What to Expect When Expecting a New Puppy or Kitten

Spring is around the corner and many of you may be thinking about getting a new furry family member. Creating a bond with a new puppy, kitten or adopted pet is a wonderful experience for a household but before making this step; I wanted to make a checklist of things to expect when planning for your newest member.

Finding the perfect fit:

Most pets are purchased from one of 3 places: A breeder, Kijiji or an adoption agency such as the Humane Society. Whichever place you decide, do your research. Is this a notable breeder? How long have they been breeding? Many breeders may also have a veterinarian perform an initial assessment on the puppies before they are adopted out. These are big questions that you should be asking. If the animal is being bought over the internet through a buy and sell such as Kijiji, know the history of the dog. Why is it being sold? Is it because the initial owners were too busy and could not support a new dog? Does it have behavioural issues? Was it initially purchased from a breeder? Has it been vaccinated and if so, which vaccines and when were they received? Know the story and history of your pet-to-be. Go out and visit the pet ahead of time. See how it interacts with you and your family. If adopting a pet, you may never get the full story but sometimes that is part of the joy and challenge of giving a pet a second chance.

The first veterinary visits:

Puppies and kittens normally come in for 3 visits; at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. At this time they will receive a physical exam, vaccines and de-wormer for intestinal parasites. It is very common for young animals to get parasites either through the mother at birth or when nursing and also due to their lower immune system. The vet will also ask to get a fecal sample for testing. For kittens, your vet may also discuss testing for a couple of very serious viruses that can be transmitted during pregnancy.

Training / socialization:

At the first few visits, your vet will likely discuss training and socialization particularly with puppies. Most vets will suggest getting a crate sized appropriately for your puppy. The crate is not a means of punishment, but rather something to be viewed as the puppy’s “safe place”. The crate is a great spot where puppies can sleep at night or rest during the day when owners are away to prevent risk of them getting into trouble. This will also help to ‘set them up for success’ when house breaking so he or she is less inclined to have an accident and mess up their crate. Also, once a puppy is fully vaccinated, your vet may advise certain training techniques. Most puppies start formal training once they are fully vaccinated. Puppy training is something that all family members can have a hand in as long as everyone is consistent with training techniques. Training lessons are also a great place for puppies to socialize with other dogs their own age to ‘learn their manners’.

Spaying and Neutering:

Most kittens and puppies are spayed or neutered around 6 months of age before the pet reaches sexual maturity. A spay involves removing the uterus and ovaries (females) while a neuter involves removing the testicles (males). Both of these are day surgeries which are performed on a routine basis in the veterinary clinic. Prior to the surgery, you will be asked to have your pet in for blood work. A ‘pre-anaesthetic profile’ is performed to assess your pet’s blood parameters and ensure that he or she is a good surgical candidate. At the time of spaying or neutering, this is also a great time to have your pet microchipped. Microchipping is a form of pet identification which involves implanting a chip the size of a grain of rice under the skin at the scruff of the neck. The microchip contains a unique id which can be scanned by clinics or certain animal shelters to trace a lost pet back to its owner.

Having a pet may be a huge responsibility and timely commitment but it is well worth it when considering the bond and love that you will share. Hopefully if you are considering a new pet, these tips will help in preparing your family for the adventure that you are about to pursue!

by Dr. Kristin Joudrey