So along with the question about Banfield, you wanted to know about puppy stuff. A great place for me to start with this is vaccines and exams. I love vaccines. I had such an "ah-ha" moment when we went over immunology in school and puppy/kitten series. When I talk about vaccines I really hope people understand the importance of why we do so many. And exams! 90% of people just think a vet is good for two things: shots and sick visits. Sure, we do those, but the best part of an annual or semiannual is a good thorough exam. I'll get more into those after I go from puppies to adults.
So I'm going to start with puppies. Depending on how long this post is, kittens maybe be a separate one (also due to the fact that out of the people I know read this blog, I think I'm the only crazy cat lady >_<).
Core puppy vaccines are a distemper/parvo series, a bordatella, and a rabies. The distemper/parvo series, also called a DHAPP or a DA2PP, is generally a 4 vaccine series that covers various diseases. The series should start around 6-8 weeks of age, with the puppy getting 4 vaccines in the series (usually at 6, 9, 12, and 16 weeks). This vaccine is an important one. The "D" is for distemper virus; young puppies (up to 6 months) are most vulnerable to this one. It can be fatal, and if contracted, there is only supportive treatment available. The "H" or first "A" is for canine hepatitis which is caused by adenovirus-1. The second "A," is for adenovirus-2, which can cause some strains of kennel cough. The first "P" is parvovirus, which is also another one young puppies are more susceptible to. It razes the intestinal tract, and can affect the heart in some forms. Also another disease that can be fatal if contracted, and the only thing we can do is supportive care. The final "P" is for parainfluenza - another culprit in kennel cough.
The reason for boostering this shot four times has to do with maternal antibodies. When babies are born, they have little to no immune system. They get most of it from mother's first milk, which is a special type of milk called colostrum. This is the reason why doctors will try to get you to breastfeed right away after your baby is born (unless the baby needs pressing medical attention). It transfers maternal antibodies (read: temporary immune system) to the baby, so the baby has protection until it's own immune system has time to boot up. Now these maternal antibodies last until somewhere between 6-16 weeks, depending on the individual. When vaccinate a child or puppy or kitten, the point is to jump start their own immune system against the disease you are vaccinating for. However if maternal antibodies are present, they interfere with the vaccine response, and the baby's own immune system does not create it's OWN antibodies to the vaccines. Since there's no way of knowing if your puppy's maternal antibodies will wear off at 6 weeks and 1 day, or at 13 weeks, we booster this important vaccine at four 3 to 4 week intervals to minimize any risk of the vaccine "not taking." Why not just wait until after 16 weeks? Because while dogs of any age can get the viruses in the DA2PP vaccine, the MOST susceptible dogs are puppies in that 6-16 week age group. And because of the maternal antibodies, even this vaccine series is not 100% - we had one puppy that broke with parvo while her parents were in the middle of this series.
The other two vaccines are given later in the puppy series. Bordatella is a vaccine that gets a few more strains of kennel cough. Puppies generally get this around 12 weeks of age, and they generally get the intranasal form. The reason for the intranasal is that this type of vaccine is squirt up the nose, and stimulates the local immune system in the nose for a faster, better response in a puppy that has never had it before. Older dogs can get the injectable just to booster it after their puppy vaccines. The last in the series is rabies. Rabies is no laughing matter. This vaccine can be given at 16 weeks; we usually wait until 20 weeks at our clinic. Rabies is a legal require in every state (I'm pretty sure about this one). If rabies is contracted, there is no cure, and it is almost always fatal. Then head has to be sent in for testing (gruesome, I know). Out of all the other viruses we've talked about in this post, this one is one people can get. And it is just as fatal in people. Which is why there are laws about this, because it is a human health issue as well.
Then there are non-core vaccines. When a person brings in a puppy, we always risk factor them - will they be camping/hiking/hunting or going to rural or wooded areas with you? Will they be show dog? If it turns out a dog will be going to or living in a wooded area, a lyme vaccine is also suggested. If the dog will be in a rural area where there's standing water or they could be in contact with animal urine, a leptospirosis vaccine is suggested. For show dogs, they may also suggest a K-9 influenza vaccine.
Other than vaccines - there are several other things that are suggested. At least two negative fecal tests for any puppy. The reason for two, is that the test in not 100% accurate (it can only detect worms if the puppy is current actively shedding worms), so two tests a few weeks apart is thought to increase the chance of catching any potential worms. Also, 2 to 3 dewormings are recommended, even if the fecals are negative. The reason for this is that some crazy high number of puppies (like 90%) are born with roundworms that they get from the mother in utero. The dewormings are generally something like pyrantel, that'll get your roundworms, plus a couple other worms. If the fecals show other worms outside the scope of pyrantel, you may be given additional worm medications.
And of course, let's not forget booster visit exams. These let the vet get their hands on the puppy to make sure our development and growth is normal. That teeth are coming in properly, testicles are descending like they should, etc. It is also a great time to ask questions about potty training, teething problems, and anything else!
Another important thing we can work with you on at this time is getting a good quality diet on board. Food is the easiest thing that you can do to help your puppy have a good, healthy life. You feed them every day! They only see us like once or twice a year. Puppies should be on puppy food, not adult food, because they require extra nutrients and calories to grow. Good brands that we like to recommend are Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina's higher quality foods (think Purina ONE and higher), Iams, Eukanuba, etc. I'm not too familiar with "natural" brands, mostly because A) there are too many on that bandwagon, and B) I think the whole "natural" movement is 90% marketing and about 10% quality. I like "big name dog food companies" because they've been around longer, and I've seen long-living, healthy dogs on those foods. But that's just my humble opinion. I also like the above brands because they feed test. Meaning they come up with recipes, then they feed them to real animals in studies to see how they do on them. A lot of other brands are just "formulated to meet AAFCO standards," which means they made a recipe, but they never did a test to see how animals do on that recipe. Personally, I feed Science Diet to both my babies. I always get comments from my coworkers about how nice their haircoats are. And it helps keep them at nice weights.
Finally, we'll also get you started on a heartworm prevention regime at this time. Your puppy won't get tested until he's older than 6 months, since it takes 6 months for baby heartworms to mature into adult heartworms. However, if we get him on prevention at that first visit, it only leaves a 6 week window where the puppy may have become infected. If your puppy didn't come fixed already, we'll also talk to you about spaying/neutering around 6 months of age.
Whew, that's a lot more in writing than I thought. So I guess I'll make a continuation post later about vaccines and visits as a puppy grows into a dog. And kittens will have to wait. I hope this is helpful. Ask questions if you feel like I've forgotten anything!
EDIT: One thing I forgot about is breeders. Most clinics will recommend ignoring/re-doing shots that a breeder does. The reasoning behind this is that breeders get their vaccines from feed stores. Vaccines are very temperature sensitive - there is no guarantee that the feed store kept them refrigerated, or that the shipping to the feed store, or the breeder themselves actually properly stored the vaccines. Also, breeders don't always give vaccines properly at the proper times. I've seen pups that got their bordatella vaccine at 8 weeks of age. That one really shouldn't be given before 12 weeks, since it doesn't get boostered like the DHPP. Another thing to keep in mind - there are reputable breeders out there, however, there is no training or schooling needed to become a breeder. So beware where they may be getting their information. And please, DON'T take the word of a breeder over that of a veterinarian that went to school for 8 years.