So, you have a furry new addition to the family. Enjoy the time spent playing and cuddling, (and housetraining and prying off the curtains) but remember that there are a few medical details that need to be attended to in order to get your new puppy or kitten off to a good start.
If you are meeting veterinarian for the first time for your pet make sure that you are also using that time to see if this clinic and this doctor seem like they will fit with your needs. If you do not feel comfortable during a new pet exam then how are you going to feel when in the middle of a crisis with your pet? If you keep in mind that you should be checking them out as carefully as they are checking your pet out you are likely to find a clinic and a doctor that will be great partners with you for the life of your pet.
The first order of business in a new pet exam is a thorough physical exam. It helps to have had the pet for a few days before you come in so that you will know if there is any coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, etc, but it is also better to find out if your new kitten has a huge heart murmer after you have had her for only three days, rather than after your daughter has been dressing her up in her favorite doll clothes and having tea parties for three months. New pets should also have a fecal examination performed, even if they are not having any symptoms, in order to identify and eliminate common parasites and keep them from sharing their hitchhikers with other pets or possibly even the two legged members of the family. Please bring the sample with you, as nobody enjoys the process of trying to excavate a sample from the pet in the exam room. Kittens should also be tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, two serious diseases that could have been passed on to them from their mothers, and which could be a serious health threat to them and to other cats they are exposed to.
The puppy and kitten vaccination series is a major part of early wellness for our pets. We protect against diseases that are difficult to treat and often fatal, but almost completely preventable with vaccines. Puppies and kittens should receive vaccines at six weeks optionally, and then at eight, twelve, and sixteen weeks definitely. At sixteen weeks a rabies vaccine which is legally required of cats and dogs, is given. The repeated vaccines at monthly intervals are done this way to ensure reliable immunity is generated. For those who may secretly think that all those repeat visits are just a way to squeeze extra money out of a new pet owner, I can say that we would generate significantly more income from treating nearly every unvaccinated puppy in town when it inevitably contracted parvo virus. At possibly $1,000 per case (the twenty percent or so that wouldn’t survive in spite of our best efforts might be a little less expensive) it would be considerably more costly than an ordinary vaccine routine. Fortunately I don’t know anyone who wants to boost their revenue that way.
Recently it has become quite trendy to claim that vaccines are the cause of all sorts of health problems later on in life. There is legitimate room for rational discussion about vaccination risks and benefits and schedules, but even those in the informed scientific community who advocate less frequent vaccination for adult pets still agree that the first series remains very important to your pet’s health. Remember that just because some guy on the internet claims that all vaccines result in cancer or spontaneous combustion, or possession by demons, that does not mean that his claims are based on any scientific evidence, EVEN IF HE USES ALL CAPITAL LETTERS AND LOTS OF EXCLAIMATION POINTS!!!! He has probably never had to helplessly watch a kitten suffer to death as a result of panleukopenia, a disease that would have been reliably prevented with a routine vaccine.
So get out there and team up with your veterinarian to get good early preventative care and your life with your new pet can get off to a happy, healthy start.