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Chesterfield Animal Hospital

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Pet Ownership FAQ

Below you'll find common questions that pet owners ask us. Click on a question to read more.

What shots does my kitten need?

Kittens need a series of vaccinations starting at 6-8 weeks old. The vaccinations include rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia, and chlamydia. Kittens are due for shots every 4 weeks to build up their immunity until they are between 12-16 weeks old. At 16 weeks old they are due for a rabies vaccination.

All kittens need to be dewormed as well since they get worms from their mothers before they are born. Kittens go through a series of two dewormings two weeks apart.

What shots does my puppy need?

Puppies need a series of vaccinations starting at 6-8 weeks old. The vaccinations include parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluensa, leptospira, and corona. Puppies are due for shots every 4 weeks to build up their immunity until they are 16 weeks old. At 16 weeks or 4 months they are due for a rabies vaccination.

All puppies need to be dewormed as well since they get worms from their mothers before they are born. Puppies go through a series of two dewormings two weeks apart.

What is Parvo?

Parvoviral enteritis is a highly contagious virus that all puppies and dogs can be exposed to. Half of all dogs who come down with parvo will die. Unfortunately parvo is a common virus in our area. The virus attaches itself to the lining of the GI tract and causes bloody vomit and diarrhea. Dogs quickly get dehydrated and loose protein. Treatment of parvo includes IV fluids and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections in the GI tract. Not all dogs exposed to parvo will come down with the same degree of severity of the virus.

The virus is spread by the feces of infected dogs and is very hardy living in the environment for over a year. Humans can spread the virus as well if we come into contact with any fecal particles from an infected dog. Bleach is the only cleaner that will kill the virus. If your dog comes down with parvo it is important to make sure you don’t bring a puppy or unvaccinated dog into your yard and home for at least one year.

Vaccination from a veterinarian will protect puppies from the virus, but it is very important to make sure your pup goes through the entire series of puppy shots to ensure full protection. Puppies are done with their vaccine series and are fully protected at 4 months of age.

Why is dental cleaning important?

Sometimes bad breath is more than just “doggy breath”, but can be a sign of dental disease.  We will do a full physical exam to determine the cause of the bad breath.  Most pets with bad breath require a dental to fully clean their teeth.

Dental disease not only affects the health of the teeth, but the bacteria present from infected teeth can get into the blood stream and lead to heart and kidney disease.  It is also painful to our pets to have loose or infected teeth, they just have a hard time showing it to us!

If your pet’s teeth are becoming dirty and are full of tarter then it is time for a full cleaning.  We use anesthesia to fully sedate your pet, which allows us to examine all the teeth above and below the gum line.  Dental x-rays can be taken to evaluate the health of the roots where abscesses often start.  We clean all our pets’ teeth with an ultrasonic scaler, polish them, and only pull the teeth that are infected.  Some pets require yearly dental cleanings and we can tell you how often your pet really needs their teeth cleaned.

Why should I spay or neuter my pet?

Spaying and neutering pets reduces their risks for breast and prostatic cancer, uterine infections, urine marking, spraying, unwanted sexual behaviors to humans, as well as decreasing their desires to roam from your yard.  Spaying and neutering also helps decrease the number of unwanted pets.  There are no benefits to having your pet go through one heat cycle, and the longer you wait to spay the greater the risks are of cancer and infection.  We can spay and neuter any pet over the age of 4 months.  Ask us about spaying or neutering your pet today.

What should I do if my pet ate something he or she shouldn't' have?

There are many different things pets can get into.  If you suspect your pet of eating something they shouldn’t have, give our clinic a call and we can help you decide the best course of action.

How often does my pet need to be vaccinated?

Both our dog and cat vaccines provide protection for your pet for one year, and will need to be given annually.  Legally our rabies vaccine is also licensed for 1 year.  For all our dog patients we recommend yearly heartworm tests.  Yearly testing makes sure that no infection started in case you’re a little late in giving the monthly preventative, as well as making sure that the prevention that was given worked as expected.  Cats can be tested for infectious diseases as well but unlike dogs, this is often something that is only tested once in their life.

How do I apply topical flea medicine?

For dogs you need to part the hair starting between the shoulder blades and apply the medicine directly to the skin.  For large dogs you need to part the hair in several locations down the spine to make sure the protection covers the whole dog.

For cats you need to apply topical flea medicine at the base of the skull.  If you apply it too low the cat could actually turn their heads around and try to groom the medicine off.  You’d be amazed how flexible our cats really are!

How do I clean my pet's ears?

We find the best method for cleaning ears is to hold the tip of the ear up and squeeze a good amount of cleaner in the ear of your pet.  Then massage the base of the ear for two minutes.  You may hear a squishing sound as the fluid is massaged around in the ear canal.  After two minutes you can allow your pet to shake his or her head.  There is no need for you to try to get the debris out; your pet will dislodge the debris himself.

What is Feline Immunodeficiency virus or Feline AIDS?

Feline Immunodeficiency virus is a contagious virus that is spread by blood.  The virus often infects male cats from bite wounds, and is less contagious to other cats in the same household compared to feline leukemia virus.  Once infected the virus remains latent in the body for many years before activation.  The virus is closely related to human AIDS, but only infects cats.  It causes immunosuppression and prevents the white blood cells from working correctly.  Because these cats are immunocompromised it is very important to keep them healthy and to contact a veterinary clinic at any sign of illness.

There is no treatment for the virus, but human antiviral medication has shown to help.  It is important to keep these cats indoors and free from parasites.  Many cats with this disease can live to old age despite carrying the virus.

What is Feline Leukemia?

Feline Leukemia is a contagious virus that can be found in kittens or cats that spend time outside.  It is passed from mothers to kittens when they are born, or from cat to cat through bite wounds, or contact with urine or saliva via grooming.  Once infected the cat may have a mild fever but then the virus will lay dormant in the bone marrow of the cat.  After several years the virus becomes active again and can cause many signs including cancer, an inability to fight off infections, GI, or neurological signs.

There is no treatment of the leukemia virus, but if your cat is an outdoors cat that may be exposed to other possibly infected cats there is a virus that can prevent the virus.  If you have a feline leukemia positive cat you should not add any other cats to your household to prevent the spread of the virus.

What are heartworms?

Heartworms are very serious parasites that are carried by mosquitoes.  All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to pass on the heartworm larva or immature forms to your dog.  The larva then mature and migrate in the blood vessels of the dog until they come to rest in the heart.  Once in the heart the worms cause damage to the musculature of the heart and can cause heart failure.

Dogs are highly susceptible to heartworm disease, but taking monthly heartworm preventative can prevent the infection. Cats are less susceptible to the parasites, but if your cat spends a lot of time outside then using a monthly preventative is something to consider.

Signs of heartworm disease include coughing, lethargy, weight loss, bloated abdomen, bloody urine, and heartworm can cause death in severe cases. Treatment is available but is often expensive and requires keeping your dog confined for several months.  Heartworm disease is much easier to prevent than treat so we recommend year-round use of heartworm prevention.

Heartworm prevention comes in several different forms.  There are tablets or chewable pills that contain a heartworm preventative.  We also offer medication that prevents heartworms and fleas.  Talk to our staff if you have any questions which form is right for your pet.