New Pet Owner Guide

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The Exam 

The most important part of your kitten or puppy's first visit with the veterinarian is the exam. Your doctor is looking for any signs of underlying illness, congenital disease, or birth defects. An experienced Veterinarian will be able to detect many of these problems on initial presentation. Other issues that are discussed during this initial consultation include:

  • Parasite control – some of the most common parasites that your pet may be at risk for are: heart worms, fleas, ticks, mites, and intestinal parasites.

  • Vaccinations – the necessary vaccinations your pet will need to be protected against the more common infectious diseases.

  • Spaying /neutering – why you should, when you should, or when or why you should not.

  • House training – house proofing and those first days home.

  • Feeding and nutrition – what to feed, when to feed, what not to feed.

This first exam is also your first opportunity to raise any concerns you may have about your newest family member and our first opportunity to get to know both you and your pet. This relationship should last for a lifetime. It is important to get it right from the start.

 

SHOULD I GET PET INSURANCE?

The simple answer to this question is YES.
There is much that can be done for your pet should they become sick or be unexpectedly injured. But veterinary medicine can get very expensive very quickly, sometimes taking you by complete surprise.  But if your pet is insured you at least will have peace of mind knowing that cost will not be the limiting factor in treating your pet and that you will be able to afford the best medical care. Some insurance companies offer a free trial period to the owners of new puppies and kittens to get you started. It is best to insure your pets early in life. You never know when accidents or illness will strike.

 

Vaccinations

All Puppies and kittens will most often be born with some degree of passive immunity that they receive from their mother’s milk. Unfortunately, this protection will disappear over the next few weeks to months. To insure that your Puppy or kitten receives the best possible protection against our more common infectious diseases they should receive their first vaccine beginning at 6 – 8 weeks of age. Booster inoculations should then continue every 3 - 4 weeks until they are 16 - 20 weeks old. Pets over 12 weeks only need 2 sets of inoculation, 3 – 4 weeks apart. Your Puppy or kitten is not considered to have a good immunity toward these diseases until they have reached 16 – 20 weeks of age.
There are many different types of vaccines and they are all designed to cover very specific diseases. Not all will be applicable to your pet. Our veterinarians will work with you to determine the best vaccination protocol for your pet, and lifestyle.

 

SPAYING & NEUTERING

One of the most common questions we get is “Why should I spay or neuter my pet?”
The only reason not to spay or neuter is if you are serious about wanting to breed your pet.
However, before you go down this road you will need to be clear about why you want to be a breeder.
nexperienced breeders usually incur a financial loss.  Breeding animals is expensive, labour intensive, and can sometimes lead to other health problems for your pet later in life. 
Animals that are not spayed run a much higher risk of getting a severe uterine infection called pyometra. As well, they are at greater risk for developing mammary cancer when they get older.
Spaying your pet before their first heat reduces this risk to almost zero. Therefore, it makes the best sense to spay your puppy or kitten before they go into heat or around 6 months of age.
Neutering male pets is also very important. Neutering reduces aggressive behaviour, territorial ‘marking’, and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the chance of prostatic disease.
You should consider neutering a male dog or cat sometime between the ages of 6 – 12 months.
In the case of dogs, the best time to do this is determined by the breed size and rate of development. We can help you decide the right time to make this decision. 
A spayed or neutered pet is a happy pet.
They are easier to socialize, easier to train, and are less likely to wander off or to get into fights. These animals are, as a rule, better adjusted and healthier pets.
In addition spaying and neutering your pet will help control the companion animal population, preventing the unnecessary suffering of unwanted pets. There are over one thousand animals admitted to shelters each year across Canada. This overpopulation of our companion animals leads to the euthanasia of approximately 46% of cats and 15 % of dogs each year. Spaying or neutering your pet really is the healthiest and most humane option.

 

Parasite control

  • Intestinal parasites

Your puppy or kitten will quite often come home with some type of parasite. These can be picked up either from their birth environment or, in the case of roundworms, transmitted across the placenta or through the mother’s milk. It is very important to determine if your new puppy or kitten is carrying any of these parasites as they can affect the well being of both your pet and your family. The best way to detect these is through a thorough exam and a fecal parasite test.

  • Fleas

Unfortunately, fleas can be a normal part of your pet’s life. However, if your puppy or kitten has a flea problem or you wish to prevent a flea problem, we will be able to help you. We will guide you through the variety of flea products and recommend the best prevention for you and your cat or dog.

  • Ticks

In the past, ticks were an issue only in the southern regions of the province. However, more recently, animals that have never left the Thornhill area have been presented to this clinic with ticks. These ectoparasites climb onto your pet, partially burrow under the skin and start to engorge with blood. They don’t look much like a parasite, and in fact, they are often mistaken for a big brownish /gray skin tag. These ticks should be removed with caution, as they are capable of carrying a variety of diseases that can affect both animals and humans.  We will discuss tick control and a precautious approach. 

  • Mites

Mites are microscopic crablike parasites that live on or under your pet’s skin. The more common mites that we see are the ear mite, sarcoptes (mange), or demodex. This is quickly diagnosed on your pet‘s first visit and treatment can begin right away.

  • Heartworm

Heartworm is a parasite transmitted from canine to canine (both domestic and wild) as well as from canine to feline by mosquitoes.  Quite often, people hear the word ‘worm’ and confuse this with intestinal worms. But they are not.  The heart worm lives in the heart and the blood stream of your dog.  Undetected, this parasite can be fatal. Treatment of this disease can be both difficult and expensive. Detection, however, is easy.  A simple yearly blood test prior to going on the preventative is all it takes. Heartworm prevention is seasonal in Ontario (June 1st to November 1st) or all year long if you are traveling into the southern U.S.
For puppies less than 6 months of age, however, a blood test is not effective because the puppy has not been alive long enough to develop the disease. For the best protection we recommend that you start your puppy on a heartworm prevention program right away since it can take six months before you will get a positive heart worm result in these young dogs. 
Depending on which heart worm protection you chose, heart worm prevention can also protect your pet against intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks and mites.

 

Crate training


Crate training is probably the best way to prevent accidents around the house and also one of the most effective house breaking techniques. To use this technique correctly you will first need to determine the appropriate crate size for your puppy.  Next, you will need to devise a puppy ‘pee and poop schedule’ that works well with both the needs of your puppy and your family’s life style. Crate training, combined with a good schedule is the best way to house train your dog.
How big should the crate be? In order to answer this question you will need to understand and consider the growth rate of your dog over the next six months. The crate should be just big enough for your puppy to sit, lie down, and stand up in without any restrictions. It is important that the crate not be too big. If the create is big enough for the puppy to sleep at one end and defecate at the other end then the crate training will never work. This training procedure works on a natural principal: Dogs usually don’t soil the areas where they sleep. 
Crate training, combined with a good schedule, really is the best way to house train your dog. When setting up a schedule for your puppy one of the most common questions we get is” how long can my puppy stay in the cage?” In a way, puppy’s are like children. The older they get the fewer diapers they use, or the less they need to go out. 
The rule is your pet can stay in the cage for one hour for every month they are old plus one hour. For example, a three month old puppy can stay in the crate for a maximum of four hours. A three month old puppy that is left in the cage for five hours will probably soil itself. If this happens too often you may ruin the crate training procedure and your puppy will not want to go back into it’s crate.  This is why successful crate training will depend on a good training schedule.

- A typical puppy schedule should look something like this:
• start the day by taking your puppy out of the crate after waking up (this will usually be around dawn)
• Take your pet to a selected area and try to encourage elimination. You should invent some type of elimination command at this time like, “go pee”, or “hurry”. You may be able to teach your dog to eliminate on command.
- A three month old puppy will have to be let out at 7:00 am, 11:00am, 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 11:00 pm, and, unfortunately, 3:00 am. You may want to set your alarm for the last one. 
• Your puppy should always go out ten to twenty minutes after eating. The exact length of time will depend on your puppy.
• You should also let your puppy out after napping or playing hard.
As your puppy gets older he will learn what is expected of him and you will develop a level of communication with him that will no longer require the crate.
By this point, the crate will have become a place of comfort and security. It will give your dog his own personal space.

Keep in mind that your puppy will not always be in the crate, and in the beginning, there will inevitably be accidents.  Remember, when your puppy goes in the right location praise him, let him know that he has done well and that he has made you happy. When your puppy has done what is expected of him or her, you need to let him know and praise him right away. If you wait more than ten seconds your puppy may not make the connection. 
Consequently, if your puppy had an accident in the house ten minutes ago your job then is to ignore your puppy and clean and deodorise the mess as if nothing happened. If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating, make a loud noise! This usually stops the elimination, you then pick up your puppy and carry him tothe selected area and encourage him to finish eliminating using your command word and the praising him when he does. Our dogs live to please us and when they find an action that makes us happy they will want to repeat it.

Litter Training Your Kitten

For the most part house training a kitten is quick and easy. Simply show your Kitten the location of the food, water, and the litter box. Most kittens figure things out amazingly fast. A helpful hint: When showing the litter box to your kitten you may want to place him in it a couple of times. When your kitten urinates in the box for the first time, don’t clean it up right away. Let the litter box develop a little bit of a scent. Your kitten will catch on and be house trained in no time.

Selecting Pet Food

Your breeder probably sent you home with some of the food that they were feeding your kitten or puppy. If, and likely, when, you decide to change your pet over to a different brand of food, you need to make sure that this change occurs slowly. You should start off with ¼ of the new food and ¾ ‘s of the food that you are presently feeding. Gradually increase the new food and decrease the old over the next seven to ten days. This will avoid any digestive tract upsets often caused by sudden diet changes.
When selecting the right diet for your new pet, you want to select a balanced nutritional diet. Choose your food from a reputable company such as Iam’s, Hill’s, Purina, or Royal Canin to name just a few. These are what are referred to as premium food companies. They have veterinary nutritionist on staff that are always trying to improve their diets and will stand behind their products.  
You should avoid generic foods that sell for unusually low prices. You really do get what you pay for, this especially true when selecting pet food. There is poor regulation regarding what can be printed on a pet food bag. Organic does not necessarily mean organic, natural is not necessarily natural, and no preservatives does not always mean no preservatives. 
To ensure a food meets the nutritional value needed for your pet you should be purchasing a food that brands an AAFCO (association of American feed control officials) label. The label will state that it has gone through AAFCO food trials and has been formulated and recommended for a specific stage of your pet’s life. The AAFCO label will help us select the right food for whatever stage of life of our pet is in, such as growth for puppies and kittens, maintenance for our pets in the prime of their lives or senior for our older pets. 
Ideally, you want to select a dry food to help keep your pet’s teeth clean and as a way of free feeding throughout the day. But you also want to select a wet food to increase palatability of your pet’s diet. Most pets appreciate the texture and moisture of a wet diet. In the case of cats especially, wet food, with its high moisture content, is a good way to ensure adequate water consumption. Some cats on dry food alone will not drink enough water, offering them canned food as well helps reduce the risk of urinary problems as they age.  
You should consider changing over to an adult food at about twelve months of age.  Kitten and puppy foods are higher in calories than adult foods. So if you’re pet seems to be getting a little too plump before one year of age, you may want to consider switching over sooner rather than later.

Making Your Home Safe

Before bringing your puppy or kitten home you want to create a safe, animal friendly environment. How do you do this?   Imagine that a curious, rambunctious 2 year old is coming to visit you. What changes would you make?  You would make sure all medications were out of reach, the garbage is covered and any harmful objects or toxic substance have been removed from reach.   
Some of the most hazardous things around your house are wires and extension cords. Electric cord shock is not uncommon, teething pets love the texture of extension cords. Be sure to block off small areas around appliances like refrigerators and stoves. It doesn’t take long for a curious young puppy or kitten to get trapped or stuck out of reach. 
 Most people know that rodent and ant poisons, cleaning products, and antifreeze are all toxic to animals. But did you know that raisons, grapes, chocolate, and a wide variety of indoor/outdoor plants can also be highly toxic?  Any of these products, in small quantities, could make your puppy or kitten very sick. They can even be deadly. Therefore, be vigilant at all times.  Make yourself aware of your surroundings; clean up, tidy up, mop up and frequently remind yourself and all members of your family, that if something would be dangerous for a two year old human then it is definitely not safe for your new pet.

Selecting a Puppy

When selecting a puppy there is a huge variety of choice. There is a dog for everyone. Somewhere, there is a dog especially perfect for you and your family.  This is a dog that should fit well with who you are, the kind of life you lead, and where you live. The following is a bullet point list of some of the things that you should consider.
• What are you are looking for in a dog?
• How big will this dog be as an adult?
• How big is your living space? If you live in an apartment or condo, a small dog is best. If you live in a house, you have room for a bigger dog.
• How much time do you have to walk him or her?
• Do you want a purebred or a mixed breed (mutt)? There are good things to be said about both choices.
• What kind of temperament is the dog known for? As puppies mature into adults, this can change. If you have children you need be sure to choose a calm, even tempered dog that is compatible with them.
• Consider how the dog is going to fit with your life. Are you an outdoors person who loves to fish and camp? Or, are you someone who likes to lie around the pool? 

Taking the time to carefully consider your choice will allow you to pick the perfect puppy for you.  The right dog leads to a happy, mutually beneficial relationship.