Your Cape Cod Veterinarian


There is no question too big or too small for our veterinary team. We have answers to some of our most common questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Leach Animal Hospital

Routine Care FAQs

How old should my dog/cat be to receive its immunization shots?

Our veterinarians recommend starting your vaccine schedule when your dog or cat is six to eight weeks old, and only if they do not display any signs of sickness. We can advise you on an appropriate vaccine schedule based on your pet’s lifestyle and activity. We provide these shots routinely at any age.

Why is my dog required by law to receive a Rabies vaccination?

Rabies is a zoonotic disease that is transmitted to humans through bites or scratches from infected wild animals, particularly skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes. It can also be transmitted to your pet from other infected domesticated animals, like dogs and cats. Puppies and kittens will first receive this vaccination at 12 weeks of age, and then they will be revaccinated every 1-3 years as required by law.

How can I tell if my pet has a parasite?

Intestinal parasites can be contracted through flea infestations, contaminated soil, or the feces of wild or domestic animals. If your pet has a parasite, sometimes you can observe worms in their stools. More often, however, you will not see this as these parasites tend to shed microscopic eggs through feces, rather than the larger, adult worms. We recommend that you bring in a stool sample so that we can perform an examination through a microscope. This test is generally performed annually but should also be done if you suspect that your pet may have picked up parasites (if they have unexplained diarrhea, or spent time at doggy daycare with a dog that has worms).

To test for heartworms, which are contracted through mosquito bites, a simple in-house blood test can be performed. The heartworm parasite can be highly detrimental to your pet’s health, so we take every preventive measure possible and treat any detected parasites right away by testing for heartworm annually and giving preventative medication on a once-monthly basis.

How do I know if my pet is in pain?

It can sometimes be difficult to tell. If you are not sure but suspect your dog or cat may be hurting, or is just not acting right, call us to have us examine your pet. Some signs of pain are more obvious, such as limping, but some signs are more subtle and can include: not eating, a change in behavior or normal habits, or having less energy. Of course, these symptoms can also be caused by many problems, so early observation and action are important.

At what age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?

Most vets recommend having your animal spayed or neutered at six to nine months of age. Speak with your vet to decide on what is best for your pet. Ideally, we like to observe that the dog or cat is healthy and mature enough for undergoing anesthesia, but also that they have not gone through any heat cycle yet or developed bad behaviors like wanderlust or lifting a leg to urinate on your furniture!

Veterinarians strongly recommend spaying or neutering your pet at a reasonably young age for multiple reasons. Of course, we must keep in mind the responsibility of controlling the pet population, but this is also an important procedure to reduce or eliminate the risk of unwanted behaviors and certain complications as your pet ages, such as pyometra and several types of cancers. However, this surgery can be performed at any age.

To test for heartworms, which are contracted through mosquito bites, a simple in-house blood test can be performed. The heartworm parasite can be highly detrimental to your pet’s health, so we take every preventive measure possible and treat any detected parasites right away by testing for heartworm annually and giving preventative medication on a once-monthly basis.

How can I get a prescription for my pet?

Our pharmacy is fully stocked with a wide variety of prescription medications and diets for your pet. We are here to answer your questions about selecting the best medication, choosing the proper dosage, and information on side effects or other drug interactions. If you have any concerns or your pet experiences adverse reactions, we urge you to contact us immediately so one of our trained staff can assist you. In most cases, you will need to have your pet examined by a doctor prior to obtaining a prescription, but in some special cases like management of chronic conditions or strict recommendations of previous veterinary care providers, we can issue certain prescriptions to you on a pick-up basis or through our online pharmacy, Vets First Choice. See below for a link:

Senior Pet Care

Schedule regular checkups for your companion.

As dogs age, they’re more prone to health issues, including arthritis, heart, and kidney disease. Stay on top of your pet’s health by taking them for checkups at a minimum annually, as needed for periodic blood work per discussion with your vet, and as needed when unusual symptoms like lethargy or lack of appetite appear.

Keep active together.

Dogs, just like their humans, slow down with age. Exercise is necessary to keep their bodies healthy. Your pup may not have as much energy as it did in its youth, but it still needs time outdoors to feel the wind in its fur and to stretch out those legs! But be aware as to how much activity you encourage- only you know your dog best. Take it easy and be attentive to their physical limitations and energy levels.

Make it easy for your pup to get around.

With health conditions like arthritis, your dog might need some help doing simple things. A portable ramp or set of mini-stairs can make it easier for older dogs to get into your bed and snuggle, or to get into the car without jumping. To prevent slipping on hardwood floors, consider rugs, mats, and stair treads. Just because your older dog might be heavy to lift, it doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy the full range of their space or go for a good ride to the beach.

Help Fido catch lots of Zzzs.

A good night’s rest is important for any dog, especially your old friend. Memory foam dog beds keep older pups cozy. There are pet beds out there that retain heat, perfect for achy joints. If you’re the DIY type, there’s no shortage of ideas for handmade dog beds. Regardless of what type of bed you decide on for your buddy, always remember that lots of clean padding or cushy towels are essential.

Keep doggo to an age-appropriate diet.

Just like humans, dogs need changes in their diet as they get older. Their metabolism and needs change with age, hormones, health conditions, and activity level. Some dogs are prone to rapid weight gain, while others shed too many pounds in their old age or have muscle atrophy. It’s important to purchase pet food that meets their needs. You are always welcome to speak to a technician or a vet in the office or by phone to understand those needs and receive dietary recommendations.

Flea Infestations and Treatments

Why are fleas interested in my furry friends?

Fleas are heat seekers and hiders. They just love a warm body like a dog or cat, whose body temperature is usually at least a couple of degrees higher than their humans. They also enjoy the much thicker coats that pets have – a lot more places for them to sneak away without being seen.

Aside from the fact that it’s just gross to be covered in bugs, why do I need to protect my pet from flea bites and infestations?

Fleas survive on dogs, cats, and other mammals by biting them and taking a blood meal. We have observed some animals that seem nearly unaffected by the presence of fleas, but others that have been so severely bitten by them that it has made the animal anemic! The bites can instigate itchy, painful rashes at the least, and in worst-case scenarios can affect the whole body by way of an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which can create uncomfortable all-over inflammation, itchiness, lesions, and hair loss. Additionally, fleas can carry parasites like tapeworm that are easily transmitted to dogs and cats.

Why are fleas such nasty little buggers when it comes to controlling them in my house and near my pet?

Fleas can rapidly get out of control in your home. Undisturbed and without a blood meal, a flea can still survive more than one hundred days. On average, an individual can live for two to three months. A single female can produce more than two thousand eggs in a lifetime, so their population can grow exponentially rather quickly if the conditions are right.

What is the best way to prevent fleas from shacking up in my pet’s coat?

Flea combs and baths simply do not work for the prevention or extermination of fleas. Although regular bathing and checking of your pet for parasites like fleas and ticks is the responsible thing to do, these insects are hardy and require a little extra effort to stop them in their tracks. It is generally easy to prevent fleas on your pet with monthly topical treatment, such as Frontline Plus, or oral treatment, such as Nexgard. Leach Animal Hospital recommends the use of these products all year long rather than just in the “warm season” since weather can be unpredictable and fleas can easily make their way into your home and take up space in linens, dog beds, cracks of the floor, and other hiding spots until you turn the heat on and their population flourishes! Coupled with monthly prevention on your pet, it is best to concurrently treat your home for the presence of fleas to eliminate eggs and larvae that live fleas may have shed while living on your pet. Home treatments can range from simply vacuuming and washing linens in hot water, to floor-level flea bombs. Speak with one of our vets or technicians to decide on the best method of flea removal if you know your pet has fleas.

Lyme Disease and Other Tickborne Diseases

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. Transmitted through tick bites, Lyme Disease can cause serious, even chronic, health problems for both people and their companion animals. The bacteria that causes the disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, lives inside a tick or mammal and can bind to connective tissue once the tick bites its host. Lyme has the ability to change its presentation in the immune system, so the symptoms can vary with the individual and can even change at each stage of the infection.

Are there other diseases that can make my dog sick from ticks?

Ticks have the potential to carry many harmful diseases. Common ones in Massachusetts include Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, which can often be co-transmitted with Lyme Disease. These are easily tested for. Other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are rare in our geographical area but still, our pets are still at possible risk of infection.

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Symptoms may not present themselves for two to six months or more. They can include lameness, which can change from one limb to another without explanation. Other symptoms can include joint swelling, decreased energy/lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite.

What kind of actions can I take for my dog to prevent infection of Lyme Disease and other tick borne diseases?

There are three ways that you can prevent the infection of tick-borne diseases. Using a monthly tick preventative is a great way to keep ticks from attaching and transmitting disease. There are many products on the market, but our vets recommend a vet-approved product to avoid negative side effects. Please see a technician or doctor for recommendations. Leach Animal Hospital offers Nexgard, which can be administered to your pet orally, and Frontline Plus, which can be applied topically (Use one or the other, but not both at the same time!) Many dog parents also choose to vaccinate their pets with an annual Lyme vaccine, which increases the likelihood that their pet will be able to fight off an infection should it be transmitted to them. Finally, a quick, in-house blood test (4Dx test) can be performed for your pet at their annual physical exam to check for exposure to these diseases. Speak to your doctor about your tick prevention program and how any of these actions alone or in combination can help your dog.

How is Lyme Disease treated?

Successful treatment of tick-borne disease is dependent on early detection. Leach Animal Hospital recommends annual screening via the 4Dx Test. If your pet is positively infected, the best form of treatment is to administer a course of oral antibiotics, such as Doxycycline or Minocycline. We may also discuss additional blood work to assess how much follow-up care your pet needs. However, the best treatment will be considered based on your pet’s age, condition, and severity of infection.

Are there other things I can do to monitor my dog’s health after they have been infected by a tick?

Leach Animal Hospital does recommend some tests, based on the severity of infection and needs of your pet, if they have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease or another tick-borne disease. They may include the following:

  • Specific blood tests for glomular disease; to check if the infection has damaged the kidneys
  • Chemistry Blood Panel; to check kidney/liver/pancreatic function, blood sugar, and electrolytes
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC); to check immune response and anemia
  • Thyroid Test; to check if hormones are being produced at appropriate levels
  • Urine Test; to check for the appropriate kidney function and whether urinary tract infections might be present
  • C6 test; helps the doctor decide on a therapeutic plan based on whether the test shows active infection versus natural exposure; also this test can monitor the success of treatment over time

Heartworm prevention

What is heartworm?

Canine heart worms are parasitic nematodes that are transmitted by mosquitoes. They can infect the major artery that carries blood to the lung, and in the worst infections, to the right ventricle of a dog’s heart. Treatments are costly, and symptoms of the disease can be severe and even deadly. Though easy to prevent, its incidence is still at an unacceptably high level.

Can any dog develop heartworm disease?

All dogs are susceptible. Other mammals are susceptible too, but dogs seem to have a higher incidence of the disease due to their lifestyle and exposure levels since they tend to spend more time outside at play than some other domestic pets. Transmission can only occur through the bite of an infected mosquito, and there is no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why treatment is so important!

Can I get heartworm disease from my dog?

No. This is a specific parasite that only affects, dogs, cats, ferrets, and other mammals. It is extremely rare to find in humans and is unable to complete its lifecycle, so we generally do not take measures to prevent the disease in humans.

How can I protect my pet from heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease has been reported in all fifty states. The bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae is capable of transmitting heartworm disease to your pet. Therefore, it’s never too soon to think about preventing heartworm. To stop this prevalent parasite from harming your pet, we recommend giving preventative medication on a once-monthly basis. This medication is available as a chewy treat or a tablet. There are many brands on the market, so please speak with your vet regarding the most reliable and safest medication for your pet. When used year-round, these preventatives are virtually 100% effective.

In addition to prevention, it is also important to check if your pet has been exposed or is infected with heartworm. To test for heartworms, a simple in-house blood test can be performed. We recommend running it during your pet’s annual wellness visit. This test will give an answer to your pet’s status immediately and action can be taken right away by your vet to treat your pet safely in the event that they are found to be infected. If no infection is detected, your next course of action would be to continue routine preventative treatment.

*Please come see us at our office at 482 Main Street in Mashpee, or give us a call at 508.477.3320 to learn about all the heartworm prevention options for your pet, for heart worm prevention coupons, and for PetDesk app reminders to help you remember to keep this important step in your pet’s health on your monthly schedule!*