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Canine Distemper: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

When welcoming a new canine companion into your life, it is paramount to prioritize their well-being. Learning about the canine diseases that pose a threat to their health and overall wellness is of utmost importance, particularly when it comes to highly contagious and potentially fatal illnesses like distemper.

What is distemper in dogs?

Distemper is a virulent and often deadly viral infection that afflicts not only dogs but also ferrets and various wild animals, including foxes, skunks, and raccoons. Alongside parvovirus, it ranks among the most severe maladies that can afflict dogs, transcending age barriers with puppies being particularly vulnerable. The clinical signs of distemper in older dogs mirror those seen in their younger counterparts.

What causes distemper in dogs?

The root cause of distemper in dogs lies in the paramyxovirus, a pathogen responsible for several other devastating animal diseases such as virulent Newcastle disease in avian species and rinderpest in cattle. This virus typically targets the respiratory system, although certain paramyxoviruses affect the nervous and reproductive systems. It’s noteworthy that distemper is one of the few paramyxoviruses for which a vaccine exists.

Is distemper in dogs contagious?

Distemper in dogs is highly contagious, transmissible through direct contact with infected animals, including transmission from mother to unborn puppies via the placenta. Additionally, it can be airborne, spreading through the respiratory emissions of infected dogs. It can survive briefly in the environment but can be easily eliminated with common disinfectants. Wildlife can also serve as intermediaries, transmitting distemper to dogs.

What are the early distemper symptoms in dogs?

Initial signs of distemper often resemble allergies, featuring watery or purulent eye and nasal discharges. Affected dogs typically lose their appetite, exhibit lethargy, and develop fever. Coughing, diarrhea, and vomiting may also manifest. These symptoms generally emerge within three to six days following infection. Early detection is critical, and veterinary attention should be sought at the onset of symptoms.

What other diseases look like distemper in dogs?

While neurological distemper symptoms in dogs may appear distinctive, other diseases share common signs with distemper. Canine hepatitis, for instance, leads to eye and nasal discharges, while leptospirosis may cause shivering and muscle tenderness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can induce muscle pain and swelling, mimicking distemper symptoms. Lead poisoning exhibits the most parallels with distemper, including uncoordinated walking, tremors, and seizures. A veterinarian can provide further insight into the implications of these symptoms.

How is distemper diagnosed?

Diagnosis often entails a thorough examination of your dog’s medical history, vaccination records, and clinical presentation. If distemper is strongly suspected, diagnostic testing, such as swabs from the eye or nose or blood tests, may be employed.

How does distemper progress?

Distemper eventually causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This causes the particularly worrying symptoms of neurological distemper in dogs, which includes circling, head tilts, paralysis, twitching and seizures.

As distemper in dogs progresses, it can cause hyperkeratosis, or “hard pad” symptoms in the nose and paw pads. Essentially, the skin thickens and hardens and can cause discomfort. Secondary infections of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract are also common because distemper compromises the immune system.

What is the prognosis for distemper in dogs?

Distemper in dogs frequently proves fatal, with estimates suggesting a mortality rate of approximately 50% in adults and 80% in puppies. Survival rates vary depending on virus strain, the quality of care received, and the strength of the dog’s immune system. Puppies are especially susceptible due to their underdeveloped immune defenses. Some dogs may recover without progressing to the neurological stage, while others may experience symptoms for an extended period.

Are there long-term effects of distemper in dogs?

If distemper advances to the neurological stage, it can result in enduring effects, including permanent twitches, tremors, seizures, or vision loss. These effects may not become apparent until the dog reaches middle age or beyond.

How do you treat distemper in dogs?

Currently, there is no cure for distemper, and treatment primarily focuses on symptom management to enhance the chances of survival. Isolation from other dogs is crucial to prevent transmission. Hospitalization may be necessary for proper care. Veterinary recommendations may include medications to address symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and neurologic issues, as well as hydration support. While antibiotics won’t treat distemper directly, they may target secondary infections, an integral facet of treatment.

Can you prevent distemper?

Preventing distemper is largely achievable through vaccination. Vaccination, given as part of the DHPP shot (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus), is among the most effective preventive measures. Puppies can start the vaccination series as early as 6 to 8 weeks and complete it by 16 to 18 weeks. Until fully vaccinated, it’s prudent to limit a puppy’s exposure to unfamiliar dogs, wildlife, and communal dog-related settings.

Read our guide, “Pet Vaccinations: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian” for more information on vaccinations.

How long is the distemper vaccine good for in dogs?

After the initial three-shot series, puppies require a booster shot at the one-year mark. Adult dogs should receive DHPP boosters every three years. Notably, the DHPP vaccine offers protection against multiple diseases, underscoring the importance of regular boosters.

Are there side effects of the distemper vaccine?

As with any vaccine, the distemper vaccine may induce side effects, including lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, and localized swelling at the injection site. Rarely, allergic reactions may occur, sometimes with delayed onset, necessitating vigilant post-vaccination monitoring. Given the severe consequences of distemper, vaccination is typically recommended.

In conclusion, distemper in dogs is a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease characterized by acute symptoms. On the other hand, prevention through vaccination is a relatively straightforward and cost-effective strategy compared to the challenges and costs of treating the disease.


What to Know About Dog Anxiety

Blog used with permission from Honest Paws



People can experience a range of anxiety symptoms – from a nervous heart flutter to a full-on panic attack. Having anxiety is one of the many ways dogs are like their pet parents. Just like us, their nervousness is normally nothing to worry about. It’s quite understandable that your pup may be a bit anxious when meeting people for the first time, or encountering a new situation.

With a little reassurance, your pooch will often quickly calm down. However, if dog anxiety is not addressed properly, or if there’s some underlying trauma at play, your pet’s anxiety could become a serious matter that takes time and energy to remedy. Read on to find out what you need to know about anxiety in dogs and how to help your pooch overcome this problem.

What is Anxiety in Dogs?



Basically, having anxiety is about being fearful or worried about something. It’s a natural emotion that helps alert us to danger, but it can be problematic in other circumstances. Dogs are pack animals and view their human family members part of their pack.

They feel safe with others around so it’s not unexpected that feelings of anxiety will surface when they’re left alone. This is called separation anxiety and is one of the typical forms of anxiety in dogs.

Our canines do best when they know what to expect. Therefore, anxiety may also become an issue if they’re dealing with a significant change in their environment, or too many changes at once. This means there can be a variety of reasons why your fur baby has developed anxiety.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Some dogs have a generally calm disposition and will be less bothered by particular events than other canines might. Having said that, there are a number of common causes of anxiety in dogs. Keep in mind that there may be more than one reason for your pet’s anxiety.


Many dogs will become anxious when they hear loud noises like thunder. Interestingly, dogs can sense a drop in barometric pressure so they may disappear when they know there’s a storm coming. You might find your pooch cowering in the bathtub or under a bed in this circumstance. Other loud noises, like fireworks, will produce the same reaction.


Being in a crowd can be anxiety-provoking for your pooch. That’s because they don’t know what to expect in this environment. Crowds can be noisy and confining. This qualifies as an unfamiliar situation where, in your dog’s mind, anything can happen. Your pup may also worry about being separated from you.


Is your dog anxious when they’re around new people or other dogs? There may be a traumatic event in their past that’s affecting their behavior.

Maybe your dog has been rescued and the full extent of their history is unknown. Canines who aren’t socialized properly may have anxiety around other dogs and humans. They’re often simply not used to being with anyone else aside from their family members.


Despite the photos you see of dogs enjoying the breeze with their heads out the car window, not all dogs like car rides. It may cause anxiety in some dogs since they don’t know where they’re going – it could be a visit to the vet or to the boarding kennel.

Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience such as being confined in an uncomfortable space in the vehicle, or arriving at a destination that caused them anxiety.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Certainly, each dog is an individual and they’re apt to show different symptoms of anxiety. You may also see several of the following signs together.

In addition, some cases of anxiety will be more severe than others. And, symptoms that appear only once or twice could suggest that Rover or Rosie just didn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation that day.

If behaviors persist or escalate to more destruction or aggression, you’re likely dealing with a case of anxiety that needs to be resolved. Plus, you don’t want your fur baby to injure themselves or others with their actions.


Here’s a list of dog anxiety symptoms to look out for:

  • Aggression
  • Barking
  • Compulsive or repetitive behavior
  • Depression
  • Destroying things
  • Drooling excessively
  • Ears back
  • Escaping or trying to
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Refusing food
  • Restlessness
  • Tail tucked in
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Urinating or defecating inside
  • Whining


Treatment Options for Dog Anxiety

Before you embark on using any treatment, it’s a good move to rule out the possibility that an underlying medical issue is causing your dog’s symptoms. Enlist the assistance of your vet to make sure your doggo is healthy. If the investigation suggests that your pup has anxiety, your veterinarian can assist you to put together an appropriate treatment plan.

This may include medications as well as some of the ideas below. Most successful plans of action will involve a number of different methods, all focused on encouraging your dog to relax. Here are some things your vet may suggest.


More and more, pet owners are discovering the benefits of CBD oil for dogs to reduce anxiety. This natural compound found in the hemp plant is extracted and made into a selection of safe pet oils and treats. If you are unfamiliar with CBD, check out this useful guide. Honest Paws CBD products are sold at all Best Friends Pet Hotel locations. The Calm line is design to help with anxiety.



There are things you can do to desensitize your dog to triggers that raise their anxiety level. For instance, if Snoopy or Stella shows signs of worry when you prepare to leave the house, pick up your keys and grab your bag like you’re heading out then put everything back again.

You can try desensitizing your canine friend to loud sounds by making quieter sounds and gradually moving up to louder sounds. As your pet gets used to these triggers, they’ll find them less anxiety-provoking.

Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning builds on desensitization by training your doggo to judge stressors as a positive thing rather than a matter to be anxious about. Essentially, you offer your dog something good when their anxiety is triggered.

This could mean that whenever they hear thunder you give them a treat. If they have separation anxiety, when you leave the house put a food puzzle out for them to enjoy while you’re away. Your canine will start to anticipate getting something nice when these stressors happen.


Taking your dog’s mind off whatever is causing them distress is a good move. You might try getting their attention with a treat, food puzzle, a toy, or engaging them in doing a few tricks.

The key is to have your pooch focus on something else and not on whatever is causing their anxious thoughts. Make an effort to pick a distraction that is sure to please them and mix things up as often as you have to in order to keep their attention.

Music Therapy

Some dogs enjoy a little background noise so that they don’t feel alone. Soothing music can also help calm your pooch. Would you believe that there are actually audio tracks available specifically for canines? Try a few selections and see what your pet responds to best.

Touch and Massage

You know the favorite places on your pup’s body where they enjoy your touch. Maybe an ear rub is what they respond to or they really like a back scratch. Think about how touch relaxes them. Use this to combat their anxiety and kick it up a notch with a nice doggie massage.


There may be an advantage to hiring a professional dog trainer to encourage your pup to get over their anxiety. This is especially true if your pooch is showing aggression when under stress.

Look up any Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB) in your area to see what services they have available. This is another instance where your veterinarian may be able to advise you.

 Safety and Comfort

All dogs need comfortable safe places where they can relax and nap undisturbed. A soft pet bed and a favorite blanket can be used to bring their stress level down.

You can even buy heated pads for them to lie on to provide more comfort. Encourage your dog with praise and the odd treat when you see them taking a break in their safe space.

They’ll quickly begin to associate this with feeling protected and understand that it’s somewhere to soothe themselves when feeling anxious. A crate can also provide safety and comfort if it’s used this way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a dog with anxiety?

Treating dog anxiety usually involves a number of different methods such as CBD oil, counter conditioning, distraction, music therapy and more.

What are signs of anxiety in dogs?

Symptoms of dog anxiety run the gamut from changes in body language involving the ears and tail to behaviors such as whining and urinating inside.

How can I calm my dog’s anxiety naturally?

Offering nutritional supplements, providing exercise and mental stimulation, and socializing your dog are a few things you can try.


Why Does My Pet’s Breath Smell?

Dental health guidance provided by Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM

dog, vet, dental health, teeth cleaning

If you find that your dog or cat’s breath smells, it may be time to take the utmost care of your pet’s dental health.

Dental health: how important is it really?

Periodontal disease can lead to bacteria getting into your pet’s blood stream through their inflamed gums. These bacteria can wreck havoc on the body. They go to heart valves causing endocarditis and heart murmurs as well as travel to other organs seeding infection throughout the body.

Diseased teeth can lead to tooth root abscess and even infection in the jaw bone that can get so bad it can weaken the jaw bone enough to cause a fracture. All these things can be prevented with proper dental care.

Do you think it’s important now?


Check out your pet’s teeth. If any of the following applies, your pet likely has dental disease.

1) You see brown build up on the teeth. Don’t forget to check the back teeth.

2) The gums bleed if you touch them with a cotton tip where the tooth touches the gum.

3) You touch one or more of your pet’s teeth and they move.

4) Your pet’s chew toy has spots of blood on it after chewing on it.

5) Your pet picks up a toy and drops it or doesn’t chew on the toys like before.

6) Your pet shy’s away from his head being petted when he used to enjoy it before.

7) Your pet’s breath can clear the room.

If you recognize any of these symptoms in your pet, have your pet examined by your veterinarian.


If your pet has mild dental tartar, you may be able to get away with just brushing the teeth with a pet approved toothpaste on a routine basis, but eventually almost all pets require a professional dental cleaning – just as you require professional dental cleanings.

If your pet already has evidence of dental disease and gingivitis, your pet requires a professional dental cleaning, or as veterinarians like to call it: a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment (COHAT for short).

The sooner you get this done, the healthier your pet will be long term, and there will be decreased likelihood of needing extractions.

It is not a one and done for the life of your pet. Dental cleanings need to be done on a regular basis. The frequency depends on your pets breed, genetics, chewing habits and at-home care.

dog, teeth brushing

Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier if you start when they are young. Get them used to having your fingers in their mouth, lifting their lips and opening their mouths.

Brushing can be done with a special long handled dog toothbrush, a human tooth brush, a special designed finger cap brush or even just a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. What you use will depend upon you and the size of your pet. It is important however to only uses specialized pet toothpaste as human toothpaste is harmful to your pet.

For a DIY pet toothpaste recipe that you can make and use at home, watch this “how to” video from Best Friends Pet Hotel:

Listen to the advice of the professionals and veterinarians to tell you when it is a time for a professional cleaning.

cat, dental health, teeth brushing

In small breed dogs it can be as early as one year of age or as late as 6 years of age in a large breed dog. Cats may require their first cleaning anywhere from 1 year to 8 years; a lot depends on their chewing habits, underlying medical conditions, and at-home care. The most important factor is: don’t wait until your pet is experiencing pain, infection and complications to get it done. It is important to be proactive with dental care. Your pet will thank you.


pet grooming, groomer, dog
Your local Best Friends Pet Hotel offers professional teeth brushing as part of our grooming services. Visit our Grooming webpage to learn more and book an appointment. Or call your local center with any questions.

vet care, vet clinic, vaccinations, Vetco, Best Friends pet Hotel
To learn more about veterinary care and monthly vet clinics (in partnership with Vetco) at SELECT local Best Friends Pet Hotel locations, visit our Vet Care webpage. Or call your local center with any questions.

Microchipping Your Pets

dog lost in woods, microchip

Enhancing Pet Safety with Microchipping

Losing a pet can be distressing, whether your cat slips out and vanishes or your dog escapes from their collar and ventures into the wilderness. In these trying moments, you exert every effort to retrieve them, but their speed and determination often thwart your endeavors. The anxiety of a safe return grips you. Fortunately, microchipping is a valuable resource that can significantly increase your chances of reuniting with your beloved companion.

Microchipping emerges as a pivotal step to enhance pet safety, especially as the weather beckons pets outdoors. If your pet is not yet microchipped, delving into the procedure and coming to a scheduled VIP Petcare clinic, at your local Best Friends Pet Hotel, is a proactive measure.

Understanding Microchips

A microchip, a diminutive device akin to a grain of rice, is gently implanted beneath your pet’s skin. This minuscule marvel houses a unique identifier linked to your comprehensive contact information, securely stored in a database.

microchip, dog, cat


Microchip Implantation

microchip implanted, injection, dog, veterinarian

The process of implanting a microchip is straightforward and minimally invasive, often administered during a VIP Petcare clinic visit. Remarkably, anesthesia is not required. A state-licensed VIP Petcare veterinarian employs a hypodermic needle, akin to those used for vaccinations, to insert the microchip beneath your pet’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades. While your pet may experience a fleeting moment of discomfort, it is a small price to pay compared to the heartache of permanent separation.

Cost of Microchipping

VIP Petcare offers microchipping services at a reasonable cost of no more than $35, contingent on your location. Notably, this expense includes lifetime registration, sparing you from additional charges for storing your pet’s crucial data.

Reunification through Microchips

veterinarian checking chip under pet's / dog's skin

In the unfortunate event of your pet’s disappearance, animal shelters, rescue organizations, or veterinary facilities can swiftly locate the microchip using a scanner. With a quick wave of the scanner over your pet, it reads the chip’s frequency and reveals the unique ID number assigned to your pet. This invaluable information serves as a direct line to you, facilitating a swift reunion with your treasured companion. In fact, pets with microchips stand twice the chance of returning home if they are dogs, and over 20 times if they are cats.

However, having a microchipped pet is only part of the equation. Regularly verifying and updating your contact information in the database, accessible at, is essential to ensure accuracy.

Empower yourself as a responsible pet owner by visiting an upcoming VIP Petcare clinic to have your pet microchipped. Your proactive step today could be the key to a joyful reunion tomorrow.

microchipping, cat, home

Come to an upcoming VIP Petcare clinic, and get your pet microchipped!

How to Prevent Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Heartworm disease in pets, as the name suggests, involves the infestation of the heart and pulmonary arteries by parasitic worms.

heartworm disease pets

Mosquitoes serve as the carriers responsible for transmitting this disease. It’s a sobering fact that no dog or cat is immune to heartworm disease, and infections have been documented in all 50 states. While mosquitoes tend to be more prevalent during the spring and summer, the risk of heartworm infection lingers throughout the year. Remarkably, it takes just a single mosquito bite from an infected carrier to transmit this perilous ailment to your pet. Although heartworm disease primarily affects dogs, its consequences are much more dire for feline companions. Heartworm disease can incite illness and, in severe cases, result in fatality.

The heartening news is that this disease is nearly 100% preventable!

heartworm disease dog cat

In dogs, heartworms take residence within the heart and its adjacent blood vessels, causing tissue damage that culminates in heart failure and pulmonary issues. In certain instances, these worms can obstruct significant blood vessels, leading to complications in other organs. Untreated, severe cases of heartworm disease can prove fatal. Signs of heartworm disease in dogs manifest as persistent coughing, fatigue, lethargy, labored breathing, weight loss, and abdominal distention.

While cats are less susceptible to heartworm infection, their systems exhibit heightened sensitivity to the disease. Even a minor infection can trigger severe illness or death. Cats afflicted by heartworm disease may display symptoms like coughing, gagging, respiratory distress, lethargy, weight loss, and, in some cases, sudden death.

Prompt veterinary attention is imperative if you notice any of these signs in your pet. However, it’s worth noting that heartworm disease can often progress without any observable clinical symptoms, underscoring the critical role of prevention and regular screening.

While heartworm disease is a formidable adversary, safeguarding your pet from it entails two straightforward steps:

Step 1: Pet Testing

heartworm blood test cat

Commence the defense against heartworm disease by subjecting your pet to testing. A simple blood test can determine whether your pet has been exposed to heartworm infection. If the test returns a positive result, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostics, such as radiographs or ultrasound, to assess the extent of the disease.

Attend an Upcoming VIP Petcare clinic to conduct a heartworm test.

Step 2: Administer Preventative Medication

heartworm preventative medicine chews dog

The next phase of protection against heartworm disease involves the administration of preventative medication. Your veterinarian will customize the most suitable oral, topical, or injectable preventative for your pet. Many of these medications also offer protection against intestinal parasites. In most instances, year-round medication is advisable to ensure comprehensive protection.

What happens if your pet tests positive for heartworm infection?

Unfortunately, no safe cure exists for infected cats due to the severe side effects, such as blood clots, associated with treatment. Cats, in such cases, typically receive supportive care involving cage rest, oxygen therapy, and steroids. However, some instances of feline heartworm disease may naturally resolve.

For dogs, recent years have seen the emergence of safer and more effective products to combat heartworm infection. Nevertheless, the treatment process can provoke side effects, emphasizing the importance of follow-up veterinary visits and close monitoring.

Explore heartworm testing for your pet at our monthly VIP Petcare clinics conducted by state-licensed veterinarians. Consult your VIP Petcare veterinarians to learn how they can help fortify your pet’s protection.

Dog Exercise: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian

Answers to commonly asked questions regarding dog exercise and enrichment, provided by Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM

dog running trail


1. How often should I walk my dog?

dog leash in mouth, ready for walk

This depends on your dog. The breed of your dog, age, weather outside, and any underlying medical conditions affect the amount of exercise your dog should receive. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you to make sure your dog gets the proper amount.


2. How does a dog benefit from going on walks?

dog exercise walk

Dogs like people require mental and physical stimulation to live the fullest happiest life possible. Dogs who going on walks increase their physical health as well as their mental health. Exploring new areas and new smells stimulates the mind. Getting the heart pumping and blood flowing stimulates the body to function better and longer. You, the pet parent, also receive these added benefits as well. Also dogs who get mental and physical exercise tend to be less destructive and anxious in the home.


3. I have a yard, can I just let my dog go into he back yard rather then go on a walk?

dog exercise, walk

Even a yard that is fenced in is not 100% safe. Unwanted wild life can get into the yard causing harm to your pet. Your pet may also eat something without your knowledge. Though a yard is great, it is always a good idea to supervise your pet. Plus going on a walk together increases your bond with your pet.


4. Is it important for dogs to run off leash? Why or why not?

dog exercise, trail

This depends on your dog, its breed, age, and any underlying health conditions. There are certain breeds at certain ages that require more exercise than a human can keep up with on a leash. It is however always important to make sure that your dog is well trained to follow off leash commands and it is done in a safe environment following all local laws.


5. Is it important for dogs to play with other dogs?

dogs playing with toy

Dogs are pack animals and enjoy the company of other dogs. It is an important part of their socialization skills. Dogs who play together should be closely supervised, up to date on their vaccinations, and temperament compatible.


6. Does playing with other dogs eliminate unwanted behavior at home?

dog resting bed after exercise

Physical activity tires the body and the mind. It can prevent unwanted behavior that results from boredom. It is also an important way that dogs learn to socialize and understand social cues from other dogs.


7. My dog has not been in daycare or has been out of daycare for a few months. How do I ease the transition for him to go back to daycare?

Best Friends Pet Hotel Doggy Day Camp dogs

This is where bringing your dog to a day care facility that has trained staff and you trust is very important. If your dog has never been to a daycare before the staff should do a temperament test on your dog to ensure he is put into a play circle that will work. It is also important that they gradually introduce your dog to one dog at a time. It can be overwhelming for a dog to be introduced to a pack of unknown dogs running at him. If your dog has just been out of daycare for a few months, the transition back should still be gradual but it will be much easier and quicker.


Doggy Day Camp at Best Friends Pet Hotel
To learn more about Doggy Day Camp or Daycare at your local Best Friends Pet Hotel or Best Friends Doggy Daycare locations, contact your local center.

Pet Vaccinations: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian

Answers to commonly asked questions regarding pet vaccinations provided by Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM and in partnership with VIP Petcare.

pet vaccination

Best Friends Pet Hotel proudly provides a monthly veterinary clinic service in collaboration with VIP Petcare at select locations. This initiative aligns with our steadfast commitment to delivering top-tier pet care services for our cherished pets and their devoted owners. The VIP Petcare clinics offer a convenient and cost-effective means to ensure the ongoing health and well-being of your beloved companion animals by maintaining their vaccination schedules.

In an effort to offer valuable insights into this vital aspect of pet care, we engaged in an enlightening conversation with Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM, our respected Veterinarian Consultant. In this discussion, Dr. Davis shares her expert advice addressing crucial questions related to the subject of pet vaccinations.

1. Why are vaccinations so important?

The importance of vaccinations in safeguarding the health of your pet and other animals cannot be overstated. Vaccinations play a pivotal role in shielding them from a spectrum of potentially life-threatening diseases. Moreover, the financial burden of vaccinating your pet pales in comparison to the exorbitant costs associated with treating a diseased pet. This proactive measure not only averts unnecessary suffering for your pet but also offers peace of mind for your entire family. Legal mandates, such as the requirement for rabies vaccination, underscore the societal and public health dimension of this practice, as certain diseases are zoonotic and can be transmitted from pets to humans if your unvaccinated pet were to contract them.

2. How do vaccines work?

Vaccines operate by introducing specific components of the target virus to the immune system, thereby priming it to mount a defense. This process allows the immune system to generate antibodies against the virus, although it is essential to note that this response is not immediate; it takes a few weeks for the body to develop these antibodies. Subsequently, if your pet encounters the actual virus, its immune system will promptly recognize the threat and dispatch these antibodies to neutralize the invader before it can infiltrate cells and incite disease.


vet cat vaccination

3. What annual vaccinations do you recommend to pet parents?

The selection of annual vaccinations for your pet is contingent upon a careful consideration of both your and your pet’s lifestyle. Factors such as whether your pet frequents boarding facilities, embarks on woodland adventures, resides in a high-rise apartment with indoor potty pad usage, or serves as a hunting companion all play a pivotal role in determining the most suitable vaccinations. Your trusted veterinarian is an invaluable resource in offering personalized guidance on the vaccinations that best align with your pet’s unique lifestyle.

4. How often should I vaccinate my pet?

The frequency of vaccinations is contingent upon a multitude of factors, including manufacturer guidelines, state regulations, and the evolving lifestyle of your pet. As your pet matures, his needs may evolve, and certain vaccinations that were once essential may no longer be required. State laws governing vaccination intervals can also undergo revisions, with some mandating annual rabies vaccines while others extend the interval to three years. Your veterinarian is adept at tailoring a vaccination schedule to your pet’s specific requirements and your individual circumstances.

5. What happens if I miss a vaccination?

Neglecting a scheduled vaccination leaves your pet vulnerable to the very diseases vaccination aims to prevent. Maintaining up-to-date vaccinations is paramount to your pet’s health. Depending on the duration of the lapse, a missed vaccination may necessitate restarting the vaccination series to ensure your pet’s proper protection. Your veterinarian is well-equipped to provide guidance on rectifying any vaccination gaps.

6. How do I know if my cat or dog is having a bad reaction to a vaccine?

Vaccine reactions, though relatively rare, can occur at any point, particularly when introducing a new vaccination. Vigilance is crucial. It is advisable to monitor your pet for telltale signs of a reaction, such as facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, or respiratory distress. If any of these symptoms manifest, prompt veterinary attention is imperative.

7. Are there recommendations for puppies or kittens as it relates to vaccines?

Newborn puppies and kittens inherit a degree of passive immunity from their mothers through placental transfer and colostrum during birth. This passive immunity diminishes over time, necessitating a series of vaccinations to bolster their nascent immune systems as maternal protection wanes. The specific vaccines required for your puppy or kitten are contingent upon their individual lifestyle and risk factors.

puppies kittens


8. As it relates to finding a place to vaccinate my pet, what types of things should I look for?

When seeking a location for pet vaccination, it is crucial to prioritize clinics that not only administer vaccines but also conduct thorough examinations. There are instances where underlying medical conditions may contraindicate vaccination, and these issues must be addressed prior to vaccination. Select a venue that you trust, and where open communication with the staff is encouraged, ensuring the best care for your beloved companion.


To learn more about veterinary care and monthly vet clinics (in partnership with VIP Petcare) at your local Best Friends Pet Hotel, visit our Vet Care webpage. Or call your local center with any additional questions.

Puppy 101: A Quick-Start Guide to Caring for Your New Puppy

new puppy

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting, but sometimes overwhelming experience. Whether this is your first puppy or it’s been a while since you’ve had a pup, we’d like to help by answering the most common questions and offering tips to ensure you give your new pet the best care possible.


What do I feed my puppy?

puppy food

There are many choices out there in dog food, so it can be tough to feel confident you’ve found the right food to nourish your puppy. For starters, it’s important that you feed a high-quality food that is specially formulated for growing puppies. This food will have higher protein and fat levels, added DHA and EPA, and other vitamins and nutrients (such as calcium), all perfectly balanced to provide proper nutrition during growth.

Puppies’ nutritional needs change quickly as they grow, so be sure to revisit the amount you’re feeding frequently to make sure your pup is getting the proper amount for their growth stage. If you have a large breed puppy, like a lab or a golden retriever, you’ll want to avoid overfeeding, as this can cause issues with bone development as your pup grows.

Your puppy’s food will be complete and balanced, providing all the nutrients he or she needs in the correct proportions. While it might be tempting, you should avoid switching between foods or feeding table scraps because these can lead to a very picky eater in the future! Plus, some people foods can cause stomach upset and some can even be toxic. If you do give your puppy a little something on the side, we recommend these treats and other foods make up less than 10% of a pet’s daily food intake. And If you must switch your puppy’s food, be sure to gradually change the foods over two weeks to avoid an upset stomach.


When should I transition from a puppy formula to an adult food?


Our recommendation is that your pup should stay on puppy food until they are full grown, but know that “full grown” varies significantly depending on the breed. Many are done growing and can change to adult food by a year old, but some large breed puppies, such as Great Danes, will continue to grow for up to two years!


How do I set my puppy up for potty training success?

puppy potty training

Potty training is a much happier adventure for all involved when you make the experience positive by encouraging your pup when it succeeds rather than scolding when it has accidents. Puppies are still developing the muscles they need to hold their urine for the first 12 weeks, so you’ll need to take them out frequently and praise them when they go outside. Eating usually stimulates movement through their system, so you should take them out within 20 minutes after mealtime. It’s also a good idea to take your puppy out after sleeping, drinking, and playing. And always try to give a verbal cue such as “go potty” that the puppy can catch on to, along with plenty of praise as soon as they have gone.

Always keep your puppy in your sight while potty training to foster success. This is easier said than done, we know. So if you find that your puppy has had an accident and urinated or pooped inside, do not punish them after the fact. The puppy will only understand why you are upset if you actually catch him or her in the act. If you do catch your puppy going in the house, immediately interrupt the behavior with a verbal “no,” and take him or her quickly outdoors to finish. Be sure to offer plenty of praise when he or she goes outside.

Any time you’re not able to supervise your puppy, he or she should be kept in a crate. Puppies become comfortable and consider the crate their safe place to rest. They are also less likely to go to the bathroom in their crate as long as it’s not too big. For optimal success, you should allow your puppy to go to the bathroom before putting him or her in and as soon as they come out of the crate. Short periods of time in the crate will help your puppy learn to hold off until an appropriate potty time is offered. Another benefit of crating your puppy is that it prevents them from chewing on or eating things in the house while you’re not looking.

Remember that puppies often make mistakes during potty training, so do your best to keep up the positivity! If training seems to be really off course, it’s always good to check with your vet to rule out medical causes for the challenges. A professional trainer can also help smooth out the process if issues persist.


What can I expect from visits to the vet?

puppy vet clinic

You should schedule a vet visit as soon as possible after getting a new puppy and do whatever you can to make every vet visit as low-stress as possible. Be sure to give plenty of praise (and treats!) to make each visit a positive experience. This will help your puppy see the vet as a normal outing rather than an unpleasant experience as they grow older.

The vet will give your puppy a physical exam to look for any problems he or she may have been born with (such as hernias, luxating patellas, soft spots on their head, heart murmurs, etc.) or any other medical issues. In addition, your vet will deworm your puppy and get you started on a proper vaccination schedule. You’ll also want to talk about having your puppy spayed or neutered at the appropriate age.

Vaccinations are a proactive way to protect and support your puppy’s immune system from exposure to new diseases. Your veterinarian will create a plan for your puppy based on your unique lifestyle and routines, but they usually start vaccines around 6  to 8 weeks of age and booster them every 2 to 3 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old. It’s important to follow your vet’s plan as getting all recommended boosters in with the correct intervals will ensure your puppy is fully protected. Some vaccines are considered core vaccines (rabies, distemper combo vaccine) and are given to almost all puppies. There are other non-core vaccines (bordetella, lyme, lepto, influenza) that are given based on an individual puppy’s chance of future exposure. This often depends on where you live and what your puppy will be in contact with, both in the environment and from other dogs. For example, does your puppy spend almost all of their time inside or do they go to dog parks or a groomer? Will you take them for a hike in the woods every weekend? Your vet will also likely start your puppy on a heartworm preventative and possibly a flea and tick preventative regimen.

Because they are so little, puppies can get sick quickly. Watch for any diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes or nose, fever, decreased appetite, limping, or general changes in health or behavior. Contact your vet right away if you notice any of these.
Always remember that your vet is your ally, and you both want the best for your puppy. If you have questions about something or if you miss a vaccine booster or dose of preventative medication, be sure to check in with your vet. They will be happy to get you back on track.


Time for training!

puppies playing

It’s important to socialize puppies with people and dogs, but be careful about who you introduce your puppy to until they’ve gotten all of their puppy vaccines at 16 weeks. Until then, it’s best to keep your puppy in a fenced-in yard and only let them interact with fully-vaccinated dogs. You’ll want to avoid places where other dogs frequent (such as dog parks and pet stores), and carry them in and out of vet clinics to help reduce their exposure to diseases.

Puppy classes are strongly encouraged for training and socialization, and reputable classes will require that all puppies be up-to-date on vaccines. These classes are great for both you and your puppy, and they will foster a positive long-term relationship by teaching you how to communicate and interact with each other.

Your puppy will lose its baby teeth and get adult teeth throughout its first eight months. Chewing and biting is a normal play behavior between puppies, and it provides relief to pesky teething pain. You can teach your puppy that biting you is inappropriate using a high-pitched sound to mimic the noises puppies use with each other when playtime gets too rough. Immediately give your puppy a toy to play with and praise them for playing with the toy.


Brushing up on grooming tips

puppy grooming

Now is the perfect time to get your puppy comfortable with things they will encounter in the future, such as vet visits, nail trims, ear cleaning, and brushing their coat and teeth, so they will not be afraid of these things as an adult dog. Trimming nails can be done at home, but ask your vet to show you how.  Cutting them too short can cause a bit of pain and bleeding, and it might make them wary of nail trims in the future. It’s also great to get your puppy used to daily tooth brushing. Dental disease can be detrimental to the body later in life, so keeping the teeth clean is a great way to keep them healthy. You can use a regular toothbrush or a finger brush, but be sure to use toothpaste specially made for dogs because human toothpaste is toxic to pets.

Puppies can be messy, but we only recommend giving a full bath every two weeks if possible. More frequent baths can dry out the skin. Between baths, you can spot wash your puppy as needed. It’s important to use a shampoo that’s made for dogs because the pH of their skin is different than that of people, so our soaps and shampoos can dry out or irritate their skin.


Anything else I should know? I’m a bit overwhelmed!

puppy beagle

Exercise, plenty of toys, and playing are important to keep your puppy’s mind stimulated. Gradually introduce exercise (but don’t overdo it) and keep a close eye on your puppy when it’s playing with toys. Remove any strings or small parts that can come off the toy, as they can cause choking or blockages in the intestines if swallowed. Always supervise your puppy if he or she is playing with plush toys. Their sharp little teeth can cut through and get the stuffing and squeakers out easily, and these can be hazardous when swallowed.

Most important of all, enjoy your puppy! Take lots of pictures to look back on later. They don’t stay small for long, and there’s nothing better than puppy kisses to brighten any day.


Learn more about puppy care and raising a successful dog with The Essential Guide to Puppy Care: Nurturing Your Furry Bundle of Joy

Best Friends Pet Hotel – Puppy Wellness Resources:

Puppy Play Group

Give your puppy a strong foundation for life! At our Puppy Play Group sessions, your puppy gets to play in a supervised pack environment that teaches them proper socialization, manners and play skills to prepare them for adulthood.

Click here to learn more about Puppy Play Group and to book a reservation.


Puppy Grooming

Whether you need a quick shampoo or “the works, our expert groomers will make your furry friend fabulous. Each appointment includes a free consultation to discuss your pup’s personal grooming needs. Bonus: First time puppies receive a discounted bath for only $10 and a discounted bath and haircut for only $20!

Click here to learn more about grooming and to book a reservation.


Vet Clinics

Click here to learn more about our vet care, see our upcoming clinic dates and locations, and to make a reservation.



Blog Post Source:




Dr. Sharon Davis | Vet

Best Friends Pet Hotel is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Sharon Davis DVM as an experienced veterinarian consultant to the company’s leadership team to support pet parents and associates. Staffed by pet-loving Best Friends Pet Hotel employees, the company will tap into Dr. Davis’ expertise to assist with a wide range of preventative medical and wellness issue and company policies and procedures. She will also look at cleaning products and chemical use at the Best Friends facilities, and assist in updating the company’s approved/not-approved medication list. As the company upgrades and opens new facilities, she will be on hand when new wellness issues arise.

“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Dr. Davis to the Best Friends Pet Hotel family,” said Darryl Sampson, Vice President, Operations and Growth. “A Massachusetts native, Dr. Davis has an excellent reputation as a medical professional and a caring individual. We are proud to add her expertise to our leadership team, our employee-owned organization and our pet parents at 31 locations nationwide.”

Sharon L. Davis, D.V.M. was born in Kingston, Mass. and received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in biochemistry from Bridgewater State College. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with a concentration in mixed animal medicine and surgery from Purdue University. After graduating from Purdue, she worked for a small animal practice in Indiana before returning home to Massachusetts. For the past 23 years, she has worked at a leading Massachusetts animal hospital caring for dogs, cats and pocket pets.

In addition to being a mother, Dr. Davis has a home filled with rescued animals including dogs, cats, chinchillas, and chickens. She also volunteers at an assisted living facility where she presents a program called Animal Tales to the residents on a monthly basis. In her free time, Dr. Davis also enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, gardening, beekeeping, reading, and new adventures.

With 31 locations, including one at Walt Disney World, Best Friends Pet Hotel is an all-breed pet care provider with a warm, friendly, clean and comfortable atmosphere. The details make the difference at Best Friends Pet Hotel. Best Friends Pet Hotel offers overnight standard and luxury suites for boarding dogs, cats and pocket pets as well as high-quality doggy day camp, training, and grooming services All pet͛s’ special needs are considered, and each guest is monitored closely. All pets are required to provide proof of vaccinations.

For more information, call 978-443-2351 or visit


About Best Friends Pet Hotel: Founded in 1995 and currently employee-owned, Best Friends Pet Hotel has enjoyed “leader of the pack” status for nearly 25 years. With 31 locations, including Walt Disney World, we strive to provide customers with the absolute best pet care in a convenient and friendly atmosphere where safety, comfort, and fun are at the core of what we do. We offer boarding, Doggy Day Camp, grooming, and training services with full transparency, great communication with pet parents, the latest advances in safety, and a caring staff that loves your pet as much as they love their own. Many hotels offer outside and inside play areas designed with the latest advances in materials and safety. Learn more at

Media Contact: Julie Dennehy, 508-479-9848,