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Common Questions Posed to Our Staff

1. When do I start vaccinating my pet and which vaccines are needed?

Most vaccines are given as a series up to a certain age then continued as boosters either annually or in the case of rabies vaccines for dogs and cats (in Mississippi), every 3 years. The following information outlines general guidelines in the 3 species of pets that are commonly vaccinated.

Dogs :

DHLPP – (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo virus) – This vaccine containing 5 components is begun during adolescence and is given at monthly intervals 2 or 3 times depending on the age when started. It may be given as early as 6 weeks of age. It is boostered annually.

Parvo virus – This vaccine which is part of the combination vaccine above may need to be given as a separate injection at 18 or 20 weeks of age depending on when the DHLPP is started. It is boostered annually as part of the DHLPP.

Bordetella – May be given any time during adolescence at 6 weeks or older as a single administration and continued annually.

Rabies – Given at 4 to 6 months of age, boostered in 1 year then every 3 years thereafter. Required by Mississippi law in dogs.

Lyme Disease – Recommended for dogs who live or travel in areas where tick infestation is an issue. Can begin as early s 9 weeks of age, repeated in 3-4 weeks and boostered annually.

Cats :

FVRCP ( Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) – Begin at 8 weeks of age, repeat in one month and booster annually.

FELV ( Feline Leukemia Virus ) – Begin at 10 weeks of age, repeat in 1 month then annually.

Rabies – Given at 4 to 6 months, repeated in 1 year then every 3 years thereafter.

FIP – (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) Given only in certain circumstances.

Ferrets :

Distemper – Begin at 6 to 8 weeks,repeat twice at monthly intervals, then booster annually.

Rabies – Give at 3 months, then booster annually.

2. Should I spay or neuter my pet?

We answer this question with a definite “yes”. Thousands of companion animals are put to death in this small city every year due to over population. In addition to that benefit, certain medical conditions are prevented by spaying and neutering.

3. How old should my pet be before spaying or neutering is performed?

In most cases between 4 and 6 months of age.

4. If I spay or neuter my pet will his or her behavior change?

The short answer to this question is yes! However what people really want to know when they ask this question is, “Will my pet act differently towards me? or “Will I dislike the way he acts after surgery”? Sterilization surgery affects sexual behavior and inter dog aggressive behavior primarily. His or her ability to be a companion to a person will not change.

5. How big will my dog get?

This question is posed frequently by the new owners of a mixed breed puppy. We can usually come fairly close by looking at the general body structure at a given age and comparing that size to a known breed of similar body structure. As one might expect, a bit of experience is required.

6. How do I know when my animal is in pain?

Crying out or vocalizing repetitively when touched or picked up may be an obvious sign of pain although, a very frightened animal might react similarly. More subtle signs may include restlessness, panting when not hot ( in the case of dogs ), trembling, refusal to eat or reluctance to do a common activity. All of these signs must be viewed in the context of any given situation to be identified as induced by pain since anxiety can produce very similar signs.

7. How do I know when my pet has a problem serious enough to justify bringing him to see the doctor?

The problem here of course is that there is a language barrier between humans and animals. You would like to just ask him how badly he feels and how long he has felt that way. People have a hard enough time deciding when they should see their own doctor. A general rule is that if you spot a problem that you know would cause you to seek medical attention if it were you instead of your pet, then your pet needs to be seen. More subtle problems that persist for more than a day or so at least warrant a phone call to the clinic so that we may begin the problem identification process.

8. Is there any medication I can give to make my pet feel better without bringing him in for an examination?

We cannot prescribe or dispense medication without a diagnosis.

9. How much should I feed my pet?

All reputable pet food manufacturers include a feeding guide with their foods. One must remember that these guidelines provide a starting point only and that you will know within a relatively short period of time( 1 to 2 weeks ) if your animal is being over or under fed simply by observing his body. He should of course not appear gaunt but his ribs should be easily felt with your fingers. Unfortunately, far too many of the animals we see are overweight which predisposes them to a number of health problems.

10. When can I walk my puppy in the park?

Some dogs do not become adequately immunized against certain preventable diseases (Parvo most notably) until 18 to 20 weeks of age. Therefore avoidance of locations where many dogs of unknown background congregate or have been seems to make sense. However puppies do need to to be socialized by being exposed to many sites, sounds, and experiences so we recommend taking them to less “canine intensive” sites and exposing them to known healthy, vaccinated dogs belonging to friends. Since some diseases and parasites are transmitted by exposure to feces, you need to control where your puppy puts his nose when on his walks.

11. Is there a cheap place to take my pet (for health care)?

Though prices can vary from one clinic to another, all veterinary facilities in our area are private businesses that must support their existence and pay their staff by charging fees for services. That is to say, no tax dollars go to government funded programs to support health care of companion animals. Pets do indeed constitute a financial commitment that is best considered before adoption.

12. How can I tell if my pet is in heat and how long will it last?

Dogs : The first heat cycle in dogs usually occurs around 7 to 8 months of age and is signaled by swelling of the vulva and a bloody vaginal discharge (though the discharge can be quite variable from breed to breed). The entire cycle is about 3 weeks from start to finish. Most dogs repeat their cycle about every 6 months.

Cats : The first heat cycle in cats usually occurs around 6 to 7 months of age. The cat may often be seen rolling on the floor or ground and become extra affectionate towards their owner. She may be more vocal and actually scream very loudly. This behavior may persist for 5 to 8 days followed by a period of quiescence of the same duration. This behavior may then repeat 5 to 8 times or until she is bred by a male cat.

13. How old do puppies and kittens have to be before taking them away from their mom?

Weaning usually occurs at 5 to 6 weeks of age.

14. Will my pet miss her “baby”?

Mother dogs and cats do seem to “miss” their offspring. They seem to search for them and may eat poorly for a few days. You can help them through this period by spending more time with them, doing various “jolly routines” as they adjust to life without their offspring.