Puppy & Kitten FAQ

What foods do we recommend?

            There are so many choices for pet foods on the market today, it can be hard to try and choose the right one for your furry companion. Pet food companies use a variety of advertisements to convince consumers to buy their product, and as we all know, advertising is not always truthful. The best way to know what you are feeding your beloved pet is to do your research - understanding the ingredients in your pet’s food and how it’s processed will help your pet thrive and live longer, healthier lives.

            There is not one perfect food for all dogs or cats. Every pet will be a little bit different as well as have its own nutritional needs. As a general guideline, a healthy pet diet will include meat, vegetables, grains and fruits.  Grain-free is not necessarily better - pets are able to derive nutrients from grains, fruits and vegetables, these non-meat foods are not simply fillers but a valuable source of essential vitamins. Pet diets with only beans, peas, lentils legumes and potatoes as its only source of grains is not a healthy diet and can lead to nutrient deficiencies and disease.

Our preferred brands of food are Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, Purina, Iams and Eukanuba. These larger companies have the financial resources that are devoted to creating healthy and balanced diets for our pets. Any dry or canned versions of these brands are fine options to feed your furry family member.

            As our pets age, their nutritional needs change as well; perhaps your pet develops the need for a more specialized diet not found over the counter. Consulting with our team of doctors and staying current on annual/bi-annual examinations is the best way to find answers to all of your pet’s dietary needs.

How often should we feed? How much?

            The answers to these questions are heavily dependent on your pet’s age, breed and nutritional requirements. Generally speaking, puppies and kittens are fed an increased amount of food and more often during the day than adults. Certain breeds of dogs may not need as much food as they have a tendency to be overweight, other cats may be a high energy breed and need to be fed more. During your pet’s physical examination and consultation with the doctor, we will be able to discuss with you how much and how often to feed your dog/cat.

How long should I continue to feed puppy/kitten food before transitioning to adult food?

            You should continue to feed puppy or kitten food until your pet physically develops into an adult. Puppy and kitten diets contain added nutrients, particularly protein to aid in muscle growth and formation. For most cats this means being on kitten food until they are about 12 months old and for the larger breed cats (such as Maine Coons) this means closer to 18 months. For our canine family members, some smaller breed dogs mature as early as 8-10 months while large breed dogs may take up to 24 months to reach adulthood.

What type of toys do you recommend my pet play with?

            As a general rule, the safest toys are ones that cannot be swallowed or dismembered and cannot fit entirely in your pet’s mouth. Try looking for toys that engage your pet in physical activity such as tug of war, fetch or a “pounce and play” method, or even treat dispensing toys. Cats love to stalk their “prey” while dogs are much happier chewing and chasing after things.

            Examples of unsafe toys are bones, strings and rawhide chews. Rawhides are not easily digested by a dog’s digestive system. Of course many pet owners swear by this without any sort repercussions, there is the flip side of that debate where many dogs are hospitalized each day that require surgical intervention. Bones should be treated with the same precautionary measures. Bones can lead to broken or fractured teeth and can lead to intestinal upset. Toys with strings are extremely common for cat owners however when left unattended, strings can be deadly. If swallowed, string can choke cats or even lead to intestinal blockages.

Toys should always be played with under supervision and stored where your pet is unable to reach!

At what point can I socialize my pet with other animals? What about kids?

Prior to introducing your new puppy or kitten to other animals, it is essential that they be deemed healthy by your veterinarian and appropriate vaccines are discussed to ensure your new pet stay as healthy as possible. They should not be allowed to interact with unknown animals until they have completed their puppy/kitten vaccination series; this includes dog parks, pet friendly patios/businesses, and boarding or grooming centers. If you are to introduce your puppy or kitten to a new animal, arrange situations that will create successful outcomes. Successful socialization relies more on the quality of experiences than the quantity of experiences.   

            It is very easy for puppies and kittens to become overwhelmed, especially when introductions are made as your pet is settling into their new home. During the first few months of life, puppies and kittens are extremely impressionable and this is the time that shapes their future temperament. Introducing your new pet to well-mannered “known” healthy animals and children will help them interact with them more calmly as they age. “Known” animals include family pets or current animals already living in the household that are not showing any clinical signs of illness and are up to date on vaccines.

Remember; always make interactions a happy and positive experience!

Why should I spay or neuter my pet? How old should they be?

When it comes to spaying and neutering cats and dogs, you may think that the only reason to do so is to prevent unplanned litters of puppies and kittens. But, did you know that the decision not to spay or neuter can mean serious health risks for your cat or dog?

Neutering your dog or cat helps prevent many undesirable behaviors, such as urine marking, and significantly reduces the chances of prostate or testicular diseases and cancers. Spaying your dog or cat is a great way to prevent accidental, unplanned litters of puppies or kittens, reduces the risk of breast tumors and other cancers, and also eliminates the possibility that she will develop a dangerous and often fatal uterine infection, called pyometra, as she grows older.

            Many people think that once a cat or dog is spayed or neutered, it will become overweight and lazy. In reality, a dog’s or cat’s diet, activity level, and inherited traits have a much stronger influence on its chances of becoming overweight than if it has been spayed or neutered.

            At what age can a pet can be spayed or neutered? It is recommended to neuter puppies and kittens at 6-7 months of age or older. Puppies may also be spayed at 6-7 months of age, though it is recommended to spay kittens slightly earlier at 4-6 months of age, before their first heat cycle. For some dog breeds, it is beneficial to wait even longer than 6-7 months before spaying or neutering – this can be discussed with your veterinarian. There is no scientific benefit for allowing your dog or cat to have a litter before she is spayed.

Why is fecal testing and deworming so important?

            Annual fecal testing is recommended for all pets regardless of age or lifestyle. It is especially important for puppies and kittens as it is very common for them to become infected by their mother. Puppies and kittens have an immature immune system and don’t have a lot of fat stores to use for energy. Because most common parasites cause inappetence, diarrhea and vomiting, loss of fluids is more harmful to puppies and adult dogs. Worms and parasites that are identified through fecal testing need to be treated quickly, not only to prevent harm or permanent damage to your pet, but to reduce the risk of you becoming infected as well.

            Deworming medication treats a variety of intestinal parasites as well as the egg form (or ova stage) of those parasites. Repeated dosing of these medications during the early vaccination series helps to ensure that the ova and adult parasites are treated in a timely manner.

What vaccines does my pet need?

            The answer to this question is based on a lot of different variables for you and your pet. For dogs in our region of the state we consider Parvo/Distemper and Rabies to be core vaccines. These are the vaccines, regardless of exposure and lifestyle your dog should be given to help protect them against these costly and deadly diseases. Our feline friends are fortunate enough to not receive as many vaccinations - core feline vaccines include Feline Leukemia, Rabies and the Feline Distemper/FVRCP vaccine.

            As our pets age, their immunity towards these diseases improves to a point where not all vaccines are needed on a yearly basis. Your veterinarian will consult with you to determine how frequently these vaccinations will be given based off your pet’s age, vaccination history, and lifestyle.

When can I start obedience training for my puppy?

            You will be training your puppy from the moment you bring them home. Simple commands such as “sit” “stay” and “lay down” can be learned by puppies as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Because of their short attention spans, formal training sessions are typically withheld until 4-6 months of age. It is important that your puppy be around other healthy vaccinated dogs if you are visiting a multi-animal training facility.

What’s the best way to potty train?

            One of the most common reasons a pet is surrendered or given up for adoption is house-soiling.  It is important to find what works for you and your new pet early on to avoid mistakes and messes. For puppies, it is very important to establish a routine so your puppy knows when there is an appropriate time for elimination. Frequent visits outside is best for young puppies as their small bladders are not able to hold as much liquid. Praise and positive reinforcement are more beneficial when your puppy goes to the bathroom outside than punishment is for bad behavior.

            By monitoring your puppy’s individual habits, you will begin to see signs they may need to go outside. Until you start to notice these signs, you should expect to take out your puppy:

  • First thing after waking up in the morning
  • Right before going to bed
  • After playing or chewing on a bone/toy
  • After being released from their crate
  • After waking up from a nap
  • After eating
  • After drinking

This may seem like a lot of trips outside, but this is necessary for your puppy to know where and when it’s ok to use the bathroom. If you work long hours, make arrangements so your new puppy is not left to soil their environment, this will negate all the hard work you have been doing.

Kittens are slightly different when it comes to potty training. Kittens tend to take on litter box training especially through maternal observation. Should you have to litter box train your new kitten, start by having the right number of litter boxes - each cat should have their own litter box, multi-cat households should have one box per cat plus one extra. Most people prefer to have litter box with a lid as it helps contain litter if your cat likes to dig as well as it helps contain the odor. You will also need to determine what type of litter works best for you and your new kitten. Cats tend to be very particular about the type of litter and litter box they will use, it may take a few tries to it right for you and your new kitty. Once you have determined what kind of litter and box to use, make sure you have it in an area of your home your cat will feel safe and alone as cats tend to enjoy their privacy. Here are some dos and don’ts in regards to litter box training:

  • Do - put litter boxes away from loud household appliances and in areas where other pets may not access them
  • Do - clean the tray regularly - kittens are more likely to use litter boxes when they are clean
  • Do - scoop out used litter daily and change the litter as needed
  • Don’t - use disinfectants and bleach to clean the litter box, some can be toxic to cats and strong odors may deter cats from the area, it’s best to use hot water and detergent
  • Don’t - cleaning the litter box while pregnant, have someone else clean it for you; although it is rare, a disease called Toxoplasmosis can cause harm to unborn babies

At what age will they lose their puppy/kitten teeth?

            Kittens tend to begin losing their baby teeth around 3 months of age and may take 3-6 months to lose all of them. Puppies will begin losing their puppy teeth around 4-6 months and may take several months for all of them to come out. Puppies will begin this process by losing their incisor teeth first, which are the little ones in the very front.

            As adult teeth are coming in, they will cause the baby teeth to detach from the root and become wiggly. It is not uncommon for them to swallow these baby teeth or for you to find them on the floor. It is important that cats and dogs lose all of their baby teeth before they are an adult otherwise it can cause over-crowding in their mouth - this can lead to serious dental problems as they age. Although it is rare for kittens, if your pet has retained their baby (deciduous) teeth, then they can be removed during the spay/neuter procedure.  

Do I really need to give heartworm prevention all year round?

            You may think “I don’t see mosquitos all year long so why do I have to give heartworm prevention every month?” Just because you may not see a mosquito with your own eyes does not mean they aren’t out there. It is impossible to determine when the last mosquito of the summer/fall will die off and when the first mosquito of the spring will arrive. If your pet becomes infected and you later resume giving the heartworm prevention without testing, you may be putting them in danger. The prevention medication works by killing off the larvae stage of these parasites, if your pet has enough of these present in their blood stream, it could shock their system and potentially be fatal. Giving this medication year round will not allow these parasites to mature and cause irreversible damage.

            Cats must remain on this medication year round as there is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats. The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to give the monthly prevention. There is a treatment for the disease for our canine companions however it is not easy. Not only will it be hard for your pet to handle, your wallet will also suffer from treatment.  Luckily for both of our canine and feline patients, we prescribe the medication Heartgard Plus which we are able to dispense here in our clinic. Not only is Heartgard safe to give to virtually all dogs and cats, the manufacturer provides a guarantee when used as directed.

Contact Information

McClintock Animal Care Center
1836 East Elliot Road
Tempe, AZ 85284

Phone: (480) 820-2822
Email: [email protected]


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