PROFESSIONAL, COMPASSIONATE AND EFFECTIVE PET ADVICE
Young animals need vaccinations to keep them healthy and protect them against serious infectious diseases. Not all infectious diseases can be successfully treated, or cured, and some cases are fatal.
Vaccination provides active immunity against disease by the body producing antibodies after injection with the vaccine.Antibody production takes about 2 weeks to be of high enough levels for protection against disease. However, immunity wanes with time and so regular boosters are needed during an animal’s life.
Vaccination in dogs protects against:
- Canine Distemper
- Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus)
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Cough (Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella Bronchiseptica)
Puppies are vaccinated from six weeks and boosters are given four weeks later, and then at regular intervals for the rest of their lives.
Vaccination in cats protects against:
- Feline Enteritis
- Feline Respiratory Disease (Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus)
- Feline Leukaemia
- Feline AIDS
A vaccination regime in kittens starts at eight weeks of age, with two or three boosters, depending on the chosen vaccination. Boosters are necessary at regular intervals for the rest of the cat’s life, as immunity weakens over time.
Heartworm disease is a potentially life-threatening condition for dogs and cats. It is caused by a worm that lives in the heart and the nearby blood vessels of the lungs. The immature forms of the heartworm are called larvae or microfilariae, and they circulate in the bloodstream.
The disease is spread when mosquitos bite infected dogs or cats, sucking up blood and the microfilariae, and then injecting them into other dogs or cats. Dogs and cats do not have to be in contact with other animals to develop heartworm. Cats are more resistant to the infection than dogs but are still susceptible. 65% of dogs in Australia live in high heartworm expectancy areas.
Preventative medication against heartworm disease starts from an early age. The medication may take the form of a once-a-year injection, tablets, meaty chews or spot-on products for dogs, or tablets or spot-ons for cats.
All dogs and cats require regular worming to control the intestinal worms- roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. It is very important to do so if there are children in contact with the pets, as most of these worms can be transmitted to humans, posing a health hazard especially to children.
Puppies and kittens may have intestinal worms at a young age, as the worms are passed on from their mother through the placenta before birth and through the milk after birth.
It is recommended that puppies be wormed every two weeks from two weeks of age until twelve weeks, and thereafter once a month until six months old. After that age, all dogs should be wormed with a good quality all-wormer every three months, for life. Working dogs on farms must be wormed regularly, and access to sheep offal must be off limits.
Kittens need to be wormed at six, eight and twelve weeks of age, then every three months. Adult cats should be wormed with a good quality all-wormer every three months for life. For cats that spend time outdoors or have fleas, it is important that the medication treats tapeworms as these may be transmitted by eating birds, mice, rabbits, lizards, frogs, snakes etc., or by grooming themselves and swallowing fleas.
Intestinal worms may be treated with the good quality worming tablets, meaty chews, liquid, or spot-on products. A spot-on product is available for cats that also treats tapeworms and is very popular when dealing with cats that are hard to dose by mouth.
Fleas are parasites which live on the skin of companion animals. Young, old or sick animals are more at risk of infestation.
Adult fleas need to live on animals to feed on blood and survive. The eggs they lay fall off the animal into the environment, where they develop into larvae after a few days. The larvae like to live in dark places, including soil, sand, soft furnishings, carpeting, bedding etc., and feed off organic debris, flea faeces and other larvae. After 3 stages of life as a larva, it makes a cocoon and forms a pupa. Pupae can live in the environment for many months and stimulation from vibration, warmth and carbon dioxide from other mammals causes adult fleas to emerge.
Control of fleas is necessary for several reasons: skin diseases, transmission of infectious diseases, tapeworm infestation, anaemia from blood sucking and flea bites and infectious diseases in people.
Flea infestations can be controlled with monthly applications of quality spot-on products such as: Advantage, Frontline Plus.
Puppies and kittens may be treated from weaning, or eight weeks of age, depending on the product. Treatment of the mother also treats the un-weaned puppies and kittens. All animals in contact should be treated at the same time.
Overpopulation of dogs and cats in Australia is a major problem that leads to crowded animal shelters and euthanasia of unwanted animals. Sterilisation greatly reduces over-population, but also makes a better pet with fewer health concerns.
Sterilisation of females is called spaying, and of males, castration.
Apart from the absence of seasons and pregnancies, the benefits of spaying are a reduction in the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer) and an elimination of the risk of pyometra (infection of the uterus). In dogs, there is a 25% chance of developing mammary tumours if not sterilised by three years of age. Female dogs sterilised before the age of twelve months very rarely develop them. Pyometra is usually seen in middle-ged dogs but may occur at a much younger age.
Spaying of dogs and cats involves the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus under general anaesthesia. It is a day surgery. It is best performed at 4-5 months of age, before she comes into season for the first time. There is no benefit to female dogs and cats to have a season or a litter before sterilisation.
The benefits of castration in dogs are less aggressive behaviour towards people and other dogs, and an absence of wandering to find females, a reduction in ‘marking’, which is urinating on objects especially where other dogs have already marked. Health benefits include a reduction in the incidence of anal tumours, perineal hernias and prostate disease.
Benefits of castrating male cats include a reduction in fighting other cats, an absence of wandering to find females and less spraying of urine to mark territory.
Castration of dogs and cats involves the removal of the testicles under general anaesthesia. It is a day surgery and may be performed from four to five months of age.
Sterilisation has no effect on the animal’s personality. Some weight gain may occur but this is usually due to the energy requirements decreasing with age and no corresponding change in the amount or type of food fed.
Animals suffer from the majority of dental disorders that humans do. Periodontal disease is the most common cause of early tooth loss in dogs and cats, as well as in humans. A large number of dogs and cats over the age of three years suffer from periodontal disease. If left untreated animals may suffer from considerable severe pain and may develop heart, liver and kidney disease.
Treatment of dental conditions is the same as in humans. Regular check-ups are essential and appropriate treatment, e.g. scaling, extraction etc. is undertaken. After treatment, preventative measures such as brushing teeth, dental diets, or medications in drinking water may be helpful.
Microchips are electronic chips, roughly the size of grains of rice, which are encoded with a number. These are simply, and permanently, implanted under the skin by a veterinarian or authorised implanter. The number is read with an electronic scanner. Lost or stolen animals are identified through these chips and owners are then contacted.
Under the WA Dog Amendment Bill 2013, in place from 1st November 2013, all new dogs are required to be microchipped for registration purposes. Registered dogs transferred to new owners after 1st November 2013 need to be microchipped before being sold or transferred. For dogs already owned, microchipping is compulsory from 1st November 2015.
Under the WA Cat Act 2011, which took effect from 1st November 2013, all cats over six months of age must be microchipped, sterilised and registered with a relevant local government.
All pets, even short-coated breeds, benefit from, and enjoy, being regularly groomed. Regular brushing promotes a healthy coat and skin and can be started at an early age.
Long-haired breeds require frequent brushing or clipping of the coat to prevent the hair from matting up. Clipping with electric clippers may be started at four to five months of age and is best undertaken by a calm and experienced groomer. Bathing, plucking ears and trimming nails are also included in the service.
Bathing companion animals with mild soap-free shampoo is recommended once a month. Too frequent washing may lead to dry itchy skin, which is caused by stripping the natural oils.