Adding a new pet to your family can be a wonderful and confusing experience for many people. Here you have this squirming bundle of furry joy already stealing your heart one kiss or snuggle at a time but then comes the not-so-fun decisions of health care and vaccines. What food should they eat? How should I potty train them? What about doggie school? What the heck is that vaccine that they need? Distemper something or another. Does this have to do with their temperament? Someone explained it to me once but all I heard was blah, blah, blah..your dog needs them every so often…make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Well, here is a basic rundown of our hospital’s core canine vaccine, the distemper combination ( DHPP or DHPPL depending on your pet’s needs). This basic but important vaccine is started at 8 weeks of age and boosted every 3-4 weeks until 16-20 weeks old. The vaccines are given in a series because a puppy’s immune system is ever changing and some early vaccines are not completely protective thanks to their mother’s antibodies. This is why a young dog who has had one vaccine can still become infected with diseases such as parvovirus. As an adult, the distemper combination is boosted at 12 months old and then every 3 years. There are other vaccines available such as the rabies vaccine (required by law), kennel cough, canine flu, and lyme , but we are not going to focus on those today. Continue…
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?
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.