Primary Care

Primary pet care is what we do best!

We want your pets to be as healthy as possible so they can live long, happy and healthy lifves.  The bond between our patients and their people is our primary concern.

In order to support this, we believe that a thorough yearly physical exam is crucial.  At their yearly physical, we check all the body systems with a good physical exam and then do some lab testing when necessary. We perform vaccinations, treatments and diagnoses at these visits as well.

Most yearly check-ups require some testing - a stool sample and/or a blood sample, as well as vaccinations they are due for.  When we start our appointment time with you, we will let you know what is required that day.  Yearly exams will often reveal issues with weight, teeth, ears and skin that can be addressed at that time and not lead to problems later on.

Office Visits

We want your visit to our clinic to be a pleasant experience for both you and your pet.  Our appointments are scheduled for 20 minutes for routine exams and vaccinations, and longer for sick animals.  When bringing in a single pet, you should plan on being at the clinic for about 45 minutes.  This will allow you plenty of time for check-in and check-out.  If our schedule doesn't match up with yours, we do encourage you to leave your pet with us for the day at no additional charge.  After a complete exam we will call you to keep you up to date on what was found and what treatment will be needed.

One of the most important reasons to bring your pet in on a regular basis is to monitor and treat conditions before they become difficult to treat.  Since pets can't vocalize how they are feeling, illness or disease may be present before you are aware of symptoms.  The benefit of early detection allows time for steps to be taken to manage or correct a problem before irreversible damage occurs.  Because our pets age so much faster than we do, regular wellness exams are one of the best ways you can help your pet live a long and healthy life.

Physical Exams

The physical exam is the most important service we can do for you and your pet.  It should be the first procedure that is done with your pet because it yields the most information about your pet's overall health.  Dr. Ricci starts her physical exam at the nose and finishes with what's under the tail.  This allows her to examine all the major systems: eyes, ears, mouth and teeth, lymph nodes, skin, heart and lungs, belly and its contents, muscles and bones.  Checking all these systems gives Dr. Ricci a good starting point for diagnosing anything that might be wrong with your pet or verifying that they are healthy.  At our clinic, every animal gets a physical exam - all the time – with the exception of nail trims and haircuts.

After the exam Dr. Ricci will discuss what she found, what that means for you and your pet and what, if any, additional testing might be necessary.

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Vaccine Protocols

Recommendations for pet vaccinations seem to be changing every day.  At the Belle Plaine Animal Hospital we recognize that we live in an area that is split between the rural countyside and the city, and that many clients have recreational property in other areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In an attempt to balance these factors, we recommend the following:

Titer Testing

Titer testing is a yearly blood test to see if previously-given vaccines are still active in your pet's bloodstream. If the previous vaccine is still protective, then your pet will not need the vaccine this year. This is a useful alternative to a usual vaccine schedule and can help prevent a pet from being over-vaccinated. 

While vaccine protection is vitally important for your pet, over-vaccinating is not. Giving too many vaccines can have adverse effects on an animal's body, such as problems with platelets and red blood cells or even allergic reactions.Vaccination is dependent on creating an inflammatory response in an animal's body and can be linked to making other inflammatory diseases like allergies, hypothyroidism, and cancer worse. 

 Titer testing is available for the distemper combination, but not Bordetella, Lyme, Lepto or Feline Leukemia. Titer testing is more expensive than following a traditional vaccine schedule and is not required. 

Canine Vaccinations

DACPP - This vaccine is for canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, coronavirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza.  Dogs, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons typically spread these diseases.  We start at 8 weeks of age, booster every 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.  Dogs receive another booster at 1 year of age and then begin the adult dog protocol. 

DAP - This vaccine is for canine distemper, adenovirus type 2 and parainfluenza. Adult dogs that have been well vaccinated as puppies will receive this vaccine every 2 years (given the opposite year from the parvo vaccine).

PARVO - This vaccine is for canine parvovirus.  Adult dogs that have been well vaccinated as puppies will receive this vaccine every 2 years (given the opposite year from the DAP).

RABIES - This viral disease is fatal.  Rabies is almost always transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal (often a skunk, raccoon, or bat) and is highly contagious.  The first vaccine should be given when your pet is 12-16 weeks of age.  A booster is given one year later and then repeated every three years.

LYME - Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacteria called borrelia burgdorferi that passes to your dog through the bite of certain types of ticks.  This vaccine can be started at 8 weeks of age.  It needs a booster in 4 weeks then a yearly booster after that.

LEPTOSPIROSIS - Dogs that are at high risk for exposure (free run of the neighborhood, hiking, swimming in lakes/ponds, wildlife exposure) should be vaccinated. This infection causes liver and kidney damage and is contagious to dogs and humans through infected urine.  The disease can be fatal.  The first vaccine can be given at 8 weeks of age, boostered in 4 weeks followed by a yearly booster after that.

BORDETELLA - This vaccine is for an upper respiratory infection (also known as kennel cough) which is highly contagious between dogs.  Dogs that will be exposed to many other dogs (boarding, grooming, training, dog parks) should receive this vaccine.  If administered orally, the vaccine should be boostered yearly.  If given SQ (under the skin) for the first time, booster in 4 weeks then give a yearly booster after that.

DEWORMER - Almost all puppies and kittens have exposure to worms.  Nemex dewormer should be given orally for 3 treatments 10 days apart.  This will treat the most common roundworm and hookworm infestations.

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Feline Vaccinations (IMPORTANT for both inside and outside cats)

RCP - This vaccine protects against rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, which are transmitted by saliva, mucus and other secretions of acutely ill cats. The first vaccine can start at 8 weeks of age, booster in 4 weeks then a yearly booster after that.

RABIES - This viral disease is fatal.  Rabies is almost always transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal (often a skunk, raccoon, fox or bat) and is highly contagious.  The first vaccine is given after your pet is 12 weeks of age.  A booster is given one year later and then repeated every year.

FELV - The feline leukemia virus is very common, contagious, incurable, and deadly.  This virus can infect cats by saliva or nasal discharge, biting, or sharing food and water dishes.  The first vaccine can start at 8 weeks of age, booster in 3-4 weeks, than a yearly booster.

DEWORMER - Almost all kittens and puppies have exposure to worms.  Nemex dewormer should be given orally for 3 treatments 10 days apart.  This will treat for the most common roundworm and hookworm infestations.

Puppy and Kitty Series:

It is VERY important to make sure puppies and kitties are well vaccinated. This population is often the most vulnerable to diseases that can be prevented with vaccination, and they experience the most exposure to these diseases.

An exam at every visit is extremely important for your puppy or kitten in order to check for parasites, behavior problems and nutrition, and to ensure issues are addressed before they receive their vaccinations.

Timing is also critically important to the ability of vaccines to work.  Vaccination relies on the body's immune system to remember what it has been exposed to. If there is a long period between vaccines, the body forgets about the previous one and it may not be effective.  Please follow the recommended vaccination times.

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Senior Wellness

We consider pets 7 years and older to be senior pets.

Senior pets have different needs and are susceptible to different diseases than other pets, and need to be treated accordingly. We recommend a yearly blood test (senior screen) that screens the kidneys, liver, thyroid and blood sugar for diseases common to elderly pets.  It allows us to detect some of these diseases early so we can treat them early and help your pet live longer.

Our senior wellness exam includes checking all dogs for some common kinds of tumors.  If your pet has a new lump or bump, we will need to determine if that area needs further diagnostics with a fine needle biopsy.  This is a simple test that involves gathering some cells from the lump with the same type of needle commonly used to give vaccines.  We then look at the cells under the microscope to see if they might be dangerous.  The procedure takes a few minutes during the exam, and we can let you know the results right away.

We also check the prostate on intact male dogs and the mammary glands on intact female dogs and cats.

Again, senior pets have different needs than younger animals; therefore, nutrition and behavior will be discussed at this visit as well.  Some senior pets have conditions that require them to be seen at least twice a year including heart, kidney and liver problems.

Parasite Prevention

Intestinal worms in cats and dogs are parasites that live in the digestive tract, causing damage and robbing your pet of needed nutrients.

Why do we check stool samples?  

Dogs and cats are victims of several internal parasites frequently referred to as worms.  The four common intestinal worms of dogs and cats are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Most of these parasites cannot be detected by the human eye. They need to be discovered with the aid of the microscopes. 

Pets become infected by ingesting worm eggs that pass out of the body via the stool.  In the case of tapeworms, eggs do not become infectious until they pass into a secondary host (such as fleas or rodents) that is then eaten by your pet.  Roundworms and hookworms can also pass directly from the mother to her newborn pups or kittens.

There are many types of intestinal parasites that are especially common to puppies and kittens. Many of these are actual worms, some of which are visible to the naked eye and some of which are not. But there are also several protozoa parasites that cause disease and can only be seen microscopically. These parasites can cause diarrhea, poor hair coat, bloated belly, and poor growth. They can also suck blood from the intestinal lining (hookworms) and in general make the puppy or kitty sick. 

We examine a sample of your pet's feces under the microscope to look for eggs of the various intestinal worms.  Often, multiple fecal samples collected on different days need to be examined to find the eggs. It is important to check a stool sample every time your pet comes in because the parasites are not always shedding eggs for us to see. Multiple stool samples ensure that we see what is going on.

 Many medications are available to treat the various types of worm infections. Depending on where the worms are in their life cycle, more than one treatment is often needed.  Keeping your yard and your cat's litter boxes clear of feces helps limit the number of worm eggs in the environment that can reinfect your pet.

More on intestinal worms.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is a serious illness that can rob your dog of its health and even its life. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 U.S. states and can affect both dogs and cats. Heartworms live in the heart and blood vessels and can only be detected by a blood test. 

Preventive care and prescription heartworm medication are important because of the potential damage caused by intestinal parasites to pets. Our primary focus is to provide your pet with the safest and most effective ongoing preventive care.

Flea and Tick Prevention

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Like most pet owners, you probably enjoy spending quality time with your pets both indoors and out.  Don't leave them at risk for any unwelcome visits from pesky parasites like fleas and ticks.  Fleas and ticks can be very damaging to the human-animal bond, particularly when flea invasion gets out of control or when ticks hitch a ride with your pet.  Not only can these unfriendly parasites make your pets extremely uncomfortable, they can pose grave health risks.

Fleas can survive a cold winter by feeding on unprotected pets while ticks are active whenever it is warm enough outside for them to crawl about their surroundings.  Preventive measures should be taken year round.

There are many safe and effective flea and tick control products available, and our veterinary team will help you choose the correct preventive regimen based on your pet's risk factors and health status.  Once a year, it is important to discuss with your veterinarian which external pest control products are ideal for your household, based upon the everyday life of your pet.

Microchipping

Each year, thousands of pets go missing, and many don't make it back home. Many pets (especially indoor pets) don't wear collars or tags. Even if your pet wears a collar and identification tag, collars can break off and tags can become damaged and unreadable, so these forms of identification may not be enough to ensure your pet's safe return. Your pet needs a form of identification that is reliable and can't get lost, stolen, or damaged. A microchip is a safe, simple form of identification that can significantly increase the chance that your pet will return safely.

We use the Home Again brand microchips.

A microchip is about the size and shape of a grain of rice and is placed underneath your pet's skin between the shoulder blades. Microchip implantation takes only a few minutes and is very safe. Each microchip is unique and carries vital information about your pet—including your name, address, and contact information. When a microchip is implanted, the pet owner is given a registration form to complete. Registering the number on the microchip includes your pet in a national pet recovery database. Veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, and animal control offices across the country are equipped with special electronic scanners that can detect the microchip and read the identification number. If a lost pet is picked up by animal control or found by a Good Samaritan and presented to a veterinarian, a quick scan of the microchip reveals the identification number. A toll-free phone call to the pet recovery database alerts the microchip company that a lost pet has been identified. The pet owner can then be contacted and reunited with his or her pet!

It is important to recognize that a microchip is not a GPS system. It cannot locate your pet. It is an identification system that provides a number, which is associated with your contact information. 

Young puppies and kittens can receive microchips, but even if your pet is already an adult, you should consider microchipping. Even indoor pets can get outside accidentally and get lost, so if you're relying on other forms of identification, you could be placing your pet at risk. Microchipping is a safe, effective way to help ensure your pet's return if the unthinkable happens.

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Pharmacy

We have an in-house pharmacy in our clinic for you and your pet's convenience.  This allows us to carry the medications that your pet needs when they need it.  Occasionally they may need a special medication specific for them.  We can either order that medication in or get it from a compounding pharmacy that specializes in veterinary animal medications.

We have also partnered with Vets First Choice, an online pharmacy that was founded by veterinarians and specializes in medications for animals.

Exotic Pet Care

Dr. Ricci enjoys seeing many types of pets, including pocket pets (gerbils, hamsters, bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs) as well as birds.  Occasionally when a very difficult situation arises, we can refer you to a specialty clinic that can provide more specialized treatment.

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