Dr Donavan Smith from Kimberly Vet Clinic is our August 2021 Vet of the Month.

This month, he gives his insights into everyone’s furry favourites — puppies and kittens! He will look into proper nutrition, necessary vaccinations, and how to successfully welcome a happy puppy or kitten to the family.

The first year of your puppy or kitten’s life will be filled with new adventures – it’s important to realise it will take a while for your pet to completely relax. There are a number of ways and means to help your new family member settle in comfortably.

Keep calm and cuddle on

Although adopting a new furry friend is hugely exciting, it’s important that all family members interact with the new puppy or kitten in a calm and gentle manner. Make sure your pet has a safe place to retreat to, like a bed with lots of soft bedding and toys.

Show your puppy where to eliminate outside and your kitten where its litter box is. Give them a chance to go there every few hours, especially after eating, drinking, playing and napping. Take the time to interact with your pet. This will solidify a bond that will last a lifetime.

It is important to teach your pet basic life skills so that they are able to cope in their environment. New things can be scary in the beginning, so be sure to introduce your pet to new sights, new people and new things slowly.

Teach your pet to be okay with being handled. This is very important for many different reasons, one being that it makes vet visits easier and less stressful! Make sure to touch the ears, eyes, teeth and gums, legs, feet and the tail.

A big part of having a well-balanced pet is teaching them the ability to remain calm and to keep themselves busy. Make sure that your pet has some quiet time every day after playtime or exercise. Settle your puppy or kitten in a quiet area or crate with a chew, catnip toy or treat dispensing toy.

Vet visits and vaccinations

Your dog or cat needs regular doctor’s visits to maintain optimal health. Together, you and your veterinarian can provide them with the best care so that they can live a long and happy life.

Vaccinations play a critical role in your pet’s health throughout its entire life. It provides protection against various life-threatening diseases; the majority which are fatal in one way or another.

Your puppy will receive a vaccine known as the “5-in-1”, which protects against Canine Parvovirus, Canine distemper virus, Infectious canine hepatitis, Canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) and Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPIV). While not part of the core vaccine, we recommend “Kennel cough” vaccinations for at risk pets.

Your kitten’s first vaccination will be the “4-in-1” vaccine, to protect against Feline calicivirus (FCV), Feline panleukopenia, Feline viral rhinotracheitis and Feline Chlamydophila.

While rabies does not form part of the “5-in-1” or “4-in-1” vaccines for dogs and cats, the rabies vaccine still forms part of the core vaccine programme and must be given annually – this is extremely important, as rabies can infect and prove fatal to humans.

Puppies and kittens should be dewormed several times at a young age and adult dogs every 1 – 3 months.

We also recommend spaying or neutering your pet at 6 months of age.

Spaying is the process of removing the ovaries and uterus of a female and neutering is the process of removing the testes of your male. It is a procedure that requires minimal hospitalisation and offers lifelong health benefits, including the preventing uterine infections and breast cancer.

Diet of champions

The next step to being a responsible pet owner is choosing the right nutrition for your pet’s individual life stage. Perfectly balanced food will help them enjoy a happy, healthy and long life!

There is a massive difference between small, medium and large breed puppy food. It is of the utmost importance that large breed puppies are on a large breed puppy diet!

Puppies and kittens grow rapidly and should be fed measured amounts at regular feeding times, generally 3-4 times per day, based on their body condition and age. Poor nutrition can have life-long repercussions, setting the stage for many complications and diseases.

Additionally, it is important to remember that animals are naturally curious – although we love this about our snoopy pups and kitties, it does mean that they might accidentally ingest something harmful to them.

Keep your little one away from any pesticides, insecticides and rodenticides, as well as any medication intended for humans. Human food is also often unsafe for animals, such as chocolate, xylitol, and even raisins.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned your pet will require emergency veterinary treatment.

Set them up for success
Socialisation is the process of getting pups and kittens accustomed to their new environment, along with learning appropriate behaviours. Introduce your pets to a wide variety of people, situations, animals and to give them a chance to explore. A pet who lacks experience in the world may find things we are used to scary, creating an anxious pet, more likely to develop behaviour issues.

The more people your puppy or kitten gets to know, the more sociable they will become. Do not force situations. Youngsters are quick to become overwhelmed.

Create positive experiences. Make a checklist of things they’ll encounter in life, like bikes, people with hats or glasses or even masks! However, avoid too many people giving treats to your pet. If your pet will be spending time alone, start getting them used to it early to avoid separation anxiety.

Simple things like vacuums, hairdryers and washing machines may all be fearful events if not introduced early. Build experiences day by day, making sure your pet can escape to a place they feel safe if overwhelmed.

Meet the fur family

In a new home it is important that they continue to learn appropriate behaviour with other animals. Puppies can be introduced to other puppies and well-behaved adult dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Introducing your kitten to another household cat can be a bit more problematic, requiring more planning and caution. Socialising your puppy or kitten with members of another species should be done slowly. Experiences during this crucial time frame can shape your pet’s future character, behaviour and happiness. Remember, a bad experience is better than no experience at all.
This is how they will learn to play and communicate.

In short, being vigilant, informed, and above all loving will help set up your pet for a long and happy life. Remember, your veterinary healthcare team is your best source of information when it comes to your new pet – don’t hesitate to reach out!