Oh wow! You just found your new furever friend. So cute and cuddly…or lumbering and rambunctious. This is the beginning of an obligation that we all want and need to fulfill correctly. A life depends on it. So let’s get off to a good start.
What should my new pet eat?
Let’s begin with their diet. Many assume since they’re babies they need milk. DON’T DO IT! A puppy or kitten should have been transitioning to solid food since about three to four weeks of age. Weaning of pups generally occurs at six weeks of age and kittens eight weeks of age. Most puppies and kittens are adopted out at that time. They should have already been transitioned to solid food. When you bring them home you should keep them on the food that they have been eating (same brand and flavor). The transition to a different diet should be done gradually so as not to make them sick (which applies to any time in their lives). What food to feed??? Don’t get caught up in the hype of new and improved (i.e. Grain Free as an example). My recommendation is to stay with the companies that have been around the longest, done the research and set the standards. Those that we generally recommend are Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin and Purina Pro Plan. How often to feed? Puppies and kittens less than six months generally need to eat three times per day. They have a high metabolism so they need more frequent meals. The tiniest ones may even need four to six meals per day to prevent a condition called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. We will speak with you and examine your baby and make recommendations to guide you.
First Visit to the Veterinarian
Soon after arrival your new friend should be taken to your veterinarian for a thorough examination and to develop a plan. We’re open seven days per week and accept walk-ins, so no excuses. Even if they have had vaccines and are not yet due, they should be examined. Come prepared with a nice fresh sample of feces (yep that’s poop). Many young ones come to us with an internal parasite problem. No you can’t see the parasites in the poo…they are primarily seen microscopically. We will send the sample to the lab for the best testing. Bring any prior medical records to the first visit for us to evaluate and enter into our system, to help us determine what is needed. We will decide which vaccination protocol is appropriate for their lifestyle and potential exposure to disease. Remember we will be vaccinating for future exposure.
You will hear about Distemper, Parvo, Kennel Cough and Influenza for puppies; and Feline Distemper, Calici Virus and Feline Leukemia for kittens, to name a few. Kittens should be tested for Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus at some point in their early lives. The timing will be based on exposure and age. One fact that most don’t realize is that your pet is not fully protected until approximately two weeks after completion of the series of vaccinations. They will need to be protected from exposure to the deadly diseases until then. This first visit is imperative in establishing a lifelong plan of prevention.
One of the easiest diseases to prevent is heartworm disease. Heartworms are literally a worm that resides in the heart. They are carried by mosquitoes so preventing exposure is difficult, but preventing the disease is easy. We will discuss preventative options and testing recommendations with you. We will also cover the benefits of spaying and neutering – the diseases and conditions that the procedures prevent and the recommended age that is most beneficial for your pet. You will be offered microchipping which is a permanent form of identification.
WHEW! We will have a lot to discuss. Please be prepared to spend some quality time with us. Bring a list of questions you might have. We will do our best to answer them. It’s important to get them off to a good healthy start. It’s important for you to be comfortable in caring for your new furever friend.
On a parting note…the most socially impressionable age of your new pet’s life is between eight to twelve weeks of age. Development of trust and social behavior is critical for a happy, long relationship. Little things like getting them accustomed to having their ears, feet and mouths touched and handled will be beneficial in the future if we need to clean ears, trim nails or give medications. Often by the time you bring your new best friend in for their first visit your bond is already established and strong. That bond is the most beautiful thing for us, as veterinarians, to witness and experience. We want to support that relationship. In doing so I would like to offer a few words of advice. Many new pet parents like to humanize their pets. We need to remember who and what they actually are. We have to appreciate and respect what is natural to them, but also help them adapt to the environment that will be provided. They need the stimulus and socialization that is appropriate for their species and breed. We need to empower their independence so we don’t create issues such as anxiety. If we consider their needs psychologically, as well as physically, we will accomplish our obligation of providing them with the best life possible.
We thank you for entrusting us with such a precious and important member of your family.