For millions of health-conscious Americans, the annual checkup has become a routine practice. Like people, dogs and cats can benefit from routine wellness exams too. But with one important difference - pets age faster than people.
On average, most dogs and cats reach adulthood by age two. By age four, many pets are entering middle age. And by age seven, most dogs, particularly larger breeds, are entering their senior years.
Because dogs and cats age seven times faster, on average, than people, significant health changes can occur in a short amount of time. And, the risks of cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, metabolic problems and other serious conditions all increase with age.
Many pet owners are not aware that taking a dog or cat to the veterinarian once a year is the same as a person seeing their doctor or dentist once every seven years. It is recommended that pets have a wellness exam at least annually so that veterinarians have the opportunity to detect, treat or, ideally, prevent problems before they become life-threatening.
Prevention is the real goal of wellness exams. When veterinarians see a pet on a regular basis, they can help pets avoid some preventable illnesses and diseases. Plus, a pet will never have to suffer from pain that could be treated or prevented by the veterinarian.
Pet wellness exams include screenings for a variety of potential diseases. These screenings are usually accompanied by an individualized risk assessment of your pet's environment - where you live, emerging disease risks in your community, your pet's interaction with other pets and wildlife, travel plans, and other lifestyle considerations.
Pet wellness exams also help your veterinarian determine a proper prevention program, including a vaccination schedule tailored specifically for your pet. By using personalized pet health protocols, veterinarians can pinpoint specific preventive health care needs for your pet.
A pet owner's best source for wellness exam and preventive health care information is their personal veterinarian. Only your veterinarian knows your pet's medical history, current health status, and potential risks your pet faces.
Due to the many recent discoveries and innovations in veterinary medicine, your pet can be protected from most major contagious diseases. Today, many immunizations and preventive treatments are available that did not exist just a few years ago.
The following are general vaccination recommendations for puppies, adult dogs, kittens, and adult cats.
Puppies and Adult Dogs
Canine Distemper Vaccine is a combination vaccine made to protect against multiple diseases in one injection. There are three components to this vaccine: Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus. Healthy puppies should receive their first Distemper vaccine at 8 weeks of age. Then, they receive booster vaccines at the age of 12 and 16 weeks. Some breeds need an additional booster vaccine at 20 weeks to provide long-term protection against the diseases. Adult dogs receive the Distemper vaccine every three years.
Rabies is generally regarded as a fatal disease to both humans and animals. All dogs over 6 months of age are required to be vaccinated for Rabies. We typically give the first rabies vaccine at the 16 week appointment to ensure that the dog is old enough to receive the vaccine. Dogs must be revaccinated nine to twelve months from their first vaccine, then every three years. If the second vaccine is even one day late then the vaccination is only good for one year. Dog licenses are not issued without proof of a current rabies vaccine.
Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. Infected wild and domestic animals pass leptospirosis-causing bacteria in their urine. Dogs get leptospirosis by contact with fresh water, wet soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Leptospirosis can lead to kidney and liver damage, and is contagious to humans. It is important to keep your pet up to date on this vaccine due to recent increases in the number of patients we have seen with this disease. Healthy puppies receive their first leptosporosis vaccine at the age of 12 weeks, then again at 16 weeks. Adult dogs receive a leptosporosis vaccine every year.
Dogs that are boarded, go to the groomer, attend training, or go to doggie daycare should receive a vaccine that protects against respiratory viruses. We use a combination vaccine that protects against Bordetella (commonly referred to as Kennel Cough), Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus Type 2. This vaccine is given annually.
Heartworm disease is a common life threatening disease affecting dogs in this area. Heartworms are transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes. We recommend that all dogs be on heartworm prevention on a year-round basis. We also will screen dogs every year for heartworm disease.
Lyme disease is becoming more and more prevalent each year in our pets. Lyme disease is transmitted via ticks and can lead to problems if not treated early. We screen all dogs for Lyme disease annually. We recommend the use of Frontline to protect against Lyme disease. Proper use of Frontline prevents the tick from being able to spread Lyme disease to your pet, and should generally be applied from March through November.
Kittens and Adult Cats
Feline Distemper Vaccine (FVRCP) is a combination vaccine that protects against multiple diseases with one injection. Healthy kittens should receive their first FVRCP booster at 6-8 weeks of age. This vaccine is administered every 3 to 4 weeks until kittens are about 16 weeks old. This usually means about 3 boosters at 8, 12, 16 weeks of age. The vaccine is then given every three years. The vaccination protects cats and kittens against Panleukopenia (Distemper), Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Calicivirus (FCV).
Like dogs, cats are required to be vaccinated against rabies. All cats over 6 months of age are required to be vaccinated for rabies. Cats must be revaccinated 9 to 12 months from the time of their first vaccine then every 3 years.
A vaccine that protects cats against infection with the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is available. The vaccine can be administered to cats over 12 weeks of age that are FeLV negative. A booster vaccination is administered 3-4 weeks following the first vaccine and then is given every year afterwards. This vaccine is not always recommended. Indoor only cats don't always need this protection.
Intestinal worms are commonly found in young kittens and adult cats. We routinely de-worm kittens and recommend stool examinations at regular intervals.
Due to your pet's individual requirements and specific needs, your veterinarian may modify this schedule.