By Christie Long
At this time of year, many families make the decision to bring a new kitten or puppy into the household.
As a veterinarian, I wholeheartedly endorse this trend, especially when the family is educated about and prepared for the responsibilities of pet ownership.
There are several excellent rescue organizations in our area that adopt puppies and kittens (as well as adult animals), but it’s important to ask plenty of questions before adoption.
Young animals, like young children, need multiple rounds of the same vaccination in order to induce proper levels of immunity. Vaccinations are usually given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. De-worming medications also should be administered to very young puppies and kittens in two or three doses at three to four week intervals. Because these medications kill parasites at certain stages of their life cycles, only administering them once may leave the immature form of the parasite alive and well in the body. Potential adopters should inquire as to which vaccines and de-worming medications have been given, and ask for written records of these treatments, so that they can be reviewed by the family’s veterinarian at the new pet’s first visit.
Kittens and cats should be tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS either prior to adoption or shortly thereafter. This is a blood test that determines whether the kitten has either of these very serious and ultimately fatal diseases. Although cats can live many years with these diseases, they can be passed to other cats in the household. Clearly, knowing that a cat is free of these diseases is an extremely important part of getting a new cat.
These recommendations apply not only to rescuing a pet, but also to buying a puppy or kitten from a breeder. Some breeders administer the first vaccinations and de-worming treatments themselves. Others go so far as to have the entire litter examined by a veterinarian prior to purchase to identify any health issues. Again, all of this information is important to share with your veterinarian, so ask for it in writing. Please, do not be satisfied with the verbal assurance that “he’s had all his shots."
It’s important to know what the cost of spaying and neutering your pet will be, if this operation has not already been performed. Your veterinarian can estimate the cost of this operation and advise you as to the appropriate time to do this procedure.
As a veterinarian, I’ve had some heartbreaking moments when I’ve had to explain to the owners of a new pet that it needs care, either of a preventative nature or because it’s sick, only to find out that they are financially unprepared for the responsibilities of pet ownership. If your family is considering bringing a new pet into the household, I strongly encourage you to talk with your veterinarian about the potential costs you’re likely to incur during the first year of ownership.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Long left her job in software sales in 2000 to travel for 13 months. Along the way, she was touched by the plight of the animals she saw and somewhere in the Nepalese Himalayas she vowed to return to school to become a veterinarian. While she often finds end-of-life situations heart-wrenching, she considers herself blessed to be called upon as a trusted adviser to families during difficult times. Dr. Long’s family includes her husband and travel partner, Wiley, their son, Wiley IV, their dogs Pancake and Gizmo and cats Sneaky and Sidh.