New Pet Questions


Q: What vaccines does my puppy / kitten need?

A: Your puppy should receive his first vaccination (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus) at 6-8 weeks of age. This vaccine should be repeated every 3 weeks until your puppy is at least 16 weeks old. At that time (14-16 weeks), a Rabies vaccine will be administered. According to Georgia law, this vaccine is required for all pets by 16 weeks of age. Other vaccines may be discussed depending on your puppy’s environment. These include Leptospirosis, Corona Virus, Bordetella (Kennel Cough) and Influenza.

A new kitten should receive his first vaccination (which includes distemper and FDRCP at 6-8 weeks of age. This vaccine should be repeated every 3 weeks until your kitten is at least 16 weeks old. Similar to Dogs, cats will also receive their first Rabies vaccine at 14-16 weeks of age. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) vaccines will also be recommended for all multi-cat-households or outdoor cats.

Q: After the initial visits, what next?

A: Your dog should have an annual physical examination by a doctor. At this time Distemper/Parvo and Rabies vaccines will be boostered. Additional vaccines (Lepto, Bordetella, etc) will also be boostered at this time if previously administered. A heartworm blood test and fecal test for internal parasites will also be recommended during the visit.

Your cat should also have an annual exam. FDRCP, Rabies and FeLV (if previously administered) vaccines will be boostered at this time. A fecal test for internal parasites will also be recommended.

When both cats and dogs reach approximately 6 years old, a Senior Wellness examination will be recommended. This exam includes blood work and additional tests to ensure your pet is healthy.

Q: What about heartworms?

A: Heartworm disease is a serious threat to dogs and cats in our area. We strongly recommend that preventive medication be given to all dogs and cats year round. The preventive medication is inexpensive, safe, and effective. Dogs less that 6 months old can safely be started on preventives without heartworm testing. Dogs older than 6 months must have a blood test before starting the preventive. Dogs will be regularly tested for heartworms throughout their lives to ensure proper protection. Cats also get heartworms – over 50% of heartworm positive cats live in doors only. We strongly recommend preventive medicine for cats and dogs year round. Read more under the Heartworm Disease section.

Q: What about dental care?

A: Dental care is very important in dogs and cats. Periodontal disease not only causes bad breath, but can lead to serious heart, liver and kidney disease. This is why we recommend a dental exam every year during their physical examination. Occasionally, dental cleanings will be recommended for your pet depending on your pet’s oral health. Typically, larger dogs will requires a few dental cleanings throughout their lives, while smaller dogs tend to require more frequent cleanings.

Q: Should I spay or neuter my pet?

A: We recommend spaying (females) or neutering (males) all pets. This helps control overpopulation and unwanted pregnancies. Spaying is recommended for female dogs to help reduce the risk of mammary cancer. In male dogs, neutering can decrease “roaming”, eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and help prevent prostate enlargement. The earliest recommended ages for the procedures are as follows: females – 4 months; males – 6 months. Read more under the Spaying/Neutering section.

General Pet Questions

Q: How should I handle fleas?

A: Fleas can be a pet owner’s worst nightmare and in some cases cause severe allergic reactions in dogs and cats. If a dog or cat is prone to flea allergy dermatitis, even one bite can cause them to become itchy. Typically, dogs will become itchy around their hindquarters and tail, while cats will get itchy around their neck. There are many various products that control and eliminate fleas. Please stop by the office so we can discuss which one will work best for your pet.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Questions

Q: How does a cat get infected with FeLV?

A: The primary method of transmission for FeLV is through casual contact. This can include sharing of water bowls, food bowls, litter boxes and environments between housemates. Since FeLV can be easily transmitted, we recommend the FeLV vaccine for all multi-cat households and cats that frequent the outdoors.

Q: How does a cat get infected with FIV?

A: FIV is not transmitted as easily as FeLV. FIV requires a deep, aggressive bite from a positive cat for transmission which is why it is more common in fighting outdoor male cats. Although in some instances transfer can occur from casual rough “play” bites, it typically does not spread in this manner. A vaccine does exist for FIV but it is currently not recommended according to current vaccine guidelines.

Q: What happens when a cat gets FeLV?

A: Once the virus enters the body the virus either goes to the regional lymph nodes where it infects the cells of the lymph system (lymphocytes) or into the bone marrow. Lymphocytes are important to the body because they help fight off diseases. For that reason, cats with FeLV can show a decreased ability to fight infections. They are also more prone to certain cancers such as leukemia, lymphosarcoma (lymphoma), and multiple myeloma. Typically if a young cat develops cancer, we look as FeLV as a potential diagnosis first.

Q: What happens when a cat gets FIV?

A: Once the virus enters the body, the cat will never be able get rid of it. Similar to FeLV, FIV mainly depresses the immune system and makes cats more prone to secondary illnesses and infections. Although FIV positive cats can live a relatively normal life for the first few years, they typically succumb to a disease a healthy cat would be able to fight off such as pneumonia or infections.

Q: What can I do to protect my cat FeLV?

A: Test your cat to make sure he is not already infected. If your cat goes outside or you plan on introducing other cats into the household, it is recommended that your cat receive the FeLV vaccine. Initially, two vaccines are given three weeks apart as the first series. FeLV is then boostered every year with your cats other vaccines. Any cat that enters the house afterwards, should likely be tested and vaccinated for FeLV.

Q: What can I do to protect my cat FIV?

A: Test your cat to make sure he is not already infected. If your cat goes outside, a test is indicated during all yearly exams to make sure they have not contracted the disease. Although a vaccine is available, it is currently not recommended. Any additional cats to the family should likewise be tested prior to allowing contact.

Q: How is FeLV/FIV detected?

A: A blood test is used to detect the presence of both viruses. The “Snap” test used here checks for antibodies to FIV and checks for the actual antigen, or presence of FeLV. If FeLV is strongly suspected, additional testing may be recommended as in some instance the test can miss a positive animal.

Q: Are some cats more likely to become infected than others?

A: Yes. Cats who live in a multiple cat household where FeLV/FIV positive cats live or cats that are allowed to roam free outside are both at a higher risk.

Q: Are FeLV/FIV infected cats a health hazard to humans?

A: No. Neither FeLV or FIV are transmissible to humans.

Spay / Neuter Questions

Q: What is a spay?

A: A “spay” is an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure, both ovaries and the entire uterus are completely removed from the animal. Although it is considered a “routine procedure”, there can be serious risks associated with a spay. Please make sure you take your pet to a practice that offers appropriate monitoring and pain medication post-operatively.

Q: What is a neuter?

A: Neutering is the surgical removal of both testicles. In a normal neuter, the abdominal cavity is never entered. For that reason, the recovery time and risks for neuters are typically less than that of a spay.

Q: What are the general benefits?

A: Typically, both of these procedures are performed to limit unwanted pregnancies and control the stray pet population. These procedures will decrease roaming in both males and females and provide numerous medical benefits.

Q: What are the medical benefits?

A: In females, spaying eliminates the risk of pyometra (severe infection of the uterus), and certain cancers such as ovary and uterine cancer. Spaying also helps prevent mammary tumor formation. An intact female is 16x more likely to develop mammary cancer with each heat cycle they go through.

In males, aside from a decrease in unwanted behavior, neutering can prevent testicular cancer and will decrease the likelihood of prostate cysts, infection and enlargement.

Q: When should the procedure be done?

A: Male puppies and kittens should be neutered between 6-10 months old. Female kittens and puppies should be spayed between 4-6 months old. At these ages, the animal is mature enough for the operation and young enough to receive maximum benefits. Even though these are the recommended ages, both procedures can be done at any point in life to help decrease the risk of disease.

Q: Will my pet get fat and lazy?

A: Some pets will tend to put on a little weight but most don’t. As with humans, good diet and appropriate exercise will help any unwanted pounds.

Q: Are there any downsides to the procedures?

A: As with any surgical procedure there is always a risk of hemorrhage, dehiscence (opening of the surgical site) and rarely, death. Fortunately, with appropriate monitoring and at home care, these risks are extremely low. If spayed extremely early, it has been suggested that some female dogs will develop urinary incontinence. For that reason, we do not recommend spaying females prior to four months of age.

Heartworm Disease Questions

Q: What is heartworm disease?

A: Heartworm disease is caused by a worm (Dirofilaria immitis) which lives in the pet’s heart. It can cause damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Weakness, fatigue, exercise intolerance, chronic cough, loss of appetite, and weight loss can all be caused due to heartworm infestation. Death can occur if infections are severe.

Q: How can my pet get heartworms?

A: Heartworm larvae are transmitted from pet to pet by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected pet, it picks up some of the microfilaria which develop into infective larvae in the mosquito during a 2-3 week period. When that mosquito best another pet, the infective larvae enter the pet. The larvae then migrate to the heart, becoming adults in about 6 months.

Q: What about other animals?

A: Heartworms have been found in other animals related to the dog, such as wolves and coyotes, however, the dog is the natural host. Cats can also get heartworm disease and are only tested if they are showing clinical signs. Unfortunately, one of the most common clinical signs in cats is sudden death. For that reason, it is recommended that even indoor only cats are on appropriate prevention since mosquitos are often found in the home.

Q: Can heartworms be detected before clinical signs are present?

A: Yes. A simple blood test requiring a small amount of blood is routinely done in veterinarians’ offices to check for infections.

Q: Can heartworms be treated?

A: Yes, but typically only in dogs. Lab work is done first to evaluate the general health of the patient. Two injections are given in the muscles of the back 24 hours apart while the dog is hospitalized for 2 days. Prior to these injections, a long course of prednisone and antibiotics are given. Overall the treatment occurs over about 6 months and can take up to a year to clear the infection. During the treatment period, the dog must be completely confined to a small space with limited exercise. The total cost associated with treatment is upwards of one thousand dollars.

Q: Can heartworms be prevented?

A: Yes! Prevention is simple to do and very effective. We typically recommend starting dogs and cats on heartworm prevention when they are 6-8 weeks old. There are many various forms (chewtabs, topicals and injections) which can be used to make sure your pet is protected. Stop in today so that we may discuss the different options and find one that works for your pet’s lifestyle.