Ronan, Montana


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Shots | Worms | Getting rid of worms | Scratching | Feeding

What shots does my puppy or kitten need?

We recommend all puppies and kittens receive their initial vaccinations at 8 weeks of age. In general vaccinations ('shots') before this date are less effective. Puppies receive a combined Distemper/Adenovirus Type 2/Parvovirus/Parainfluenza (DA2PP or just DA2) shot. Kittens receive a combined Viral Rhinotracheitis/Coronavirus/Panleukopenia (FVR or FVRCP). Both of these shots are repeated, or boostered, at 12 weeks of age. A complete physical examination is performed at both of these visits.

This wellness exam is useful for detecting birth defects like heart murmurs, growth problems, or eye defects, and for discussing diet, new pet care, and general health concerns. Rabies vaccinations are given no earlier than 12 weeks of age, by law, and only by a licensed veterinarian.

There is a white worm on my pet's tail! What is it?

There are two main types of intestinal worms our pets can get: tapeworms (Cestodes) and Nematode worms (hookworms and round worms). It is assumed that the majority of puppies and kittens are infected with nematode worms either in-utero, or through their mother's milk shortly after birth. Puppies and kittens should be dewormed at 2 weeks of age and every two weeks thereafter while they are nursing. Our clinic typically deworms our patients at 8 and 10 weeks of age.

Deworming is important because untreated intestinal parasite infections can cause serious illness and death in neonatal animals. Vomiting, diarrhea, bloated appearance, thinness, poor hair coat, general poor-doing can all be signs of intestinal parasitism. Tapeworms are are transmitted to our dogs and cats when they eat the infective lifestage of the worm. This is most commonly (in our area) through eating rodents, but can also be from eating fleas. Tapeworm infections are relatively common in cats who go outdoors and dogs who eat rodents. The tapeworm lifecycle is complex and takes time so it is virtually impossible for young puppies and kittens to have tapeworms. Tapeworms are apparent by short white segments around your pet's anal opening; these segments have been described as grains of rice or little white seeds. If you see long string-like worms, like noodles, these are more likely round worms.

How do I get rid of it?

The nematode worms, hookworms and roundworms, are infectious to humans. Don't panic! You have to ingest their eggs to become infected, which generally would mean eating feces. Use gloves or a plastic bag when handling your pet's feces, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. It is particularly important that children wash their hands well after playing outside or being licked by their pet, because they tend to encounter contaminated areas more frequently than adults. Most tapeworms found in our pets are not contagious to people. Regular deworming of dogs and cats is highly effective. A fecal exam is sometimes required to diagnose what type of worm is present. Over-the-counter (from drugstores or grocery stores) are generally about 50% effective at killing roundworms; they do not kill hookworms or tapeworms. A prescription dewormer is needed to kill all types; this is available from our clinic in a variety of forms (pills, liquid, powder).

My dog is scratching a lot. Does that mean he has fleas?

Fleas are not common in cool, dry Western Montana, but we do see them occasionally. There are a multitude of flea control products available over-the-counter and from our clinic. Diagnosis of flea infestation is the first key to finding a flea medicine that works. An itchy pet can have a variety of problems aside from fleas. There are a number of skin and hair mites that can infect dogs and cats. Lice can also be present.

Skin diseases and infections can be either the cause of, or caused by, scratching. Anal sac irritation or infection can cause scooting, licking, and chewing at the tail, and excessive scratching at the head can indicate ear infections, eye problems, or dental disease. One of the most common causes of itchy skin in pets is an allergy, either to something in the environment, or to a food. This kind of allergy can be difficult to diagnose, as all the other possible causes must be looked for first.

Overall, keep in mind that animals get itches just like we do, and some scratching is normal. If the scratching is non-stop though, or causes your pet's hair to come out or skin to be irritated or damaged, then it might be something more serious.

What should I feed my pet?

There are an overwhelming number of pet foods available. Feed your pet what he or she will eat and thrive on. Finding that brand can be difficult though. We cannot recommend one brand because pets are individuals, and certain pets respond to one food better than another. Puppies and kittens need to be on a growth formula food, to give them the calories and nutrition they need. Pregnant animals should also be on a growth formula.

Start with a brand that appeals to you and get a small bag. If your pet likes it, stick with it. Some animals prefer smaller kibbles or differently shaped kibbles. Dry foods tend to reduce dental disease while canned or wet foods can lead to increased need for dental care. Lower-quality foods, typically those that cost the least, can be fine for some pets, but other pets do not tolerate them. These foods can produce higher stool volume and frequency due to poor digestibility of ingredients. They can also produce poor coat quality, poor energy levels, and general poor health.

Not all premium foods are good for all pets though either. You might have to try a few different brands and 'flavors' before you find the right fit. Keep in mind that you should change your pet's food slowly, over a few days, gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of the old food.

There is increased interest in homemade diets for pets. These have been touted as cure-alls for disease, or guarantees for a high-performing perfect pet. Some claims are too good to be true, but when done correctly, homemade food for pets can be perfectly healthy. A full discussion of homemade diets is not appropriate for this page; there are a number of references available though. Keep in mind that dogs and cats are not humans and certain foods that good for us can be deadly to them. These include chocolate, onions (red onions for cats particularly), garlic, grapes/raisins. Small quantities might not show any signs of a problem, but it is better to not take the risk.


Mission Valley Veterinary Clinic ii ii37058 Timberlane Road ii iiRonan, Montana iiii 59864 iiii (406) 676-4251