Partnership of Your Family Veterinarian & Our Specialty and Emergency Hospitals
With canceled spring sports seasons, teleworking, and stay-at-home orders, many families have taken advantage of this extra time to adopt a new pet. What better time than now to potty train and socialize a new four-legged family member? However, after adopting a pet in the middle of a pandemic, you may be wondering what constitutes essential veterinary care. Most medical facilities, including veterinary hospitals, are asking clients to schedule essential health care only, so should you take your new pet to the veterinarian?
If you have adopted a puppy or kitten, the simple answer is yes. Many health care services for new pets are critical for short- and long-term health, and should be provided sooner rather than later. Although some services, including your new pet’s spay or neuter surgery, should wait until the crisis passes, important preventive care is essential to your pet’s health. Without routine preventive care, new pets are left unprotected against diseases and parasites, some life-threatening. Although Compassion-First is always here if your pet develops a serious medical problem, these preventive services will be administered by a general practice veterinarian who partners with our network of emergency and specialty hospitals. Follow these five steps to ensure your new furry family member is protected.
#1: Identify a family veterinarian for your new pet
If you don’t currently have a trusted family veterinarian, you will need to quickly identify your pet’s new health advocate. Search the internet for area veterinary hospitals, and read reviews to get a feel for the hospital’s culture. Talk with local friends and family to see whom they trust with their pet’s health care—personal accounts are often more valuable than online reviews. Most importantly, look for a veterinarian who will share your priorities. If holistic pet care is important to you, search for a hospital that offers more than traditional medical services. If you want state-of-the-art services for your pet, look for a veterinarian who offers the latest technology, such as laser surgery and digital X-rays.
Keep in mind that most veterinary hospitals are offering curbside appointments at this time, and you likely will not meet your pet’s new veterinarian face-to-face until after the pandemic risk decreases. Most communication during your pet’s first appointment will take place via phone, or video conferencing.
You should also locate your local Compassion-First veterinary hospital, in case your pet requires emergency or specialty care. Although we hope your new pet never develops a serious health problem, the reality is that most pets will need specialty treatment at some point. Just as your family doctor has likely referred you to a dermatologist or orthopedist, your family veterinarian may recommend that your pet see a veterinary specialist for more advanced care and expertise.
#2: Schedule a physical exam for your new pet
A puppy or kitten should be examined during the first week she comes into your home, so she can be screened for problems, such as:
- Congenital defects — Puppies and kittens are sometimes born with developmental defects, such as a cleft palate or undescended testicles. While some defects will have little effect on your pet’s long-term health, rare defects, such as a patent ductus arteriosus that can cause heart failure, can lead to severe impairment, and death, if not detected early.
- Parasite infections — A flea infestation or roundworm infection can become life-threatening in a tiny puppy or kitten. Your veterinarian will look for signs of fleas, lice, and mites during her physical exam. You will want to bring a fecal sample, so she can also screen for intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, and Giardia.
- Bacterial or viral infections — Puppies and kittens with developing immune systems are susceptible to infectious diseases. Kittens, in particular, can contract severe respiratory infections that can lead to difficulty breathing and potentially pneumonia, if not treated early.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam, to ensure your new pet looks healthy, and is free from life-threatening illnesses. If a serious medical problem is detected, our Compassion-First hospitals partner with primary care veterinarians throughout the country to provide life-saving specialty care to pets.
#3: Complete your new pet’s vaccines
Vaccines are the most important means of protecting your pet from infectious diseases. Although your new pet may not contact other pets for months, some viruses (e.g., parvovirus) can persist in the environment for years, and are a constant threat. Puppy and kitten vaccines should begin at 6 weeks of age, and you should check with the shelter or breeder whether your pet received any vaccines prior to adoption. Puppies and kittens require booster vaccines every three to four weeks, which typically adds up to several veterinary visits, to ensure they are fully protected. Although we are under quarantine, it is essential that your puppy or kitten receive all necessary vaccines, to develop long-term immunity to common diseases.
If you have adopted an adult pet who has already been vaccinated, you should ask your family veterinarian whether she recommends a visit now, or after business returns to normal. Many hospitals are using telemedicine to address medical concerns during the pandemic, and you may be able to communicate with a veterinarian via phone, text, or videoconference to determine whether your pet should be seen.
#4: Start parasite prevention for your new pet
Since it is spring, parasites are out in full force, searching for unprotected pets. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes pose a constant threat, and protection is an important component of your pet’s basic health care. Parasites your pet needs immediate protection from include:
- Heartworms — Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and can cause deadly heart and lung disease. Many prevention medications are available, from monthly flavored chewable tablets, to an annual injection that provides 12 months of protection for adult dogs.
- Fleas — In addition to itchy bites, a severe flea infestation can cause life-threatening anemia in puppies or kittens. Many flea preventives are available, including monthly spot-on products, chewable treats, and collars that provide protection for several months.
- Ticks — Ticks can transmit a number of diseases, including ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, to pets and people. Most flea preventives also protect pets against ticks, so ensure the product you choose is effective against both. Since these diseases can cause significant health problems, use only products recommended by your veterinarian, instead of over-the-counter brands, to ensure efficacy and safety.
- Intestinal parasites — Most puppies and kittens are born with roundworms, and several medication doses are necessary to eliminate the worms before they accumulate, and cause serious problems. Your veterinarian will check your pet’s fecal sample, to ensure she does not have any other intestinal parasites.
#5: Recognize when your new pet requires emergency care
Puppies and kittens are full of mischief, and sometimes land themselves in trouble that requires emergency veterinary care. We hope your pet never needs emergency care, but keep your local Compassion-First hospital's emergency number handy, in case your pet exhibits signs of a medical emergency, such as:
- Excessive bleeding
- Breathing difficulty
- Broken bone
- Seizure activity
- Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
- Known toxin exposure
Your family veterinarian can handle most of your pet’s health care needs, but if she is unavailable, or your pet needs emergency or specialty care, Compassion-First is always here for you. If your pet develops a medical problem that requires specialty care, we will partner with your family veterinarian to provide the most comprehensive, state-of-the art diagnostics and treatments available to return your pet to good health.