Pets – February 2013


Vet Q&A

Meaghan Eren, DVM,
Capital Vets
326 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham

How should a family handle the care of a new pet? 

When deciding on how to handle the care of a new pet, a family should discuss all of the responsibilities that are involved and then fairly divide them between all members of the household. If a child is too young to assume certain tasks, then the parents should at least encourage him/her to assist with basic chores in order to promote responsibility.

It is also important to establish house-rules as a family so that there is no confusion about what a pet may or may not be allowed to do within the home (i.e. going on the furniture). Failure to do so will not only frustrate certain members of the family, but it will confuse the pet and lead to inconsistencies in behavior. 

Is there an age with respect to children that is safe to handle the responsibility?
Children between the ages of 10-15 can demonstrate a great capacity for responsibility. It does not mean, however, that they should be the sole caretakers of the household pets. Parents should always ensure that the pet’s basic needs are being met (i.e. that there is fresh water left out every day).  Younger children should be greatly encouraged to partake in the day-to-day care of their pets in order to instill a sense of responsibility so that way they can be excellent caretakers when they get older. 

What are some common issues with respect to the care of new pets that worry you as a vet?
Pets are a tremendous financial responsibility and as a veterinarian, I worry when I see or hear about families that adopt pets without considering the costs that will be involved with their care. Puppies and kittens incur great expenses during their initial six months of life due to the preventative measures that need to be taken to ensure that they are healthy members of a household. Vaccinations, preventative medicines (i.e. for fleas/ticks/heartworm) and spay/castration are basic requirements to maintain the health of a family pet. 

What are some important questions to ask a vet when deciding if they are the right fit for you and your pet? Your pet is an important member of your household, and for that reason it is important to establish a good relationship with the veterinarian responsible for his/her care.  Before deciding on your primary care provider, you should consider the following: 1. How well can I communicate with this veterinarian? Can I easily discuss my concerns and will he/she be available for additional consultation even after I leave the office?  2. How flexible is his/her schedule?  It is important to find out your doctor’s availability and what other veterinarians are on staff so that if a pet is hospitalized, you know there will be a seamless transition of care.  3. Does this veterinarian have any special interests?  Many veterinarians will pursue additional training in advanced dentistry, surgical procedures, etc., which may not be readily advertised.  It is important to find out what your veterinarian is comfortable with and what might require referral.  

Do you recommend purchasing pet insurance?
As previously discussed, pets are a tremendous financial responsibility. Pet insurance may be a good option for you and your family since it does protect owners from unexpected bills for veterinary care.  However, there are some things that should be known about pet insurance before a policy is purchased.  Pre-existing conditions will not be covered and all expenses need to be paid out-of-pocket first – the insurance company will then reimburse you for expenses incurred according to your individual policy.  There are multiple insurance companies (i.e VPI, PetPlan, Embrace, etc.) in existence today and the policies provided by each will differ, so you need to determine what type of coverage will work best for you, your pet and your financial situation. 

Dr. Lisa M. Wiggins
4 Paws Animal Hospital
250 West Sand Lake Road, Wynantskill

What type of Christmas pets are you seeing coming in this year for care?  Are there any trends in new family pets and if so, what should the family be looking at for care tips?
I’m seeing both puppies and kittens this year as Christmas pets.  However, I am seeing many more kittens this time of year than in the past. People have such busy lifestyles now and often have responsibilities that keep them from home for long periods of time.  So, a kitten is a better choice than a puppy and two kittens are even better than one!

My best advice for owners of a new pet is to take the pet to the veterinarian for an initial examination within a few days of bringing it into the home and follow up with regularly scheduled visits as recommended by your veterinarian.  Another important piece of advice is to provide DAILY exercise for both puppies and kittens.  Walks and playing outdoors are great options for a puppy. Exercising a kitten is a little trickier, but using a toy they can chase like a feather on the end of a stick is a great option. 

Dr. Michael Casler, DVM
Guilderland Animal Hospital
4963 Western Turnpike, Guilderland,

Do you recommend crating puppies during sleep hours and how long can you expect the night crying to go on for a new puppy? 
Most veterinarians and dog trainers recommend crate training for new puppies.  Puppies should be in a crate at night and when left alone during the day. Most puppies will sleep through the night without soiling the bed.  “Bedtime” crying is usually minimal with most puppies and should be ignored to prevent positive reinforcement of this behavior.  Puppies need to urinate every hour per month of age during the day.  A two-month old puppy needs to go out every two hours, a three-month old every three hours, etc.  The crate provides a safe haven and personal space for the puppy.  Confinement to the crate also limits damage to both pup and household from chewing behavior (i.e. electrical cords, sheet rock, plastic, rugs and furniture).  Crate training provides a solid foundation for a quality long-term pet-owner relationship.

Nutritionally…do you have some tips for feeding the new pups or what not to feed? 
Puppies should be fed a high-quality puppy formula three times daily on a set schedule. Free feeding is not recommended until the puppy is completely housetrained.  Veterinary nutritionists recommend feeding a puppy formula until one year of age.  Puppy formulas are completely balanced diets and supplementation with meat, cheese and other table foods should be avoided. Which brand of food is a personal preference based on past experience, cost, convenience, palatability, digestibility and brand to which puppy was weaned.  

In regards to cats and kittens, there is a national epidemic of feline obesity in the US.  The cause is thought to be overfeeding of dry cat foods.  Cats are obligate carnivores or “meat eaters”.  Dry cat foods have excessive carbohydrates that are metabolized to sugar and then to fat.  Canned cat foods are higher in protein, water and fat with minimal carbohydrate, thus mimicking the natural diet of cats, (i.e. mice, chipmunks, birds, etc).

Although dry foods are less messy, easier to use and may benefit dental health if the cat actually chews the food, canned foods are preferred for the long-term health of the cat.  In addition to weight management, canned foods are indicated for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, kidney and lower urinary tract disease.  Moist foods are also an excellent vehicle for oral medications.  All cats should be fed minimal dry and more moist canned food for overall health and longevity.

Rob Horoho
Clinic Manager
Just Cats Veterinary Clinic, P.C.
2073 Western Avenue, Guilderland

If my cat is an indoor cat, are all the recommended vaccines necessary? 

Even indoor cats are required by NYS to be current on a rabies vaccine. The other recommended vaccine, FVRCP, protects against upper respiratory disease and is boosted every three years.  It protects your cat if hospitalization is needed or there is contact with unvaccinated cats. That said, we always discuss vaccinations on an individual basis and base our recommendations on your cat’s age, health and exposure. 

What is the first medical care that should be scheduled for a new kitten?
A kitten new to your home should be examined by a veterinarian at 8-10 weeks of age. Following a thorough exam we will start the temporary vaccinations, de-worm, apply flea and tick treatment and treat for earmites, if needed.

What are the pitfalls and the upside of adopting an older cat? 

We have placed many older cats into new homes and see many rewarding matches. The mature cat is more settled, loves to be close or sit on your lap. Kittens require constant supervision and the need to “kitten proof” your home. The only minus would be that this older cat may not be with you for as many years as a kitten.


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