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YOUR PET'S HEALTH - CANINES

Love at first site is an expression not overly exaggerated when most of us select our first puppy or, equally as often, when they select us as caretakers. It is with this first encounter that we commit to overseeing their health and well-being to the best of our ability. Similarly, new puppy and kitten visits bind our hospital staff to affirming the best recommendations for enabling their health and longevity as they grow and age. A puppy's first wellness examination with our veterinarians is an opportunity to not only detect and treat early disease symptoms but also to impress upon a client the importance of preventive medicine, perhaps our most useful single tool against infectious and degenerative disease. Preventive medicine is a general phrase for a medical approach directed at enhancing an animal's immune system to help fight disease processes before their introduction.

Preventive medicine involves a multi-faceted approach to the canine and feline patient that is achieved both through medical intervention such as with vaccination and protective medical products as well as through client education and imposition of strong maintenance protocols at the puppy's new home. The wellness examination commences upon the puppy's first visit with our veterinarians, and is critically important to the future of the weanling because it allows for strong health guidelines to be discussed between veterinarian and patient owner.

During the wellness examination our veterinarian's will review the animal's history since its acquisition under the owner's care, perform a physical examination to help detect congenital defects or apparent evidence of disease, and discuss current veterinary recommended guidelines to maintaining healthful longevity during the animal's lifetime. If the animal is of a sound physical condition, vaccination, deworming, and heartworm preventive protocols can be started or continued depending on the history of the patient. Please see the specific information regarding canine vaccination, deworming, and heartworm preventive protocols to learn more about these. Client education is an extremely important component of the wellness examination, as it empowers the owner of the pet to maintain healthful standards of living for his or her companion animal. Specific points of education will be discussed during the office visit but generally include weight management, dental health, vaccination protocols, flea and tick prevention, heartworm disease, and routine wellness examinations during the animal's geriatric years (after approximately six years of age).

BASIC DIET
While Harmony Animal Hospital uses Hill's Science Diet over the counter and prescription dog foods, we recognize that a number of dog food companies produce quality products and recommend feeding the better known, higher quality dog foods such as Science Diet, Purina, or Eukanuba products. Variety is supposedly the spice of life, and this may be applicable to canine and feline diets as well. Supplementing with vegetable treats such as cooked broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery or offering apple or orange slices will provide additional nutrients and antioxidants and do not constitute a substantive caloric burden, though animals with sensitive stomachs may not tolerate these additional treats. The veterinarians at our hospital also dispense prescription diets, which cannot be purchased over-the-counter, for patients with underlying conditions that may necessitate alterations to a normal dietary protocol.

VITAMIN MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
We recommend that vitamins should be given to growing puppies and kittens under 1 year of age and geriatric pets over 8 years of age, though ill animals of any age may also require vitamin & mineral supplementation.

PARASITES
Parasites are organisms that cause a positive influence on their own physiology and reproduction by negatively influencing that of our domestic animal species, and are generally divided into those that inhabit the integument, ECTOPARASITES which live in the skin and hair, and those that inhabit the inside of the body, ENDOPARASITES such as those that live in the GI tract (stomach, small & large intestines) and bloodstream. Because different parasites invade different body systems and have differing susceptibilities to medications, effective parasite control must involve a multifactorial approach.

ECTOPARASITES
Ectoparasites are those that inhabit or invade the skin and hair follicles, and some of the most concerning and prevalent include fleas, ticks, mites, and dermatophytes (ringworm is an example of a dermatophyte).  A brief discussion ensues here because of their negative contribution to our pet's overall health.

FLEAS
Fleas live on the surface of the skin and ingest a blood meal to help maintain their survival, though part of their indoor life cycle involves maintaining themselves in your rugs and cloth materials. Introduction of flea salivary proteins stimulates the host's local and systemic immune system to respond in such a way that leaves allergic animals itching and uncomfortable, leading to secondary damage from self trauma and the possibility of opportunistic bacterial infection. Especially notable is the fact that a heavy flea burden on a pet puppy or kitten can lead to enough blood loss to cause failure to thrive and death. Detection is based upon seeing the fleas as they move through the haircoat, evidence of their passage can be noted as flea dirt which is a black particle left in the integument that turns red when water is applied.  TREATMENT: the most effective and safe topically applied flea preventive medications are available by prescription only, and are used once monthly in dogs older than 8 weeks of age.

TICKS
Ticks are another wide ranging ectoparasite that live on the surface of the skin and take a blood meal to help ensure their survival and reproduction. Ticks are most especially concerning because they harbor pathogens that can lead to systemic disease of the host. Some of the most notorious disease syndromes that ticks can transmit include lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever.  Detection is based upon finding the tick in the integument, often when they are embedded in the skin. TREATMENT: Specific medications applied topically once a month are used to help kill ticks before they transmit other diseases. A very effective, safe lyme vaccine is also available to help protect against this deadly disease, and very effective tick collars can also be employed to help protect against the other tick borne infections (tick collars are not available for cats). Needless to say, flea and tick control is vitally important to protecting the health of animals in this area of the country (northeastern United States ).

MITES
Mites generally live in the superficial and deep layers of the skin, though some also invade the external ear canal. The type of damage caused depends on the mite's predilection site, but mites generally speaking cause at least a local inflammatory reaction that can manifest as intense itching, shaking of the head and scratching at the ears, and hair loss. Some types of mites are easily diagnosed, while others are much more insidious in their ability to be detected. Mites are treated with the use of topical and injectible medications.

ENDOPARASITES
The endoparasites that invade the gastrointestinal system of dogs and cats are numerous and varied, and some of the most common include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, tapeworms, and giardia. These organisms can steal essential nutrients from the host's gastrointestinal tract as well as eliciting a local inflammatory reaction that can result in vomiting and diarrhea. Of particular concern is the fact that some of these organisms can infect both humans and animals to cause disease and ill thrift. Detection of gastrointestinal parasites is mainly performed through fecal examination, since they and their eggs are extruded through the feces. Ridding our domestic animal species of these pests is vitally important, in some circumstances for maintaining our own health as well. Treatment of gastrointestinal parasites depends upon the specific type(s) infecting the gastrointestinal system, and is accomplished through the use of deworming medications. A broad spectrum deworming medication is routinely prescribed by our veterinarians for puppies and kittens, and as needed in adults upon detection through fecal examination, which should be done at least twice yearly. 

HEARTWORM
Heartworms are a form of internal parasite transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and their longevity in our domestic animals will eventually lead to their habitation in the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery, with evidence of heart failure to follow. Heartworm medication is therefore directed against the juvenile heartworm as it makes its way from the injection site to the blood vessels, before it has a chance to cause cardiopulmonary disease. Once monthly preventive medications are routinely started in puppies to help prevent heartworm disease, and are used in adult dogs that have first tested negative for heartworm disease through the use of a very sensitive and specific blood test.

YOUR PET'S HEALTH  may be threatened by many serious diseases. Ask your veterinarian to make specific recommendations that are best for your pet.
 

CANINE VACCINATION

Vaccination is a means of stimulating an animal's immune system, through introduction (usually subcutaneous injection) of biological agents, to begin producing antibodies against pathogenic agents, usually viruses and bacteria.  Canine vaccination protocols begin at about six weeks of age and are continued intermittently throughout the animal's life to maintain protective levels of antibodies against the prevalent disease agents that impose a threat to their health.  Vaccine protocols have recently changed for certain vaccines because their efficacy has been shown to last for a longer period of time than that previously thought.  No one vaccine protocol is right for every dog or cat, and we attempt to tailor the appropriate protocol to your pet's particular needs.  The following is an example of the ideal vaccine protocol which may by no means be accurate to those of your own pet's needs.  Please consult our veterinarians with any further questions that are not answered with the following information. 

V5C  DHLPP  DISTEMPER

 (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Adenovirus)

Puppies: Series of 3-4 vaccines starting 1st vaccines at 6 weeks of age and giving a booster (DHLPP) every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is at least 15 weeks old. Puppies are returned after 1 year for their booster vaccination and thereafter every 3 years.


ADULT dogs require a booster vaccine annually of the LEPTOSPIROSIS component of the distemper vaccine, as its efficacy still only extends to one year or less. 


DISTEMPER
Is a widespread, highly contagious viral pathogen typically spread by close contact and aerosolized droplets, and infects dogs & ferrets, among other animal species (the families Canidae, Mustelidae, and most Procyonidae are also affected).  Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, nasal discharge, coughing and convulsions. Distemper often results in death and survivors are usually impaired for life.

HEPATITIS (Canine adenovirus type 1)
Infectious canine hepatitis is a non-enveloped DNA virus that has great longevity in the environment and typically causes disease in dogs following ingestion of infected viral particles.  Clinical signs of illness may vary from a disease that is so mild that it may not even be diagnosed, to one that is fatal. Hepatitis affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs primarily, though it has consequences for other organ systems as well.

LEPTOSPIROSIS
A spirochete that is usually transmitted through oral ingestion from standing water in which infected animals have urinated, this pathogen induces kidney and liver damage, and is usually fatal if left untreated. This disease is zoonotic, and may be transmitted to humans.  Preventive vaccination may greatly contribute to prevention of transmission of this disease to our canine species.  Theoretically, leash walking dogs and preventing them from ingestion of standing water may also safeguard them from leptospirosis acquisition.    

PARAINFLUENZA (CPI)
Is an important virus in the "kennel cough" complex, which can produce a hacking cough lasting up to 3 weeks, and may progress to produce lower respiratory disease (pneumonia). Many kennels require vaccination for CPI before boarding your dog, including our hospital, and it should be given 7-10 days prior to the scheduled boarding event for maximum efficacy.

PARVOVIRUS (CPV)
Is a highly contagious virus of dogs characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea that typically affects puppies, though older dogs may be affected.

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