608-834-8118    |    1512 N. Bristol St. Sun Prairie, WI 53590    |    Mon - Fri 8 AM - 6 PM; Sat 8 AM - 12 PM

Client Information and FAQ

Listed are many of the questions that our clients ask, along with information to try to address each one.  Click on the question to see the expanded information.  If you have additional questions for Dr. Vitale or the other members of the staff, use the ‘Contact Us’ page to send an e-mail or give a call at 608-834-8118.  Thanks!

Canine Influenza Information

Canine Influenza (CI), also known as ‘dog flu’ is an influenza virus that was first recognized as a novel canine disease in 2004. The initial cases involved racing Greyhounds in Florida; since that time there have been cases recorded in 30 states, with the disease now recognized as endemic (meaning it is now a commonly noted disease) in parts of Colorado, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Similar to other influenza viruses, CI has been classified based on its unique structure; the CI that is responsible for the current outbreak is labeled H3N8. Unlike other influenza viruses (like H1N1 in people), the canine influenza virus does not appear to have the ability to infect other species at this time. There is another distinct canine influenza (H3N2) that has been identified in Asia; there are no reports of H3N2 outside of Asia and no reports of H3N8 outside of the United States.

CI is a particularly difficult disease to contain because it is extremely easy to transmit from dog-to-dog. The virus is transmitted through the respiratory secretions of infected dogs as well as through contaminated objects. This virus will remain alive and potentially infectious on hard surfaces for 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. An infected dog is potentially contagious to other dogs for several days before ever showing symptoms. Because of this, outbreaks are typically swift and severe, with virtually all non-vaccinated exposed dogs expected to become infected.

Once exposed, most dogs (about 80%) will show symptoms; the other 20% that do not can still transmit the virus. Most dogs (over 90%) will show only mild symptoms of CI. Mild cases will typically show a cough that persists 10 – 21 days despite antibiotics and cough suppressants, runny nose and eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite. The cough that is seen can be a dry hacking cough or a more moist productive cough. A small percentage of infected dogs (less than 10%) will show a severe form of the disease, which includes pneumonia, high grade fever (usually from 104° to 106° F), and rapid breathing. In approximately 2% of infected dogs, the disease has been fatal. There is no specific treatment for CI. Severe cases benefit from hospitalization for supportive care (which could include nutritional support, oxygen therapy, IV antibiotics, among other things); mild cases will frequently convalesce and recover at home with nursing care from the owner.

There is a vaccine available for H3N8 Canine Influenza. This vaccine may not prevent infection completely, but is has been shown to be very effective at reducing the severity and duration of the illness. Additionally, the vaccine has shown to reduce the amount of virus that is transmitted from a patient as well as the duration of time that the virus is transmitted. Dogs that have access to other dogs in a social or working situation (dogs that visit dog parks, dog care care, dogs that are kenneled or boarded, show dogs or dogs that compete in agility or other competitions) are considered at risk and the use of this vaccine should be considered for them.

How can I choose a good dog or cat food?

One of the first decisions that you will make regarding your dog or cat is possibly the most important.  Choosing a food for your pet will impact most aspects of your dog or cat’s life.

There are a wide variety of foods available for dog and cats. Previously the decision was simply between dry and canned food.  Now there are options that include raw diets, homemade diets, grain-free, high- or low protein, along with many others.  The range of choices has become dizzying, and with it has come a lot of information from many sources convinced that there is a ‘best’ way to feed dogs and cats.

Every pet owner has an idea how they want to feed based on their schedule and personal preferences.  By taking these into account, there are typically several different foods that can be used to achieve a good result for you pet.  Typically, good foods will have a high-quality protein as the main ingredient, followed by digestable carbohydrates and a modest amount of fat.  There are a large number of foods that fit this profile.  Ultimately, the performance of the food in your individual pet is the strongest factor in choosing to feed a particular food.  If you have provide a food that results in a good body condition, is convenient to feed, is within your budget, and is acceptable to your pet, then you have strong reasons to use that food.  If any of these aspects are not what you want from your pet’s food, then an alternate food should be sought.

Certain medical conditions and stages in life need to be addressed with foods that have a specific nutritional profile.  If you are considering a dietary change for your dog or cat, or if you have questions regarding selection of a food for your pet, please contact us at 608-834-8118 or email us at info@sunprairiepetclinic.com

What risks are there with anesthesia for my dog or cat and how are these risks minimized?

Modern anesthetics have greatly enhanced the safety of anesthesia.  Despite these advances, there are still risks associated with any anesthesia.

Anesthetic risk for healthy young dogs and cats has been estimated to be near or below 1% of all cases for some time.  Much of this is due to careful attention to understanding possible pre-existing conditions that may impact anesthesia, as well as the institution of safety measures and monitoring of the patient during the procedure.

Some complications from anesthesia can arise from factors that we have control over and others come from factors that we cannot control.  Individual pets can be particularly sensitive to anesthetic agents, and this is difficult if not impossible to determine prior to a surgery.  Other factors, including pre-existing medical problems, can be determined and managed prior to and during anesthesia.

At the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic, every patient that will be anesthetized is safeguarded with measures prior to and during anesthesia to minimize risk.  Prior to anesthesia, each patient is screened with a medical examination and pre-anesthetic blood work; if any complicating factors are found then the anesthesia is altered or cancelled.  During anesthesia many vital parameters are monitored, including oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate.  Perhaps most importantly, each patient is constantly monitored by an experienced member of the technical staff for the entire duration of the anesthesia, from induction to recovery.

When is the ideal time to spay or neuter my pet? Is a declaw procedure for my cat appropriate at the same time?

A spay surgery is the removal of ovaries and uterus in the female; a neuter surgery is removal of the testes in the male.  A declaw procedure is the removal of the last portion of the feline digit the includes the claw on the toe.  Deciding if and when to spay, neuter, or declaw your pet is complex. There are advantages and disadvantages to spaying, neutering, or declawing; there are also consequences of the age at which you have any of these surgeries done.

While there is no pre-determined ideal time for spay or neuter, our hospital frequently recommends that if this is going to be done that it is done at about 6 months of age.  This allows the pet to mature enough to handle the surgery and provide the owner enough time to determine if spay or neuter is right for their pet.  If a declaw procedure is elected for a kitten, we feel that it is ideal to have this done at the same time as the spay or neuter because it eliminates the need for another anesthetic event.  Declawing is discouraged in any cat over the age of 1 year due to the challenges these cats face with the recovery from the procedure.

We encourage our clients to familiarize themselves with the consequences of the decision to perform a spay or neuter (or declaw for cats) or not prior to acquiring their pet.  Our staff as able to provide you with the information you need to make a decision that is right your you and your pet.  Please contact us at 608-834-8118 or email us at info@sunprarirepetclinic.com with any additional questions that you may have.

What is heartworm disease and why is the preventative medication recommended to be used year-round?

Heartworm disease is a parasitic condition caused by infestation with the worm dirofilaria immmitis. This parasite is spread from infected dogs through mosquito bites. Heartworm disease is prevalent in Wisconsin due to our location in the United States and our high mosquito population in the warmer months. Heartworm disease is found in many states through the United States; it is more prevalent in states that border the Mississippi river and in the Southeast. Due to the fact that mosquitoes are the carrier for this disease, all dogs are at risk for this disease regardless of lifestyle, including ‘indoor’ dogs, hunting dogs, and farm dogs.

Heartworm disease can be treated, but the cost of the treatment is high and there is a risk to the patient even with successful treatment. Because of this, prevention of the disease is considered a better option for our canine family members. Prevention is done though the use of monthly preventatives that are given year-round. Year-round use of heartworm preventatives is recommended for many reasons. First, it eliminates the need to try to time the medication to coincide with the onset of the emergence of mosquitoes. Second, monthly use of the preventatives is easier to remember and reduces the chances of missed doses. Last, the monthly heartworm preventatives protect against intestinal parasites as well, which are a year-round problem.

Annual testing for heartworms is recommended by most of the veterinary medical organizations nationwide, including the American Veterinary Medical association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the American Heartworm Society. The use of the preventatives in a dog that is positive for heartworms can cause serious medical complications and should be avoided. Juvenile dogs (less than 6 months of age) are frequently started on heartworm prevention without testing.

The Sun Prairie Pet Clinic has many options for heartworm testing and prevention. All of these options are reviewed with the veterinarian annually and recommendations are made based on your pet’s lifestyle, age, and concurrent medical conditions. Please feel free to contact our Clinic with any questions regarding heartworm disease and prevention.

I have heard many different views on vaccines for my pets. What is the best vaccines to give my dogs and cats?

Vaccines have had a tremendous positive impact on the lives of our companion animals since they have come into wide use over the past 35 years. Despite the wide prevalence of these products, there remains a significant amount of confusion and disinformation about vaccines and the role they play in keeping our pets healthy.

Vaccinations are currently available for many diseases, ranging from Distemper to Rabies to gingivitis. Recent years has seen an emergence of a large number of newer vaccines, as well as research into established vaccines that have prompted reevaluation of these older vaccines.  The Sun Prairie Pet Clinic is constantly evaluating vaccination recommendations when new information and products become available.

Current information regarding vaccines in dogs and cats groups each vaccine into one of three categories – Core, Non-core, and Not Recommended.

  •  Core vaccines are recommended for every dog or cat regardless of lifestyle, age, or breed. In general, these include the Distemper combination and Rabies vaccines.
  •  Non-core vaccines are recommended only for certain members of the population. Individuals that will benefit from these vaccines will vary according to their age, lifestyle, breed, or other factors. These vaccines are used after consultation between the doctor and the owner of the pet. Examples of non-core vaccines that our hospital uses include Lyme disease vaccination, Leptospirosis vaccine, and Kennel Cough (Bordetella) vaccine.
  •  Not recommended vaccines are neither advised by our staff nor stocked at the hospital.


Canine Vaccine Recommendations


Rabies can affect any mammal and attacks the nervous system. This disease is widely distributed though the world and causes death in almost every case it is seen. This vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is required by law.


Canine Distemper can affect the digestive, respiratory, skin, and nervous systems. It is widely distributed and carries a poor prognosis once contracted. Symptoms can range from sneezing, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea, to changes in the foot pads, to convulsions and loss of consciousness. The vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is strongly recommended.

Canine Infectious Hepatitis

Infectious Hepatitis is caused by canine adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1). This virus attacks the liver and results in several symptoms including vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, eye damage, and neurological symptoms. Though many dogs that contract the disease survive with few complications, there is no treatment, and severe problems can result from infection. Prevention is provided to dogs by vaccinating with a very similar modified CAV-2 virus (which is a cause of mild upper respiratory infections in dogs), which provides immunity against both diseases. This vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is strongly recommended.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease of dogs and other wild members of the dog family. This virus causes severe gastrointestinal damage and results in symptoms of severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and death. This disease is very widespread throughout the world and is a major cause of illness and death in unvaccinated puppies. Many variants have been identified, but vaccination with the current vaccine appears to provide immunity to all types. This vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is strongly recommended.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by specific ticks in North America. For a dog to become infected it must to bitten by a tick carrying the disease. Lyme disease is found in Wisconsin more frequently than most other states in America in both dogs and people! This vaccine is not a core vaccine but is recommended for many dogs in our practice, especially dogs that have an increased risk of encountering the disease. Examples of at risk dogs includes hunting dogs, farm dogs and others that live primarily outdoors, dogs that go camping or into nature preserves and parks, especially dogs that travel to the northern parts of our state.

Bordatella (‘Kennel Cough’)

Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract in dogs. It received its name because it spreads quickly in dogs kept in close quarters, but a dog does not need to be kenneled to get this disease. There is no treatment, but most dogs will recover with nursing and symptomatic care. This vaccine not a core vaccine, but is recommended for dogs that will be kenneled in the next 12 months. Many boarding facilities require this vaccine before your dog will be admitted.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection in mammals that can invade the liver, kidneys, vascular system, among others. The symptoms are varied and this disease can mimic others, making it challenging to diagnose in some cases. There are a multitude of variants of this bacterium (worldwide there have been over 100 types identified); in North America there are 6 of importance. Vaccinations against one type do not protect against the other variants; therefore an effective vaccine should include as many types as possible. This vaccine is not considered a core vaccine and is recommended only in dogs that have an increased chance of encountering the bacteria based on individual lifestyle.


This virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract of dogs, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Studies into this disease and its vaccine have concluded that the disease is not a major cause of illness in dogs and the vaccine is poorly effective. Because of this, this vaccine is not recommended for any of our patients; it continues to be a component of many vaccines available for dogs, however.

Porphyromonas Vaccine (Gingivitis Vaccine)

This is a very new vaccine that targets those agents responsible for the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth in dogs. This vaccine has not been used for a long enough time to have a history, though initial testing appears to be encouraging. This vaccine is not a core vaccine and is recommended only on an individual basis in susceptible dogs.

Feline Vaccine Recommendations


Rabies can affect any mammal and affects the nervous system. This disease is widely distributed though the world and causes death in almost every case it is seen. This vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is required by law.

Feline Distemper

Feline Distemper is also known as Feline Panleukopenia. Is is very similar to Canine Parvovirus; it is not related to Canine Distemper. This virus can attack the lining of the gastrointestinal tract as well as the ability of the body to create blood cells. Symptoms include profuse vomiting and diarrhea, as well as lack of appetite and fever in unvaccinated cats. This is considered a core vaccine and is strongly recommended for all cats. Vaccine intervals for Feline Distemper have been under reevaluation recently; the current recommendation is to vaccinate for this disease with an initial kitten series, followed by boosters in the adult cat every three years. Contact the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic for details of this vaccine protocol.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

FVR is a feline herpes virus that is responsible for a large number of upper respiratory infections in cats. Though usually a self-limiting disease, it can cause severe pneumonia in susceptible individuals. FVR is capable of producing a carrier state where the cat can intermittently spread the disease throughout life to other cats, even if no symptoms are present. FVR is considered a core vaccine and is recommended for all cats. Vaccine intervals for FVR have been under reevaluation recently; the current recommendation is to vaccinate for this disease with an initial kitten series, followed by boosters in the adult cat every three years. Contact the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic for details of this vaccine protocol


Feline Calicivirus is a potentially severe respiratory disease of cats. Many cases recover well, but more severe and deadly cases have been noted in recent years. Similar to FVR, many cats become carriers of this virus and can infect other cats over their lifetime. Feline Calicivirus vaccination is considered a core vaccination and is recommended for all cats. Just as the vaccine intervals have been updated in other feline vaccines, Feline Calicivirus is given in an initial series of kitten vaccines followed by boosters every three years as an adult. Contact the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic for details of this vaccine protocol.

Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is present in both city and rural cats throughout America. This is a virus, not a cancer as the name implies. This virus can be transmitted through close personal contact (shared food dishes and mutual grooming) as well a bites from an infected cat. Very young cats are very susceptible to the virus; adult cats appear to have more resistance to the disease. This is a non-core vaccine and is recommended for outdoor cats or cats living in a house with at least one outdoor cat. Vaccination is boosted annually for FeLV.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a potentially deadly virus that is spread through bites and scratches from infected cats. Although similar in name to HIV in people, these are distinct diseases and humans cannot be infected with FIV. There is a vaccine for FIV, though it is questionable in its ability to prevent the disease. Because of this, FIV vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine and is offered only to cats that have a significant chance of being in contact with the disease.

Infectious Peritonitis

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal viral disease that has no known effective treatment. This virus is related to a family of very common and normally benign viruses; many experts feel that FIP is a case of a benign virus mutating into a dangerous one. This virus can be spread from an infected cat through inhalation, by ingesting the virus on contaminated food dishes, or from a litterbox used by an infected cat. There is vaccine available, though its use has many problems associated with it and it is not generally recommended.


I have heard that there are some vaccines that are safe and some that are dangerous for my cat. How can I decide which ones to have done?

As a young kitten there are a number of communicable diseases that can be easily prevented with routine vaccination. The use of routine vaccines has reduced the number of these cases that we see dramatically in the past years. Despite this, these diseases are still present and vaccination continues to be the best option for preventing them.

Vaccination protocols in cats has received a significant amount of attention in the past several years as new information has emerged regarding the efficacy of vaccination, the duration of immunity from disease, and the potential drawbacks of vaccination. Dr. Vitale and the staff at the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic constantly review available information regarding vaccines and use them in accordance with established recommendations published by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Kitten vaccinations begin at or near 8 weeks of age. Kitten vaccine protocols include feline Distemper (Parvovirus), Calicivirus, and Rhinotracheitis (RCP) as core vaccines, with other vaccinations used on an as needed basis. The RCP vaccine is given every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age; at that age the last vaccine is protective for 1 year. At that time this vaccine is boosted for another year; after that time the RCP is boosted every three years. Rabies vaccines for cats are often given between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Initial vaccination is good for 1 year. Currently the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic recommends annual vaccination with a 1-year rabies vaccine specifically for cats after that time.

Vaccination for Feline Leukemia Virus is recommended as a kitten and boosted at 1 year of age. After that time the continued use of this vaccine is based on the lifestyle of the cat. Outdoor cats have a greater chance of encountering this disease and vaccination for Feline Leukemia in these patients should be strongly considered. Indoor cats that have no contact with cats in the outside environment have a significantly smaller chance to encounter this disease; because of this vaccination for Feline Leukemia in these patients is done based on the discretion of the owner.

Additional vaccinations for cats exist in veterinary medicine. Examples of these vaccines include ones for ringworm, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Chlamydophila, Bordatella, and Giardia vaccines. The questionable usefulness of some of these vaccines and the potential risks associated with additional vaccinations prevents the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic from routinely recommending these vaccines in every feline patient. Some patients may be candidates for these, however. Discussing your cat’s lifestyle with our staff allows us to tailor a vaccine protocol for your cat, giving the protection that your cat needs without the risks of excessive vaccine exposure.

If you have questions about vaccine options available for your cat please call us at 608-834-8118 to speak with a member of our medical staff, or email us at info@sunprairiepetclinic.com

I just got a puppy. I need information about vaccinating him. What is the best plan for a young puppy?

The puppy vaccine series is designed to give the best protection to your new puppy from a wide variety of communicable diseases.  Puppy vaccines are given 3 to 4 weeks apart until the pup reaches 16 weeks of age, with the exception of Rabies vaccine which is given once for a full year of protection.  The key to the protection is NOT the number of vaccines, but the timing of them.  Because of this, some older puppies with obtain full protection from only 2 or 3 vaccines; others require 4 or more if the vaccination is started at a younger age.  Puppies that were born to fully vaccinated mothers usually have good immunity passed from the mother for the first 4 to 8 weeks of life; after that time vaccination is used to enhance the natural immunity before it fades over time.

Typical vaccine protocols begin at 6 and 8 weeks of age, regardless of size or breed of the dog.  The timing of the vaccinations may be altered by several factors, including the general health of the puppy, ongoing illnesses (if any), vaccination status of the mother, housing conditions, etc.

Typically, puppies are started on vaccinations at or near 8 weeks of age.  At our Clinic, starting at 8 weeks of age, a combination of Distemper, Adenovirus (Herpesvirus), and Parvovirus (DAP) is given.  Every three to four weeks after this initial vaccination the puppy is due for a booster of these vaccines, until 16 to 18 weeks of age.  By then, the final vaccination is good for 1 year.  At one year of age the DAP vaccine is boosted to last a year.  Beginning at age 2 the dog is eligible for a 1-year or 3-year distemper combination vaccine.

Rabies vaccination is given once and is initially good for 1 year.  This vaccine is given between 12 and 16 weeks of age.  As an adult, dogs can have either a 1-year or a 3-year rabies vaccine.  At our Clinic adult dogs between the age of 2 and 10 are eligible for the 3-year rabies vaccine.

Lyme disease vaccination is a series of two vaccines three weeks apart.  This series can begin at any age after 9 weeks old.   After the initial series, this vaccine is boosted annually; there is no multiyear product for Lyme disease vaccination.

Leptospirosis vaccination is also a two vaccine series given three weeks apart.  This series can begin after 12 weeks of age.  After the initial series this vaccine is boosted annually; there is no multiyear product for Leptospirosis vaccination.

Bordatella vaccine is given as drops in the nose at any age after 3 weeks of age.   This vaccine is protective after one dose; injectable forms of this vaccine require two doses initially.  Both the nasal drops and the injectable vaccine are boosted annually.  There is no multiyear product for protection against Bordatella, and there are several sources that feel that this vaccine should be boosted every 6 to 9 months.

Canine vaccination recommendations are outlined below.  Not every dog is a candidate for vaccination for every disease listed below.  Remember that these are guidelines only and precise timing of the vaccines should be discussed with the veterinarian.



8 weeks

12 weeks

16 weeks

1 year

2 yr

3 yr

4 yr

5 yr

6 yr

7 yr

8 yr

9 yr

10 yr

11 yr

12 yr

13 yr

14 yr







I have been told that my dog is allergic. Is there an ideal treatment for this condition?

Allergies in dogs are a common finding in a wide variety of breeds. Allergic disease can appear at any time, but it is more prevalent in warmer months.

When seen, allergies can have a number of different symptoms depending on the type of allergy a dog has. Possible symptoms include itching and scratching, skin infections and other skin irritations, ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting, and changes in the coat, among many others. Because of the many different symptoms, it can be challenging to determine the root cause of these problems.

Testing to determine if your dog is allergic may include various tests on the skin and coat such as skin scrapes, examination of hair and skin cells under a microscope, or evaluating biopsies of skin samples. Often a diagnosis of allergies can be made in the office but if needed, more advanced testing can be sought from a specialist in veterinary dermatology.

Treatment for allergies can be frustrating, and often requires ongoing treatment for the life of the dog. Treatment options are wide and include dietary modification, oral medications, topical medications, non-traditional therapies such as chiropractic or acupuncture, dietary supplements, shampoos, or hyposensitization injections.

All of the diagnostic and therapeutic options will be reviewed with you prior to initiating a treatment plan for your dog. Optimal treatment is different for each dog and may even change based on the time of year. Despite these challenges, successful treatment for allergies in dog can be achieved through careful planning and creating a diagnostic and therapeutic plan to fit each patient.

If you have additional questions regarding allergies in your dog, please contact us through the Contact Us option on our web site or call our office at 608-834-8118.