Why is Spaying and Neutering Your Pet Important?

veterinaryhelp | Questions and Answers | Thursday, 08 March 2007

There are many reasons that spaying or neutering your dog or cat is important. Spay is the term used for the surgical removal of the female’s uterus and ovaries. It is also called an ovariohysterectomy. Neuter is the term used for removal of a male’s testicles. Also called surgical castration.

The obvious benefit to spaying or neutering you pet is to prevent breeding. Without reproductive organs there is no chance of unwanted litters. This helps with the massive problem of pet overpopulation in this country and prevents owners from the surprise of unintended expenses associated with raising puppies or kittens that were not planned.

There are also multiple health benefits associated with spaying and neutering. When a female is spayed prior to her first heat cycle it significantly decreases her chance of breast cancer as she ages. With every heat cycle she has, the chances of breast cancer slightly increase. While this is certainly not a cancer seen in all older intact females, it is easy to help decrease your pets chances of developing this disease. Another benefit of spaying a female is that you can prevent pyometra. Pyometra is a potentially life threatening uterine infection that often requires emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus. With a spay surgery, the ovaries are completely removed with the uterus thus preventing heat cycles and ovarian cancer. Even female dogs that are used for breeding will benefit from being spayed after their breeding days are over.

Neutering male dogs can prevent testicular cancer. It also decreases the incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement of the prostate) which is hormone driven. Intact male dogs also seem more prone to prostate inflammation and infection. Any prostate enlargement, if significant, can lead to problems with urination and defecation. Males that have been used for stud benefit from neuter once they are done breeding.

Altering your pet can also decrease their urge to roam and find mates, so you may have less problems with pets that run away and/or fight. Because of this, spayed females and neutered males (in particular) seem to have less incidence of contagious disease simply due to their decrease in exposure to other animals.

Spaying or neutering your pet is almost always recommended at some point in their life – while young for pets not being bred and for those that are used in breeding programs, once they are done with breeding. Please speak with your veterinarian to discuss each particular procedure in more detail.

Onions and Garlic are Toxic to Pets

veterinaryhelp | Questions and Answers | Sunday, 28 January 2007

Onions and garlic are toxic to pets!

On a recent episode of Good Eats – a cooking show hosted by Alton Brown on the Food Network – the host feeds his dog Matilda left over onion, garlic and salt pork! Now this is intended in jest but in real life could be disastrous. Onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats and salt pork may cause another set of problems.

Onions and garlic can lead to damage to red blood cells which in turn can lead to severe anemia. This includes raw, cooked and dried versions of these plants. Individual animals appear to vary in how susceptible they are to the toxic effects. When the anemia is severe it can lead to lethargy, weakness, organ failure and death. In severe cases treatment may require blood transfusions and significant hospital time.

Salt pork is problematic due to its fat and salt content. The fat could lead to severe gastritis/enteritis or pancreatitis. Clinical signs would include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and not eating and these diseases range from mild to life threatening. Salt can also cause significant intestinal upset and be even more problematic for an animal with underlying kidney or heart disease.

Moral of the story is do not feed your pets people food because even seemingly harmless vegetables can be toxic. If you pet ingests onions, garlic or salt pork, contact your veterinarian for advice immediately.

How to Pick a New Dog

veterinaryhelp | How To | Monday, 15 January 2007

There are multiple things to consider when choosing to add a dog to the family – big or small, adult or puppy, purebred or mix-breed. The following are just some issues to think about before you make your decision.

Size matters. How much room do you have for this new pet is the obvious first question. Other things to consider are activities with the pet. Very small dogs with young children can be dangerous for the pet as small dogs break bones easily when accidentally dropped or stepped on. On the other hand, smaller dogs may be less frightening to a child. Do you want a pet to carry around and dress up or a larger one to rough house in the park with? Also consider cost since veterinary care is often related to the pet’s size. Obviously food, heartworm prevention and medications cost much more for a 100 pound dog than a 5 pound dog.

Do you want an adult or puppy? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Adult dogs often don’t need to be house broken and may already have some degree of training. Of course you may also have to untrain some unwanted behaviors that they have picked up. If you are interested in an adult dog but are concerned about any unwanted behaviors, consider adopting a dog already placed in a family such as one from a rescue organization that uses foster homes. The foster family can give you a report of how the dog handles his temporary home environment. An adult dog may have been given up because it was escaping from the back yard but may be the perfect dog for you if you have a high fence and do not intend to leave it unattended for long periods of time. With puppies, you get to start from scratch but this means the commitment of doing all the house training, socialization and teaching manners yourself.

Purebred or mix-breed? Purebreds may be more predictable in both their strengths and weaknesses. You know what the breed’s intended job is (hunting, herding, guard dog, lap dog) and what its intended traits are. A good breeder’s goal is to produce dogs as close to the ideal breed standard as possible. They will have excellent records of a dogs family history – good traits and bad as well as health history. Inherited diseases are hopefully avoided by careful breeding but since that is not always possible, despite best efforts, you can at least have an idea of what to monitor for – hip dysplasia is an example here. Remember that even the best breeding in the world can not predict what any particular dog will be like both in temperament and health. If your goal is to breed your new dog you will obviously want a pure bred. It is imperative that you purchase a quality dog so do your research. You can find a wealth of breed specific information from the American Kennel Club, local breed organizations, purebred rescue groups and breed specific web sites. With mix-breed dogs you tend to have less chance inherited disease, often referred to as hybrid vigor, though these problems are still possible. With a mix, the hope is to get the best from the contributing breeds while eliminating any undesired traits.

Other questions to ask when picking a dog is how much time you have to devote to the dog and what its purpose in your household will be. Do you want a calm and quiet dog or one that requires abundant exercise? Energetic dogs can be a joy for someone with an active lifestyle but the same dog can be a disaster without the proper exercise, attention and training. A similar question is do you want a dog that was intended to hunt, herd, guard or simply be a lap dog/companion? Will your dog need to spend time with an activity specific trainer (hunting, agility, etc)? Do you intend to spend time daily brushing the dog’s hair coat or do you prefer one with minimal grooming requirements?

This article is certainly not all encompassing since there many factors that go into choosing a dog. Make a list of the traits your perfect dog would have and then begin research. Even if you opt for a mix-breed, these dogs often show traits of their component breeds. By knowing what you want and what you are realistically prepared for you will increase the chance that your new dog will fit in well with your family.

Chocolate Intoxication in Pets

veterinaryhelp | Articles | Sunday, 10 December 2006

Chocolate is toxic to pets but intoxication problems are typically seen in dogs. Cats just don’t seem to be interested in consuming chocolate, though intoxication is possible if they do. Ingestion of chocolate can lead to acute gastrointestinal upset, heart problems and neurologic complications.

The toxic components of chocolate are caffeine and theobromine. The fat in chocolate can cause problems as well. Caffeine and theobromine are methylxanthines and are typically in highest concentrations in bakers chocolate followed by semisweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.

The first noted clinical signs are often vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs may also be restless, hyperactive and wanting to drink large amounts of water. Dogs may have an elevated temperature and fast heart rate. In cases of severe intoxication signs can include tremors, heart failure, seizures and death.

Treatment may involve making the dog vomit the chocolate (not appropriate in every case – proceed only under veterinary supervision) and symptomatic treatment as indicated. In cases of mild intoxication a bland diet and medication to address stomach upset may be all that is indicated. In cases of severe intoxication it may be necessary to place animals on IV fluids, anti emetics, stomach protectants, anti seizure medications and heart medications. Diagnostics that may be appropriate in severe cases include complete lab work, blood pressure checks, and an ECG to check heart rate and rhythm.

Another consideration with chocolate intoxication is other compounds the dog may have ingested – wrappers, containers, fat, etc. These can cause their own problems so be sure to give your veterinarian an accurate as possible account of what was eaten.

A good resource for information on all types of intoxications is the ASPCA web site.

Demodex mites canine

veterinaryhelp | Articles | Saturday, 21 October 2006

Demodex canis mites are a normal inhabitant of canine skin. They live in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of the skin. These mites are not contagious and in most cases cause no clinical signs. Skin problems develop when the mites multiply and become overwhelming to the immune system leading to hair loss and in some cases secondary bacterial infections. Diagnosis is confirmed with a skin scraping where a scalpel blade is used to scrape the surface of the skin. This sample is then viewed under the microscope to look for the mites.

The two types of demodex presentations are localized and generalized. Localized demodex lesions are typically mild with several patches of hair loss on the body. Sometimes these areas have some crust or scale present. Localized demodex will often resolve on its own or with topical treatment over a period of several months. This is the most common form in young dogs. It is suspected that puppies are susceptible to this form when their young immune systems are not fully functional or stressed from other issues in their environment.

Generalized demodex is more severe with lesions covering a much larger area of the body. This can be found in puppies who’s localized demodex has progressed or in adult dogs. Treatment for generalized demodex involves topical shampoos with benzoyl peroxide to flush the hair follicles and medicated dips every 2 weeks until multiple skin scrapes do not show any mites. Treatment typically takes at least 3 months. These dogs are often also placed on oral antibiotics to address secondary bacterial infections. In some refractory cases oral medications to address mites are needed. Adult onset demodex can be difficult to cure. It is necessary to evaluate the dog for possible underlying systemic disease that could be suppressing the immune system but in some cases no underlying cause is found. The mechanism for the immune system being susceptible to the mites is unknown. In some adult cases, the mites are controlled but infection is not completely cured.