Are booster vaccines REALLY necessary?

Primary vaccination is essential in order to prevent the once common puppyhood and kittenhood diseases that caused high levels of fatality from returning. However, recent research indicates that all vaccines may not require yearly booster vaccines.                                                                         

There is no evidence that annual booster vaccination is anything but beneficial to the majority of pets. Published research has shown conclusively that omitting to re-inoculate against some of the major diseases can put some pets at risk. To establish whether boosters are really necessary for your pet, blood tests to measure the amount of antibodies (antibody titers) are necessary. Unfortunately, these tests are usually more stressful and are often more expensive than a simple revaccination. Additionally, there has not been proof that high serum antibody equals disease protection if your pet becomes exposed to a virulent disease.

Vaccines are closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and vaccine manufacturers must prove that the vaccine is safe and effective before it can be used in your pet. Through vigilance and high standards, the veterinary vaccines used today are the safest and most protective ever.


 I would prefer my pet to have boosters only when necessary. Is this possible?

It is possible, but in order to determine when boosters are necessary, the level of immunity against any of the preventable diseases has to be established by individual blood tests. If it is found to be low, the immunity will have to be boosted. At the present time, inoculation against a single disease is likely to cost as much as a multivalent vaccine, and there is no scientific evidence that annual multivalent boosters actually cause harm. From your pet’s point of view, it is preferable to receive one injection against the common diseases rather than a series of single disease inoculations.


 For patients that have low-risk lifestyles or whose owners want less frequent vaccination, your veterinarian may recommend alternating vaccines on a two or three year schedule. It is important to note that this is a violation of the approved usage for most vaccines, and the pros and cons should be thoroughly discussed before making a decision. Recent studies have demonstrated that some vaccines may convey two to three years’ immunity, but more research is needed.

Ultimately, how frequently your pet should be vaccinated is determined by your pet’s lifestyle, risk, and you and your veterinarian’s personal beliefs. The issues are complex and often contentious.

 Are there any other advantages of annual vaccination?

The annual health examination involves not only vaccinations but, more importantly, a thorough health check – ears, eyes, heart and chest are all examined. Diseases of the mouth and teeth, ear, heart and other problems are frequently detected during this examination and can be successfully treated because of early diagnosis.


 Deciding which vaccinations your pet receives should be based on your pet’s lifestyle, age and health status. Our trained veterinary healthcare team can help guide you through this decision-making process to ensure that your pet receives the highest standard of care and protection.

How to Give Your Cat A “Pedicure”


Many cat owners are scared to trim their cats nails.  While it can be scary, it can be done!  You just need cat nail trimmers, an extra pair of hands, and a few supplies.

Of course, nail trimming will be easier for cats that are used to their paws being handled.  It is best to get your cat used to having its feet and paws handled when it is a kitten.  Many times, when adopted as an adult cat, this isn’t an option.  Don’t give up!  Your cat CAN get used to this, it will just take time.

Start by touching their feet during normal petting time.  Bribe them with treats!  Maybe even “tap” the tip of the nails with the trimmers and then go on with more petting.  Don’t try to start cutting until your pet is used to the paws being touched and held.  When you are able to start cutting, you may want to just trim a nail or two to get started.


1. With one hand, hold your cat’s paw and gently squeeze the toe to “”push” the nail out so it is visible.

2. Locate the end of the “quick”. You will see pink inside the nail that comes to a point. This is the blood and nerve supply inside the nail.  DO NOT CUT within this pink area.

3. Place nail clippers around the nail, a small distance after the end of the quick.

4. Squeeze clippers firmly to cut the nail.  Start by trimming just the tip, then trim more as you are able.  (Pro Tip: Sharp or new clippers will make a very quick and clean cut — dull, old, or rusted trimmers tend to “crush” the nail which is more uncomfortable/painful for your cat!)

5. Continue these steps for each nail. Make sure to check for the “dewclaw” or “thumb” on the inside of the front legs.  These nails do not touch the ground and can overgrow very easily.  The back paws only have 4 nails to trim.

As many pet owners know, clipping the nail too short and cutting the “quick” of the nail will cause bleeding. There is a product called “Quick Stop” that can be applied to the nail to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut the nail too short.  It can be purchased at the pet store.  If this product is not available you can use corn starch or flour to stop the bleeding.  Although messy, this is not life threatening.  Try not to panic if this happens — apply the Quick Stop powder to the area that is bleeding and sit calmly with your cat until the bleeding stops.

If your cat is resistant or trying to kick, you can wrap them in a thick bath towel.  Offer them their favorite cat treat or some meat-flavored baby food to distract them.  Never be afraid to ask a friend or family member for help — it is much easier with an extra set of hands!

When you finish, make sure to give your kitty lots of rubbing and petting.  Reward them with a treat for being tolerant!

If all else fails and your cat will NOT allow you to trim their nails, bring them in to see us.  There are also mobile cat groomers, such as GabiKat, that can come to your home and take care of your cat’s grooming for you.  Ingrown nails are very painful and can become infected easily.

Image courtesy of Gabi Kat Grooming.

Source:, original authors Dr. Rebecca Schmidt and Dr. Michelle Miller.

Home-Made Diets

What should I know about feeding a home-prepared diet to my pet?

The first inclination of some people when feeding a home-prepared diet to their pet is to simply feed the animal leftovers of what they are eating. It should be realized, however, that the nutritional needs of dogs, cats and humans differ. Humans are omnivores, and can maintain excellent health on a meat-free diet with only minimal dietary supplementation. Cats are obligate carnivores and must consume meat. Veterinary nutritionists have determined that cats have no biological requirement for carbohydrates in their diet, suggesting that a high meat and low grain diet may be ideal for their well-being. Dogs are facultative carnivores, and therefore able to make better use of non-meat ingredients. To a significant extent, however, dogs are also well adapted to a very high meat diet.

Creating a balanced diet for a pet seems a formidable task, but there is an easy way to do it. Simply follow diet recipes that have been formulated by animal nutritionists or that otherwise are shown to meet the basic nutritional requirements for the species.  To avoid trace nutrient deficiencies or excesses, it is recommended to vary the source of each diet component (for example, using different protein, vegetable, and grain sources with each batch of food).

Because meats and some vegetables are deficient in calcium, it is absolutely necessary to provide supplemental calcium in all pet diets. For this reason, most diet recipes include vitamin and mineral supplements, although there are some vegetables high in bioavailable calcium such as broccoli, kale, and collard greens. Calcium can be added at any time during the cooking process.  Spinach is not recommended as a calcium supplement since it is also high in oxalates. Vitamin supplements added before or during the cooking process may become denatured or inactivated, and should instead be added after food preparation is complete.

What are the benefits of home-prepared diets for my pet?

Supporters of feeding home-prepared diets to pets emphasize the importance of a variety of fresh whole foods for the maintenance of health.  The benefits of home-made diets include confidence in the freshness and wholesomeness of the ingredients (especially if you use organic source foods), and the potential inclusion of non-essential or synergistic components in the diet, such as so-called nutraceuticals.  Many dogs and cats have improved hair and skin condition and increased levels of energy on home-made diets.  The exception to this is the pet with pre-existing allergies or intolerances to one or more components of the diet. When an ingredient is fed that an animal is intolerant of, or not well adapted to, home-cooking does not provide any advantage over commercial dry kibble or canned food.

 What are the risks of home- prepared diets for my pet?

As mentioned above, it is not enough to just feed a diet of table scraps, or to toss some meat, grains, and vegetables into a bowl for your pet.  If you do that, your pet could end up malnourished as opposed to undernourished. It is much better to follow a recipe in preparing a diet.

Problems may also occur if pet’s diets are either under- or over-supplemented with certain vitamins and minerals. The most common imbalances in home-prepared diets involve calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, and iron. The advice of a veterinarian with advanced nutritional knowledge is imperative to decrease these avoidable risks to the pet’s well-being.

Some popular authors of pet diets recommend feeding grain-free (or carbohydrate-free) diets, raw meat diets, or bones and raw food diets. We highly discourage this, as bacterial pathogens common in intensively reared poultry and livestock could be transmitted to animals or their owners. Animals or their owners with compromised health or immature immune systems may be even more susceptible to illness caused by bacteria.   Likewise, raw bones are not without some risk; several cases of fecal impaction and intestinal accidents such as bowel perforation have been reported. Cooked bones must NEVER be fed, since they are brittle and prone to splintering, that can cause both obstructions and perforations of the intestinal tract.

How can I minimize these risks?

Discuss your pet’s diet honestly with your veterinarian, including any treats or supplements that you provide.  Have your pet examined regularly so that any early indicators of problems may be detected.  Since animals age more rapidly than humans, a good rule of thumb is to have a complete physical examination every six months.  In addition to a physical examination, it is prudent to have a biochemical analysis and complete blood count conducted on the pet’s blood at these intervals.  Periodic radiographs to assess bone density and structure as well as tissue density will assist in detecting overt mineral imbalances such as calcium deficiency. Consult reputable references for healthy recipes for home-cooked meals.

What symptoms or conditions are most often treated with home-prepared diets?

Symptoms such as excessive shedding, itching, skin lesions, and digestive disturbances have been correlated with allergies or intolerances to components of commercial diets, or to the nutritional inappropriateness of the diet for a specific individual or breed. Animals with specific dietary needs or health problems are often put onto special home-prepared diets that are nutritionally formulated to meet these needs. Pets that are inappetant, anorectic, or ‘fussy’ will often eat a home-prepared diet more willingly than commercial food.

How do I know if the diet is properly balanced?

A sample batch of the diet can be analysed at a commercial food laboratory to determine its contents.  The patient can be assessed by means of blood and urine analysis and radiographs to determine whether the pet is showing any sub-clinical abnormalities that could be related to dietary deficiencies or excesses.

What is the cost of home-prepared diets?

Home-prepared diets are often comparable in price to premium commercial diets.  If the diet is prepared with organic source ingredients, its cost will increase.

How can I find out more information about home-prepared diets?

The most efficient way to find current reference materials, links, and referral lists is to consult the Alternative Veterinary Medicine website at

    This client information sheet is based on material written by Steve Marsden,DVMND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG, Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH.

 © Copyright 2004 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. May 15, 2013.

What To Expect When Your Pet Is Having Surgery

Night Before Surgery…

Dogs and cats should not have any food after 8pm. This decreases the risk of pneumonia and damage to the trachea or esophagus in the event of regurgitation/vomiting of stomach contents during or after surgery. Water is fine to leave out during the night and can be offered up to the time of surgery. If your pet is on any medications, please check with the doctor for instructions on whether or not it should be given the  morning of surgery.

Day of Surgery…Please plan to have your pet at the hospital for admission between 7:30am and 8:00am, unless otherwise instructed by the doctor.


We will have some pre-surgical paperwork and an estimate for you to sign. Please be prepared to leave accurate phone numbers where we can contact you during the day in case we need to reach you during the procedure and so that we may call you with updates when the procedure is completed.

Feel free to ask any questions when you drop off and you are always welcome to call at anytime for updates.

Prior to surgery, the doctor will perform a full physical examination on your pet.  Your pet will have pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure all organ systems are functioning well.  Later that morning, they will receive an injection of premedication that usually includes a mild sedative and a pain medication.

After the Surgery…Most pets are able to go home the day of surgery. At Rita Ranch Pet Hospital we like for pets to be able to recover in the comfort of their own bed with their families. You will speak with a doctor and Certified Veterinary Technician upon discharge and will be given detailed written instructions for the care of your pet.
We will contact you the following morning to ensure that the night went smoothly and to address any questions or concerns you may have.
Note: If your pet needs to be monitored by a professional or requires continued IV pain medication or fluids, we will recommend a transfer to the emergency center for overnight care and observation.
General Home Care Instructions:

  1. Follow detailed written home care instructions.
  2. Give all medications as directed. Most pets will go home with some form of pain medication.
  3. If applicable, monitor the incision often and report any abnormalities (swelling, redness, pain, discharge). Also report any other abnormal symptoms such as lack of appetite, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or diarrhea.
  4. If applicable, please do not allow your pet to lick, chew or scratch the incision. We can provide special collars, bandages or other suggestions to help prevent this if needed.
  5. Return for follow up care as directed.

Remember, your good after care is key to a fast recovery!