Basic Health Check For Your New Puppy Or Kitten

Congratulations – you have a new puppy!

You’ve anticipated the new arrival by 'puppyproofing' your home and had lots of fun choosing the crate, bed, blanket, toys and other supplies he will need. This frisky little creature is sure to bring you much joy. In return, you can make a major contribution to your pet’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, sanitary environment and regular checkups at your veterinarian’s.



Desexing your puppy

Many veterinarians believe that desexing not only helps solve the serious problem of unwanted pet overpopulation, but also makes

for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female dogs are more relaxed, while castrated males are less likely to roam, or urine-mark their territory, or fight with other males. Plus, desexing has health benefits - it helps to minimize the risk for cancers of the reproductive organs and the mammary glands in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems and testicular cancer in males.



Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female dog, usually around the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia and occasionally involves an overnight stay at the veterinary clinic. Complications are rare and recovery normally is complete within two weeks.



Castrating, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male dog through an incision at the base of the scrotum. Usually performed when the puppy is about six months old, it necessitates only a brief hospital stay. Full recovery takes about seven to ten days.



Your puppy’s basic health check
Your new puppy should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:
• A thorough physical examination to determine his state of health.
• Check for external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites).
• Check for internal parasites (tapeworm, roundworm, etc.), if you can bring a fresh stool sample for analysis. Blood tests may also be done.
• Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your puppy needs and when they should be scheduled.
• Discussion about whether your puppy should be desexed (spayed or castrated) and when.



This first health check will give your veterinarian the information they need to advise you on your puppy’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will give them a “knowledge base” from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your pup’s life, they can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health.



Make your new puppy feel at home

Show your puppy the special places where he or she can eat, sleep and eliminate and, since they're probably quite overwhelmed, give him or her some quiet time to themselves to let them adjust to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of their new home. Be sure, if there are also young children in the home, that they are taught that a puppy is not a toy, but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. As early as 8 weeks old, your puppy is capable of learning specific lessons – so start house-breaking and teaching simple obedience commands the day you bring him or her home. Your veterinarian can suggest the best training methods and, if you wish, recommend a good obedience school. Your pup will find learning fun and easy and, with your positive reinforcement, they should remember their lessons well!



Your Geriatric Dog

When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When they're a puppy. Starting off your dog’s life with good nutrition, regular exercise, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in their older years. However, as your dog ages, much like humans, changes to the metabolism will occur. Paying attention to your dog’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier.



What you can do at home
• Check your dog’s mouth, eyes and ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge.
• Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.
• Groom your pet often. You’ll detect any unusual sores or lumps and keep their coat healthy.
• Make fresh water available at all times.
• Maintain a regime of proper nutrition, exercise and loving attention.
 

How old is your dog?

 

If your dog is...

In human terms, that's

6 months 
8 months 
10 months 
12 months 
18 months 
2 years 
3 years 
4 years 
5 years 
6 years 
7 years 
8 years 
9 years 
10 years 
11 years 
12 years 
13 years 
14 years 
15 years 
16 years

10 years
13 years 
14 years 
15 years 
20 years 
23 years 
26 years 
32 years 
36 years 
40 years 
44 years 
48 years 
52 years 
56 years 
60 years 
64 years 
68 years 
72 years 
76 years 
80 years
* Please note, these equivalencies refer to small breeds.


Common Problems



Obesity is a big health risk. An older dog is a less active dog, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake

are imperative. This will relieve pressure on their joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive

problems and more. Other changes to their nutrition should include increasing fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.



Arthritis’ severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. An exercise program, also to maintain muscle tone and

mass, can be adjusted to their condition. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe any necessary medication.



Intolerance to hot and cold temperatures occurs because your dog produces less of the hormones which regulate the body’s normal temperature. Move his bed closer to a heater and bring him indoors on cold days.



Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of nasty infections. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will keep these to a minimum.



Prostate enlargement or Mammary Gland Tumours is mostly diagnosed in uncastrated or unspeyed dogs. Have the prostate or mammary glands examined at checkups.



Separation Anxiety presents itself when older dogs can’t cope with stress. Aggressive behaviour, noise phobia, increased barking and whining or restless sleep are the signs. Medication combined with behaviour modification techniques are key.



Skin or coat problems Ageing means the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the coat’s hair thins and dulls over time. Grooming more often and fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial.



Canine Cognitive Dysfunction manifests itself in confusion, disorientation or decreased activity. Medication can help solve some of these issues.

 

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Congratulations – you have a new kitten!

Desexing your kitten
Many veterinarians believe that desexing not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted cats, but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female cats are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while castrated males are calmer and less likely to ‘spray’ or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight. Plus, desexing has health benefits – it minimizes the risk for breast cancer in females and prostate problems in males. 

Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually around the age of six months (but can be performed earlier). A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia and occasionally involves an overnight stay at the veterinary clinic. Complications are rare and recovery normally is complete within ten days. 

Castrating, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male cat. The small wounds that result usually heal in about a week. Less complicated than spaying, it is usually performed on a ‘day surgery’ basis when the cat is approximately 6 months old, but can be performed earlier if required. 

Your kitten’s basic health check
Your new kitten should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:

  • Thorough physical examination to determine his or her state of health.
  • Check for external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites).
  • Check for internal parasites (tapeworm, roundworm, etc.), if you can bring a stool sample for analysis.
  • Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your kitten needs and when they should be scheduled.
  • Discussion about whether your kitten should be desexed (spayed or castrated) and when.


This first health check will give your veterinarian the information they need to advise you on your kitten’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will give them a “knowledge base” from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your cat’s life, they can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health. 

Make your new kitten feel at home
With sensitive handling and friendly contact for at least an hour a day, your new kitten should soon be very comfortable with you and their new home. Be sure, if there are also young children in the home, that they are taught that a kitten is not a toy, but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. And provide your pet with lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy their natural instincts. Toys that they can pretend to ‘hunt’ and capture and special posts that they can scratch (instead of your carpets and furniture) will help make your kitten a joy to live with. 

Your Geriatric Cat
When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When they're a kitten. Starting off your cat’s life with good nutrition, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in their older years. Most cats are considered geriatric by the age of 8 to 10. Much like humans, time takes its toll on vital organ functions as your cat ages. Cats are more subtle than dogs in showing you when they are sick or in pain. Paying attention to your cat’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier and help them live healthy lives well into their teens. 

What you can do at home
 

  • Check your cat’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharges.
  • Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.
  • Make fresh water available at all times.
  • Maintain a regime of proper nutrition and loving attention.


 

How old is your cat?
 

If your cat is...

In human terms, that's

1 month 
2 months 
3 months 
4 months 
5 months 
6 months 
7 months 
8 months 
1 year 
2 years 
3 years 
4 years 
5 years 
6 years 
7 years 
8 years 
9 years 
10 years 
11 years 
12 years 
13 years 
14 years 
15 years 
16 years 
17 years

5-6 months
9-10 months 
2-3 years 
5-6 years 
8-9 years 
14 years 
15 years 
16 years 
18 years 
25 years 
30 years 
35 years 
38-40 years 
42-44 years 
45 years 
48 years 
55 years 
60 years 
62 years 
65 years 
68 years 
72 years 
74 years 
76 years 
78 years


Common Problems

Obesity is a big health risk. An older cat is a less active cat, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on their joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive problems and more. Other changes to their nutrition should include increasing fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing phosphorous, sodium, protein and fat. 

Arthritis’ severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. You may detect this problem when they become less attentive about grooming and litter box habits. These signs may also indicate the slowing down of cognitive functions. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe any necessary medication. 

Intolerance to hot and cold temperatures temperatures occurs because your cat produces less of the hormones which regulate the body’s normal temperature. Move their bed closer to a heat source. If he or she is an outdoor cat, avoid letting them out on cold days. 

Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of nasty infections. Cats are very sensitive to oral pain. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will keep tartar, gum disease and gingivitis at bay. 

Constipation may point to colon problems or hair balls. A diet that is easily digestible and rich in nutrients is essential.

Skin or coat problems Ageing means the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the coat’s hair thins and dulls over time. Regular grooming to maintain the coat’s lustre and fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial. 

Frequent colds and infections may indicate an impaired immune system. Bring your cat in for a check-up. Your veterinarian may suggest a test for Feline Leukaemia Virus, and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. 

Increased thirst is a possible sign of diabetes, kidney failure or hyperthyroidism. Your veterinarian will determine this and prescribe the appropriate medication. 

Decreased sense of smell may drastically reduce your cat’s appetite. Try serving smaller portions more often throughout the day. Ask your veterinarian about foods formulated for geriatric cats. They may have a stronger concentration of aromas.

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