Congratulations on the new addition to your family! In order to have a pleasant and rewarding relationship, we have the following suggestions. We hope this information will help you have a long and happy relationship with your new family member.
Socialization & Enrichment
It is very important to socialize your pet properly during the first twelve weeks of life. These are the most impressionable weeks and can help shape lifelong behavior! At Lincoln Avenue Veterinary Clinic, we try very hard to make these first visits nice; you’ll see us use lots of treats as distractions. At home, establish rules early and be consistent to avoid confusing your pet.
Part of socialization is learning how to be handled. Touch your pet all over, rubbing the face, ears, chest, belly, paws, and tail. Gently open the mouth and rub the teeth like you are brushing them. Feel all over your pet for lumps, scabs and other irritation. Get your pet used to having toenails handled before you need to trim nails! If your pet needs grooming at home, use a comb or soft brush to gently work on one small area at a time. Remember, young animals do not have much patience. Start with short sessions (just a minute) and work up as your pet tolerates handling. Use this time to build your relationship with your new pet, gain trust, and keep handling positive.
Soon, you can start to do more things like brushing teeth and trimming nails. Dental disease is a common problem and can seriously affect the overall health of your new family member. Use your finger first, then you can work up to either a Q-tip, finger brush or soft children’s toothbrush. Pet toothpaste doubles as a great treat! Nail trims can be scary for young animals, so use lots of treats and start slowly by just cutting one or two nails a day. If you need help, our team is happy to demonstrate tooth brushing and nail trimming during a clinic visit.
Enroll in a puppy training class, especially if it has been a long time since you have had a puppy. Classes build an obedience foundation for you and your dog, prevent bad habits, and set the stage for a more satisfying and rewarding long-term relationship. At Lincoln Ave Veterinary Clinic, we support positive reinforcement training methods that reward good behavior instead of punishing pets for making mistakes.
Some people get kittens because they are less demanding than dogs. Many cat owners would dispute that! Cats can be very social animals and enjoy company– either from you or from other pets at home. Take time each day to play with your kitten, and teach manners early. Cats have many environmental needs, especially if they are indoor-only. Give your kitten plenty of vertical climbing space, safe toys, hiding boxes and appropriate scratching surfaces. Just like dogs, cats can learn tricks for attention and treats too!
Toys are wonderful for enrichment. Avoid hard chews, such as hooves and Nylabones, which may fracture fragile teeth. Rawhide chews are OK as long as your puppy doesn’t swallow large pieces. Watch your pet when playing with string, which can be cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Do not use toys that may be confused with items you do NOT want to be chewed on in the future like clothing, shoes, and your hands! Puzzle toys that dispense food can help kittens fulfill natural hunting instincts and keep puppies busy when unsupervised.
A lot of questions come up about what to feed your new pet, how much, and how often. There is no one diet that fits all, and there are no rules set in stone. Each pet is an individual with its own needs and preferences. There are also your needs and preferences.
Use a major brand name food. This will ensure proper nutrition for your pet. We use and recommend Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin diets. They use high-quality ingredients and have scientific studies backing the quality and safety of each diet. They also have prescription diets for specific health problems. No matter which brand you choose, please make sure the diet meets AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition and that it is appropriate for your pet’s life stage.
Pick one flavor or protein source (beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, etc.) and stick with it. Resist temptation and do not change! Diet consistency makes sorting through intestinal problems such as diarrhea and food allergies much easier for you and your veterinarian, and it reduces “picky eater” behavior. There is no protein that is inherently “better” than another, unless your pet has allergies to specific ingredients. “Grain free” is another new diet craze for pets, but there is no scientific evidence that these diets are actually more nutritious than conventional formulas. Very few dogs have food allergies, and of those only a tiny minority are allergic to grains.
For pets less than 12 weeks of age, feed 3-4 times a day. From 12 weeks to 6 months of age, you can reduce to twice daily. From 6 months on, you can feed 1-2 times a day. Fixed meals in consistently measured portions help your pet set a schedule, allow for weight control, and also make it easier to housebreak puppies.
There is no magic rule for the amount to be given. Package guidelines make a good starting point. Record the amount you are feeding each day and weigh your pet at least once a week. You should always be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily. IT IS BETTER TO HAVE A LEAN PUPPY OR KITTEN THAN A PLUMP ONE!!! If you cannot feel the ribs or spine easily, you are feeding too much. If you can see many ribs or hip bones, feed more.
Dry Versus Wet Food
Both forms are nutritionally complete and equal. Dry food will not necessarily keep teeth cleaner. The puppy or kitten may show a strong preference for one texture. Cats should be exposed to wet food from an early age, as it can be preferred in some disease conditions. We do not recommend raw diets because they have a higher risk of food-borne infections and are not scientifically proven to be more nutritious than conventional dry or wet formulas.
Picky eaters tend to be MADE versus born. Be consistent with pet food and avoid giving table scraps. Store-bought treats are generally OK, but watch the amount given as the calories can add quickly! Milk should not be given, as it causes loose stool and gas.
Vitamins and Supplements
You should not need to give your puppy or kitten any supplements if they are eating a high quality food. Large breed dogs should NOT get any calcium supplement. Large breed dogs should eat a breed-appropriate puppy food and should be switched over to adult food at 6 months of age so that they do not grow too fast.
Please provide some form of identification for your pet with an easily accessible telephone number. Collars should fit comfortably, without being too snug nor too loose. Microchips are great for permanent identification. They have a unique code which can be read by a special reader. Local humane societies and Animal Control scan EVERY animal they come in contact with.
Please contact us if you have additional questions about your new puppy or kitten. We are here to help you and your pet. We consider pets to be important members of your family. We welcome you to our family here at Lincoln Avenue Veterinary Clinic!