7 tips to make your kitten's first exam comfortable for him and informative for you and the veterinarian
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When you bring home a new kitten, the experience is likely his first big adventure in life. How you introduce him to his new family, home and veterinarian can set the tone for the rest of his life. The first veterinary visit can be a high hurdle for him, but we have some tips to help things go smoothly and ensure happy repeat visits.
-- Take your time. Unless your kitten has the sniffles or will be meeting other cats in your home, give him a few days to get comfortable. If you have other cats, your new kitten should have a fecal exam, a negative result for the feline leukemia virus and his first set of vaccinations before he comes in contact with them.
-- Carry on. While he's exploring his new room at home -- you are confining him at first and not giving him the run of the house, right? -- leave his carrier out. Stash treats and a toy inside it so he will enjoy going into it. It's also a good idea to spritz the inside of the carrier with a comforting pheromone spray about an hour before you leave. That will help your kitten relax during the car ride.
-- Scout out the clinic before you go in. Leave your kitten in his carrier in the car while you sign in with the receptionist. If there are dogs in the lobby, ask the receptionist to call or text you when it's time to go into the exam room. Then you can go there straightaway from the car, eliminating any time spent in the lobby with dogs.
-- Comfort first. A towel or soft blanket, also spritzed with pheromone spray, can give your kitten a sense of security. Place it on the exam table so he doesn't have to stand or lie on cold, slick metal.
-- What to bring. Have on hand any veterinary records from the kitten's breeder or the shelter from which you adopted him. These should indicate vaccinations or deworming treatments the kitten may have had already. A fresh fecal sample, less than 24 hours old, will allow your veterinarian to check for internal parasites commonly seen in kittens, such as roundworms. When you collect the sample, remove it from the litter box as quickly as possible so it doesn't dry out, and store it in the refrigerator in a closed container.
-- The exam. A full physical exam includes taking the temperature with a rectal or ear thermometer; listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope; palpating the abdomen; examining the skin and fur for signs of fleas, ringworm (a fungus) or sores; checking ears for the presence of mites; and checking teeth to make sure the kitten has the appropriate number and type of teeth for his age. This assessment will give you and your veterinarian a good picture of the kitten's overall health.
-- Ask and tell. You may have questions about your kitten's diet, safety, environment or activity level. Write them down beforehand so you don't forget anything. Your veterinarian may have tips on kitten-proofing your home or suggestions about ways to provide exercise and mental stimulation with food puzzles and other toys. This is the time to mention whether your kitten will have access to the outdoors. That information helps the veterinarian determine which vaccines to recommend and how often they are given.
Your kitten's first veterinary visit can be the start of a beautiful relationship among the three of you, so make it count!
Pet birds need more
than seed to be healthy
Q: I just got a caique and want to make sure I'm feeding him right. What's the best diet for him? -- via Facebook
A: When we think of a pet bird's diet, seeds are often the first things that spring to mind. But birds, parrots in particular, are omnivores who eat a wide range of foods in their native habitats: fruit, nuts, buds and the occasional insect. Most of us can't provide our pet birds with the opportunity to forage as they would in the wild, but we can still provide a healthy variety of foods.
Commercial diets available for birds are either seed-based -- which may or may not be supplemented with vitamins and minerals -- or pelleted, formulated to provide the nutrition a bird needs with less fat than that provided by an all-seed diet.
A bird who lives on seed alone may develop vitamin, mineral and amino acid deficiencies. Manufacturers may supplement a seed diet with granules or nuggets that contain the necessary nutrients, but if the bird picks out the seeds and doesn't eat the supplement bits, he doesn't benefit from them.
Pelleted diets are a good choice if your bird will eat them. It takes time -- often weeks or months -- for some birds to recognize them as food.
The best option is for your bird to eat a combination of 50 percent to 80 percent pelleted food, plus some of the healthy foods you eat: pasta, oatmeal, cooked beans and scrambled eggs, for instance. Colorful vegetables and fruits are healthy and delicious ways to supplement his diet. Think dark, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, mango, papaya and berries.
Watch your portion sizes. A bird the size of a caique doesn't need more than 1/4 cup of pellets per day. Give only a teaspoon or so of fruits, vegetables and other table foods. Avoid avocadoes, which are toxic to birds. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Cat saved by special
-- A 1-year-old Burmese cat named Vanilla Bean is doing well after undergoing an unusual surgery to repair a congenital heart defect. Vanilla Bean was born with a rare condition that inhibited blood flow through the heart chambers. Fortunately, the veterinary cardiologist who had performed the technique once previously was less than 100 miles away at the University of California Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis. Veterinary cardiologist Josh Stern, collaborating with two pediatric cardiologists who had seen cases of the defect in children, plus a veterinary soft tissue surgeon and another veterinary cardiologist, successfully corrected the defect.
-- We all recognize a dog's "guilty look." He lowers his head, avoids eye contact, licks his lips and sinks low to the ground. He's done something wrong for sure, and he knows it. Right? Not necessarily. Two studies found that dogs confronted by angry or upset people were more likely to look "guilty," whether or not they had done anything wrong. Dogs who were scolded by returning owners displayed guilty expressions more often than dogs who were greeted in a friendly way. The conclusion? Dogs who expect a scolding try to appease people with their actions, making themselves look small and nonthreatening.
-- A hound dog named Guinness earned himself a new home after placing himself between the woman walking him and a rattlesnake, receiving two bites, reports TheDenverChannel.com. The dog was on a hike with Jenna Castello last month in Deer Creek Canyon Park, Colorado, when the incident occurred. Castello and her friend Joshua Chavez got Guinness to the veterinarian right away, where he was treated with fluids, pain medication and anti-venin. Castello's cousin, Gigi Burk, whose family had been fostering Guinness, said he would have a home with them for good. -- Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: One of the most challenging experiences for a kitten is that first visit to the veterinary clinic. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Vanilla Bean is home and doing well after undergoing a rare surgery and eight days of hospitalization. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1