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Veterinary Care – Frequently Asked Questions

What vaccines are needed for my dog?

Core (required) vaccines include Rabies and DHPP- The combination vaccine helps protect against distemper, parvo, hepatitis, and parainfluenza. Some dogs will also receive the leptospirosis portion of this vaccine.

Bordetella is a non-core vaccine. This helps protect against the upper respiratory bacteria known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, one of the agents that can cause “Kennel Cough”. The bordetella vaccine is required to board your dog and is recommended for dogs that frequent the groomer, dog shows or dog parks. Bordetella is given initially with intranasal drops and should be followed by two injections under the skin for best protection.

How many vaccinations does my dog need and when should they begin?

Vaccines should be started at 6-8 weeks of age and need to be given every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks/4 months of age. Rabies is given once usually at the last booster appointment, or after 12 weeks of age.

What vaccines are needed for my cat?

Core (required) vaccines include Rabies and FVRCP- The combination FVRCP vaccine includes rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.

Feline leukemia vaccine, or FeLV, is a non-core vaccine. It is strongly recommended that kittens be tested for the FeLV virus prior to vaccination, usually at their first appointment. This is a simple blood test. Kittens are given a series of vaccinations and then any cat that goes outside or lives with another cat who goes outside should have a booster yearly. Indoor cats that are not exposed to outdoor cats do not need this vaccine.

What can I expect after my pet has been vaccinated?

Some muscle soreness, lethargy and mild fever persisting for a day or two are considered common reactions to stimulation of the immune system. Vaccine reactions beyond this are unusual but possible. Allergic reactions characterized usually by facial swelling and hives are a strong sign that special care should be taken in administering vaccinations. Since allergic reactions potentially can become worse with each episode, it is important to take heed of these signs as severe reactions can result in shock or even death.

A few dogs and cats will develop more severe reactions which usually occur within a few minutes, but which may be delayed for a few hours. Signs may include difficulty breathing, salivating, vomiting and or diarrhea. With any of these more severe reactions, you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Should I test my cat for Feline Leukemia or Feline AIDS? Which cats need to be tested and when?

When to have your kitten or cats tested

All cats, even single, indoor kittens and cats should be tested.


Kittens can be tested at any age. If, however, there has been known or suspected exposure to FeLV, it is recommended to retest 3 months later.


Kittens and cats with a known or suspected exposure to FIV should be tested when they are six months or older. Cats that go outside should be tested annually for FIV.

Testing kittens younger than six months for FIV can give false negative results because it takes months for the virus to be detectable in the blood or false positive results can also occur due to the passing of maternal antibodies to the kitten.

Note: Cats that test positive for FeLV and/or FIV should be kept indoors to prevent the spread of these two diseases and also to protect them from other infectious diseases.

How old does my pet have to be for spaying or neutering?

The majority of dogs, cats and rabbits are typically spayed or neutered before they reach sexual maturity, for both males and females, around 6 months of age.

Should my pet have a litter before being spayed?

Your pet has no physiological or psychological need to have a litter before being spayed or neutered. Thousands of unwanted puppies, kittens, dogs and cats are euthanized daily at animal shelters.

What are the advantages of altering my pet?

“Altering” (spay/neuter) your pet can prevent uterine infections, mammary, testicular, prostate, and certain skin tumors. Behavioral problems of aggression, fighting, territorial marking can also be prevented or minimized. It is well-established that altered pets enjoy longer healthier lives and make better behaved, more enjoyable family pets.

At what age does a heat cycle begin and how long does it last?

A dog will come into season about every 6 months but large dogs may cycle every 8-10 months and the heat period will last approximately 21 days. The most notable sign is vaginal bleeding which will occur sometime during the first 7 days and will last approximately 10-14 days. There will usually also be noticeable swelling of the vulva. During this time ovulation occurs and male dogs will be attracted to her.

Cats are completely different from dogs. They go into heat many times each year and the heat period lasts about 2-3 weeks. If she is not bred she will return to heat in 1-2 weeks and this cycle will continue for many cycles or until she is bred. Signs of heat in the cat are usually behavioral with increased vocalization, they will rub against furniture and their owners looking for increased attention and when stroked along the back they will raise their hind end and tread their hind legs.

How long does pregnancy last in a dog/cat?

Pregnancy in both dogs and cats lasts 60-67 days with an average of 63 days.

My cat is going to his litter box a lot and seems uncomfortable. What does that mean?

Cats are very prone to infection and inflammation of the lower urinary tract, which can lead to urinary tract obstruction (blockage of the urethra so that your cat cannot pass urine) in male cats. While infection is an irritating condition, urinary blockage is a life threatening condition and you should contact a veterinarian immediately if your cat is showing this type of behavior

How do I control fleas on my pet?

With the advancement of flea control treatments such as Frontline, Advantage, Revolution, Capstar and Program, fleas are no longer the nuisance they once were for you and your pet.

Frontline, Revolution, and Advantage are all spot on liquid treatments done once monthly. Frontline protects against fleas and ticks. Revolution protects against ticks and fleas as well as ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms in cats. Advantage protects against fleas. Frontline and Revolution are both waterproof approximately 2 days after application. These products last 30 days. Capstar is a pill given orally to kill fleas very quickly (within 2 hours) but only lasts 24 hours. It is what we use if your pet comes in for surgery, grooming or boarding and has fleas on him/her. Program prevents the flea eggs from hatching, essentially “birth control” for fleas. It is given as a pill. It is also available in a 6-month injection for cats only. Because Program does not kill adult fleas, it is most useful in addition to another product or as a preventative for indoor only cats. Do NOT confuse these products with others you find in the pet supermarket or grocery store. Those products are insecticides and can potentially kill your pet especially if a dog product is applied to a cat.

You can discuss the appropriate flea product during your pet’s visit. For more in depth information, you may also visit: Veterinary partner

I saw small worms in my pet’s bowel movement. What are they?

Small white worms about the size of a grain of rice are probably tapeworm segments. They are contracted from swallowing fleas or other infected intermediate hosts and can be eliminated with medication obtained from your veterinarian. There are other intestinal parasites that your pet may have that can only be detected with a laboratory test. Your pet should be tested yearly by bringing in a stool specimen during its physical examination. To keep your pet from being infected again, you should also practice good flea control.

What should I do in case of an emergency?

Emergency Pet Hospitals

We hope that you never have to seek emergency care for your pet (s) but it is comforting to know that there are several emergency pet-care facilities available in the Puyallup-Tacoma area.

We have a doctor available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. After office hours you are encouraged to contact one of these emergency hospitals:

The Animal Emergency Clinic (253-474-0791) located at 5608 S Durango St in Tacoma.

To help you decide whether to seek emergency pet care, please see the following article.

When to Call the Doctor

If an animal is seriously ill or injured it needs critical care immediately.

Bring your pet in to see us if any of the following occur:

  • DIFFICULTY BREATHING – Noisy breathing, blue tongue or gums, abnormal panting, gasping for air, or very shallow breathing.
  • UNSTOPPABLE BLEEDING – Apply pressure with a clean cloth. Do not use a tourniquet.
  • INABILITY TO URINATE OR DEFECATE – Continuously straining with little or no result. Blood in stool or urine, or pain.
  • HEATSTROKE – Heavy panting, extreme weakness, a body temperature above 104 F.
  • BLOATED OR DISTENDED ABDOMEN – With or without vomiting.
  • INABILITY TO DELIVER KITTENS OR PUPPIES – Has labor contractions for more than 2 hours, or more than 15 minutes of labor with fetus, or membranes protruding.
  • LOSS OF BALANCE, UNCONSCIOUSNESS OR SEIZURE – Tremors, staggering, convulsions, sudden blindness, fainting, tilting of the head, or sudden change of disposition, such as unusual withdrawal or aggressiveness.
  • PAIN – Especially continuous pain.
  • MAJOR TRAUMA OR INJURY – If your pet has fallen, been hit by a car, or has suffered wounds anyplace on the body, but especially to the eye, chest or abdomen, or has broken bones.
  • SHOCK – If your pet shows signs of weakness, collapse, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, has a bewildered appearance, or pupils that are dilated or pinpoints.
  • POISONING – If you believe your pet has either eaten or come in contact with poison, call first, then bring the container with you if you have it, or the commercial name or chemical name with a list of ingredients. Common poisoning:
    • insecticides
    • snail bait
    • antifreeze
    • rat poison
    • over-the-counter drugs (Tylenol, ibuprofen)
    • prescription medications (blood pressure, antidepressants)
    • chocolate
    • Xylitol – A sugar substitue shown to be 100 times more toxic than chocolate for dogs
  • VOMITING AND/OR DIARRHEA – Violent episodes, continuous, or contains blood.
  • LAMENESS – Continuous, not bearing weight on limb, or swollen limb.

For additional pet health care questions, please visit: Veterinary Partner


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River Road Animal Hospital


7:00 am-9:00 pm


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7:00 am-9:00 pm


7:00 am-9:00 pm


7:00 am-5:00 pm


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Feedback from our clients

  • "Dr. Anderson has always gone above and beyond for the care of our family's pets for several years."
    John Doe / San Diego, CA
  • "Dr. Anderson has always gone above and beyond for the care of our family's pets for several years. We always feel questions are welcome, and Dr. Anderson spends whatever time is required to provide answers, whether we are in the office or just speaking on the telephone. Dr. Anderson always knows our pets’ special needs and personalities to provide them the best possible care."
    The Miller Family