Puppy and Kitten advice during lockdown

Puppy and Kitten Vaccinations

As many people are now aware, veterinary practices across the UK have reluctantly had to cease carrying out all routine appointments during the lockdown- this includes vaccinations. This is to ensure that contact with members of the public is minimised – reducing the possibility of veterinary staff becoming unwell and therefore being unavailable to assist in the event of emergencies.

We understand that many owners of new puppies and kittens are concerned about safeguarding their pets against preventable diseases, as well as ensuring that they are well socialised during this crucial time in their lives. We recognise and advocate that vaccination is extremely important, and hope to offer some advice to new pet owners during these challenging times.

If you have been considering taking on a new puppy or kitten, we recommend that you delay this until the COVID-19 situation is under control and the rules about social distancing have been relaxed.

Vaccinations

Initial vaccinations are usually given to the puppy or kitten whilst they are still in the care of the breeder, so in most cases will arrive at their new home with some level of immunity. Research shows that 75% of puppies and kittens will develop sufficient immunity after their first vaccine. 25% will not develop sufficient immunity until they are given a ‘top-up’ vaccine- usually 2-4 weeks later depending on age. This is why we usually recommend that a second vaccination is given routinely before they are allowed to safely socialise with other dogs and cats.  

Some insurance policies may become invalid for preventable diseases if the puppy or kitten hasn’t been fully vaccinated – we are advising all owners to call their insurance companies to check their policy to see where they stand during these unprecedented times.

We strongly advise that you re-start your puppy or kitten’s vaccination course as soon as possible after the social distancing rules have been relaxed and normal veterinary service has resumed. In the meantime, there are lots of ways you can help get your puppy or kitten off to the best start at home.

Puppies

In the absence of a second vaccination, it is important to take extra precautions with your puppy – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t provide lots of opportunities to socialise them and teach them about the world! You should still take your puppy out during your daily exercise- we advise against putting them on the ground until they are fully vaccinated. Carrying them or using a pram/dog buggy or similar means they will be able to experience all the sights and sounds of the outside world with minimal risk to their health. Ensure their experiences are as varied as possible, but keep sessions short to avoid overwhelming them. If they seem frightened by the experience, it may be best to take them away from it and try again another day. Make each session positive with the use of treats and praise when appropriate. You should aim for them to get used to different noises (such as traffic, sirens, trains, bin lorries etc.) and sights and smells such as other animals (from a safe distance).

If you are lucky enough to have a neighbour or nearby friend with a fully vaccinated, calm adult dog, your puppy can be socialised with them – but only if you can implement social distancing rules. This should be done in a secure private space where there are unlikely to have been unvaccinated dogs or foxes passing through. As above, sessions should be kept short and positive.

Indoor activities

Indoor activities are easily carried out at home and can prepare your puppy for the future. Introduce them to lots of new objects such as bikes and noisy objects such as vacuum cleaners, food blenders and hair dryers. Noisy objects can be initially switched on from a different room and your puppy distracted with toys – most animals will otherwise be very startled if a noisy object is suddenly switched on in front of them! You can also download different sounds (such as fireworks, babies crying etc.) which can be initially played at low volumes and gradually increased as your dog gets used to them.

Other ideas include getting them used to people wearing different types of clothing (such as hats, bike helmets and sunglasses.), introducing them to different surfaces (carpet, wood, tile) and getting them used to being handled in different ways – such as touching their paws, ears and checking their teeth. This should be done very gently at first and rewarded with lots of praise.

Garden time

Private gardens are generally considered safe for puppies, as well as necessary for toilet training. Ensure that they are fully enclosed and protect them as much as you can from other animals such as foxes.

Car journeys

Social distancing laws dictate that we are not currently permitted to take unnecessary car journeys, however you can still familiarise your puppy with the car on your driveway – get them used to their crate or seatbelt/harness with and without the engine on. You can also get them used to the car radio, air conditioning and windscreen wipers being switched on. Keep sessions short and fun. Never leave your dog unattended in the car. Once we are allowed to make car journeys again, ensure that your pet’s car journeys are kept short to start with and gradually build up to longer journeys.

Routine and alone time

Whilst it’s lovely to be spending so much time with our pets, we anticipate that some pets will become very anxious when things do get back to normal and their routine abruptly changes when their owners go back to work. Being confined to our houses makes it a challenge for us to prepare our pets for this change. We can try to minimise this anxiety by leaving them alone for short periods of time. This can be achieved by spending time in the garden without them or by sitting in the car without them for short periods. Keep their time alone short to start with. It can help to distract them with toys such as kongs so that they do not associate the time alone as a negative experience.

During the lockdown, you should keep your routine as close to your ‘normal’ routine as possible by ensuring that mealtimes, daily exercise and bedtimes are kept the same as if you were going to work. You should research pet sitters and dog walkers if you know your pet will be left alone for several hours when normality has resumed.

There are endless options for teaching your puppy whilst you are at home – be creative and keep things fun! Remember that puppies get tired very easily so will also need lots of sleep and downtime.

Kittens

For safety reasons, it is advised that you keep your kitten indoors until they are fully vaccinated and neutered – neutering will reduce unwanted litters as well as roaming which may lead to cat fights and road collisions. Unfortunately we are unable to offer neutering at this time, so advise keeping unneutered pets at home until normal service resumes.

Fortunately there are lots of things you can do at home to keep your kittens entertained! Food can be scattered in different hiding places, and puzzle feeders can be easily made by being inventive with cardboard rolls or boxes. Rotate any cat toys to ensure your kitten doesn’t get bored. You can also introduce kittens to new objects and sounds the same as you would for a puppy (please see above) and use the time to slowly familiarise them with cat carriers and with the car.

Multi-cat households

If you have other cats in the household, you may find that they can get stressed from a new kitten. This stress can be reduced by reducing competition in the household- ensure that there are extra bowls and litter trays (at least one per cat, plus one spare) and plenty of places for the cats to hide.

There are products available to help reduce stress in both cats and dogs. We are still able to post these out – please contact us for more information.

If you have any concerns about your pet at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We are still able to provide home visits for urgent appointments and can now offer video consults for many routine or non-urgent appointments. These can be arranged by calling 07443 929 395.