Talking pets with a licensed vet

Most of us take our dogs and cats to the vet every year for their annual shots and to have the vet do an annual check, but most of us do not really know what all those shots and stuff are for. We just do this because it is what we were told to do when we took our new puppy or kitten to the vet initially.

I went to Dr. William “Will” Watson of Atlantic Veterinary Services, 10656 Worcester Highway in Berlin, Md. (410-629-1838, . I asked him some questions and got his answers.

Q. At what age should my puppy get his first shots and which ones?

A. Puppies can start getting their initial shots at 6 weeks. They will continue with boosters every three to four weeks from 6 to 18 weeks. Then, it will be annually and, after the initial rabies, it goes to every three years in most states.

The shots are generally:

• Rabies (given after 12 weeks of age, then at 1 year and then generally every three years after that. Some states require it annually.)

• DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus-Hepatitis & Respiratory Disease, Parainfluenza, & Parvovirus). • Coronavirus is probably no longer necessary or recommended.

• Lyme disease and leptospirosis are not always given, and are usually recommended for dogs having a high risk of coming into contact with ticks and leptospirosis in areas of standing water.

• Bordetella /kennel cough is not always given unless requested. It is recommended for dogs in high dog population areas, including boarding, daycares, grooming, shelters, shows, dog parks, etc.

Q. What is titer testing?

A. Titer testing is testing a dog older than 2 to see if they have a sufficient protective level of antibodies already in their system to eliminate the need for additional annual booster shots. However, the cost is quite high, usually 10 times the cost of the actual booster vaccine.

Q. What else should my dog be checked for?

A. Annual heartworm tests are very important, especially in this area. Heartworms are transmitted to dogs through mosquitoes. Monthly preventatives should be given year-round after annual testing. Most heartworm preventative manufacturers require annual testing and proof of purchase of monthly preventative from a licensed veterinarian to guarantee their product.

There are many “black market” distributors of heartworm preventatives. (My personal note: For the small difference in price, is it worth taking a chance of not knowing where your dog’s medications come from? At least discuss it with your vet before purchasing them elsewhere and then ask the other place where they purchased the medications from.)

Dogs should also have an annual fecal examination to check for other internal parasites.

Q. If my dog was wormed as a puppy, is it safe from worms forever?

A. No, dogs can pick up internal parasites from their environment. This is why their annual blood test and fecal examination are important. Some parasites can be controlled by the use of the monthly heartworm preventative, but not all.

Q. What diseases can ticks carry? Are there vaccines available for them?

A. Lyme disease is one of the diseases that can be transmitted by ticks and, yes, there is a vaccine. The others are anaplasmosis, ehrilichlosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and there are no vaccines for them. The best preventative is to use a topical-type flea and tick preventative and regular inspection of your pet. An annual blood test will also check for possible infections.

Q. I have heard there are new or different strains of kennel cough. Is this true and are there vaccines?

A. It is not kennel cough/bordetella but is similar and it is called Canine Influenza H3N8. There is a vaccine. It is transmitted by direct contact, a cough or sneeze, or can be carried on contaminated hands, clothing or other surfaces. (Basically, you could touch an infected dog while you are in the pet store and bring it home to your pet, and not all carriers will show signs of infection.)

You should talk to your vet about what is the best course for your individual pet. If you do not understand what your vet is talking to you about, ask. They will explain it to you so you can understand. They often have brochures that you can take with you and read. Many vet offices have computer systems where they can print out information for you regarding particular diseases, ailments and the like.

If you think you can buy medications for your pet cheaper somewhere else, talk to your vet about it. Vets are not looking to make lots of money on medications. Yes, there is some markup on them, but it is not a lot.

You and your vet may not agree 100 percent of the time on everything, but you should be able to discuss everything about your pet with your vet 100 percent of the time. You should always be completely honest with your vet.

Also, if you are not getting the necessary treatments for your pet because of the costs, talk to your vet; they may offer payment plans or they may be able to recommend something for you. They might have options that you have not even considered. Keep the communication with your vet open and flowing. Discuss your concerns.

Remember, when you chose that pet you committed to take proper care of it. It is your obligation to provide it with necessary medical attention it should have. If you cannot afford your annual vet visits, the proper medicines, the proper food, etc., you cannot afford the pet.

Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.