the production of a dark discharge in the ear canals.  It is important that we examine you puppy to be sure the black material is due to ear mites and not infection.  Please do not ask us to just dispense medication without having the opportunity to make an accurate diagnosis.

Spaying Females

Spaying offers several advantages.  The female’s heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of vaginal bleeding.  This can be quite annoying if your dog is kept indoors.  Male dogs are attracted from blocks away and, in fact, seem to come out of the woodwork.  They seem to go over, around, and through many doors or fences.  Your dog will have a heat period about every 6 months.

Spaying is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries.  Therefore, heat periods no longer occur.  In many cases, despite of your best effort, the female will become pregnant; spaying prevents unplanned litters of puppies.

It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed.  Spaying before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate the chance of either.  If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period.  This can be done anytime after she is 6 months old.

Neutering Males

Neutering offers several advantages.  Male dogs are attracted to a female dog in heat and will climb over or go through fences to find her.  Male dogs are more aggressive and more likely to fight, especially with other male dogs.  As dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and causes difficulty urinating and defecating.  Neutering will solve, or greatly help, all of these problems that come with owning a male dog.  The surgery can be performed any time after the dog is 6 months old.

Breeding

If you plan to breed your dog, she should have at least one or two heat periods first.  This will allow her to physically mature allowing her to be a better mother without such a physical drain on her.  We do not recommend breeding after 5 years of age unless she has been bred prior to that.  Having her first litter after 5 years of age increases the risk of problems during the pregnancy and/or delivery.  Once your dog has had her last litter, she should be spayed to prevent the reproductive problems older dogs have.

Pet Identification

The latest in pet retrieval is microchipping.  This tiny device is implanted with a needle so the process is much like getting an injection.  Our scanner can detect these chips; humane societies and animal shelters across the country also have scanners.  A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada.  We recommend it.

Emergency Tips

There are several emergency situations that are common.  The following recommendations could be valuable for you to know.

Hit by car.  Let your dog stand up by itself.  If it cannot, transfer it to a hard board for transporting.  Apply pressure to wounds with soft gauze.  Keep your dog warm to prevent shock.  An injured dog may bite, even people that it knows very well.  Use caution for the safety of both you and your dog.  Seek medical attention quickly.

Overheating.  If you suspect you dog has collapsed from heat stress, start to cool it down with a cool water bath, fans, cold compresses, or ice packs.  Seek medical attention immediately.

Minor Burns.  Treat with cool water and seek medical attention.

Kittens – What You Need to Know

We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition on your new kitten.  Owning a cat can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also carries with it quite a bit of responsibility.  We hope this document will give you the information needed to make some good decisions regarding your kitten.

First, let us say that we are grateful that you have chosen us to help you with your kitten’s health care.  If you have questions concerning any subject related to your kitten’s health, please feel free to call our hospital.  Either one of the technicians or one of the doctors will be happy to help you.

Introducing a New Kitten to its New Environment

A cat is naturally inclined to investigate its new surroundings.  It is suggested that the cat’s area of exploration be limited initially so that these natural tendencies do not create an unmanageable task.  After confining the cat to one room for the first few days, you should slowly allow access to other areas of the home.

Introducing a New Kitten to Other Cats in the Household

Most kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from another cat.  The other cat usually sees no need for a kitten in the household, and these feelings are reinforced if it perceives that special favoritism is being shown the kitten.  The existing cat must not feel that it is necessary to compete for food or for attention.  The new kitten should have its own food and food bowl, and it should not be permitted to eat from the other cat’s bowl.  Although it is natural to spend time holding and cuddling the kitten, the existing cat will quickly sense that it is being neglected.  The new kitten needs lots of love and attention, but the existing cat should not be slighted.  In fact, the transition will be smoother if the existing cat is given more attention than normal.

The introduction period will usually last one to two weeks and will have one of three possible outcomes.

1.  The existing cat will remain hostile to the kitten.  Fighting may occur occasionally, especially if both try to eat out of the same bowl at the same time.  This is an unlikely occurrence if competition for food and affection are minimized during the first few weeks.

2.  The existing cat will only tolerate the kitten.  Hostility will cease, but the existing cat will act as if the kitten is not present.  This is more likely if the existing cat is very independent, has been an only cat for several years, or if marked competition occurred during the first few weeks.  This relationship is likely to be permanent.

3.  Bonding will occur between the existing cat and the kitten.  They will play together, groom each other, and sleep near each other.  This is more likely to occur if competition is minimized and if the existing cat has been lonely for companionship.

Playing Behavior in Kittens

Stimulating play is important during the first week.  Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens and have an important role in proper muscular development.  If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities.  The best toys are lightweight and movable.  These include wads of paper, small balls, and string or ribbon.  Kittens should always be supervised when playing with string or ribbons to avoid swallowing them.  Any other toy that is small enough to be swallowed should also be avoided.

Disciplining a Kitten

Disciplining a young kitten may be necessary if its behavior threatens people or property, but harsh punishment should be avoided.  Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior.  However, remote punishment is preferred.  Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem behavior.  Examples include using spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the kitten to startle (but not hit) it,  and making loud noises.  Remote punishment is preferred because the kitten associates punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

Vaccinations

There are many diseases that are fatal to cats.  Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by using very effective vaccines.  In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections.  Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors.

The routine vaccination schedule will protect your kitten from four diseases: distemper, two respiratory viruses, and rabies.  The first three are included in a combination vaccine that is given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks old.  Rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks of age.  Leukemia vaccine is necessary if your cat does or will go outside or if you have another cat that goes in and out since this deadly disease is transmitted by contact with other cats, especially when fighting occurs.  A vaccine is also available for protection against feline infectious peritonitis (FIP); this vaccine is not necessary for all cats and is recommended in select situations.

The Need for a Series of Vaccinations

When the kitten nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk.  This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies.  For about 24-48 hours after birth, the kitten’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.  This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the kitten’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the kitten must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity.  Vaccinations are used for this purpose.  As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not “take.”  The mother’s antibodies will neutralize the vaccine so the vaccine does not get a chance to stimulate the kitten’s immune system.

Many factors determine when the kitten will be able to respond to the vaccines.  These include the level of immunity in the mother cat, how much of the antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given the kitten.  Since we do not know when an individual kitten will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations.  We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the kitten has lost the immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease.  A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity that is so important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

Intestinal Parasites (“Worms”)

Intestinal parasites are common in kittens.  Kittens can become infected with parasites almost as soon as they are born.  For example, the most important source of roundworm infection in kittens is the mother’s milk.  The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites.  We recommend this exam for all kittens.  If we can not get a stool sample, please bring one at your earliest convenience.  Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of a deworming product that is safe and effective against almost all of the common worms of the cat.  Several good drugs are available.  It is given now and repeated in about 3-4 weeks, because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms.  Within 3-4 weeks the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated.  Cats remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms.  Periodic deworming throughout the cat’s life may be recommended for cats that go outdoors.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of cats.  Kittens become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea.  When the cat chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed.  The flea is digested within the cat’s intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining.  Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.

Cats infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool.  The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice.  They are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool.  They may also stick to the hair under the tail.  If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color

Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them.  We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, then you may find them the next day.  If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate drug for treatment.

Feeding a Kitten

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a cat’s life, and there are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your kitten.  We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national cat food company (not a generic or local brand), and a form of food MADE FOR KITTENS.  This should be fed until your kitten is about 12 months of age.  We recommend that you only buy food that has the AAFCO certification.  Usually, you can find this information very easily on the label.  AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry.  It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition.  Most of the commercial pet foods will have the AAFCO label.  Generic brands often do not have it.

Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of cat food is acceptable.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Dry food is definitely the least expensive.  It can be left in the cat’s bowl at all times.  If given the choice, the average cat will eat a mouthful of food about 12-20 times per day.  The good brands of dry food are just as nutritious as the other forms.  As a rule, most veterinarians will recommend dry food for your kitten.

Semi-moist and canned foods are also acceptable.  However, both are considerably more expensive than dry food.  They often are more appealing to the cat’s taste; however, they are not more nutritious.  If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a cat with a finicky appetite.  In addition, the semi-moist foods are high in sugar.

Table foods are not recommended.  Because they are generally very tasty, cats will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced cat food.  If you choose to give your kitten table food, be sure that at least 90% of its diet is good quality commercial kitten food.

We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet.  However, most cats actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them.  Do not feel guilty if your cat is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.

Commercials for cat food can be very misleading.  If you watch carefully, you will notice that many commercials promote cat food on one basis, TASTE.  Nutrition is rarely mentioned.  Most of the “gourmet” foods are marketed to appeal to owners who wants the best for their cats; however, they do not offer the cat any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food, and they are far more expensive.  If your cat eats a gourmet food very long, it will probably not be happy with other foods.  If it needs a special diet due to a health problem later in life, it is very unlikely to accept it.  Therefore, we do not encourage feeding gourmet cat foods.

Socialization

The Socialization Period for cats is between 2 and 12 weeks of age.  During that time, the kitten is very impressionable to social influences.  If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life.  If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them.  Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your cat to as many types of social events and influences as possible.

The Litter Box

The number one behavioral problem of cats is urinating out of the litter box (inappropriate urination).  There are several things that cause this frustrating problem, but some of those are related to the litter box.  The following comments are included to prevent problems later because cats are particular about their litter boxes, the litter, and the location.

Choose a litter box that is large enough for your cat to fit in comfortably.  It needs to be able to turn around freely.  An 18 X 14 inch box with 4-inch sides is appropriate for most adult cats.  Kittens may need a box with shorter sides so they can get in and out easily.

We do not recommend a box with a top (hood).  Although hooded litter boxes are more private and better contain the litter, they also trap odors inside.  Because cats are so fastidious, these odors often cause them to seek other places to urinate.  Many cats exhibiting inappropriate urination will return to their litter boxes when the lid is removed.

There are three types of litter: clay, clumpable, and organic.

Clay litter absorbs 75-100% of its weight in moisture.  This is good but not adequate to keep urine from being absorbed throughout a widespread area of litter.  Solid matter and wet litter should be removed 1-2 times per day, but the entire litter box should be changed weekly.  Clay litter is also quite dusty.  Cats with allergies can have increased problems when breathing the litter dust.

Clumping litter is also called scoopable litter.  It absorbs urine and swells to about 15 times its original volume.  Therefore, you need only to remove the litter clumps; you do not need to change the entire contents of the litter box.  It tends to control urine and stool odors better than clay litter.

Organic litters are made of alfalfa, newspaper, peanut hulls, corn cobs, or recycled, biodegradable materials.  They appeal to many cats, but they are also not received well by others.

Some litters contain scented or odor-controlling additives.  Some cats tolerate them, but others find them objectionable.  To minimize the chances of inappropriate urination, it is better to avoid scented litters.

Fecal matter and wet litter need to be removed once daily for each cat that uses the litter box.  Even with clumping litter, a monthly scrubbing of the litter box removes odors that may collect in the box itself.  Use warm, soapy water and avoid scented disinfectants.

The location of the litter box is important.  It should be on an easily cleaned surface as some cats don’t always aim well.  Litter is also scratched out or tracked out of the litter box frequently.  It is very important that the litter box be placed in a quite, non-threatening location.  Cats need their privacy and will avoid a litter box that is in a high traffic area or a location accessible to dogs.

Flea Control

Fleas do not stay on your kitten all of their time.  Occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host.  Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new kitten before they can become established in your house.  Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult cats are not safe for kittens less than 4 months of age.  Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for kittens.

For kittens 8 weeks and younger that have fleas, we recommend that a flea spray be applied to a dry washcloth which is then stroked onto the kitten.  When a kitten is sprayed, the fleas tend to run away from the insecticide.  If you spray the body first, many fleas will run to the head where they are very difficult to kill.  Work from the head to the tail.

Flea and tick dip is not recommended for kittens unless they are at least 4 months of age.  Remember, not all insecticides that can be used on dogs are safe for cats and kittens.

Advantage, Frontline Top Spot, and Revolution are the monthly products that kill adult fleas.  They are liquids that are applied to the skin at the base of the neck.  They are very effective and easy to use.

Trimming Toenails

Kittens have very sharp toenails.  They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats.  If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick;  bleeding and pain will occur.  If this happens, neither you nor your cat will want to do this again.  Therefore, a few points are helpful:

1.  If your cat has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail.  Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick.

2.  If your cat has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until the cat begins to get sensitive.  The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel.  With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail.

3.  If your cat has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.

4.  When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers.  Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.

5.  You should always have styptic powder available.  This is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny insect-like parasites that live in the ear canal of cats (and dogs).  The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears.  Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out.  The instrument we use for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to allow us to see the mites.  Sometimes, we can find the mites by taking a small amount of the black material from the ear canal and examining it with a microscope.  Although they may leave the ear canals for short periods of time, they spend the vast majority of their lives within the protection of the ear canal.  Transmission generally requires direct ear-to-ear contact.  Ear mites are common in litters of kittens if their mother has ear mites.

Spaying Female Cats

Spaying is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries.  Therefore, heat periods no longer occur.  In many cases, despite of your best effort, the female will become pregnant; spaying prevents unplanned litters of kittens.

Spaying offers several advantages.  The female’s heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of obnoxious behavior.  This can be quite annoying if your cat is kept indoors.  Male cats are attracted from blocks away and, in fact, seem to come out of the woodwork.  They seem to go over, around, and through many doors.  Your cat will have a heat period about every 2-3 weeks until she is bred.

It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed.  Spaying before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate the chances of either.  There is mounting evidence to believe that this is also true of cats.  If you do not plan to breed your cat, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period.  This can be done anytime after she is 5 months old.

Neutering Male Cats

Neutering is the surgical removal of both testicles.  It offers several important advantages.  Male cats go through a significant personality change when they mature.  They become very possessive of their territory and mark it with their urine to ward off other cats.  The tomcat’s urine develops a very strong odor that will be almost impossible to remove from your house.  They also try to constantly enlarge their territory, which means one fight after another.  Fighting results in severe infections and abscesses and often engenders rage in your neighbors.  We strongly urge you to have your cat neutered at about 5 to 6months of age.  If he should begin to spray his urine before that time, he should be neutered immediately.   The longer he sprays or fights, the less likely neutering is going to stop it.

Neutralizing Destructive Behavior with the Claws

There are four options that you should consider: frequent nail clipping, nail shields, surgical declawing, and tendonectomy.

The nails may be clipped according to the instructions above.  However, your cat’s nails will regrow and become sharp again in about 4-7 days.  Therefore, to protect your property, it will  be necessary to clip them one to two times per week.

There are some commercially available products that are called nail caps.  The most common one is called Soft Paws.  These are generally made of smooth plastic and attach to the end of the nail with a special glue.  The nails are still present, but the caps prevent them from causing destruction.  After 2-4 weeks the nails will grow enough that the caps will be shed.  At that time, you should be prepared to replace them.

Surgical declawing is the removal of the nail at its base.  This is done under general anesthesia; there is very little post-surgical discomfort, especially when it is performed on a kitten.  Contrary to the belief of some, this surgery does not cause lameness or psychological damage.  Actually, a declawed cat will not realize the claws are gone and will continue to “sharpen” the claws as normal without inflicting damage to your furniture.  This surgery can be done as early as 12 weeks of age or anytime thereafter.  It can also be done the same time as spaying or neutering.  Once declawed, your cat should always live indoors since the ability to defend itself is compromised.

Pet Identification

The latest in pet retrieval is microchipping.  This tiny device is implanted with a needle so the process is much like getting an injection.  Our scanner can detect these chips; humane societies and animal shelters across the country also have scanners.  A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada.  We recommend it.

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