Now that you have your little bundle of joy with you at home, how will you take care of this precious addition to your family? What do you do when the "new baby" is a puppy or a kitten? Ask the pediatrician for pets, of course!
Schedule a visit to your veterinarian soon after you acquire your new little pet. He or she will examine your pet to make sure it's healthy. It's not unusual for a young animal to have some diarrhea, or a mild runny nose. Your veterinarian can help to handle these conditions. The doctor will do a careful physical examination to make sure there are no congenital (birth) defects you should be concerned about. Weight and temperature will be noted. He or she will look for evidence of any external parasites, such as ear mites or fleas. You should try to bring a stool sample so that it can be examined microscopically for internal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms and other organisms.
Nutrition will be discussed. Young animals have special needs, just like babies. Sometimes it takes a little time to find just the right food that your little one digests well and that is nutritionally complete and balanced. In New Jersey, heartworm prevention is important, and your veterinarian will help you to decide what means of prevention is best for your pet. Kittens need to be tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses. These diseases often show no signs for a few years, but are usually fatal. A simple blood test can reassure you that your kitten is fine.
Pediatric pets need a series of vaccinations in order for their immune systems to be stimulated at the right time for the vaccines to be effective. The most common diseases that we try to prevent through vaccination are distemper (a virus that affects the GI tract, and sometimes the respiratory tract and nervous system), respiratory diseases, and rabies. Other vaccines will be discussed based on your pet's needs. You need to follow the timing guidelines set by your veterinarian so the puppy or kitten's own immune system can take over as the effects of his mother's antibodies wears off.
Your veterinarian will also discuss spaying or neutering your pet. These procedures not only prevent unwanted puppies and kittens but contribute to the health of your individual pet. Spaying young females at the appropriate time helps to prevent mammary gland (breast) cancer when they get older. It will eliminate the need for ovariohysterectomy in an emergency situation, which can occur in middle age due to uterine infection. Neutering your male dog will prevent prostate problems and tumors in the anal area. Neutering your male cat will prevent the very strong urine odor of tom cats.
Housetraining your dog and litter training your cat will be addressed. Appropriate play and socialization of your pet will be explained. Bathing, grooming and exercise pointers can be discussed. Introduction of the new pet to your current pets can be guided.
The series of pediatric visits gives you a chance to ask about any problems you may experience with your little one. It also gives you a chance to share the little joys and funny moments as your puppy or kitten grows and matures. Your veterinarian will get to know both of you very well, and this will be the foundation of a lifetime of good health care for your pet.
If you need a veterinarian, please call the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association at 908-281-0918 for a referral or visit our website at dev.njvma.org. The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association represents the state's 1,400 licensed veterinarians.