1. Why do I have to get my puppies and kittens a series of vaccines instead of just one?
When puppies and kittens are born, they are able to share some of their mother’s antibody protection against diseases such as parvo virus and distemper through nursing milk. As time goes on (over the next few weeks to months from birth), the young pet’s own immune response kicks in and the mother’s protection decreases. A series of two vaccines are needed at any time a vaccine is started(except for the Rabies vaccine) to formulate a strong immune response, but the question is- When should those vaccines be given? If given at too young of an age, the mother’s immunity blocks the vaccines from being effective. If given too late, there is a risk of the mother’s protection being too weak or gone and the pet is exposed to a virus before the immune protection benefit of the vaccine. To manage this immune delemma, we vaccinate puppies and kittens every 3-4 weeks starting at 8 weeks of age until 16-20 weeks old.
Do you have a cat or dog that is not a youngster but never vaccinated? They still need a set of two vaccines 3-4 weeks apart to be protected (again, the Rabies vaccine is a single booster and an exception to this rule). Some vaccines last 6 months, some are good for 3 years. It is up to your veterinarian to set a schedule of reminders so that you can keep track of your pet’s preventive needs.
2. Why do should I have my dog tested for heartworm disease if I have given preventative monthly year round?
So What Have I Learned?
I have spent an exhausting yet rewarding 23 years in the veterinary field as a technician. During the last four years, my time has been devoted to the area of animal rehabilitation therapy (doggie physical therapy but we can’t call it that due to rules and regulations, blah, blah, blah). This has been a rewarding and challenging area of focus with some triumphs and flat out failures. As a perfectionist at heart, the reality of my new field has humbled me with it’s ups and downs and uncertain outcomes. The technician’s rehab experience will be different than that of a veterinarian or human physical therapist. In my rehab case, I went from being a worker bee (carrying out the doctor’s orders) to being a decision maker and treatment planner. The patient’s outcome rested mostly on my shoulders with the rehabilitation plan that I designed. Talk about a whole new level of stress! Upon reflection of theses last few years, I have come to a few conclusions about rehabilitation therapy.
Pearls of Wisdom That I Have Learned
1. The classes and text books are only small part of the learning process when trying to develop a rehab program or protocol. The real learning begins when you are on your own and managing your own cases. Reality can be harsh but a great teacher. Make your mistakes, learn from them, move on.
2. There are way more tools and modalities then you will ever need or use in general on a daily basis (this is just a practical truth). Pick the ones that you feel will allow you to achieve the most reliable results in the best amount of time. For me, laser and aqua therapy are my core modalities with land exercises (using Fitpaws equipment) coming in third.
3. Your eyes and hands are the most valuable assessment tool that you have. Place your hands on every patient and learn to trust yourself.
4. Some dogs just don’t get better. Rehab is not guaranteed to always have a positive outcome. There are a variety of reasons that this may be true such as surgical complications, progressing disease process, and/or overall body condition. Except this and find a good solution for their needs.
5. Rehab (specifically the underwater treadmill) can’t fix everything. Sometimes surgery or (gasp) plain old rest is a better solution to the problem. In a few cases such as disk disease, exercise can even make the symptoms worse. Continue…
As our pets approach their senior years, things begin to change for them. Their vision and hearing can become impaired, weight can become an issue (too heavy or too thin), and their activity levels seem to slow down (often times due to arthritis or degenerative processes). From a rehab therapist’s perspective, it is very important to not let these changes negatively impact a pet’s mobility and independence if we can help it. Keeping our senior dogs on their feet and moving is one of the most important things an owner can do for the aging pet. Once an older dog (especially a larger one) goes down and decides that they do not want to get back up, it can a difficult situation for everyone. So how do we avoid this problem? Keep them healthy and moving!
Keep Them Moving!
Exercising a senior dog does not have to be complicated. If we keep in mind some basic goals and expectations, then we can turn a daily routine into an enjoyable home rehab therapy session. What should our goals be? To keep the geriatric pet up and moving at a level that is comfortable for them. Combining activities that challenge body awareness (Where are my feet?) and support strengthening are an ideal senior exercise plan. To put it in simple terms: older pets need to find a low intensity activity that engages their mind, gets them walking with changes in direction (circles and turns are important), and has them stepping over stuff.
Many of our older dogs still have a huge play drive and desire to go-go-go, but what we need to do as pet parents is to channel this energy into a more structured and controlled play time. It is better to be able to participate in that loved activity such as swimming or ball play for a shorter/less intense time every few days then to go all out with high-drive fun in a single day and then be sore for the next few days or weeks. On the other hand, some senior dogs could care less about going for that walk or being active. These pets are a challenge because we need to find what motivates them and then use it to encourage productive activity.