FAQs and Helpful Links in Waynesboro

Browse our FAQ section to answer any general questions you have about pet care, and be sure to check out the links we’ve provided for additional information.

Spaying and Neutering

How long is the heat cycle for a dog/cat?

Dogs go into heat approximately every 4-8 months. The average estrus for a dog is about 7-10 days, but this can vary. The timing of the first heat depends on the size and breed of the dog, but it usually takes place between 7 and 11 months of age.

Cats can begin their heat cycle between 4-6 months of age, but most start between 6-8 months. The average estrus for a cat is 2-10 days, and they go into heat every 3-4 weeks.

When should I have my pet spayed/neutered?

Cats should be spayed or neutered by about 6 months old. Timing of spaying and neutering puppies depends on their breed and lifestyle. We usually recommend spaying/neutering at about 6 ½ months for small breed puppies, especially the toy breeds. If they have any baby teeth that have not fallen out, we can remove them during their spay or neuter surgery.

For large breed dogs, especially those that are athletic, studies have shown that waiting until they are 15 months of age or older can help to prevent joint problems.

Discuss the timing of your pet’s spay or neuter surgery with your veterinarian so they can help you determine the best time.


What should I expect on the day of my pet’s surgery?

You can feed your pet the evening before surgery, but they should not eat anything after 8 PM. Furthermore, do not feed your pet the morning of their surgery. Your pet can still drink water the night and morning before their surgery, however.

Be sure to ask our front desk staff what time the procedure is likely to be done, and when you can expect to pick up your pet. Spays, neuters, and other more involved surgeries require an overnight stay, so they must be picked up the following morning. Your veterinarian will call you when your pet’s procedure is done and they are in recovery. They’ll discuss aftercare instructions and when you can pick up your pet.

Why is it important to not feed my pet before their surgery?

Having food in their stomach prior to surgery can lead to complications such as esophageal reflux and vomiting. While under anesthesia, your pet loses their swallowing reflex, which allows regurgitated or vomited stomach contents to be aspirated into the airways. Also, some anesthetic medications can cause nausea, which is more likely when the stomach is full.

When do I need to drop off my pet for surgery?

Drop off your pet between 7:30 and 8:30 on the morning of their procedure. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination to evaluate your pet for anesthesia and surgery. Blood work may be performed that morning if it was not done recently.

Your pet will receive pre-medications to help with pain control and swelling associated with their surgery, along with medications to help with blood pressure and nausea relief. An IV catheter will be placed so we can administer anesthesia and fluids during the procedure.

Why is blood work recommended before surgery?

A physical exam allows us to determine your pet’s overall health and functioning prior to their surgery. However, blood work is the best way for us to detect changes in your pet’s liver and kidneys, which need to be healthy to properly metabolize anesthesia.

Is it an emergency if my pet chews their sutures loose or there is a gap in the incision?

Typically, there are multiple layers of suture closure. For example, after a spay, we close the body wall with a layer of suture, then close the subcutaneous tissue with a second layer of suture, and finally close the outer skin layer with sutures as well. Even if the skin layer is gaping a small amount, it’s likely that the deeper suture layers are still closed and doing their job. However, any disruption of an incision can increase the risk of infection or cause other complications. Therefore, we recommend scheduling an appointment to have your pet’s incision checked if you see anything unusual.


Can my pet catch my cold (or other illness)?

Dogs and cats do not seem to catch colds or other illnesses from people. While some research has shown that cats can develop antibodies in response to the human flu, there is no evidence showing they can become infected.

Is mange contagious to humans/other animals?

Sarcoptic mange is contagious between pets and people. Likewise, your pet can catch sarcoptic mange from another dog or cat, or even from wildlife like bears and foxes. Demodex, another type of mange, is not contagious to people.

What should I feed my pet, and how often?

In simple terms, dogs should only be fed dog food, and cats should only be fed cat food. Additionally, it’s important to feed your pet a diet that is based on their age and lifestyle. Kitten and puppy food is high in calories and protein that is needed for growth. Adult and senior pets should not be given puppy or kitten food, as it can cause them to gain weight and potentially lead to other problems.

Senior pets should be given food designed for seniors, which includes highly digestible proteins, lower salt content, and more antioxidants.

Young puppies and kittens should be fed 3 times daily. By 6 months of age,  most dogs and cats can be fed twice a day. Twice daily is the norm for adult dogs and cats.


My cat is indoor only. Why do I need to vaccinate them/give them flea and tick prevention?

First, Virginia law requires that all cats (including indoor-only) be vaccinated against rabies. Second, the other viruses for which we vaccinate cats—feline viral rhinotracheitis/calicivirus and panleukopenia—can be carried on a person’s clothes and hands. If someone pets a cat that happens to be sick, they can bring that virus into your house and put your cat at risk for infection.

Fleas and ticks can hitchhike on your clothes to get into your house, or they can enter through screens or cracks around windows. Dogs sharing a household with your cat can also carry fleas and ticks into the house.

Why should I vaccinate my pet?

Vaccinating your pet protects them from contagious (and dangerous) diseases. They also prevent or reduce the severity of many pet illnesses and prevent diseases that can pass from one pet to another, and even to people. And even if your pet is kept mainly indoors, some contagious diseases are airborne or carried on people’s hands, shoes, and clothing. Even if your dog only goes outside to relieve themselves, they are still at risk for certain infections.

When should I start my pet on vaccines?

Puppies and kittens should begin their vaccine series at 6-8 weeks of age.

What vaccines are required by law?

Virginia requires a rabies vaccine for all dogs and cats that are 4 months of age or older. We recommend additional vaccines for dogs and cats based on their age and lifestyle. Please discuss this matter further with your veterinarian.

Why does my pet need booster shots?

The first time a pet is vaccinated, their immune system mounts a response to protect your pet from future infection. However, this initial response is short-lived. By administering a booster vaccine in 3-4 weeks, the immune system builds off the first vaccine response and mounts a stronger, longer-lasting immune response.

In puppies and kittens, some of the vaccine response is bound up in the protective antibodies passed along in the first milk of the mother. These maternal antibodies fade over time and booster vaccines allow the puppy’s or kitten’s immune system to respond fully. This is why multiple boosters are necessary for younger animals.


My dog only goes out to go to the bathroom. Why does he/she need to be on heartworm prevention?

Heartworm is spread by mosquito bites, and it only takes one mosquito and one bite to infect your pet. Mosquitoes can easily sneak into your home, either through an ajar door or window screen.

What should I do if my dog misses a month of heartworm prevention?

Give them the next dose as soon as possible, then call our hospital and let us know so that we can help you decide on the next course of action, such as additional heartworm testing. This is especially important if more than one dose was missed.

Why do you recommend keeping pets on heartworm prevention year round?

The American Heartworm Society has conducted many studies that have shown that, due to there being multiple types of mosquitoes (some hibernate and some do not), longer and warmer seasons, and microclimates (areas with standing water that stay warm even during cold months), Virginia’s mosquito season can be extensive and last for most of the year.

Rather than trying to guess when mosquitoes may or may not appear, we recommend just giving your pet their heartworm preventatives year round. Current heartworm preventatives also include other intestinal parasite preventatives; therefore, giving a heartworm preventative also deworms your dog on a monthly basis.

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