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FAQ for New Pet Owners

There is no question too big or too small for our veterinary team. Below are
some answers to our most common new pet owner questions.

Touhy Animal Hospital FAQs

When do I start vaccinating my pets?
  • Puppy vaccinations start at 6-8 weeks. There’s a series of 3 vaccines, given three weeks apart, also known as boosters. These boosters include distemper (parvovirus), Bordetella (kennel cough), and rabies, which is given after three months of age. The first RV vaccine is usually given with final boosters. The process of booster vaccines stimulates the puppy’s own immune system against viruses.
  • For kittens, vaccinations start at 8-9 weeks of age. There’s a series of 3 vaccines, given three weeks apart. The FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis), FeLV (feline leukemia), and rabies vaccine which is given after three months of age. Kittens are tested for FIV (feline immunodeficiency) after 6-8 weeks of age with a blood test.
What are the recommended vaccines?

When designing a vaccination program, veterinarians consider the pet’s lifestyle, related disease risks, and the characteristics of available vaccines. Core vaccines are recommended for most pets. These might include rabies, feline panleukopenia, feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus infection, canine distemper, canine parvovirus infection, and canine hepatitis. Additional non-core vaccines such as feline leukemia, canine kennel cough, and other vaccines may be appropriate based on the pet’s particular needs.

When can I spay/neuter my pet?
  • Spaying can be done anytime after 5-6 months of age, and it’s the best way to control the number of unwanted pets. The procedure also can be beneficial for your pet since it stops the attraction of males, and she will be less likely to roam away looking for a “boyfriend.” If your pet is spayed before the first cycle, the risk of breast cancer is reduced by 90%. Additionally, spaying completely eliminates infections or cancer of the uterus and ovaries, not to mention messy heat cycles!
  • Neutering can also be done at any time after 5-6 months of age. It decreases behaviors associated with trying to find a mate, such as roaming and territorial marking. It may also diminish aggressive tendencies, especially towards other males. From a medical point of view, neutering is important because it eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer and greatly reduces the chances of your pet developing prostate cancer.
How much food should my pet eat?
  • Choose a high-quality food and look at the recommendations on the label. Remember, these feeding recommendations are simply guidelines, not absolutes. There is often a wide range listed, and there is little consistency in feeding guidelines between brands. You must consider the following and adjust the food amount accordingly:
    • The actual calorie content of the food
    • Your pet’s weight (and projected target weight if necessary). Ask your veterinarian if you’re not sure about an ideal weight for your pet
    • Your pet’s activity level
    • Other environmental variables (temperature)
    • Any additional calories from treats or table foods
    • Remember, most pets are overfed and under-exercised—so if in doubt about how much to feed initially, feed a little less than what it says on the bag.
How do my pet’s nails look?
  • A dog’s nail is constructed of a hard outer cover, which protects the quick, which is the inner soft part containing blood vessels and tender nerve endings. In dogs with light-colored nails, the quick can often be seen as being faintly pinkish in color and is thus easy to avoid cutting into. In the more common black-nailed variety, the quick is totally invisible. Therefore, knowing exactly how to cut a dog’s nails is important. In these cases, trimming off small nibbles instead of large slices is recommended.
  • The cat claw is made up of keratin, a hard protein that makes up the sheath, and in the center of the claw is the quick, which contains blood and nerves. The claw is a scythe-shaped appendage that is attached to the end bone of the toe. The front feet have five toes, and five claws per foot, and the back feet have four toes and four claws per foot. Some cats (known as polydactyls) have more than the normal number of toes and claws.
What are dewclaws, and should I get it removed?
  • A dewclaw is similar to a thumb, complete with a toenail, but it grows a little higher on the paw than the rest of the toenails on that paw, and it never comes in contact with the ground. The majority of dogs have their dewclaws on the front paws, but some dogs also get it on the rear paws.
  • Most dogs with dewclaws do just fine without having to remove them. But sometimes the dewclaws are not “properly attached.” They may also dangle or hang or just get in the way during the normal course of playing and walking. Dogs with dewclaws who also love to dig a lot will sometimes irritate the dewclaw or potentially break the dewclaw bone. (Not all dewclaws have bones.) If the dewclaws on your dog’s front or rear paws seem to easily get caught on things, then they could easily rip off, which would be very painful for the dog.
How important is it to groom my pet and how often?

Grooming does more than make your pet look good. Regular brushing, bathing, and trimming can help your pet’s skin and make their hair/coat healthy. Regular grooming also helps you be aware of changes in your pet’s body, such as skin conditions. It can also strengthen the relationship between you and your pet. Depending on the type of breed you have, it can vary when you will need to groom your pet. If your pet has long hair, you should brush it at least twice a week. If you need the fur to be trimmed, it should be no more than every 6-8 weeks.

What does blood work encompass?
  • General Blood Work: Blood testing for your dog or cat is an important part of diagnosing disease and is often done routinely to detect early signs of disease. Blood testing is frequently used as a first step in diagnosing disease in an ill animal. It is also commonly used to screen apparently normal, healthy animals for early signs of disease.
  • Pre-Anesthetic: Before your pet undergoes a procedure that requires sedation or anesthesia, it is ideal for them to have a complete physical examination by a veterinarian to determine their overall health. The veterinarian may also recommend blood tests such as a CBC and chemistry panels to check the health of some of the internal organs such as the kidneys and liver. Some types of anesthesia are eliminated from the body through these organs.
  • Heartworm Test: A heartworm test is a test to check for evidence of the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, more commonly known as heartworm, in your dog’s bloodstream. The test should be performed on any dog showing signs of heartworm disease, e.g., exercise intolerance, coughing, loss of appetite, weight loss, labored breathing, or heart disease. Antigens for the heartworm cannot be detected until seven months after the initial infection. For this reason, testing animals less than seven months of age is not indicated. Annual re-testing is recommended for dogs not receiving heartworm preventative year round. Testing every year is recommended for dogs on year-round preventative medication. Testing is also recommended when a pet owner switches between preventative medications.
What are the signs of an ear infection?
  • Head shaking is a sign of an ear infection. If you see your pet shaking its head frequently, it could mean that they are uncomfortable.
  • Cocking the head in an unusual manner and angle, dogs will do anything to get rid of whatever is blocking their ear. In the case of an ear infection, the pet will often experience an excessive amount of earwax.
  • Scratching excessively in the same area can mean there could be an ear mite, bacterial infection, or skin infection.
  • When your pet has an ear infection, the earwax will have a foul smell.
  • Inflammation, redness, and tenderness in the area can also mean there’s a problem with the skin in your dog’s ear.