Every August, the Centers for Disease Control hosts a public awareness campaign about the importance of vaccines. Although it’s intended for people, it’s also important for pet owners to know how essential vaccines are for their pet’s long-term health. Staying current on your pet’s required vaccination prevents her from acquiring a serious, disabling, or fatal illness. 
Some vaccines, such as rabies, are required by law while others are option depending on your pet’s lifestyle. You may also hear these called core and non-core vaccines. We will let you know more about each type of vaccine at your pet’s annual preventive care exam so you can make an informed decision. Some factors to consider for non-core vaccines include your pet’s species, age, general health, time spent outdoors and around other animals, and activity level.
Required Vaccinations for Dogs and Cats
In addition to a rabies shot, puppies need a series of vaccines against adenovirus, distemper, and parvovirus starting at six weeks of age and ending at four months old. This involves getting a combination of vaccines and boosters every couple of weeks until the four-month mark. Certain breeds of dogs may need extra immunizations because of their size or other unique factors.
Kittens who have certain risk factors should receive an immunization against feline leukemia. Required vaccines for kittens and cats include calicivirus, feline herpes, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. If you adopt a dog or cat after age four months, be sure to request her vaccination records. The veterinarians at Battletown Animal Clinic will get her caught up on any missing vaccines as quickly as possible.
Vaccines Are Necessary and Safe
Since it’s rare to hear about new cases of rabies and other vaccine-preventable diseases, some pet owners assume that it’s no longer necessary to get their animals vaccinated. However, these diseases do still exist and can return in epidemic proportion if enough people fail to get their pets vaccinated against them. It’s similar to the herd immunity concept in people. 
Another common objection to veterinary vaccines is that they produce uncomfortable side effects. While most shots do include some mild side effects, your pet should feel better within a day. The most common ones include:
  • Discomfort where he received the injection
  • Reduced appetite and level of activity
  • Slight fever
  • Coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and other respiratory symptoms
These side effects should go away on their own without further treatment. However, please contact us immediately if your pet has an allergic reaction, difficulty breathing, swelling, diarrhea, or vomiting. These are rare, serious side effects that require prompt attention. You may reach our clinic at 540-955-1151. This is also the number you can use to schedule your pet’s next check-up.
Image Credit: Cynoclub / Getty Images

The image many people have of rabies is that of a previously calm animal turning rabid and foaming at the mouth. It’s really no surprise that many people fear the disease because of this image and misinformation that continues to circulate about it. While you don’t want to subject your pet to needless risk, it’s also important to know what is true about rabies and what is a myth.
Myths You Might Have Heard About Rabies
Some people believe that an animal doesn’t truly have rabies until the disease affects the brain. However, your pet would have rabies from the first moment that an infected bat, racoon, or another type of wild animal bit him. You wouldn’t know it right away because it can take 10 days to two months for the rabies infection to travel to his nervous system. This is called the incubation period. The more severe the bite, the shorter the time until the infection starts to cause extensive damage.
Another common misconception is that a pet won’t contract rabies unless she receives a direct bite from an infected animal. Sadly, it only requires contact with the saliva of the animal with rabies for your pet to acquire it too. An example of how this can happen is when a rabies-positive animal scratches your pet with claws covered in its own saliva.
The foaming at the mouth that many people associate with rabies doesn’t happen until the late stages of the disease. Some of the earlier indications that your pet may have been infected with rabies include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Paralysis of the hind legs
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Extreme changes in behavior
It's essential to contact Battletown Animal Clinic right away if your pet displays any of these symptoms. It doesn’t always mean that your pet has been infected with rabies, but we need to perform an examination to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. No cure currently exists for rabies in the advanced stages. The best course of action at this point is to euthanize the pet to prevent suffering since the disease will eventually become fatal.
The first stage of rabies, known as the prodromal phase, lasts only a few days. Infected animals may already display changes in their behavior. The next stage, called the furious phase, lasts for approximately one week. Dogs and cats in the furious phase will show unusual irritability and restlessness. The paralytic phase is the final stage of rabies. It affects the animal’s nerves and eventually causes her to die from respiratory failure.
How to Prevent Rabies in Companion Animals
A vaccine is the easiest way to prevent rabies and is also required by law. We give rabies vaccinations as part of your pet’s preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Hospital. After receiving the initial vaccination as a puppy or kitten, your pet should get a rabies booster every three years. Not allowing your pet to roam free is another important form of rabies prevention. This is especially important if you live close to a wooded area or know there are wild animals in your area. 
While rabies is frightening and tragic, committing to a routine vaccine schedule and following some basic precautions will keep your pet from getting it. Please contact us today if your pet needs a rabies vaccination.
Photo Credit: epatrician / Getty Images
Since pets age much faster than people do, pet owners often don’t understand their dog or cat’s real age or the importance of preventive care exams. Unfortunately, companion animals aren’t immune from the health conditions that affect people. That means your pet could develop diabetes at age six, cancer at 10, and arthritis at 12. Younger pets can have one-time or chronic health issues as well. When you keep up with preventive care exams at Battletown Animal Hospital, you can feel confident of catching unknown health problems as early as possible. 
Vaccines and Parasite Prevention
Both cats and dogs need a series of required vaccines and optional vaccines that you may wish to get depending on the age, breed, species, and lifestyle of your pet. Feline core vaccines include calicivirus, feline herpes, panleukopenia, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. For dogs, required vaccines include rabies, parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus. Our veterinarians will let you know our preferred vaccine schedule for these exams when you come in for an annual or bi-annual check-up. We do recommend that puppies and kittens under one year and senior pets over age seven visits us twice a year. 
Protection from heartworm, fleas, ticks, and other common parasites are vitally important to your pet’s health. We check your pet for parasites at every visit and make product recommendations as needed. You can save time and money by ordering these products from our online store
What We Check at Your Pet’s Preventive Care Exam
A veterinary technician will start the appointment by recording your pet’s current body temperature, weight, and vaccine status. You’re also welcome to discuss your concerns regarding your pet’s diet, behavior, or specific health issues. The technician will brief your pet’s veterinarian on your concerns so he or she can address them with you. Our veterinarian will also check the following:
  • Teeth and mouth for any indication of oral tumors or dental decay
  • Abnormal masses anywhere on the body
  • Rashes or other types of skin infection
  • Unusual discharge of the eyes, ears, and nose
  • Response to light and sound
  • Lungs and heart for murmurs and possible heartworm infestation
  • Anal area for sac formation
  • Reproductive organs
We will inform you of any concerns we have after completing your pet’s examination and schedule a follow-up appointment if necessary. 
Make Preventive Care a Regular Part of Your Pet’s Routine
Battletown Animal Hospital is always here to attend to pets who are sick or injured. We also enjoy seeing pets when they’re well and helping them to stay that way. Please schedule an appointment with us if we haven’t seen your adult pet in more than a year or your pediatric or senior pet in more than six months. 
Photo Credit: gurinaleksandr / Getty Images

Obesity in pets has reached a national epidemic, according to a recent report from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The organization states that more dogs and cats are overweight or obese than those who are a healthy weight. The exact numbers are 54 percent for dogs and 59 percent for cats. Obesity in pets means that the animal’s weight is at least 30 percent higher than desired for the age, breed, gender, and species.
Excess body weight can cause numerous health problems in dogs and cats, just as it can in people. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are among the most serious. Being overweight or obese also diminishes quality of life. Your pet may struggle with breathing or walking difficulty, low energy, chronic joint pain, depressed mood, and more due to the excess weight. As surprising as it seems, many pet owners don’t recognize when their dog or cat weighs too much.

Caloric Needs for Dogs and Cats
To maintain a stable weight, women should aim for 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories per day. However, the caloric needs for pets is significantly less. A 10-pound animal needs only 200 calories per day to remain healthy. For a 50-pound dog, 700 to 900 calories is usually enough. You can click here to learn more about caloric needs for your dog or cat.

How to Help Your Pet Lose Weight
The first step in helping your dog or cat slim down is knowing how many calories he consumes in a day. To do this, you need to know how much food you’re giving him. We recommend using a measuring cup when you feed your pet so there’s no question of how much he’s eating. A common mistake among pet parents is continually filling the food dish and allowing their dog or cat to graze off and on throughout the day. If you do give your pet treats, make sure they contain nutritious ingredients and have little to no sugar.
Exercise is another essential component of weight loss in pets. Most dog breeds need a 30-minute walk every day to ward off destructive behavior, burn energy, and increase their natural immunity against diseases. Cats sleep up to two-thirds of their lives, but they can be more active when they are awake. A simple game of chasing a toy mouse or piece of string for several minutes every day can make a big difference.
Don’t Change Your Pet’s Diet Before Consulting Us
Dogs and cats are sensitive to any change in their diet, even when you switch to a healthier or lower calorie food. Before making any changes, please schedule an appointment with your pet’s regular veterinarian at Battletown Animal Clinic for a check-up. We will review the ingredients in the food your pet currently eats and ask you questions about treats and how often she exercises. We may make a recommendation for a specific brand of pet food that you can order easily from our online store
Losing weight is hard for people and pets. We’re here to help in any way we can.
Summer is finally here, and you have visions of hitting the open road with your family to get away from the daily grind for a while. If your family includes a pet, you need to decide whether she will accompany you or if it would be better to arrange for a pet sitter or boarding kennel
For some families, bringing a pet along on a road trip vacation is a wonderful bonding experience. It’s not a good choice for other pets, especially those who are sick, frail, or just very set in their ways. You’re the best person to decide whether your pet has the right temperament to come along on a family vacation.
Visit Us Before You Go
Dealing with a sick or hurt pet on the road can be extremely stressful. We encourage you to schedule a preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Clinic before you leave for vacation. We will ensure that your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and in good health to make the trip. Be sure to ask us for a proof of rabies vaccination and a health certificate if you plan to travel with your pet outside of Virginia.
What to Pack for Your Pet
Your family road trip will go a lot smoother if you remember to pack everything your pet needs before you leave. It’s especially important to pack the brand of food she normally eats since you might not be able to locate it while traveling. Try to stick to her feeding routine as closely as possible since stress or excitement can cause stomach upset. Other things to include in a travel bag for your pet include a first aid kit, supplies for grooming, food and water bowls, a leash, medications, and a litterbox and fresh litter for cats.
Best Practices for Traveling
Once you’re on the road, following these tips will make for a happier trip:
  • Build frequent stops into your schedule. Dogs need to eliminate as well as release their pent-up energy. They should also drink water at every stop to avoid dehydration.
  • If your pet is prone to motion sickness, avoid giving him food while your car is moving. You should also avoid giving him any food that you choose to eat while in the car.
  • Cats and dogs should be in a carrier while the vehicle is in motion. If that’s not possible, purchase a safety harness to use like a seatbelt. Although your pet may protest the restricted movement, it’s not safe to allow her to roam free inside the car. It’s distracting to the driver and could be a disaster in case of collision.
  • Don’t leave your pet alone in a parked car. He can become dangerously ill from the heat, not to mention highly anxious.
  • If you’re traveling in a pick-up truck, your pet needs to be in the cab of the truck. Additionally, don’t allow your pet to hang his head out of a window because a piece of flying road debris could injure him.
These are just a handful of common-sense tips for taking a road trip with your pet. If you are considerate of your pet’s safety and comfort, everything should go just fine.
Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Creative / Getty Images