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Start Your Puppy or Kitten Off on the Right Paw

Smiling vet-tech with kittens

At Bay Country Veterinary Hospital, we believe that one of the keys to excellent pet health is having a solid foundation. That is why from the very first day you bring your puppy or kitten in to see us, we will work with you to provide the knowledge and tools needed to ensure a long, healthy, and happy life for your pet.

New Pet Care: The First Appointment

As soon as you know when you’ll be bringing your puppy or kitten home (typically no younger than 8 weeks of age), please contact us to set up an appointment. Even if new pets have had their first round of vaccinations, it’s still important for our veterinarians to conduct a thorough physical exam in order to confirm that they are healthy and to test for intestinal parasites, which are not uncommon in puppies and kittens.

For the first appointment, you will want to bring a copy of any previous records you have for the puppy or kitten. You will also want to bring a stool sample.

Veterinarian with puppy

Our veterinarians will then give your new puppy or kitten a thorough nose-to-tail examination. Your puppy or kitten will also be screened for intestinal parasites (worms), which may be living in your pet’s digestive tract. These can be transmitted via the mother or through the puppy or kitten’s environment, and they are often found in young canines and felines. We recommend that puppies and kittens be dewormed with medication at least twice, three weeks apart, to remove intestinal parasites.

During your pet’s first appointment, our veterinarians will also discuss health, care, and behavioral tips for your puppy or kitten. From preventive care, vaccinations, and litter box or housebreaking to nutrition, exercise, obedience training, and pet toys, this is a perfect time to ask questions and get the answers you need. Our veterinarians and staff are happy to help in any way we can.


Pet Vaccinations

Puppies and kittens will receive a series of vaccinations beginning at around 9 weeks of age. In the case of kittens, they will receive a series of three “kitten shots” using a combination vaccine that protects against rhinotracheitis, calici virus, and panleukopenia. They will also be screened for the feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. If kittens are likely to have exposure to the outdoors or other cats, then it’s recommended that they receive the feline leukemia vaccine. It’s typically given at 10-13 weeks of age, with a booster following three weeks later. The rabies vaccine will be administered at the same appointment as the third kitten shot.

Puppies will receive a series of three distemper combination immunizations (“puppy shots”), and these are given three weeks apart. These vaccinations help to protect your puppy against a number of viral, highly contagious, and potentially fatal diseases including hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza. Typically a one-year rabies vaccination is administered at the same appointment as the third puppy shot.

Two additional vaccines are also recommended, depending upon the puppy’s lifestyle. The bordetella vaccine protects canines against kennel cough. Puppies who are likely to go to the groomer, dog park, or kennel (after receiving all of their booster shots) should receive this vaccine. A Lyme vaccination is recommended for puppies that spend a lot of time outdoors or live in areas that are wooded or have tall grasses. Bordetella and Lyme vaccines are typically given between 16-21 weeks of age, and a booster shot is administered three weeks after the initial immunization.

Once your puppy has completed his or her series of vaccinations, it is important to begin socializing with people and with other animals. This will put your puppy on the path to sound emotional health, and it can help prevent future issues with fear, aggression, and owner possessiveness.


Spay or Neuter: Preventing Litters and Potentially Serious Health Issues

Some pet owners worry that spaying or neutering will cause their dog or cat to undergo a change in personality. The truth is that the majority of pets experience no significant emotional changes after the procedure. In addition to stopping unwanted litters, there are many health benefits that spaying or neutering can provide to your puppy or kitten.

In the case of spaying, these include the elimination of the possibility of ovarian and uterine tumors, the prevention of potentially life-threatening uterine infections (pyometra), a decrease in the occurrence of mammary cancer (mammary adenocarcinoma), and a potential lessening in intraspecies aggression. For neutering, the benefits include prevention of testicular cancer, a decrease in the risk of prostatic disease, and a potential decrease in roaming tendencies and intraspecies aggression.


We typically suggest that puppies or kittens have this surgery at around 6 months of age. Please contact us if you have any additional questions or if you’re ready to schedule your pet’s spay or neuter surgery.

Canine Influenza
Influenza virus in dogs is an infectious respiratory disease. Virus transmission can occur from direct contact with an infected dog or with its secretions (i.e. saliva, nasal discharge, etc.). Vaccination is recommended for dogs that board frequently, attend group training classes or events with other dogs, play regularly at the dog park or doggie daycare, or who go to the groomer consistently. Our doctors can help you decide if your dog should receive an influenza vaccination.
Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent in our area. The disease is spread via skin contact or ingestion of the urine of infected domestic animals and wildlife. Because the disease could be quite serious, and because it is transmissible to humans, we recommend vaccinating all dogs who go outside, even for leashed walks. Talk to one of our doctors to determine if your dog would benefit from a Leptospirosis vaccination.