Written by: Dr. Gary Borgman
In the two previous issues of Osceola Woman I have discussed “Choosing a New Pet” and “Puppy and Kitten Nutrition”. Now I would like to discuss the very important topic of disease prevention for these vulnerable new pets.
Puppies and kittens are born with maternal antibodies against diseases, but it is very dependent upon the vaccination status of the mother. A properly immunized dog or cat will transfer enough antibodies against communicable diseases to protect the newborn for a few weeks. Unfortunately, this passive protection will rapidly decrease and the young puppy or kitten could become unprotected as early as three weeks, or as late as about twelve weeks of age. Our goal is to stimulate an active immune response in these young patients through a series of vaccinations beginning at six weeks of age. It is important to continue the immunizations every three weeks up until the patient is at least fifteen and preferably sixteen weeks old. This vaccination protocol will stimulate the young patient’s immunization system as soon as possible and confer protection for about one year. Twelve months after completion of the puppy or kitten series it will be time for an annual physical examination, parasite check, and booster vaccinations.
We always advise pet parents of these vulnerable young puppies and kittens to act as if the patient is unprotected until completion of the vaccination series. This means house confinement and limited time outdoors. If a back yard or patio area is fenced and no dogs or cats ever come into the area, it is okay to allow the patient into this area for exercise and eliminations. A front yard and public areas should be avoided because Parvo virus and Panleukopenia virus can persist in the soil for up to one year. Any close contact with a free ranging animal or even one on a leash can also be possible exposure to deadly viruses such as Distemper or Parvo. These young patients are also highly vulnerable to Rabies, which can be present in feral cats, raccoons, and any other mammal.
A first visit for a puppy will include a review of any previous veterinary care, a complete physical examination, a microscopic fecal examination for intestinal parasites, and administration of the first immunizations. We will also discuss nutrition and feeding (see previous Osceola Woman article), heartworm and external parasite prevention and housebreaking. This is also time to discuss crate training for puppies. Fortunately, kittens are much easier to “housetrain”. Providing a clean litter box, fresh water, and proper nutrition is all that is needed! Love and affection of course are needed for kittens, as well as puppies, and that is the easy part.
The core recommended vaccinations for puppies are Canine Distemper, Adeno Virus, Parvo, Parinfluenza, Bordatella, Leptospirosis, and Rabies. For kittens we are vaccinating to prevent Panleukopenia, Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Leukemia virus, and Rabies. Dogs who are traveling to many states north of Florida should also be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Additionally, there is now a vaccine to prevent the newest strain of Canine Influenza and some kennels require it. So far, this new strain is not common in Florida, but it is only one state away.
The veterinarians and staff at Kissimmee Animal Hospital (407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (407-518-0880) are available to answer any questions you may have about recommended vaccinations or any other pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.