Which Vaccines Does My Pet Really Need?


Those of you who may have adopted puppies or kittens over the holidays may feel overwhelmed by your veterinarian’s vaccination recommendations. Some of you also may be concerned with the potential risks vaccines may pose and consider the risk-benefit ratio for your pet’s health. Here’s some valuable help to understand which vaccines are most important and which ones your pet may be able to do without.

“Vaccines protect both the individual animal and all the other animals of that species in the community,” says Dr. Jason Nicholas of The Preventive Vet, which helps which helps pet owners prevent emergencies. There are some vaccines that all pets should get, which are known as ‘core vaccines.’ Current vaccinations for rabies, which poses a health threat to humans, are legally required for pets (cats AND dogs) in most areas and are considered core vaccines for both cats and dogs. In Pima County, it is required by law to register your dogs and keep their rabies vaccine (and “tag”) up to date.  It is not required to register your cats; however, their vaccine must be up to date as well.  Owners need to keep paperwork on file that they can present the county if asked to do so.  If your cats are not vaccinated or you cannot produce proof of vaccination, you can be hit with very heavy fines by the county.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has parameters for feline and canine core vaccines. Aside from rabies, dogs should be receive a combination vaccine that protects against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. These all highly contagious canine diseases and the standard vaccine protocols have gone a long way to eradicate them. Aside from rabies, cats should receive a combination vaccine known as FVRCP, which protects against the upper respiratory infections rhinotracheitis and calicivirus, as well as feline distemper (panleukopenia). While all vaccines have different protocols, most of the core puppy and kitten vaccines come in a series, beginning at about eight weeks of age and continuing at three- to four-week intervals until about 16 weeks of age. The animal should receive all of the vaccines in the series to be fully inoculated. They won’t be less effective; there’s just a potential window for exposure to disease and they won’t be protected if the vaccines are not given inside the appropriate windows. Following the series, the usual recommendation is a one-year booster shot and once every three years (for canine rabies and feline FVCRP) after that. Rita Ranch Pet Hospital’s canine DA2P, bordetella/parainfluenza and feline rabies vaccines are recommended annually.  If you’re concerned with cost, consider this:  Canine parvovirus, meanwhile, can cost between $3,000 and $6,000 to treat.  That is ten-fold the cost for check-ups and proper vaccines to protect them!

Determining which non-core vaccines to administer depends on your pet’s lifestyle. Your veterinarian will take into account details such as how often your dog goes to the dog park or whether you like to hike and camp, to determine which vaccines your pet really needs. For instance, people who live in (or travel to) the Northeast USA might opt to protect their dog from Lyme disease.


If your dog stays in a boarding facility, attends doggie day care or visits a groomer, he’ll likely be required to show proof of a Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccination. This vaccine has a lower risk of side effects, she says. As for cats, the feline leukemia vaccine is recommended mainly for outdoor cats.  We strongly recommend testing kittens for FeLV/FiV and having your kitten immunized as a part of their kitten series.  You can discontinue future vaccines if your cat remains indoor-only. There is a vaccine for FIV, although many vets don’t recommend it. Cats that receive the vaccine will test positive for the disease and therefore risk euthanasia if they wind up in a shelter.


Vaccine-related health issues have stirred controversy that has led some people to question their necessity. Those containing adjuvants, or chemicals that stimulate the immune system, have been linked to cancerous tumors known as fibrosarcomas. The worst reactions have been connected with the feline leukemia and rabies vaccines. While incidences are relatively low (affecting about one to 10 cases per 10,000 vaccinated cats), researchers are trying to reduce risks. Animal health company Merial has come out with a line of non-adjuvant feline leukemia and rabies vaccines; the latter is good for one year, as opposed to the three-year, adjuvant vaccine.  Rita Ranch Pet Hospital uses only non-adjuvant vaccines!

Whatever vaccines you choose, make sure you’ve weighed the risks and benefits before proceeding. Every pet doesn’t need every vaccine, but every cat or dog does need some vaccine.  It’s a matter of coming up with a personalized vaccine schedule with your vet that’s going to provide them with the best protection.

Source: “Pet Talk: The Vaccine Conundrum: Which One’s Does Your Pet Really Need?” www.oregonlive.com

Dog-Friendly Kong Toy Recipes — Yum!


These Kong toy recipes feature unique combos of your dog’s own kibble, dog treats, and other pet-friendly foods.  

(Courtesy of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona)

Put some Kong Stuff’n product in the small hole first.  Then put dry dog food or small dog treats in next.  Top with some canned dog food.  Place a biscuit into the large opening, leaving only about 1/3 sticking out.  Freeze!

Cram a small piece of dog biscuit or freeze-dried liver into the small hole.  Smear a little honey (or Kong Stuff’n product) around the inside.  Fill it up with dry dog food.  Then block the big hole with dog biscuits placed sideways inside.

Other tasty Kong recipes to try…

(The following recipes are made with one of more human ingredients)

Cheesy Elvis – combine a ripe banana, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, and a slice of cheese.  Mix until blended well.  Fill the Kong and freeze.

Monster Mash – Instant mashed potatoes (without the salt) – or leftover mashed potatoes from dinner – mixed with crushed dog biscuits.

Doggie Omelet – Combine a scrambled egg, some beef, yogurt, cheese, & mashed potatoes all together.

Fiber Crunch – Combine bran cereal with some peanut butter.

Kongsicle Jerky Pops – Seal the small hole of the Kong toy with peanut butter.  Fill to the rim with chicken broth.  Place a small stick of beef jerky inside.  Freeze until solid!  This one gets messy fast, we recommend it for outdoor use.

Fruit Kitty Noodles – Mix together some dried fruit, cooked pasta, a banana, and dry cat food.

Banana Yogurt – Plain yogurt and mashed bananas, you can also add a little peanut butter or other low-sugar fruits.  Then freeze it.

Peanut Butter Glue – Fill Kong 1/3 full of dog kibbles.  Pour in melted peanut butter (after it has cooled from microwaving).  Add more dog kibbles and peanut butter until full.  Freeze until solid.

Rock-Hard Kibble – Combine some of your dog’s kibble with cream cheese which acts as “cement” keeping everything inside.

Apple Pie – Squeeze a small piece ofapple into the small hole.  Fill Kong with plain yogurt.  Add a few slices of banana, more apply, yogurt, banana.  End with a chunk of peanut butter.

Crunch n’ Munch – Combine crumbled plain rice cakes and dried fruit with some cream cheese.

Pumpkin Pieces – Combine plain yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cooked rice in a small baggie.  Mix well and then snip off a corner and squeeze it into the toy.

Frozen Bonez – Mix up some bananas, unsweetened apple sauce, oatmeal, peanut butter, and plain yogurt.  Freeze!

Fruitopia – Combine applesauce with chunks of fruit and freeze.

IMPORTANT: While a Kong toy right out of the freezer is okay, please allow any microwave-heated items to cool completely before giving them to your pet.

Remember — feed a little less at your pet’s regular meals if they get calories from their Kong or other enrichment toys.  A busy, tired dog is a good dog… be sure that your pet is still getting daily exercise as well as enrichment.  As always, stay away from rich or fatty foods as these can upset your pet’s stomach.  Stick with bland ingredients (rice, chicken, cream cheese, yogurt, etc.) if your pet is sensitive to novel foods!

Moving to a New Home with Your Pets

Moving into a new home is one of the most stressful times for adults and families.  But what about your pets?  More often than not, your pets may be picking up on your nervousness.  They are also having their own anxiety because of all the change.  This article contains a few ways to help your pet cope with the move and make things easier on everyone!

Let’s deal with the pet that will take the most adjusting. It is generally true that cats are more difficult to settle than dogs. Maybe there’s something to that phrase “scaredy cat”?


  • Introduce your cat to their new home gradually, restricting it to one or two rooms at first. Place the litter box, bed, scratching post, food and water in the room with it. This gives it the chance to become accustomed to the sounds and smells in your new home. It also gives them a room of their own to use later as a refuge or if they feel uncertain.
  • Put their favorite bed, blanket, toys or any item that is familiar to them in the room. The smells of “home” will help them adjust to their new surroundings.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and make sure there aren’t any crawl spaces or holes where they can escape to and that you can’t access.
  • Let them explore on their own. If they decide to hide under the bed, let them be. They’ll eventually come out when they feel safe.
  • If you plan on allowing your cat outside, make sure you keep it indoors for at least two weeks so that your home is familiar to them. After two weeks, take the cat outside with you and let it explore a bit. After ten minutes or so, take it back inside. Each day increase the time until the cat feels safe and knows the area. Also make sure that kitty is properly tagged with your new address and phone number.
  • Veterinarians recommend that you keep cats indoors only. Outdoor cats are prone to injury, diseases, accidents, parasites and have a much shorter life span than indoor cats. Indoor cats can be very content and happy if you provide enough stimulation and fun.

To help your dog adjust, follow these tips:


  • Talk to your dog about the move. You will be surprised by how much better they handle it, when they are included in the dialogue. The calmness in your voice will reassure them that all is well, and that there is nothing to fear.
  • Remember that animals pick up on your emotions. Be sure that you are giving off vibes that are happy as well as calming. If you feel anxious and overwhelmed, your dog will soon be as well.
  • Have the dog’s favorite toys, blankets/bed ready to roll out as soon as you move in.
  • When taking Fido outside for the first time, keep him leashed and allow him the time to explore his neighborhood. Your dog should be introduced to the area around your home slowly. It’s a good idea to explore it a block at a time, just to see who else lives in your neighborhood. Strange dogs can pose a threat and cause your pet unnecessary stress.
  • If possible, allow yourself some time before you start your new job. This will give you time to help your dog adjust. During this period of adjustment, start spending time away from the house, doing so in small increments just to see how your dog will respond. Eventually, when you do start work and you have to spend all day away, your dog should be adjusted to the home and feel comfortable being alone there.
  • If you have to start work right away, you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter to come to your home. They can usually cater to individual needs and requests and they charge by the hour. Although it may add up in fees, you can ask the sitter to spend more time with your dog initially, then slowly wean him back until he/she’s used to being alone.

No matter what kind of pet you have, adjusting to a new home is tough. Knowing your animal and the kind of pet they are – confident, social or shy – will help you determine what their individual needs are. Good luck!

Source: www.moving.about.com (content author: Diane Schmidt, About.com Guide)

Help! How do I break up a dogfight?

(The following information is borrowed from the ASPCA’s Virtual Behaviorist webpage.)


Although dogfights look and sound frightening, most of them end with no damage to either party. Because dogs are capable of seriously injuring each other, much of their aggression is ritualized. Arguing dogs might growl fiercely, bark, snap and show their teeth—or even bite each other’s faces or loose neck skin. However, most dogfights, especially those between well-socialized dogs, don’t result in injury. A dogfight is usually the equivalent of a brief, heated argument with a friend or family member. There may be a lot of spit and noise, but actual damage, aside from the odd scratch or scrape, is relatively rare.

Avoid Competition over Food and Valued Objects

If you have multiple dogs in your home, it’s a good policy to feed them in separate rooms or crates. There is no reason to add extra stress around feeding time. Let your dogs eat in peace. It’s also wise to keep track of toys, chewies and other valuable resources. If you suspect that your dogs might fight over something, pick it up when you’re not able to supervise.

Breaking up a Dog Fight

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to monitor their interactions, dogs get into fights. Luckily, most fights last less than a few seconds, and you can often interrupt them by simply shouting at the dogs. If the fight continues, however, you should be prepared to physically separate them.


Breaking up a dogfight can be dangerous. To reduce the likelihood of injury to all parties, follow the guidelines below.

General Advice

  • Have a plan. Decide in advance exactly what you’ll do if a fight happens. If you live with multiple dogs and other people, make sure everyone living in your home knows about the plan.
  • Don’t panic. Remember that most dogfights are noisy but harmless. If you stay calm, you’ll be able to separate two fighting dogs more safely and efficiently.
  • DO NOT grab your dog by the collar if she starts to fight with another dog. It seems like the natural thing to do, but it’s a bad idea. Your dog might whip around to bite you. This kind of bite, called redirected aggression, is like a reflex. The dog simply reacts to the feeling of being grabbed and bites without thinking. Many pet parents get bitten this way—even when their dogs haven’t shown any signs of aggression in the past. Another reason to avoid grabbing your dog’s collar is that it puts your hands way too close to the action! You might be on the receiving end of a bite that was intended for your dog.

Plan A: Startle the Dogs or Use a Barrier

Before you physically separate two fighting dogs, try these methods:

  • A sudden, loud sound will often interrupt a fight. Clap, yell and stomp your feet. If you have two metal bowls, bang them together near the dogs’ heads. You can also purchase a small air horn and keep that handy. Put it in your back pocket before taking your dog somewhere to play with other dogs. If you have multiple dogs that get into scuffles, keep your air horn in an easily accessible place. If a startling noise works to stop a fight, the noise is effective almost immediately. If your noisemaking doesn’t stop the fight within about three seconds, try another method.
  • If there’s a hose or water bowl handy, you can try spraying the dogs with water or dumping the bowl of water on their heads.
  • Try putting something between the fighting dogs. A large, flat, opaque object, like a piece of plywood, is ideal because it both separates the dogs and blocks their view of each other. If such an object isn’t available, you can make do with a baby gate, a trash can or folded lawn chair.  Throwing a large blanket over both dogs is another option. The covered dogs may stop fighting if they can no longer see each other.

Plan B: Physically Separate the Dogs

If other methods don’t work or aren’t possible, it’s time for Plan B. If you’re wearing pants and boots or shoes, use your lower body instead of your hands to break up the fight. If they’re covered, your legs and your feet are much more protected than your hands, and your legs are the strongest part of your body.

If you feel that it’s necessary to grab the dogs, use this method:

1. You and a helper or the other dog’s pet parent should approach the dogs together. Try to separate them at the same time.

2. Take hold of your dog’s back legs at the very top, just under her hips, right where her legs connect to her body. (Avoid grabbing her lower legs. If grab a dog’s legs at the knees, her ankles or her paws, you can cause serious injury.)

3. Like you’d lift a wheelbarrow; lift your dog’s back end so that her back legs come off of the ground. Then move backwards, away from the other dog. As soon as you’re a few steps away, do a 180-degree turn, spinning your dog around so that she’s facing the opposite direction and can no longer see other dog.

The Aftermath

After the fight stops, immediately separate the dogs. Don’t give them another chance to fight. It’s important to make sure that they can’t see each other. If necessary, take one or both dogs into another room or area. If the dogs are friends and you’ve interrupted a minor squabble, keep them apart until they calm down.

If you have specific concerns regarding your pet’s behavior or are experiencing repeated dog fights in your home, it may be time to seek professional help.  Rita Ranch Pet Hospital recommends Dr. Vanya Moreno of Animal Magnetism.  She is a PhD level behaviorist who can come into your home to observe your pets and assist you in creating a more peaceful environment.  Her phone number is (520) 440-5040 and you can learn more about her practice at her website, www.animalmagnetism.biz

Source: aspca.org