PAWS Chicago News item | PAWS Chicago

Your Pet's First VCA Veterinary Visit

May 13, 2024

When first adopting a puppy or kitten it is crucial for their overall health to start on the right paw, and the best way to do this is by visiting your local veterinarian within the first few days after bringing your new friend home. Here is what you can expect during their first visit. First, we start with a thorough physical examination. Then we discuss the recommended vaccines for your pet. Next, we discuss annual fecal and heartworm testing as well as recommendations for parasite preventatives. We may then discuss diet recommendations, pet insurance, and socialization and training. Last, we of course allow time for any and all questions you may have about your new friend.

During the initial physical exam we are looking for signs of infection, parasites, skin and coat abnormalities, pain, abnormal heart and lung sounds, and congenital defects (something they are born with) such as a cleft palate or hernia. We also check any surgeries done at the shelter (i.e. spay, neuter) are healing properly and ensure the proper dentition (teeth) is present. This is why it is important to schedule your first visit as soon as possible after adoption so that any abnormalities or illnesses can be caught and addressed early. At VCA with the Healthy Start Certificate we will cover treatments and testing up to $500 for newly adopted pets from PAWS that become sick or injured in the first two weeks. So the sooner you bring them to us, the sooner we can find and address these issues and get your new friend feeling 100% again.

We will then spend time discussing with you the recommended annual vaccines for your pet and make any recommendations for vaccine boosters needed now if indicated. This is not only important to ward off any potentially deadly diseases for your new pet, but also to protect you and your family as there are some illnesses that our pets can get that can be spread to us, which is called a zoonotic disease. For instance, Rabies, Leptospirosis, and various parasites, including mites and intestinal worms, are all potentially zoonotic diseases. Keeping up with annual vaccinations is especially important for your pets to keep them healthy long term from these preventable diseases. This way they can live a long, happy, and healthy life without any chronic conditions from a preventable disease.

This brings us to a discussion about bugs! The annual fecal analysis tests for intestinal parasites. Even if your pet is not showing symptoms (asymptomatic), they can still carry and spread these parasites around to others or cause more subtle symptoms such as weight loss and chronic, recurring diarrhea. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes and found across the USA. At my clinic we even diagnosed a dog with Heartworm disease this April in Chicago! It is a very difficult and costly disease to treat and takes about a year to fully eliminate. This is why annual heartworm testing is recommended. Heartworms are literally worms that grow in the pet’s heart so these worms can leave a lot of lasting damage to the heart and lungs in their wake. In severe cases, heartworm disease can even lead to death. While most people don’t want fleas and ticks in their homes, these bugs can also spread diseases

to humans and animals, plus flea and ticks bites can be itchy and leave behind skin lesions. Fleas can spread tapeworms to animals and ticks can spread Lyme disease, Anaplasma, or Ehrlichia to people and animals, which can cause various illnesses. Luckily, there are numerous products available to prevent intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, fleas, and ticks. This all might seem overwhelming that there are so many possible illnesses, but with following your veterinarian’s recommendations, these infections, diseases, and parasites are all easily avoided.

There are many diet options available these days and your veterinarian can talk you through these based on your pet’s health, lifestyle, and age. Pet insurance, or at least an emergency pet health fund, is highly recommended for all new puppy and kitten owners to obtain while your pets are young and otherwise healthy. This way if your curious kitten or puppy eats something they shouldn’t or trips and hurts their leg or injures themselves or gets sick in another way, you have peace of mind while you access emergency care. There are many insurance companies available now that offer pet coverage. You should do your own research to find a company and plan that works best for your family. Keep in mind for most plans you must pay your veterinarian up front and the insurance company will reimburse you directly after you submit a claim, unlike in human medicine. Your veterinarian’s office can help guide you and make recommendations on specific pet insurance companies. There are also plans available for wellness coverage. At VCA we offer Care Club wellness plans to cover preventative medicine such as vaccines, routine exams, lab work, and heartworm and fecal testing. For young pets, training and socialization is key because when they are young they are highly impressionable and therefore, highly trainable. But this must be done carefully to ensure they are not exposed to diseases they are not yet immune to. Your veterinarian can guide you through how to do this safely. Puppy training classes and trainings offered at PAWS and other shelters or pet stores are a great place to start.

To summarize, it is important to have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian right away after adoption to catch, treat, or prevent diseases early. It’s also important to allow for learning about how to keep your new pet healthy. And also to make sure you get your questions answered and form a patient-client-veterinarian relationship in case you have any questions down the line. We want to ensure your pet is safe and healthy from the start so they can live a happy and quality life with you and accompany you for years to come