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Friday ó February 27, 2004

Weekend Living

Pet Care

Pets deserve basic medical care, too

By Christine Ferguson

The best advise a pet owner can be given is to provide their new or aging pet the same basic medical care they would give to themselves or other family members.

Much like babies, puppies and kittens are not naturally immune to diseases. They receive short- term antibody protection from their mom, but need a series of vaccines administered to "pick up where mom leaves off," so to speak. The correct time to begin vaccinating a kitten or puppy can vary, but for the most part, the series should begin as early as 6 weeks of age and then every 3 weeks thereafter. Almost all researchers agree that for puppies and kittens, we need to give at least three combination vaccinations and repeat these at one year of age.

Christine Ferguson

Law requires rabies vaccines, and the schedule for vaccinations can vary from state to state. Here in Idaho, the first time a dog is vaccinated; it is valid for one year. Thereafter, a rabies booster is given every three years.

There are two classifications of vaccinations: core and non-core. Your core group is often given to your pet in the form of a 5-way or 7-way booster. Non-core vaccinations should be considered for pets that are frequently boarded, show dogs or cats, or travel out of the area.

At the shelter, we often receive puppies and kittens that were separated from their mom prematurely. In this instance, we error on the side of safety, and vaccinate the new arrivals as early as deemed safe. Any animal that comes to live at our shelter is vaccinated with all core vaccines suggested for its age and species.

Once again, like humans, donít over medicate pets with vaccines they have no need for. If you are traveling to a state that has reported cases of lyme disease or heartworm, it is then wise to vaccinate or medicate your pet accordingly. If you frequently board your pet, pet hotels almost always require bordetella. Itís smart and prudent to request a vaccination certificate from your local veterinary care center when your pet receives its annual boosters. Carry a copy with you, when traveling with your pet.

Itís important to understand that any medication/vaccine needs time to become effective. If you share your time between multiple homes, plan ahead regarding your petís care. As an example, if you are planning to administer flea and tick medication, it is best to begin 30 days before you relocate to the infected area. Most veterinarians suggest heartworm medication be given on a regular monthly basis once prescribed. This medication protects your pet against many different types of parasites, not merely heartworm.

Just as itís suggested that we consult our personal physician before using a new medication, itís wise to practice the same procedure with pets. Over medicating or vaccinating pets can make them immune to the product. In general, most cats and dogs should receive an annual core booster vaccination with a wellness check from their favorite veterinarian.

Christine Ferguson is the president of the Board of Directors for the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley


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