With the addition of a new puppy or kitten to your family, life has no doubt become exciting! Keeping their health in tip-top shape is sure to be on your mind as you embark on new adventures in your life together. Here is a timeline of major milestones in your new relationship that should involve your veterinarian.
RIGHT AFTER YOU PICK UP YOUR NEW FAMILY MEMBER
If you know ahead of time what your pickup arrangements are, you may want to consider calling ahead to your veterinary clinic to book your first appointment on the way home. Most kittens/puppies arrive home at six to eight weeks of age. Having your new fluffy family member examined soon after pickup will help to ensure your new friend is healthy (and not showing any signs of contagious disease that may be transmitted to other pets you may already have at home). In some cases, a health exam may be required within the first 72 hours for an adoption contract to be valid. An early meeting at this young age with a veterinarian will also start your pet on the right path to feeling comfortable in the clinic environment, which will help to foster positive experiences in the visits to come.
EIGHT WEEKS OF AGE
Your new pet’s eight-week examination is important to ensure that they are developing properly. This visit will also include the first series of vaccinations given to provide immunity to your new pet against common contagious diseases, as the maternal immunity their mom provided in young kitten/puppyhood has now waned. Parasite control will also be discussed and treated for both internal and external parasites, such as fleas and intestinal worms. Don’t forget to bring along a fresh fecal sample for testing!
12 WEEKS OF AGE
The 12-week checkup helps your veterinarian make sure everything is still on track with your pet’s development. This visit will also include a set of booster vaccinations to ensure your pet’s immunity is still effective and that any potential parasites are under control. Another fecal sample should be tested.
16 WEEKS OF AGE
At 16 weeks of age, your new friend will begin losing their baby teeth and adult teeth will erupt. Your veterinarian will make sure this is going smoothly (see page 18 for more on dental care), on top of performing another physical exam. This visit will also include the final booster vaccine for your pet, as well as a rabies vaccine. A final fecal exam will be done to check one more time to make sure your pet is parasite free. This test may be done multiple times to cover the prepatent period of multiple parasites, as they do not all follow the same schedule of showing signs of infection.
SIX MONTHS OF AGE
Now that your pet has matured six months, it is the prime time to discuss having your pet spayed/neutered. Spaying/neutering will prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as decrease the chances of reproductive organ diseases, such as potentially fatal infections and cancer. This surgical procedure can also help to decrease territorial behaviours. Once the surgery has been performed, a return visit in 10–14 days will be necessary to ensure the surgical site is healing well and so sutures can be removed if necessary. See page 14 for a story on what can happen when you don’t spay/neuter pets!
ONE-YEAR VACCINE ANNIVERSARY
Your furry family member has celebrated their first year milestone and is likely a happy and healthy member of your family. As a young adult, your pet should make an annual trip to the veterinary office to have a complete physical exam (and receive any annual booster vaccines needed) to ensure they remain healthy for years to come. Examinations provide the opportunity for your veterinary staff to observe any underlying disease at an early stage and start treatment to halt or delay its progression.
Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter. With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health, she is currently the provincial manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
As with humans, a dog’s early learning experience is very important to their development and their future behaviour. It is therefore critical that puppies are provided with constructive learning experiences during the crucial early period of their lives. Most people don’t acquire a puppy until the dog is roughly eight weeks of age, and in some cases later — here is my list of key do’s and don’ts new dog owners should think about right away.
Do carefully look at the parents of a puppy if possible. Breed predispositions aside, the behaviour of a puppy’s parents is the best predictor as to his or her future temperament. If you are getting your puppy from a breeder and they do not offer to let you interact with both parents (if they are on site), find out why.
Don’t agree to meet your new puppy in a parking lot, dog park or other similar venue, as you may be dealing with a so called puppy broker with ties to a puppy mill. A responsible breeder will invite you to come and see the environment where the puppy was born. You would be surprised how many times people have told me they were not permitted by a seller to do this, which should raise a red flag
Do ask for a puppy’s veterinary records. Depending on the age of the puppy, it should have already received initial vaccinations against several conditions. Ask your own veterinarian about what vaccinations are necessary and follow up on boosters if recommended. Also important is the deworming process, as worms are often transmitted to them internally from their mother. If not completely eradicated, these parasites can have a negative effect on a puppy’s behaviour and future health. And, do take your puppy for a veterinary exam at the earliest opportunity.
Don’t just take the word of a seller that a puppy is in good health.
Do start socializing your new puppy as soon as you can. The initial weeks and months of a dog’s life is a crucial period for this. Introduce him/her to new sights and sounds in a controlled environment, making sure that these are positive experiences; otherwise, your puppy could become anxious or fearful later in life when encountering new things. When puppies learn at an early age that the world is not to be feared, they are more likely to become well-adjusted adults.
Don’t put the puppy at risk in any way when doing early socialization. For example, they shouldn’t be taken to dog parks or allowed to interact with unknown dogs until vaccinations are completed. After you have the green light to do this, I would recommend that all introductions to unknown dogs be done with both dogs on a leash until you can be sure they will react to each other in a non-aggressive manner. In any case, don’t encourage overly rough play, as this can escalate quickly into negative consequences, especially if a puppy is engaging with an older, larger dog.
Do start behaviour training at an early age. Formal classes are valuable for socialization, and I recommend them for first-time dog owners; experienced owners can certainly begin training on their own at home. Remember that dog training is a completely unregulated field, so if you obtain the services of a trainer, make certain that they utilize current methodology where the focus is on reinforcing the desired behaviour using positive means, and not trying to shape behaviour through negative consequences.
Don’t use force or old-school punishmentbased training methods; one very counterproductive example that comes to mind is rubbing a puppy’s nose in a mess it has made during housetraining. Recent studies have shown that physical punishment can actually contribute to the development of fearful or aggressive behaviour. It’s more desirable that your puppy obeys your commands because it wants to please you, as opposed to obeying your commands because it is afraid of what will happen if it doesn’t.
Do always be consistent when teaching a puppy appropriate and expected behaviour. Make sure that all family members use the same approach and react in the same way in similar circumstances. When puppies, and dogs in general, know what to expect they are less likely to become anxious, due to the predictable results of their actions. Anxietybased behaviour is one of the main problems reported by dog owners to behaviourists.
Don’t leave young puppies unsupervised for any length of time, unless they are in a confined, safe area. Puppies are continually learning during their waking hours, and if left to their own devices they can easily pick up bad or destructive habits, such as chewing or digging. As much as possible, puppy-proof the environment by removing potentially harmful things that puppy can get into and swallow, and providing acceptable and safe items to chew on during the teething process
Deciding to get a puppy is a major commitment in terms of time, energy and effort. Make certain that you and other family members who will be involved are prepared to make such a commitment.
On a personal note, I acquired a Mastiff puppy a little over a year ago, so I have some recent experience with many of the things I have written about in this article. I will be honest and say that there have been times when I could have put more effort into following my own advice about continually supervising a puppy. For example, Henry (pictured) has developed a bad habit of climbing onto recliners in our living room. Now, if I don’t place the foot rest for the recliners on them when not in use, Henry will plop down on top of them. While you may think that isn’t a big deal, in the picture Henry is about a year old, and is already too big for the recliners. As Mastiffs are not full grown until around two years of age, he’s still just a puppy, albeit a really big one. Fortunately, he is overall an obedient dog with few other behavioural issues and a calm, confident demeanor. Practice makes perfect, or at least nearly so.
Kerry Vinson, founder of Animal Behaviour Consultants, has a BA in psychology, has previously taught social science courses at the college level in Ontario, and has extensively studied animal learning and behaviour modification. In addition to having conducted seminars on canine behaviour, and assessing dogs with behavioural problems, he has been designated by the Province of Ontario as an expert witness in the areas of general canine behaviour, canine aggression and it’s retraining. As such he has testified in a provincial Inquest as well as numerous other dog-related court cases between 1999 and 2018. For more information he can be reached at (705) 295-3920, (905) 352-3353, or visit: www.animalbehaviourconsultants.com
By far the most common surgeries performed on dogs are spay and neuter procedures — collectively called gonadectomies — that remove the reproductive organs to prevent unwanted pregnancies and pet overpopulation.
SPAY PROCEDURE IN SHELTER MEDICINE MOBILE UNIT
Dr. Teri Kidd was the first person to perform a spay and neuter procedure in the University of Illinois shelter medicine mobile surgical unit, acquired with funding from PetSmart Charities.
But while these surgeries are common, they are not without controversy. Misconceptions and concerns about these procedures abound. A big reason for the confusion is the overwhelming number of studies that have been done on gonadectomies. Intuitively, you might think that so much research on a subject would provide ultimate clarification, but instead the ocean of data has caused a lot of uncertainty.
DATA NEED CONTEXT FOR ACCURATE INTERPRETATION
Dr. G. Robert Weedon directs the shelter medicine program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, which performs more than 4,000 low-cost spay and neuter surgeries each year at rural shelters in east central Illinois.
“TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RISKS AND BENEFITS OF SPAY AND NEUTER SURGERIES FOR YOUR DOG, CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN.”
He says that many research studies have been misinterpreted or over-interpreted, causing confusion among both veterinarians and owners.
That is why Dr. Weedon and three fellow shelter medicine researchers from the University of Minnesota, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Mississippi State University recently published a review article* evaluating the relevant literature and drawing conclusions about gonadectomies, especially regarding the optimal age to perform this procedure.
Here is a sampling of the findings covered in Dr. Weedon’s article. Take care to note the incidence of each disease.
- Mammary neoplasia (cancer of the mammary glands) is seven times more likely in unspayed female dogs than in those that have been spayed; the incidence of this cancer ranges from 3.4% to 13%. Optimal spay age to avoid mammary neoplasia in female dogs is less than 2.5 years. • Benign prostatic hypertrophy/hyperplasia (a non-cancerous, enlarged prostate) occurs in more than 50% of intact male dogs, with incidence increasing with age.
- Four out of five studies show an increase in prostate cancer in neutered dogs; however, this cancer arises in only 0.2% to 0.6% of the population.
- Testicular neoplasia, with an incidence of 0.9%, is only seen in intact male dogs.
- Pyometra (inflamed or infected uterus) occurs in roughly 25% of intact female dogs.
- Obesity is very common in spayed and neutered dogs, reported to be between 21.4% and 44.4%.
- This list, which represents only a fraction of the data Dr. Weedon and his coauthors address in their review, helps illuminate the complexity of the science regarding sterilizing pets. The ideal age for a spay or neuter is not clear cut; veterinarians have to consider many factors when recommending timing for the procedure.
TIMING OF SPAY AND NEUTER MAY IMPACT HEALTH
For example, waiting until a later age to spay or neuter a pet may increase the dog’s risk of certain types of cancer. Choosing not to spay or neuter a dog leaves the animal at a relatively high risk of pyometra in female dogs and benign prostatic hypertrophy/hyperplasia in male dogs.
On the other hand, currently published data suggests that in some breeds, spayed and neutered pets have an increased risk of other types of cancer, as well as of obesity.
Your veterinarian is responsible for evaluating the relative risks and communicating those risks accurately to you. For example, you may hear of a study that indicates that that spaying your female dog increases her likelihood of acquiring bladder stones; your veterinarian should discuss this risk with you, and let you know that bladder stones are reported in only one in 100 dogs.
And the connection between the gonadectomy and the disease may be coincidental rather than causal. In the case of bladder stones, Dr. Weedon emphasizes, “no clear cause-and-effect has been established between spays and an increased risk of bladder stones.” Some veterinarians speculate that the increased rate may be due to the fact that owners who have had their dogs spayed are more observant and more willing to seek veterinary care and treatment for bladder stones.
SEEK VETERINARIAN’S RECOMMENDATION
Dr. Weedon recommends spaying or neutering pets in almost every scenario, although the ideal age can change depending on the breed and health of your dog, as well as the circumstances in which the dog lives. Your veterinarian has the knowledge to help interpret the large amount of contradictory data, and the training to make the best recommendation for the age at which to sterilize your pet.
To learn more about the risks and benefits of spay and neuter surgeries for your dog, contact your local veterinarian.
*Root Kustritz MV, Slater MR, Weedon GR, Bushby PA. Determining optimal age for gonadectomy in the dog: A critical review of the literature to guide decision making. Clinical Theriogenology 2017;9(2):167-211.
From the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign College of Veterinary Medicine http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns.
One of the best things you can do with your new puppy is provide them with the proper amount of exercise. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) (www.petobesityprevention.org) , approximately 54% of U.S. dogs are considered overweight or obese. Besides feeding the proper amount of a good quality diet, the next best thing to maintain proper weight is exercise.
EASE INTO IT
The requirements for exercise will vary based on your pet’s breed and age. Some breeds tend to be more laid back while others have a higher activity level. Younger puppies tend to go through multiple cycles of sleeping, playing, eating and eliminating throughout the day with bursts of exercise and activity lasting for a little as five minutes.
As they age the amount of time they stay awake will increase, and so will their exercise and activity requirements. There is no set amount of exercise each dog requires. The best approach is to ease into exercise and increase it as they mature into adulthood.
Walking is often the go-to exercise for dogs. It provides a great opportunity for bonding with your pet, provides them a chance to eliminate and gives them a change of scenery.
Persistence is key when first introducing walking to your puppy as they adjust to wearing a collar and leash. Short walks with a positive ending (think belly rubs and treats) for tolerating these new accessories will help to get your new puppy accustomed to this routine.
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated it is best to keep walking restricted to your yard to prevent exposure to other animals and disease. It is also wise to avoid walks in extreme heat and cold.
Some puppies get most of their exercise during play. A good game of fetch, tug or chase will get the heart pumping. Having multiple different play sessions and games to play with your puppy will keep them from getting bored.
MENTAL ACTIVITY IS ESSENTIAL
Destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture, excessive licking and inappropriate elimination can be the result of anxiety created by a lack of exercise and activity. Ensuring your pet maintains an active lifestyle both mentally and physically will help decrease the chances that these troublesome behaviours arise.
Spending time teaching your dog tricks or offering them puzzle toys that contain hidden treats will help to keep them mentally stimulated and healthy.
When they are old enough, obedience training is also a fantastic way to increase your pet’s daily steps, engage them mentally and teach them the basics of being a well-behaved dog.
Starting an exercise routine with your new puppy and sticking with it throughout their life encourages a healthy lifestyle and will help decrease the risk of weight-associated diseases. Your veterinary healthcare team is a great resource to discover what exercise you can include in your individual pet’s daily routine.
Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She has previously worked in both small animal practice and a municipal animal shelter. With a special interest in the relationship between animal and human health she is currently the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Public Health Rabies Response Program and an active One Health Initiative advocate. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of us know oral hygiene can play a critical role in a person’s overall health, but did you know the same applies for your furry friends? Humans schedule regular dental cleanings to keep their gums and teeth healthy, but dental health in dogs and cats may be overlooked by pet owners.
Dr. J.R. “Bert” Dodd, clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained some common dental hygiene issues in dogs and cats. “Poor oral hygiene in dogs and cats can lead to excess tartar, swellings in the mouth and severe wear of the teeth (or broken teeth) from chewing on inappropriate objects,” he said. “In addition, periodontal — or gum — disease can arise from neglected oral health. If preventative dental health is not practiced and periodontal therapy — which includes the scaling, root planning, curettage, and extraction of teeth — is ignored, your pet may become more susceptible to other health complications.”
In fact, an animal’s teeth may be more important to its overall health than most pet owners realize. For example, bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body and cause infections, so keeping the mouth healthy can help keep your pet’s body healthier. Dodd also explained that good dental hygiene can lead to a longer, healthier life for your pet. “Taking care of your pet’s mouth and keeping it nice and healthy can help the animal live longer,” Dodd explained. “Good oral hygiene can help prevent diseases or secondary infections, such as liver, heart, kidney and joint disease from bacteria originating in the mouth and spreading through the body via the bloodstream. A dog or cat’s teeth need to be well taken care of and treated with respect.”
Although your veterinarian can help in routine dental check-ups and treatments, dog and cat owners can reduce the risk of dental hygiene issues at home. “It is best to begin home care when your puppy or kitten is between eight and 12 weeks old; however, it is never too late to start,” Dodd noted. “The first step is to train your pet to accept the brushing of their teeth. The best approach is to establish a routine of brushing your pet’s teeth with gauze around your finger. It may be helpful to use beef or chicken broth with dogs or tuna water with cats to get them accustomed to the routine instead of using cleaning agents. Once your pet is familiar with the daily routine, you can switch out the gauze for a finger brush or a very soft toothbrush. Then you can incorporate using veterinarian-approved pet toothpaste.”
In addition to homecare, pet owners can arrange for their pet to have an annual teeth cleaning under anesthesia at their local veterinary clinic. Veterinarian prescribed dental diets, proper dental chew toys and drinking water additives — products that can be mixed into pet drinking water to help control bacteria level and plaque in the mouth — may also assist in preventing dental hygiene issues. However, if your pet has persistent bad breath, experiences bleeding from the mouth or tooth, a change in eating behaviour and sensitivity to touch around the mouth, it may be a sign of a more serious dental health condition.
Dental therapy for more serious health conditions include many of the same procedures that help humans maintain healthy teeth, gums and mouths. Available treatments include oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, restorations and even orthodontics. Some of these procedures may be offered by your family veterinarian or you may be referred to a board-certified veterinary dentist.
It is important for pet owners to recognize the connection between healthy teeth and their animal’s overall health. When you make a dental appointment for yourself, it might be a good idea to make a veterinary appointment to have your pet’s teeth cleaned as well. Proper dental hygiene helps promote a longer, healthier life for your pet.
From the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University: vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.
Panosteitis is an inflammatory disease of the bones of young dogs. It causes a sudden onset of lameness, resulting in recurrent limping. It occurs in many breeds of dogs, but German Shepherds, especially males, seem more prone to getting it. Dogs between five to 12 months of age are most often affected, although it can strike as early as two months and as late as five years of age. Panosteitis usually affects the long bones only and seldom involves more than one leg at a time. Once it has affected a bone, it is not likely to reappear in that same bone again. As a result, a dog may limp on one leg for a short while, stop limping and then limp on another leg.
The cause of panosteitis remains unknown. Some experts believe that hereditary factors are involved, especially since this disease seems to occur along familial lines. Nutrition does not appear to be implicated, but allergies, metabolic disturbances, infections, immune system dysfunction, parasitism and hormonal problems have been suggested as possible causes.
Most affected dogs recover without treatment by two years of age. Until then, episodes of lameness may occur with varying degrees of severity and for varying lengths of time. These episodes may occur at irregular intervals two to three weeks apart and may last from several days to several weeks. Each episode can range from mild lameness to complete disuse of the leg.
As the dog gets older, the severity of the lameness episodes should gradually lessen and the periods of remission in between the attacks should last longer. Eventually, the disease runs its course and the patient is free of pain and clinical signs.
To diagnose this disorder, your veterinarian takes an x-ray of the affected leg. Once a diagnosis of panosteitis has been made, your veterinarian may suggest medication to relieve inflammation and pain. Treating with prednisone is effective in relieving pain and resolving lameness but does not alter the course of the disease. Restricting exercise or enforced rest also does not appear to make any difference. Too much exercise, on the other hand, should be discouraged.
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