Pet parenting, A to Z

There is nothing more exciting than getting a new puppy or kitten. But with all of the fun and excitement also comes the wealth of responsibility needed to keep your new pet healthy. We will briefly cover the main areas of focus that will help keep your new pet in good shape both mentally and physically.

Regular exams

Starting with your new pet’s first pediatric exam, regular physical examinations and health assessments are important to keeping him/her healthy. Always expect a lot of information at the first visit as well as parasite screening, and kittens will probably be tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. Always be sure to bring any previous medical records and also, if available, your pet’s pedigree (chart of family lines) with you to the first visit. Generally there will be three to six routine visits in your pet’s first year of life in order to complete all vaccines, diagnostics and procedures that are necessary. For adult pets, we recommend that a comprehensive physical exam be performed every six months.

Behavior and socialization training

Young puppies and kittens go through several behavioral development stages in the first four to six months of life. For kittens, it is important to expose them to the sights and sounds of a busy household. Allow a new kitten to safely explore its new environment. Of course, it is best to kitten-proof when/where necessary.

It is also important to allow people of all ages to handle and play (reasonably) with the kitten when he or she is young. It is important to show all new kittens where the litter box is located and never suddenly change the location of the box or the type of cat litter used.

For puppies, we need to allow for socialization and training while we minimize exposure to disease. Never take a new puppy to a dog or puppy park until he or she has completed all vaccinations. It is best to walk the new puppy close to home and avoid other dogs. Also, be sure to wipe off their feet (with baby wipes) after coming inside from a walk. You should allow your new puppy to experience many different sounds and motions, as well as people. We also recommend enrolling your puppy in a beginner’s training class. With all puppies we recommend crate training for proper housebreaking.


Puppies and kittens are born with minimal protection against disease. They do acquire significant protection through their mother’s milk but this protection does not last forever. The best way to ensure that a young pet is protected from disease is through proper and timely vaccinations. Specific vaccination recommendations will vary by region and by each patient’s lifestyle. Generally, for puppies in Philadelphia, we recommend vaccinating for rabies (required by law), canine hepatitis, canine distemper, canine Parvovirus and canine influenza virus. Vaccination for bordatella (kennel cough) and lyme disease can be discussed with your veterinarian.

For kittens, we recommend vaccinating for rabies (required by law), feline herpes virus, feline Calicivirus and feline Panleukopenia Virus. Young kittens should be vaccinated for feline leukemia, and the necessity of continuing this vaccine into adulthood should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Parasite protection

Regardless of age and lifestyle, all cats and dogs are susceptible to both internal parasites (commonly referred to as “worms”) and also external parasites (most common are fleas and ticks). Prevention of parasites is “easier” and less costly than treating parasite infections. We recommend that all pets be given monthly preventatives all year round. For dogs, we recommend a monthly heartworm and intestinal parasite preventative such as sentinel spectrum and also a monthly topical flea and tick preventative such as Parastar Plus. For cats, we recommend a monthly flea, heartworm and intestinal parasite preventative such as Revolution. Always ask your veterinarian which preventative or combination of preventatives is best for your pet. Also, fecal screening every six months for all dogs and cats is very important for identifying internal parasites. Whenever a pet has spent time outside, a thorough combing/brushing to check for fleas and ticks is a good idea.

Spaying and neutering

We continue to recommend spaying (female) and neutering (male) for all puppies and kittens. Although the age when this is done may vary depending on the source of your new pet, we still recommend that routine spays and neuters be performed at approximately six to eight months of age. This age will allow for proper growth/maturation and also allows us to extract any retained deciduous (puppy/kitten) teeth that become retained. Cats can also be declawed at the same time. Please discuss all spaying/neutering questions and concerns with your veterinarian.

David McCrork is an associate veterinarian at Society Hill Veterinary Hospital. For more information, visit or call 215-627-3633.

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