Congratulations on acquiring your new pet family member! Whether you have owned many pets or this is a first for you, this is an exciting time. It won’t be long before you get to know your pet’s normal behaviors and quirks. But, first, you must take care of your pet’s healthcare needs.
Here are five things to know before taking your new pet to the vet for the first time.
1. Don’t Delay
Even though your new kitty or pup may appear perfectly healthy, you should have him examined as soon as possible after you bring him home.
Your veterinarian may be able to detect medical issues that aren’t readily apparent at first such as a subtle skin condition or a congenital heart murmur.
Also, you’ll want to develop a relationship with a veterinarian, if you haven’t already. This way when you have a pet illness or emergency you can more swiftly to receive care.
Extra tip: For everyone’s safety, be sure you have your dog on a leash or your cat in a pet carrier when you arrive at the vet.
2. Have Reasonable Expectations
Surprisingly, I’ve met a lot of new pet owners who have the misconception that their new pet doesn’t need any booster vaccines, viral tests or deworming because someone told them that the pet “has had everything.”
Puppies and kittens need vaccinations and dewormings at regular intervals up to a certain age (this age may vary per locale). If their vaccine history is unknown, they may need more frequent boosters initially to ensure immune protection against certain viruses.
Also, heartworm tests and oral preventives, as well as feline viral tests for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia, are important to have early on.
It’s important that pet owners—even experienced ones—know that protocols and paradigms are forever changing in the veterinary field as new information arises and thus the standard of care may have changed. Rather than make assumptions about your pet’s well being, it’s always best to schedule that new pet exam right away.
Extra tip: Remember, your new pet exam is also your opportunity to ask the veterinarian many questions about potty training, obedience and introduction to other pets and family members.
3. Spaying or Neutering
Some people think that a dog must go into heat or reach a certain age before being spayed or neutered. We now know that dogs that are spayed before their first heat have a 90% less chance of developing mammary cancer. Cats that are neutered early have minimal chances of developing urine marking behaviors.
Many new discoveries as to the long-term effects of spaying and neutering have recently been published. There are many things to consider when determining the best time to spay or neuter a cat or dog, including the breed. Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your new pet, including any concerns you may have.
4. Fleas, Ticks, Heartworm and Intestinal Worms
New products and information are always developing in regard to parasites.
For example, heartworm disease (caused by a parasite that develops in the heart and is transmitted by mosquito) has become more prevalent in some areas where it was previously rarely seen. The same is true for other parasites; fleas are now being seen in areas where they didn’t previously exist, such as Denver, Colo.
Extra tip: Did you know that animals can carry intestinal parasites that people can acquire? Children are most prone to getting these parasites as they aren’t terribly discriminating as to what goes in their little mouths. Be prepared to discuss parasite control during your new pet visit to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right product to prevent infestations based on the area in which you live and your pet’s lifestyle.
5. Pet Insurance
Even though I am a veterinarian, I have pet insurance for my pet as there are services that I can’t always provide and they come with associated costs.
I recommend getting pet insurance BEFORE ever bringing the pet in for an exam. In my experience, owners with pet insurance are able to make decisions based on expected prognosis rather than cost when they know that some or all of the veterinary care is covered.
Once a medical condition is entered in the file, however, it may become a “pre-existing condition.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has brought a sick pet to me and, after discussing the diagnostic tests and treatment plan, they say, “Do you think I should get that pet insurance now?” Just as you want to have health insurance for yourself prior to needing medical care, the same is true for your pet!