Many carers often have their first introduction to their pets as a puppy or a kitten. This is the time to remember that you are undertaking a very big responsibility in the health and wellbeing of an animal for the next 15–16 years.
There are many important factors that are mandatory to take into account, including:
These provide important protection against significant and potentially life-threatening infectious diseases to which a cat or dog may be exposed. While the mother may provide some immunity to these diseases, the puppy or kitten itself should have vaccinations to really give their immune system a boost and make certain that this protection is long-lasting. Kittens can have their first vaccinations at eight weeks and puppies can have their first vaccinations at six weeks.
Remember that until a puppy or kitten has had its full primary course of vaccinations, it will not be fully protected against the infectious diseases for which we are vaccinating. It is important to avoid exposing them to high-risk areas such as dog parks or common dog walking trails/routes at this time.
Puppies and kittens can contract infections through the placenta, via milk, from direct contact with their mother or from the environment. Animals with a large worm burden have poor growth, poor body condition and a pot-bellied appearance. They may also pass worms in their faeces but this isn’t always the case.
There are many preparations of wormers available and our dispensary and veterinary staff will be able to advise what is suitable for a kitten or puppy. Remember to worm at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer, and according to body weight.
These are common parasites of domestic pets but there are many preparations that are easily applied and effective for a month at a time. Fleas are blood feeders so if left untreated, a large burden could easily cause anaemia in a small kitten or puppy, making it very unwell. Fleas are also intermediate hosts of some species of tapeworm resulting in a double-barrelled risk for an untreated kitten or puppy.
Proper nutrition is vital to ensure a healthy and happy puppy or kitten and to provide the balanced proportion of nutrients to ensure strong bone growth and muscle and tissue development. There are many excellent high-quality commercial puppy and kitten foods available and we recommend feeding according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Avoid home-cooked foods and adult varieties as they may not have the correct balance of nutrients. For example, an insufficient amount of calcium in a growing puppy will result in weak and soft bones.
Puppy play and socialisation at an early age is very important. It will often determine its future interactions with its environment, people and other dogs. This should be done early, even before it has completed its primary vaccination course but care must be taken to avoid unnecessary exposure to high-risk areas (off-lead dog parks), thus compromising the health of your pet. For example, socialisation can be done at home with animals that you know are up-to-date with their vaccinations or at puppy schools where a minimum vaccination requirement has been set.