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Regular vaccinations and examinations will help keep your pet healthy and happy. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you of the frequency that your pet should be examined, but most recommend either annual or six-monthly visits. This is because pets age an average of 7 times faster than humans and so by the time they reach 6/7 years old they are considered middle-aged. Larger breeds of dogs are often considered to be seniors by the time they reach 8.
Typical components of a wellness examination include:
Checking the central nervous center
Checking and cleaning the ears, treating if required
Checking joints and mobility
Checking skin and condition of coat
Checking urinary and reproductive systems
Listen to the heart
Listen to the lungs
Observation of alertness and response
Palpate the abdomen checking for painful areas and/or growths or tumors
Physical examination of the rest of the body for unusual lumps
Other tests that your pet may be given include:
Heartworm testing (otherwise known as blood parasite screening)
Fecal testing. This allows the veterinarian to check for the presence of internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.
Blood work. Blood tests screen for infection or disease that may not otherwise be detected through a physical examination. Blood work also allows a veterinarian a comprehensive assessment of your pets’ health.
Puppies and kittens are usually protected from infectious diseases by their mother’s milk provided she has been adequately vaccinated. However this protection only lasts for a short while.
Puppies should be vaccinated at 8 and 10 weeks.
Kittens should be vaccinated at 9 and 12 weeks.
Boosters should be given 12 months after the date of the first vaccinations.
If you have an older pet then your veterinarian will be able to advise the correct vaccination protocol that you should follow.
Dogs should be routinely vaccinated against:
Infectious canine hepatitis
If your dog is going to spending time in kennels then you should also enquire about getting them vaccinated against kennel cough. The vaccine is usually given via the nostrils and protects against bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus.
Dogs going abroad will also need a rabies vaccination.
Cats should be routinely vaccinated against:
Feline herpes virus
Feline infectious enteritis
Feline leukemia virus
(Current guidelines recommend that only ‘at risk’ cats are vaccinated against feline leukemia virus. Those deemed at risk include kittens and immune-compromised cats).
Rabbits should be routinely vaccinated against:
Rabbit (viral) hemorrhagic disease (RHD)
If your pet is having single vaccines then the myxomatosis vaccine should be given from 6 weeks of age, and the RHD vaccine from 8 weeks. Single vaccines cannot be given simultaneously. After this time myxomatosis boosters should be given every 6 months.
Combined vaccines offer annual protection against both diseases and can be given from 5 weeks of age.
If you are unsure about anything to do with pet vaccines, consult your veterinarian who will be advise you on the best vaccination protocol to follow.