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Life Stages

Life Stages - Puppies & Kittens Puppies and Kittens

Congratulations on your new family member! This is a fun and important time for you and your kitten or puppy’s life. Read on for more information on the specific phases of your new friend’s life and on what you need to k now to keep your new pet healthy.

Kittens 7-14 weeks

Kittens are very playful during this phase and you will see pouncing, ambushing, chasing, etc. They are busy honing their “hunting” skills and these activities are learned from observing their mom and siblings. Kittens this age will also begin to play with objects- tossing, pawing, mouthing etc.

Be sure to bring your kitten to a Veterinarian for a complete physical exam. It is a good idea to bring along a fresh stool sample so it can be checked for intestinal parasites. Your veterinarian will create an appropriate vaccination and de-worming schedule for your new friend.

Your kitten will need a high quality kitten food either dry, canned, or a combination. Be sure to follow the instructions given on the food as all brands have varying levels of nutrients per cup of food.

You will also need a litter box or two in easily accessible areas for your kitten. We recommend a minimum of one box per cat per floor. Scoop the litter box daily and clean weekly or as needed to preserve appropriate elimination behavior.

It is important to provide an outlet for your kitten’s natural behavior of scratching, scatter some scratching posts throughout the house. You should monitor your kitten’s scratching and if you notice that there is a specific texture or orientation (horizontal or vertical) make sure to get scratching posts that mimic their preferences. Also popular with kittens are the large carpeted “cat tree” for both climbing and scratching, following these recommendations will go a long way in preventing inappropriate scratching on furniture or flooring.

Kittens 3-6months

Your kitten will most likely remain playful; therefore, regular play times are important for growth of your kitten and your bond. Always interact regularly, with love, and avoid rough play as this will discourage inappropriate nipping and/or scratching.

The time has come to schedule your kitten’s spay or neuter surgery with your veterinarian. This is an important surgery that should take place by the time your kitten is 6 months old. The spay/neuter surgery has many medical and social benefits for your pet and is important since overpopulation is a huge problem in our society. For more information, see the spay and neuter link on our website.

Puppies 8-12 weeks

Puppies at this age are very playful and curious. Puppy proof your house and anywhere they will be spending time, this is very similar to child-proofing (if you need help contact your vet)! Do not be surprised if your puppy whines and cries the first few nights after leaving mom and siblings as this is a normal response to a major life change. Support your new puppy with love, toys, and encouragement. Create a routine and stick to it. Security and predictability are the backbone of a happy and sound puppy.

Soon after bringing your puppy home you will need to see your veterinarian for a complete physical exam. Bring along a fresh stool sample to check for any parasites. Your veterinarian will create a vaccination and de-worming protocol that is appropriate for your new puppy.

Be sure to feed a high quality puppy food, a whole meat source should be the first ingredient. Depending on the breed and size of your puppy your feeding requirements will vary, follow the feeding instructions given on the food as nutritional levels vary per brand. Discuss any questions you have regarding diet with the staff at your veterinary hospital.

During this phase everything your puppy encounters will have a lasting impact. Remember this while you are determining house rules. While an 8 pound puppy hunting for food on the counter is cute a 90 pound dog on the counter is not! Be diligent in what your puppy is exposed to, we recommend a “puppy class” for controlled socialization with other friendly puppies and their owners. Special care is to be taken at 8-11 weeks as this is known as the Fear Period or Fear Imprint stage. During this stage any scary or traumatic event will have a much more intense and even longer lasting effect than at any other time in your puppy’s life. So bring along tasty treats and a special toy when leaving your house and going to a new location, this is especially important when going to the veterinarian. Take things slow and keep them positive.

Puppies 12-16 weeks

This period is when a pup discovers where he falls in his pack (your family). You may notice that your formerly snuggly puppy now tries to bite or nip in play or when being redirected. This is a natural behavior and what is most important is your reaction. Do not react with fear or anger. Your role is to become the pack leader. Be consistent with rules during this time and avoid dominance games such as tug of war or wrestling. Reward all positive behaviors with a treat, fun game, or a special toy. This is the perfect stage to begin puppy obedience classes!

Puppies 5-18 months

Teenager time! This period can occur at a variety of ages depending on size and breed. Smaller breeds typically reach this stage at 5 months, large breeds 9-10 months, and giant breeds 12-18 months. Many of the behavior issues encountered during this time (such as urine marking, roaming, inter-species aggression, increased dominance) are reduced or eliminated with spay or neuter surgery. It is important to set up your puppy’s spay/neuter surgery and you should set this up with your veterinarian. Energy levels are high at this age and exercise, both mental and physical, plays a large role in keeping your companion happy, healthy and well-behaved. Please see our spay and neuter page for information on this important surgery.

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Adults

Cats 1-9 years

Life Stages - Adult Dogs & Cats You may feel like you haven’t seen your veterinarian in forever after the frequent trips made while raising your kitten, but the annual exam is just as important! Annual exams and preventative vaccines, tests, and medicine are necessary to keep your cat in the best health possible and your veterinarian will help set up an individualized schedule for your adult cat.

Your cat should have been transitioned off of kitten food at this point and put on a high quality adult cat food. You should continue to engage your cat in daily exercise; laser pointers, wands with a toy or feather at the end, and catnip toys are all excellent motivators for play. Exercise is important to prevent obesity in our adult companions.

Dogs 1-7 years

Your dog will need to see his or her veterinarian at least once a year for an annual exam. At the annual exam your veterinarian will check for health concerns, intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, obesity, and address any concerns you may have. Vaccines will be given on an as needed basis and your vet will set up an individual schedule for your dog.

Your adult dog should have been transitioned onto a high quality adult dog food. You should engage your dog in routine exercise, as obesity is one of the most frequent causes for health problems. Continue to socialize your dog with other friendly dogs and people.

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Seniors

Life Stages - Senior Dogs & Cats Biannual Exams are very important at this stage. The majority of “old age problems” are manageable today. Please discuss any concerns you have with your veterinary staff.

Cats ~10 years +

Seniority in cats is gradual and varies from cat to cat. Your veterinarian will play a key role in determining when your cat has reached senior status. Your senior cat should be seeing the veterinarian on a biannual basis. Your veterinarian may recommend an annual senior screening, such as blood panels and urine analysis. These test results help your vet determine if your cat has any underlying medical conditions that need treatment. Common diseases or conditions in senior cats include hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and dental disease. Discuss dietary needs with your veterinarian at this time as well. If you have any concerns or notice a change in your senior cat’s behavior or eating habits alert your veterinary hospital right away.

Senior cats are especially susceptible to anxiety and stress. Loud noises, new voices, sudden disruptions can all trigger stress. Try to avoid these if possible. Consistency and predictability are important for your senior cat. Be aware of your cat’s weight as too much weight puts a lot of strain on joints and can increase disease incidence (ie-diabetes) and too thin can be a sign of a medical condition. Play is important for your senior cat and you should make time each day to engage in a gentle play and petting session.

Dogs ~7+

Continue to include your companion in your normal routines and events. Walks and outings are very important both mentally and physically. Feed a high quality dog food and discuss with your veterinarian if and when a senior diet is appropriate.

Biannual complete physical examinations are important as your dog is aging. Your veterinarian may recommend an annual senior screening such as a blood panel and urine analysis to check for common medical disorders. Common diseases or medical conditions in senior dogs include hypothyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, periodontal disease, and arthritis among others.

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