Frequently Asked Pet Questions

WFAH_Puppy_Exam_wfah0523Below are some of the more frequently asked questions about routine pet care that the staff at Wake Forest Animal Hospital receives. For a more extensive list of topics, please visit the American Animal Hospital Association’s website at www.healthypet.com and click on their “Pet Care Library”.

Q: What type of veterinary care does my new puppy or kitten need?
A: Once obtained, your new pet should have its first veterinary visit as soon as possible. On your first visit bring any information you have about its previous health care (vaccines, dewormings, etc.). Then our health care team can decide what your new bundle of joy needs in the way of vaccines, parasite control, training, diet, etc. As a rule of thumb, new puppies and kittens need veterinary care every 3-4 weeks until around 16 weeks of age.

Q: What type of routine veterinary care does my adult pet need?
A: As a general rule, normal healthy pets should be evaluated by a veterinarian at least annually. Geriatric pets or ones with medical conditions often need more frequent visits. During a physical examination it is often possible to detect early signs of illness or disease. Since our pets are aging 6-7 times faster than us, when you bring them in for yearly visits it is like us only going to the doctor every 6-7 years! During their annual visit we can also determine what if any vaccines are needed, evaluate them for needed dietary adjustments, discuss what diagnostic tests might be helpful and answer any questions you have about your pet.

Q: When is it the best time for my pet to be spayed or neutered?
A: For years it was recommended to have your pet spayed or neutered by six months of age. This is still recommended for cats. However recent studies have shown that this may not be the best option for all dogs. Depending on your pets breed/adult size, it may be best to delay these procedures until after they are completely grown (1 year of age). There are advantages and disadvantages to waiting this long, but doing so may decrease the incidence of significant hip problems (hip dysplasia), torn cruciate ligaments, and concerns when older. Our doctors can discuss this with you in relation to your individual pet.

WFAH_Husky_Dog_Kennel_wfah0004Q: Why does my adult pet not need as many vaccinations every year like they used to?
A: Recent studies have shown that many of the vaccines we used to give every year provide much longer protection from disease in adult pets than originally thought. So, while others still need to be given annually, many only need to be give every three years. Which vaccines your pet should get and how often they should get them is something that each pet owner should discuss with their veterinarian. There are many factors that need to be considered, such as the pets immune status, their risk of exposure and possible adverse vaccine reactions.

Q: What is Lepto (Leptospirosis)?
A: Lepto is a disease caused by the leptospirosis bacteria. The bacteria is spread in the urine of deer, rodents, and other wildlife and often lives in stagnant water and moist boggy soils. The bacteria is not endemic in all areas of the country but unfortunately it is endemic here. It does not cause disease in cats but does in dogs and humans. The disease is often fatal by causing liver or kidney failure. Since its symptoms are often vague and nonspecific it is often difficult to diagnose and treat. The disease can be spread from dogs to humans. Though we do not currently see many cases of leptospirosis, additional strains of the bacteria are causing a recent increase in the disease. Fortunately we do have a vaccination to help prevent the disease in dogs. The initial vaccination series is two shots 3-4 weeks apart, after that only one vaccination is required yearly.

Q: Does it matter where I purchase heartworm prevention?
A: Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal illness of dogs and cats caused by a blood parasite carried by mosquitoes. It is very prevalent in our area and all pets should be on a monthly preventive. In the past the only place someone could purchase heartworm prevention was from their local veterinarian. Since this was a very controlled supply chain and the preventive was very effective at preventing the disease, it was very rare for a pet to get heartworms if given the preventive monthly all year long. In fact, in over 20 years of practice, Dr. Manning has never had a patient get heartworms that had been given preventive monthly purchased from their veterinarian. It was so effective that the organization that gives the official recommendation for controlling heartworm disease was able to relax their annual testing guidelines at that time.

Then things changed. Mail-order and online organizations started selling heartworm preventive and unfortunately many of the patients on their preventive developed heartworm disease. In one year alone Wake Forest Animal Hospital diagnosed over a dozen cases of heartworm disease in dogs on mail-order or online purchased heartworm preventive. The heartworm manufacturers will only guarantee their products if purchased directly through your veterinarian. There are many reasons the mail-order/online medications were often not effective. They were often purchased in overseas markets (manufacturers will not sell directly to the mail-order/online pharmacies because they cannot control the shipment and storage of the product) and shipped to the U.S., or even when purchased in the U.S. were not shipped and stored properly. So unfortunately if you purchase mail-order/online heartworm preventive there is no way to tell by looking at the product or its packaging if it is good or not. Therefore Wake Forest Animal Hospital strongly discourages the use of these products. While many of these companies advertise huge savings on their products, Wake Forest Animal Hospital’s prices are usually the same or less than mail order pharmacy prices.

Q: Why does my dog need an annual blood test? (It’s not just a heartworm test anymore!)
A: Heartworm is a disease carried by mosquitoes that is endemic and very prevalent in our area. All dogs and cats in our area should be on a monthly preventative all year long. Please see the previous question for a detailed description about heartworm preventatives.

Heartworm disease is easy to prevent, however it is a debilitating and often fatal disease if acquired and left untreated. Unfortunately, the only medication approved for treating adult heartworms has only been available sporadically for some time, and that is likely not to change in the near future. So there is a huge potential advantage to our pets’ well being if they receive annual heartworm testing.

In previous years annual heartworm testing was the norm. Then a few years ago (due to a very controlled supply chain of only very effective preventatives) the testing requirements were able to be relaxed somewhat. At that time Wake Forest Animal Hospital only required every other year heartworm testing on most of our current patients. As far as we know, we were the only practice in the area that did not require annual testing. Unfortunately, things have changed in the past few years regarding heartworm disease, and not necessarily for the better. Therefore we are now required to perform annual heartworm testing on all dogs in order to be in compliance with the American Heartworm Society new guidelines. There are several reasons for this and you may want to research it in depth at http://www.heartwormsociety.org , but we will touch on the reasons briefly here.

The main reason for returning to annual heartworm testing is a new found lack of efficacy in animals receiving heartworm prevention. There are several reasons for this.

Owner Compliance:
Although most of us think we give our pets their heartworm pill every month, surveys have shown that a significant percentage miss some. We get busy and run out of medication, the dog may eat some grass and vomit up the pill, etc.

Recent studies have shown that there is some resistance developing to the current heartworm preventatives. Although this is a scary scenario, fortunately it is very uncommon situation for us. (It is much more common in the Mississippi Delta region of the U.S.) The best way to prevent heartworm disease is continuing monthly preventative and annual testing. For further information check out the American Heartworm Society’s website www.heartwormsociety.org. Sources for obtaining heartworm prevention: see previous question

It’s Not Just Heartworm Testing Anymore:
Our annual heartworm test should really be called an infectious disease panel, as it tests for exposure to three common tick diseases as well as heartworms. The reality is that pets in our area are much more likely to have exposure to a tick disease than they are to obtaining heartworms if on a monthly heartworm preventative. Since tick diseases are hard to detect, can cause severe illness and death, testing for them on an annual basis can be a real lifesaver.

Q: Feline Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma – What you should know

A: What is it?

Vaccine associated fibrosarcoma (VAF) is a very aggressive cancer that can develop at the site of vaccine administration in cats. It is estimated that between 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 vaccines will induce this cancer. It is most commonly implicated with rabies vaccines and feline leukemia vaccines. It is suspected that there is a genetic predisposition that makes some cats more likely to develop this cancer but there is not currently a test to determine if your cat is susceptible.

VAF can develop in as little as 2 months or as long as 10 years after an injection.

Should you vaccinate your cat?

YES! The diseases we vaccinate for are way more common than VAF. An unvaccinated cat is far more likely to get sick than a vaccinated cat is to get VAF Additionally, Rabies vaccinations are required by law.

How can we reduce the risk?

It is strongly suspected that the cause of VAF is a substance known as an adjuvant. Adjuvant are added to certain types of vaccines to increase the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Choosing NON-adjuvanted vaccines can greatly reduce the risk of VAF. It is also important to vaccinate your cat only for diseases they are at risk for.

Because of the difficulty in making an effective non-adjuvanted vaccine, they are more expensive than adjuvanted vaccines. Usually their duration of immunity is not as long, therefore they have to be given more often. By state law, the first rabies vaccine a pet receives is valid for one year. After that they are good for one or three years, depending on the vaccine used.

The price for an adjuvanted rabies vaccine that is good for 1 or 3 years is $26.

The price for a NON-adjuvanted rabies vaccine that is good for 1 year is $38.

The price for a NON-adjuvanted rabies vaccine that is good for 3 years is $58.

Depending on your cats age and lifestyle (indoors vs outdoors, exposure to other cats, etc) they may need vaccinated for feline leukemia. A discussion with your veterinarian will determine what if any leukemia vaccines your cat may need. In all cases, Wake Forest Animal Hospital only uses a NON-adjuvanted leukemia vaccine.