Wellness Questions:

When does a puppy or kitten start its vaccinations?
We recommend starting the vaccine series between 6-8 weeks of age for puppies and kittens. If there is a questionable vaccine history of the puppies’ mother, then it is a good idea to have an initial parvovirus vaccine between 6-7 weeks of age and then start the series at 8-10 weeks.

What is a spay?
Spay is the common term for ovariohysterectomy. This involves removing the entire uterus and ovaries. We recommend spaying at 6 months or older, but it can be performed any time after the age of 16 weeks. There are many opinions on when you should spay your pet even among veterinarians. Your veterinarian will talk with you about the best time for your pet to be spayed depending on their breed, temperament and lifestyle. If a puppy has an inverted vulva (vulva is tucked in) we may recommend that the puppy go through a heat cycle before we spay.

What is a neuter?
Neuter is the common term for castration or the removal of the testicles. We recommend neutering anytime after 6 months of age but can be performed any time after the age of 16 weeks. There are many opinions on when you should neuter your pet even among veterinarians. Your veterinarian will talk to you about the best time for your pet to be neutered depending on their breed, temperament and lifestyle.

Is there heartworm disease in Alaska?
Even though we have lots of mosquitoes in Alaska there have been no documented cases of heartworm disease of dogs that have not left the state. Heartworms are worm-like parasites (microfilaria) that migrate through the dog’s bloodstream to the heart and are transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes in Alaska do not have a long enough life cycle to promote development of the infective heartworm larva that is transmitted to dogs. There is heartworm disease in most of the lower 48 so if you are traveling, make sure to let your veterinarian know the area you will be in because your pet will probably need a heartworm preventative. If you just moved to Alaska from a heartworm area you should give 2 doses of heartworm preventative after arriving in Alaska. We recommend testing for heartworm disease six months after arriving in the state.

Do we have fleas and ticks in Alaska?
Fleas can be present on wild animals, including squirrels and rabbits. If your animal is in contact with those animals, we advise that you check their coat closely to be sure fleas have not hitched a ride uninvited! Ticks are not commonly a problem in Alaska, however incident reports to Alaska Fish and Game have increased in the last several years of non-native ticks attaching to animals, but there have always been ticks found on wild animals and wild rodents. If you have found a tick on your pet, Alaska Fish and Game is interested and should be reported to them promptly.  Fleas and ticks are endemic and carry disease.  If traveling to the lower 48 we strongly advise you get flea and tick preventives to assist in the prevention of inadvertently bringing non-native ticks/fleas to Alaska.   Monthly preventative for fleas and ticks is not considered necessary at this time, but it is available for purchase. Schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if you are concerned. If you have recently moved to Alaska and your pet was not previously on a flea/tick preventative, your pet could be affected and may need treatment. ADF&G Tick Link – https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=913

What is a dog’s or cat’s normal temperature?
Cats and dogs have a higher body temperature then ours, which is why they sometimes feel hot to us and are warm and cozy to snuggle with. Their normal body temperature is 101-102.5 degrees F. The best way to see if your pet has a fever is to take a rectal temperature. If the temperature is above 103 degrees and your pet feels sick you should contact a veterinarian.

What chew treats are OK to buy for my dog?
There are many different kinds of treats that you can buy for your dog. Try to introduce treats one at a time so if your dog gets sick from the treat you know which treat to avoid. Try to not feed hard treats like cow hooves that can fracture teeth. Some dogs swallow rawhide type bones whole and have troubles digesting them. Overall, try to limit treats as they can add lots of extra calories and contribute to weight gain. Also, find foods that are easily digestible and do not cause gastrointestinal distress to your dog.

My dog is scooting, does he have worms?
Your dog could have worms but usually that is not why they are scooting. The anal glands are two sacs on the inside of the rectum that contain a fishy smelling substance that is normally expressed when the dog defecates. The dog’s ancestors used the substance to mark their territory. Occasionally dogs will express their glands when they are excited or anxious. Some dogs can have difficulties expressing their glands and may try to empty them by scooting. If your dog is licking excessively in the rectal area or if you see redness or swelling around the rectal area you should take your pet to the veterinarian to see if the glands are infected or abscessed.

How can I tell if my dog or cat has worms?
Certain parasites such as tapeworms can be visible around the rectum, but other intestinal parasites must be detected by identifying their eggs under the microscope. Tapeworms look like rice grains on the hairs and are only transmitted to dogs and cats by eating an intermediate host. The intermediate hosts in cats are rabbits and voles and in dogs are moose and caribou carcasses. Round worms and hook worms are usually transmitted between animals in their environment. We recommend deworming every 6 months to a year for round, hook, and tapeworms.

What is the best way to identify my pet?
Each year, millions of pets get lost and only a minority becomes reunited with their family. A microchip is a safe, simple way to protect your pet against loss or theft. A microchip is a tiny computer chip which has an identification number programmed into it and is encapsulated within a biocompatible material. It is injected under the skin, where it will stay for the life of the animal. This provides a permanent, positive identification which cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed. The microchip contains a unique number that is identified by a scanner at animal shelters and veterinary offices. If you do not register your pet’s microchip the chip number is not linked to your contact information. Contact our office for more details about microchipping.

Immunization Questions:

What is parvo virus?
Parvovirus is a disease that causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea in young unvaccinated dogs. This virus can be contracted easily from the environment. The virus is difficult to kill so it can live in very extreme environments for long periods of time. It is especially important to vaccinate for parvovirus as it can have a deadly outcome.

What is canine distemper?
Distemper is a highly contagious disease among dogs and it is almost always fatal. The virus is more common in puppies than in adult dogs, but all dogs are susceptible to this virus.

What is kennel cough or bordetella?
Kennel cough is initiated by the parainfluenza virus. Bordetella is the bacterium which causes the clinical signs of a harsh cough that worsens with exercise. It can also cause low energy levels and sometimes eye or nasal discharge. Kennel cough is usually contracted in areas where large numbers of dogs are housed such as a kennel, a dog park or a grooming salon. It is transmitted like the common cold so it highly contagious. We recommend vaccinating every 6 months or yearly for dogs in high risk situations.

Does my pet really need a rabies vaccination?
YES. Rabies is a public health threat and by law your pet must be vaccinated by a veterinarian in the state of Alaska. Rabies in the lower 48 is carried by coyotes, raccoons, skunks and bats. In Alaska, it is mainly carried by arctic foxes around the coastal communities.

My cat stays inside all of the time. Why does it need vaccinations?
If you ever have a personal emergency where you have to board your cat or your cat is sick and needs to be hospitalized, the unvaccinated cat will be vulnerable to any of the feline diseases. You can also unknowingly bring some of the upper respiratory viruses home on your clothing from a stray or other sick cat.

My dog/cat is not feeling well questions:

My dog has diarrhea. What can I do?
If your dog is acting normal other then the diarrhea you can try withholding food and water for 12 hours. Introduce small meals and a bland diet of cooked rice after 12 hours. If your dog is lethargic and acting sick with the diarrhea you should contact a veterinarian.

My dog has been coughing for several days. What should I do?
A cough can be caused by bronchitis, heart disease, kennel cough and cancers. If there is a history of a kennel visit and your dog is feeling well kennel cough may be the culprit. The veterinarian should check your pet so we can determine the cause of the problem

My dog or cat has licked up some antifreeze. Will this hurt him?
Antifreeze is extremely poisonous to dogs and cats in very small amount. Please bring your pet to the clinic immediately for treatment.

My dog smells. What could it be?
There are three main body areas that can be smelly: teeth, ears, and skin (including anal glands). If your pet has brownish discharge in their ears and is scratching, they may have an ear infection. If they have brownish tartar buildup on their teeth or very red gums, their teeth need to be cleaned or their gums may be infected. If their skin is itchy or has sores and pigment changes, they may have skin infections that need to be treated. Contact your veterinarian if any of these conditions occur.

Is it normal for my cat to vomit hairballs?
No, however cats love to groom themselves and do swallow large amounts of hair. Vomiting hairballs is a sign that the hair is not moving from their stomach into their small intestine. There are pastes, treats and food that can help dissolve hairballs or help them pass into the small intestine.