How to Care for Your New Puppy or Kitten
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! You may be asking yourself, “now what?”
Here are some recommendations on what to do next as you welcome a new pet into your family.
Diet and Nutrition
Puppy & Kitten Diets
There is a wide variety of pet food options, each specifically formulated to provide the essential nutrients for your pet at different stages of life. Puppies and kittens require more calories and nutrients to support proper growth, which is why puppy and kitten food products are high calorie, and high in various nutrients. These diets are recommended for the first year of your puppy or kitten’s life, but can cause weight gain and digestive upset if continued after your pet is fully grown. You can discuss with your veterinarian when is the right time to wean your pet off of their puppy or kitten diet.
Portion Control and the Risk of Obesity
Portion control is an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which can put your pet as risk for developing various health conditions including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and many other serious health conditions. Not only does obesity diminish your pet’s quality of life, but it is also very costly to treat the conditions associated with obesity.
To avoid the risk of obesity with your new pet, follow the feeding recommendations that are listed on your pet’s food packaging. You can also ask your veterinarian to provide a recommended portion plan, which calculates the amount of calories your pet requires based on their age and weight.
Obesity is a critical health issue for many of our pets, over 59% of cats, and over 55% of dogs in the U.S. are classified as overweight or obese. Ask your veterinarian to learn more about how you can avoid putting your pet at risk for this serious health concern.
Your Pet’s Food Bowl & Their Health
Washing your pet’s food bowl is important to ensure it is hygienic and healthy. Leftover food (even unseen leftover food) can attract bacteria that could potentially be a health risk for your pet. Washing your pet’s food bowl in hot, soapy water after every meal is recommended. Plastic food bowls are not ideal for various reasons. Plastic can trap oil and bacteria, and can often be the source of dermal issues, such as acne. Some pets may even develop allergies to plastic. Glass or stainless steel is the ideal option, as it does not harbour bacteria the way plastic does.
House training your dog can be quite challenging. Puppies in particular can take some time to master this, but even if you have recently adopted an older dog, you may face challenges getting them familiar to a new schedule and home. Here are some tips to help you with house training:
· Reward your dog for successfully going outside. Give lots of praise, and try to use a special treat for when your dog successfully goes to the washroom outside
·Try to keep your schedule consistent. Feeding and taking your dog outside should be kept as routine as possible
· Especially with puppies, take your pet out frequently (every few fours) to avoid accidents in the home. In particular, try to take your pet out after they have finished a meal or after sleeping
· Take your pet out to the same spot. Not only does this solidify routine, but many dogs favour a particular spot to “mark”
While most cats or kittens may not go through the same process of house training as a puppy or dog, there are still some important considerations to avoid your cat or kitten having accidents. Adjusting to a new home can create challenges for a cat or kitten to master house training, but here are some tips to help the process:
· Make sure the litter box provided for your cat is easily accessible. In particular, a kitten may have challenges reaching their litter box if they have to go up stairs to get to it. When first bringing your new cat home, or changing the location of a litter box, make sure to “show” them where it is
· Cats typically prefer privacy when using their litter box, so try and find a spot that is accessible, but provides some privacy for them
· If you have more than one cat, you will need more than one litter box. Ideally, there is one litter box for every cat that is in your home.
· If your cat has persistent issues with failing to use the litter box, it could be a sign that there is a medical or behavioural problem. You can consult your veterinarian to identify the problem and obtain a solution
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering has many important benefits to both you and your pet. Spaying your female pet prevents uterine infections (pyometra) and breast cancer (mammary gland tumours), which means they can live a longer, happier life. Similarly, neutering your male pet can prevent testicular cancer or prostate problems, leading to a longer, happier life.
There are also additional behavioural benefits as well. When you spay your female pet, they will not go into heat. During breeding season, female cats tend to be very vocal and restless, furthermore, managing the menstruation of your female pet can be messy! When you neuter your male pet they are less likely to mark their territory through the act of “spraying” which is the emission of strong-smelling urine.
Spaying and neutering is actually highly cost-effective. The cost of spaying and neuter is considerably less than the costs associated with reproductive health problems, or the cost of caring for a litter.
Typically, the best time to spayed or neutered your dog is when they are 5 to 7 months old. When spaying or neutering your cat, the ideal age is when they are 4 to 6 months old. Each cat and dog develops differently, and it is best to ask your veterinarian when they think is the right time to spay or neuter your pet.
Microchips and Identification Tags
Whether you have a cat or dog, there is the risk that your pet may runaway. In the unfortunate event that your pet goes missing it can be extremely difficult to find your beloved companion without identification.
Collars that are comfortable and safe with identification tags can make an important difference in successful reuniting you with your pet should they ever become lost. Be sure to use “break-away” collars for your feline friend, to ensure it can safely undo should it get caught on something.
Microchips can offer supplementary identification for your lost pet. ID microchips are very small, and placed under your pet’s skin by your veterinarian. It is no more painful than a typical injection, but can be implanted while your pet is under anaesthesia for a procedure, such as neutering or spaying. The microchip has a unique identification code that can be recognized through the use of a scanner, available at animal shelters and veterinary clinics. This unique ID code is registered with your contact information, so if your pet is ever lost, once they are scanned they will be able to contact you and reunite you with your furry friend!
It is very important to routinely vaccinate your pet. Particularly, core vaccines are considered vital to all pets, based on the risk of exposure, the severity of the disease and/or the health risks is poses to humans. Core vaccines include:
· For Dogs: Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies
· For Cats: Panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I and rabies
There are other vaccines which are considered non-core vaccines. Administering non-core vaccines will depend on the exposure risk and lifestyle of your pet. You should consult with your veterinarian if these non-core vaccines are necessary for your pet.
Regular visits to your veterinarian is an essential component of caring for your pet. Annual examines can be conducted at the same time as yearly vaccinations. Annual examines help your veterinarian diagnose conditions and diseases. Often times, certain diseases or conditions can go unnoticed by the pet owner, and may not be apparent until a veterinarian is able to properly perform diagnostic work. Furthermore, your veterinarian may be able to spot early signs or risks for health concerns, and suggest proactive courses of treatment. In general, it is best to have your pet routinely monitored by your veterinarian, to ensure that any required treatments or interventions can be conducted as soon as possible. Annual exams are also a perfect time to discuss concerns you may have regarding your pet’s health or behaviour.
If you have a new pet, call 905-898-1010, and we would be happy to book an appointment with our vet in Newmarket to discuss all this and more!
When your baby isn't such a baby anymore - when to switch to adult foods (Cummings Veterinary Medical Center)