Frequently Asked Questions

Q) How often does my pet need vaccinations?

Q) How often should my pet’s urine and stool be checked?

Q) How often does my pet need a physical examination?

Q) What about heartworm disease?

Q) What about fleas and ticks?

Q) What should I feed my pet?

Q) FAQs about Internet Pharmacies

Q) What about pet insurance?

Q) How often does my pet need vaccinations?

A) It depends on how old your pet is and what kind of vaccinations you’re talking about! Some vaccines (Leptospirosis, Bordatella, Pox-vectored Rabies) need to be boostered annually, others (Distemper, Parvovirus, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, etc.) can be boostered less often. The doctor will review your pet’s medical record with you and discuss what shots are needed and when. We follow the most current AVMA recommendations for a minimal vaccination protocol.

Puppies and kittens generally require a total of 3 to 4 sets of Distemper/Parvovirus (dogs) or FVRCP (cats) shots spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart (your puppy or kitten will also be dewormed with a nice-tasting broad spectrum dewormer at each appointment – dewormers can only kill certain life stages of the worms, so a series of dewormings is necessary – almost all puppies and kittens have worms), rabies is given once around 4 months of age, for puppies leptospirosis and canine influenza (H3N8) are given in an initial series of two shots spaced 3-4 weeks apart, and then boostered once yearly afterwards. We normally prefer to give leptospirosis vaccines a few weeks apart from most other vaccines. All vaccines will need to be boostered at the one year anniversary of the last puppy/kitten shots. Please bring a fecal sample with you to your puppy or kitten’s vaccination appointments, we like to see two negative fecal results (a month or so apart) before we go to an every 6 month schedule, as recommended for adult animals.

Q) How often should my pet’s urine and stool be checked?

A) We recommend a urinalysis and fecal check every 6 months. A urinalysis tells us about your pet’s internal health (kidneys, urinary tract infections, etc.) and a fecal checks for intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms (found in both cats and dogs) and whipworms (some of which humans can contract!). Puppies and kittens should have at least two negative fecal results before they go onto an every 6 months schedule, to make sure that they do not have any parasites which are not covered by a broad-spectrum dewormer.

Q) How often does my pet need a physical examination?

A) Regular physical examinations are the foundation upon which effective preventive care is built. Because our pets cannot effectively communicate their feelings to us, and because they have a natural tendency to hide outward signs of disease, we must regularly screen for clues that a problem is developing. High blood pressure might be detected at a routine BP check (something we perform at every visit). A heart murmur or irregular heart beat would signal significant heart disease. An abdominal tumor could be revealed when the abdomen is carefully palpated. We frequently see cases involving diseases that have developed to an advanced, untreatable stage before the owner notices that something is wrong. Many times we know that if we had just seen that patient a few months earlier, we would have had a chance to save their life. We urge you to schedule examinations twice a year for your pet. This is especially important when pets are over 7 years of age. New York State law requires veterinarians to have examined a pet at least within the last 12 months before prescribing any medications for that pet, including heartworm preventatives and vaccines.

Q) What about heartworm disease?

A) Heartworm Disease is a silent killer of many dogs each year. It is a disease spread by mosquitoes and New York State has an incidence of this disease comparable to southern states like Texas. All dogs are at risk for this disease whether they spend large amounts of time outdoors or not. The worms actually do live in the dog’s heart, clogging the blood vessels. Untreated heartworm disease commonly causes heart failure. Heartworm disease treatment is possible, but it is very expensive and it can be very hard on the dog. We have successfully treated several heartworm positive dogs here at ASAH, but it’s far preferable to just prevent infestation in the first place! Treatment is most effective and least complicated if it is begun before any symptoms develop. In order to detect this disease in the early, asymptomatic stage, routine blood testing is required (annual blood testing is recommended for all dogs, even those who are on preventative year-round). You cannot detect heartworm disease when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. Prevention of heartworm disease is clearly the best way to deal with this disease. Interceptor and HeartGard Plus are¬†inexpensive, safe, and very effective once a month heartworm preventives that we recommend for all of our canine patients, as an added benefit, these heartworm preventatives also prevent intestinal parasites. Year-round heartworm prevention is recommended by the AVMA – the incidence of heartworm disease is increasing in New York State, keep your pet safe! It is safe for ALL breeds of dog to take the medication in heartworm preventatives (including the ivermectin in HeartGard Plus) – even dogs at risk for carrying the MDR1 (multi-drug resistant) genetic mutation, because the amount of drug in heartworm medication is well below the level at which these dogs can have a reaction.

You may not know that cats can also get heartworm disease. In cats, it is critical that you prevent infestation, as most of the treatments which kill adult heartworm in dogs are dangerous for use in cats. We normally recommend a topical flea and heartworm preventative called Advantage Multi for cats.

Q) What about fleas and ticks?

A) Fleas and ticks are blood-sucking parasites which feed on our pets. We recommend that all pets be on a flea and tick preventative ideally year-round, but at least throughout the warmer months (until we have had two hard frosts in the winter, starting up again when the temperature is above freezing). We generally recommend Frontline Plus (flea and tick preventative) combined with HeartGard Plus (for heartworm prevention), or Advantage Multi (flea and heartworm preventative in one, especially recommended for cats). There is no true “all in one” medication that prevents heartworm, ticks and fleas as of yet. Please keep in mind that any pet can get parasites, even those who never venture outdoors, since you can bring parasites home on your clothing. Ticks can carry many debilitating or even life-threatening illnesses, and fleas can carry tapeworms, an intestinal parasite that humans can contract! Many pets also have severe allergic reactions to flea bites, which can result in extreme discomfort and expensive medical treatment. In short, it is in your pet’s best interest, and the best interests of your pocketbook, to keep your pet parasite-free with one of the easy-to-use preventatives available! Be advised that “natural” preventatives like garlic are not effective, and in high doses can even be toxic. Topical preventatives like Frontline do not work systemically (they do not enter the bloodstream), they spread out over the skin and remain in the hair follicles. Frontline in particular is very safe, safe even for puppies and pregnant or nursing mother animals.

Q) What should I feed my pet?

A) We maintain a list of recommended foods – this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive and complete list of all the good pet foods available, but it’s a start! Feel free to ask us about other foods as well.

Q) FAQs about Internet Pharmacies (click here for more information: OnlinePharmacies)

A) Many manufacturers of veterinary medications state unequivocally that they do not sell to anyone other than veterinarians or accredited veterinary pharmacies, and they do not guarantee their products if purchased from an unapproved source like most online pharmacies. Therefore, if you purchase, for example, heartworm medication from an online pharmacy and your pet tests positive for heartworm, the manufacturer of the medication will not cover your pet’s treatment. Whereas, if you had purchased that same medication from a veterinarian, your treatment would have been covered.

AVMA Provides Internet Pharmacy Information: With the recent emergence of Internet pharmacies, many pet owners have questions regarding their safety and credibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association appreciates the rising cost of health care for pets as well as humans, but cautions pet owners to be aware of the risks that may be involved. Like you, we and your veterinarian want to ensure the highest quality of care for your animal.

  • Q: A friend told me about an Internet site that sells drugs for pets, and it’s cheaper than I pay at my veterinarian. Why shouldn’t I order my pet’s drugs over the Internet? A: Finding a “deal” makes you feel great…like you’ve outsmarted the system. But it’s only a great “deal” if you’re also receiving a quality product. Without quality, lower prices can prove to be a false savings. And sometimes the prices are not lower.
  • Q: Internet pharmacies sound like a good deal. But some people are against buying drugs from them. Why? A: A number of problems have been reported, such as sales of pet medications without valid prescriptions. These drugs could pose a health threat to pets, and we’re concerned about the welfare of these animals.
  • Q: Why can’t I get a prescription from just any veterinarian? A: For the same reason you can’t walk into any doctor’s office that’s listed in the telephone directory and ask for a prescription for yourself. Because it’s illegal, not to mention unethical, for a veterinarian to authorize a prescription without a valid “veterinarian-client-patient relationship.” In order for you to get a legal prescription, you must be a “patient of record.”
  • Q: I found an Internet pharmacy that says I don’t need a prescription. Do I? A: It is illegal and unethical for a pharmacy to send prescription drugs for animals without a valid prescription obtained from your veterinarian.
  • Q: Well then, how can I find an Internet pharmacy that’s credible? A: We haven’t found a fool-proof way to assure a “good” pharmacy. That’s why the AVMA supports a program called “VIPPS,” a voluntary certification program created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The VIPPS seal of approval identifies those online pharmacies that are, according to NABP, appropriately licensed, are legitimately operating via the Internet, and that have successfully completed a rigorous criteria review and inspection. If you do experience problems, you should report the pharmacy to the Boards of Pharmacy in your state and the pharmacy’s state.
  • Q: Can my veterinarian tell me if the Internet pharmacy I’m using complies with regulations designed to protect me? A: No. Veterinarians cannot ensure compliance nor are they obligated to do so.
  • Q: If I’m still thinking about buying my pet’s medications over the Internet, what should I do? A: Please be careful. Insist on the same quality that you would expect from your veterinary clinic or from your neighborhood pharmacy. Your pet deserves nothing less.
  • Q: What else can I do? A: Talk to your veterinarian. He or she wants to offer both convenience and good will, and is likely to offer you some assurance about the legitimacy and safety of his/her medication.

This information has been compiled by AVMA Scientific Activities Division staff.

Q) What about pet insurance?

A) There are many different pet insurance companies, each of which offer different plans and levels of care. Pet insurance can mean that finances are less of a concern when it comes to emergencies, and can make managing chronic illnesses more affordable. However, keep in mind that most pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, so it is best to purchase pet insurance while your pet is still young and healthy. We would be happy to discuss pet insurance with you, and here is a page for “Pet Insurance 101“. Here are some of the pet insurance companies, but this is by no means all of them:

Pet Plan Embrace Pets Best
ASPCA Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) Pet Care
Purina Care AKC Pet Healthcare