Archive for June, 2012

Consumers want pets in nursing homes

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Nursing homes are increasingly adopting pets or allowing residents to have their own animals live with them, in part because it brings in business. “More and more, we have families indicating up front that [allowing pets] is a must-have criteria,” said Tami Cummings, senior vice president of A Place for Mom, the largest senior living placement company in the U.S., which reports that 40% of people ask about residences’ pet policies when calling for information. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)


It’s a real zoo these days inside assisted living centers and nursing homes. Cats napping on the beds, dogs padding through the hallways. And that’s just the way the residents want it.

An increasing number of senior care centers, places that once wouldn’t let anything with fur in the front door, now welcome companion animals. Many facilities have a house pet, and some allow seniors, like Georgia Pritchard, to room with their four-legged friends.

“He almost talks. He knows what I’m saying,” said Pritchard, an 88-year-old widow with no children. She’s talking about O’Reily, a black and white cat she shares a room with at John Knox Village in Pompano Beach.

Because research has shown some seniors benefit from regular contact with animals, such privileges are expanding to assisted living and nursing units where elders have mild to serious medical conditions.

But there is another reason, too: It’s good for business. Allowing pets is an amenity consumers want, like transportation and flexible meal plans.

A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior housing placement company, says about 40 percent of their callers now ask about pet policies. “More and more, we have families indicating up front that [allowing pets] is a must-have criteria,” said senior vice president Tami Cummings.

In the past, facilities cited health regulations when barring animals. But the two Florida agencies that inspect or monitor nursing homes and assisted living said no rules prohibit companion animals. Infection control, environmental or resident rights issues due to pets are dealt with on an individual basis.

At the Clare Bridge Alzheimer’scare unit at the Homewood Residence in Delray Beach, residents adopted Scout, a large black stray cat missing a foot, from an animal rescue group.

Scout now has a box of toys, two beds and a regular spot on the Clare Bridge activities calendar. Residents gather to pet him, discuss his care or play with him things designed to stimulate their memories and get them out of their chairs.

The eight women at Scout’s session one recent morning smiled and nodded when asked if they once had a dog or cat. One called out the name of her pet, gone for many years, as Scout played with a feather on a string.

Ken Martin, of Aventura, saw his mother smile when he asked her if Scout made her think of Sam, their longtime family cat. “Every morning, Sam would jump on my mother’s stomach and she loved him to death,” said Martin. “I think Scout makes her more responsive, and brings her happiness and joy.”

Some elders adopt a pet after moving to an assisted living facility because they couldn’t have one in their retirement condo. Others bring their pets with them.

More hospitals letting patients’ pets pay visits

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Hospitals across the country use pet therapy programs to enrich patients’ lives, but increasingly, they are allowing patients’ own pets to visit during prolonged hospital stays. “Often there are people who are not doing well, and don’t respond to staff and people, but for some reason make an effort to speak when animals come around,” said veterinarian Lisa Portnoy, animal program director for the NIH Clinical Center. ABC News (6/22)

By DR. SHEILA REDDY, ABC News Medical Unit

Madison Fleaks had been in Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for over six months waiting for a heart transplant. She was born with a congenital heart condition.

Not yet two years old, she may have forgotten much of her life at home.  But she still remembered her two dogs; their photograph sat framed next to her hospital bed.

“If you said anything about the dogs, she would point and want to kiss the picture,” said her mother, Tabitha Fleaks. Madison has been in and out of hospitals, she said, enduring multiple surgeries.

“She has been sick her whole life. All she knows is me, her dad, and the two dogs.”

So when her dog Kodiak showed up in her hospital room one day, Madison was thrilled.

“It was amazing,” Fleaks said. “She just lit up. She literally screamed when he walked into the door.”

Texas Children’s is not the only institution to allow some patients to have visitors of the canine variety. ABC News reached out to hospitals around the country and found that many have pet therapy programs, in which a trained owner-volunteer will bring a dog to the hospital for patients to enjoy. These programs have been said to help patients with their mood, pain, and comfort levels.

PHOTO: Madison Fleaks at the hospital with her mother, Tabitha Fleaks, and her beloved dog, Kodiak.
Courtesy P. Steffek/Texas Children’s Hospital
Madison Fleaks at the hospital with her mother, Tabitha Fleaks, and her beloved dog, Kodiak.
A growing number of these hospitals have taken their pet therapy programs even farther, allowing patients to have visits from their own pets.

“When there is a patient in the hospital that will be here for a significant amount of time, we think it is important for them to have their entire family here,” said Jamie Snow, Assistant Director of Child Life and Social Work at Texas Children’s Hospital. “And some people consider their pets family members.”

The program started at Texas Children’s four years ago, when administrators were approached by an organization called PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) Houston, a non-profit organization the helps to sustain the relationships between pet owners and their pets during a prolonged hospitalization.

Here’s how it works: a social worker or child life specialist, hearing that a patient has a pet at home, speaks to doctors who can approve a visit. Then PAWS is contacted. They ensure that the pet is vaccinated and has a bath before the visit. A PAWS volunteer will meet the pet and family members at the entrance of the hospital where they perform a “behavior check” to make sure the pet’s temperament is good for a hospital environment. They then take the pet to the patient’s room.

“We have never had any bad events from an animal visit,” said Tricia Lewis, a nursing director at the Methodist Hospital System in Houston, Texas, who worked with PAWS to pioneer the personal pet visitation policy at her hospital over a decade ago. “No bites, no infections.”

Officers learn first aid for K-9 partners

Friday, June 29th, 2012

From the Oakland, CA Tribune

In an effort to help K-9 officers injured in the line of duty as quickly as possible, several police officers in California attended a one-day canine first-aid training session orchestrated by the Police & Working K-9 Foundation and Pet Food Express. Several veterinarians donated their time and expertise to help train the police officers.



Learning to find a pulse and perform chest compressions on their four-legged partners is not exactly standard police training, but it was important to the police officers and sheriff’s deputies who practiced those skills Tuesday.

The voluntary training gave K-9 handlers from the Oakland Police Department, the Redwood City Police Department, the Dos Palos Police Department and other Northern California public safety agencies the chance to learn emergency medical techniques that could save the lives of the dogs that serve with them.

“The (officers) are going to be first responders, really,” said Geri Schmutz, a volunteer with the Police & Working K-9 Foundation who volunteered her dogs to take part in the training. “Anything that happens to the officers can happen to (the dogs).”

Just like their law enforcement officer partners, K-9s have been shot at and exposed to narcotics on the job. It’s unlikely that paramedics or other first responders would be able to help with canine trauma since their training and priority is helping humans, Schmutz said.

The training, held in Oakland by the foundation and Pet Food Express, helped officers learn what to do in the few critical minutes after an animal is hurt, time that could decide whether they live or die.

The officers received hands-on training to learn how to apply splints and bandages to live dogs and practiced CPR on dummy dogs with the help of volunteer veterinarians.

These skills are not taught to K-9 handlers in most police departments because of financial constraints, said Steve LeCouve, president of the Police & Working K-9 Foundation.

“When I was a handler, there was nothing like this, and we wanted to change that,” said LeCouve, who is a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy. Without the emergency training, many critically injured dogs have to wait until they are able to see a vet.

As a deputy, LeCouve wants to be able to save the dogs’ lives, but he also wants to protect a valuable crime-fighting asset.

“They’re a community resource,” he said.

An untrained K-9 can cost as much as $10,000, and most police departments have at least three people to train it. After paying the initial cost and at least three salaries, little money is left over to pay for dog emergencies, LeCouve said.

“Why wouldn’t you want to protect that investment?” LeCouve asked.

The nonprofit foundation also donates bulletproof vests for the animals and heat alarms for police cars that transport K-9s so the dogs don’t get overheated.

The 50 officers receiving training Tuesday were given the animal equivalent of first aid kits so that they did not have to enter the field unprepared.

The enrollment for the one-day course was smaller than the normal 70 handlers, according to the foundation, but there was a waiting list for an upcoming session in Sacramento.

For many that signed up, the care for the dogs extend beyond protecting police property.

“These dogs are like family, and for some, it’s their children,” LeCouve said.

Copyright 2012 Contra Costa Times. All rights reserved.

CPR for your Pet

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Here’s the link to this article including visual aid videos:

Do you know what to do if your dog stops breathing? Knowing a few emergency procedures if your dog is choking, or having difficulty breathing, could save your dog’s life because you may not have time to get to a vet.
If your dog has a foreign object stuck in his throat, it is important to try and dislodge it before performing CPR. Read our article: Heimlich Maneuver for dogs.
Canine CPR
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) preserves brain function until proper blood circulation and breathing can be restored.

The signs that indicate the need for CPR include unconsciousness, lack of arousal, lack of physical movement, or eye blinking. These symptoms can occur from drowning, choking, electrical shock, or a number of other situations.
The following information has been updated with latest recommended guidelines outlined by the first evidence-based research on how best to resuscitate dogs and cats in cardiac arrest published in June 2012 by the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER). The study recommends a few updates to current manual CPR practices on dogs:

  • Perform 100-120 chest compressions per minute
  • Perform a compression to mouth-to-snout ventilation      ratio of 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths
  • Recommendations on how best to perform cardiac massage      / chest compressions on different chest types and sizes of dogs (see      diagrams below).

The key to canine CPR is remembering the ABCs:

Breathing, and
Cardiac compression.
To perform the three techniques, follow these steps.

  1. Lay the dog on a flat      surface and extend      the head back to create an airway. (Current practices recommend      laying the dog on his/her right side (heart facing up), however      the  latest recommended guidelines state that either the      left or right lateral recumbency are acceptable.)
  2. Open the jaws to check for      obstructions, and if any exist and are not easily removed, try to dislodge      the object. See our article Heimlich      Maneuever for dogs for details on how to dislodge a dog’s blocked      airway safely.
  3. Cup your hands around      the muzzle      of the dog’s mouth so that only the nostrils are clear. Blow air into the      nostrils with five or six quick breaths, again, depending on the size of      the dog. Small dogs and puppies and require short and shallow breaths.      Larger dogs need longer and deeper breaths. Continue the quick breaths at      a rate of one breath every three seconds or 20 breaths per minute.
  4. Check for a heartbeat by using your finger on      the inside of the thigh, just above the knee. If you don’t feel a pulse,      put your hand over the dog’s chest cavity where the elbow touches the      middle of the chest. If you still don’t find a pulse, have one person      continue breathing into the nostrils (mouth to snout), while another gives      chest compressions / cardiac massage. If you are alone, do the compression      and mouth-to-snout ventilation yourself.
  5. Give the dog chest      compressions (cardiac massage) by placing both hands palms down on the chest cavity of      the dog. For most dogs, chest compressions can be performed on the widest      part of the chest while the dog is lying on his side.
    • For dogs with       keel-shaped chests (i.e. deep, narrow chests) in breeds such as       greyhounds push down closer to the dog’s armpit, directly over the heart.
    • For dogs with       barrel-chested dogs like English bulldogs lay the dog on its back and       compress on the sternum (directly over the heart), like people.
    • For smaller dogs (and       cats) chest-compressions scan be done with one hand wrapped around the       sternum, encircling the heart or two-handed on the ribs.
    • For large dogs, place       your hands on top of each other. For small dogs or puppies, place one       hand or thumb on the chest.
  6. Use the heel of your      hand(s)      to push down for 30 quick compressions followed by 2 breaths of air      (ventilation) and then check to see if consciousness has been restored. If      consciousness has not been restored, continue the compressions in cycles      of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute (the same rhythm administered      for people).
  7. Perform CPR in 2-minute      cycles checking      to see if breathing and consciousness has been restored.

Ideally, CPR is performed while on route to emergency veterinarian care. If this is not possible, contact a veterinarian once the dog has started breathing.
The following diagrams illustrates how to perform chest compressions on dogs with different chest types. Click on an image to see a larger version. Figure (A) illustrates the technique for most dogs. You can apply chest compressions to the widest part of the chest while the dog lies on its side. Figure (B) illustrates the technique for barrel-chested dogs. Figure (C) illustrates the technique for barrel-chested dogs.

For small dogs and cats chest compressions can be administered two ways. Click on the images to see a larger version. Figure (A) illustrates wrapping one hand around the sternum while supporting the back. Figure (B) illustrates two-handed compression.

Below are a couple of videos on administering CPR on dogs. The first is instructional, while the second is a recorded incident of CPR used for an emergency situation.
Note: The instructional video below recommends a compression to ventilation ratio of 15 compressions followed by 1 breath. The June 2012 study recommends a compression to ventilation ratio of 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths.

Here’s the link to this article including visual aid videos:

Older female dog may have urinary incontinence

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

When an older female dog uncharacteristically urinates in the house, veterinarian Linda Janowitz writes that several potential causes should be considered, including kidney disease, diabetes, a urinary tract infection and urinary incontinence — a weakening of the bladder sphincter caused by a lack of estrogen in older spayed dogs. A veterinarian can determine the cause and treatment after examining the dog, Dr. Janowitz notes.

Several possibilities could explain your dog’s behavior. She could have a urinary tract infection, which can make her urinate more often, and she may not be able to hold it until she gets outside. That would be the best-case scenario as it is usually easy to treat with antibiotics.

Other conditions can also be an issue with an elderly dog. I would want to rule out diabetes and kidney disease. With both of these conditions, you would probably see her drinking more water and urinating more in general.

Last, but perhaps most importantly, your dog may have hormonal incontinence. In spayed female dogs, especially as they age, the lack of estrogen can cause the urinary sphincter to become weak. Often these dogs will leak urine in their beds. A combination of factors may be contributing to your dog’s behavior.

You could also be right about the cold weather. It could be the only reason for her behavior or a contributing factor. I would recommend first scheduling a visit with your veterinarian for blood work and a urinalysis to rule out many conditions that cause increased urination.

If your dog’s problem doesn’t have a medical cause, try using puppy pads placed in convenient locations on colder days. It might help if you try to associate a word command with urinating, so she knows what you expect when you go outside. When she does urinate, use the word and praise her. You could also reward her with a treat when she urinates outside.

Linda Janowitz, DVM, is the director of veterinary medicine with the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA.

Dog saves toddler from drowning in family pool

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Bear, a family’s black Labrador retriever, saved an Indiana toddler from drowning. After noticing her 14-month-old wasn’t walking behind her, Patricia Drauch went to the family’s pool where she found Bear keeping the unconscious boy, Stanley, face-up in the pool.

Creative weight-loss programs for pets

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Veterinarians and other animal-oriented businesses are providing creative solutions to curb the pet obesity epidemic in the U.S., offering extended, customized weight-loss programs complete with diet modification and exercise therapy on-site. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that roughly half of U.S. pets are overweight, with one of every five tipping the scales at 30% over their ideal weight.


Telling yourself it’s finally time to sign up for the gym and shed some pounds is hard enough, but getting your dog to drop weight?
That can be even tougher.
Erin Kowalski, 30, of Humboldt Park learned that a few years ago when her chocolate lab, Zeus, ballooned to 110 pounds—about 36 pounds overweight.
While a healthier diet and extended walking regimen produced noticeable results for her dog, Kowalski turned to a relatively new option to get Zeus to a healthy weight. She signed him up with a Logan Square pet clinic that specializes in animal weight loss. The clinic has all the bells and whistles you’d expect at a neighborhood gym—from laser therapy to acupuncture to workouts with exercise balls. Turns out, an underwater treadmill and resistance pool was the secret to Zeus’ slimdown.
“He’s got a better coat, he’s got more energy—all around he’s a better dog because of his weight loss,” Kowalski said. “Everybody thinks he’s a 3-year-old dog, even though he’s 9.”
Pet owners in Chicago are taking new measures to help Fido burn the fat. Specialty care facilities, which can cost hundreds of dollars for multi-week regimens, offer human-like ways for dogs and cats to shed pounds. There are even bootcamps designed for pet and owner to work out together. Meanwhile, pet owners across the country are spending tens of millions of dollars every year to treat issues that are brought on by their pets’ weight.
While Americans themselves are facing a national obesity problem, their pets are tipping the scales as well. More than half of adult dogs and cats are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, and about one in five of them weighs in at more than 30 percent over its ideal body weight. The surplus pounds can lead to a host of health issues including arthritis, diabetes and problems with the hips, kidneys and liver. And while fat cats like Meow, the 39-pound feline whose photo was passed around online before he passed away last month, have been talk-show punchlines of late, experts say the issue is something to be taken seriously.
“Every time we see these horribly obese and overweight cats, there’s always a little joke, a little asterisk attached to it,” said Ernie Ward, author of pet obesity book “Chow Hounds.” “As a vet, I see that that animal is suffering.”
Ward said the issue of animal obesity has gained traction in recent years, going from a subject that was brushed off when the association was founded in 2005 to a topic that is beginning to open the eyes of pet owners.
Megan Ridley, a veterinarian at Integrative Pet Care, the Logan Square clinic that helped Zeus, said she treats animals she believes are morbidly obese.
“We come up with protocols for these animals,” she said. “I usually put the No. 1 [goal] is weight loss.”
Ridley said it’s rare to see an animal come in for treatment solely for weight issues. Usually, she says, existing problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia and other issues that cause pets to be less active have been made worse by being overweight or obese. But it does happen. One recent client brought in a dog who was fed a diet of table scraps for a year and a half. The dog that should have weighed 65 pounds soared to 90.
“You could see it was starting to have issues with its wrists,” she said.
Ed Heil, owner of Integrative Pet Care, said eight- to 12-week treatments range from $800 to $1,400, and can include boarding. Heil said the rehab and weight loss can prevent costlier procedures. Hip surgery for a dog or cat can cost at least $3,000 to $4,000.
Saq Nadeem, founder of the resort-style boarding service Paws for Pets, said he has seen a growing number of customers willing to pay for extra services that help their pets get in shape. The company didn’t always offer treadmill fitness or nature hikes for dogs, but demand for those services has grown as owners increasingly spoil their pets as they would their own children.
“In general, I think there is a big trend toward providing comprehensive services,” he said. “We’ve seen a trend of more and more places offering these add-on services.”
Diana Ozimek, a trainer who runs fitness boot camps for women in Chicago, has her own solution. After seeing many pet owners who abandoned the gym to care for their pet, she developed a workout routine for canines and their owners alike.
The challenge, she says, is that pet owners see jogging as one of the only ways to work out in tandem with a dog. But her four- and six-week boot camps, which she began teaching about a month ago, incorporate light training for the dogs along with cardio and weight training for their keepers.
“You should definitely see a increased level of fitness for you and your dog,” she said. “You should both be able to work better together.”
A fat cat or plump pooch doesn’t just cause problems for the animal; it also can wreak havoc on an owner’s finances. Pet insurance provider Petplan said it saw a 348 percent rise in arthritis claims in 2011, as well as a 253 percent increase in diabetes and 32 percent incline in cardiac arrest claims, all of which are associated with extra weight. The company says costs add up.
Diabetes: $900 per incident, with costs reaching as much as $5,700
Ligament tears: $2,000 on average, and up to $6,000 in claims
Arthritis: $2,000 per incident, costing owners as much as $9,600
These figures don’t include the basics of pet ownership. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the minimum cost of owning a small dog in its first year is $1,314. That number rises to $1,580 and $1,843 for medium and large dogs, respectively. For cats, owners can expect to pay $1,035.

Tufts develops quality-of-life assessments for pets with heart disease

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Tufts veterinarians developed two quantitative tests for pets with heart disease that can help owners make decisions about treatments and euthanasia. FETCH (Functional Evaluation of Cardiac Health) and CATCH (Cats’ Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health) are surveys that ask owners to rank aspects of their pet’s health from zero to five. JAVMA published evaluations of both FETCH and CATCH.

June 25, 2012

( — Quality of life has become accepted as an important predictor of survival among human patients with heart failure. Now veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have developed two surveys that may prove to be similarly useful in evaluating the quality of life for dogs and cats with heart disease.

Known as “FETCH” (Functional Evaluation of Cardiac Health) and “CATCH” (Cats’ Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health), the surveys ask owners to rank aspects of their dog’s or cat’s health on a scale of 0 to 5. Veterinarians are then able to assess the animal’s perceived quality of life, which may inform decisions about treatment, nutrition or even euthanasia.

Researchers found that the FETCH and CATCH scores correlated well to the International Small Animal Council (ISACHC) classification for .

Results of the CATCH evaluation were published in the May 15 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, building on the earlier publication of the FETCH study.

“Studies have indicated that pet owners value quality of life much more than longevity in their animals,” said Professor of Clinical Sciences Lisa M. Freeman, board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition . “We want our dogs and cats to have happy lives, and we believe this tool is a helpful in evaluating whether our pets still do.”

The survey tools were developed by Freeman and Professor of Clinical Sciences John E. Rush, board-certified cardiologist and criticalist at the veterinary school’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals. Freeman and Rush set out to create and evaluate a tool for pets similar to the Minnesota Living with Questionnaire, one of the most widely used evaluation tools in human cardiology.

The CATCH tool was validated using studies in 75 cats at Tufts’ Foster Hospital for , the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School and the VCA Animal Care Center of Sonoma County (Rohert Park, Calif.), then tested in 200 cats at the three previous sites, as well as Oregon State University, Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital (Woburn, Mass.) and Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

The work on the tools will continue to measure their responsiveness to medical treatment and create a clinical and research tool for clinicians, Freeman said.

More information: J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 May 15;240(10):1188-93.

Journal reference:Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Associationsearch and more infowebsite

Provided byTufts Universitysearch and more infowebsite

New Disability Regulations Now Include Mini Horses as Guide Animals

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

By Elizabeth Harrington

June 26, 2012

Mona Ramouni, who is blind, rides a bus to work with her guide horse in Lincoln Park, Mich. Growing up in Detroit, Ramouni could never get a dog because her devout Muslim family considered dogs unclean. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio/File)

( – Although the Justice Department has extended  the deadline for America’s hotels to comply with regulations regarding  handicap access to swimming pools, new Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) guidelines are already being applied at miniature golf courses,  driving ranges, amusement parks, shooting ranges and saunas.

Among the provisions in the “Revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design,” which went into  effect on March 15, is one requiring businesses to allow miniature  horses on their premises as guide animals for the disabled. Another  limits the height of slopes on miniature golf holes.

“The new standards, for the first time, include requirements for  judicial facilities, detention and correctional facilities, and  recreational facilities,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said during a conference in Baltimore on June 7.

“We expect the implementation of these accessibility standards to  open up doors for full participation in both the responsibilities, such  as jury duty, and the benefits, such as playing at city parks, of civic  life for people with disabilities,” he said.

“Miniature horses were suggested by some commenters as viable  alternatives to dogs for individuals with allergies, or for those whose  religious beliefs preclude the use of dogs,” the rules state.  Also  mentioned as a reason to include the animals is the longer life span of  miniature horses – providing approximately 25 years of service as  opposed to seven years for dogs.

“Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have  flown commercially with their miniature horses,” the Justice Department  notes.

“Similar to dogs, miniature horses can be trained through behavioral reinforcement to be ‘housebroken,’” it adds.

However, “Ponies and full-size horses are not covered.”

A business owner can deny admission to a miniature horse that is not  housebroken, whose handler does not have sufficient control of the  animal, or if the horse’s presence compromises “legitimate safety  requirements.”

The miniature horse addition has come under the scrutiny of at least  one member of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who offered an  amendment that passed the House, banning funding to implement the  provision. Chaffetz penned an editorial last month in opposition to the  rule entitled, “Horses in the Dining Room?

How spaying and neutering benefits pets’ health and behavior

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Veterinarians Charlie Meynier and Jim Stortz write that spaying female dogs and cats reduces the incidence of mammary cancer, eliminates uterine and ovarian cancer risk and prevents pyometra, a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus. Neutering male animals protects them from prostatic hypertrophy and infections, as well as testicular cancer and certain types of hernias. Drs. Meynier and Stortz also note that many less desirable animal behaviors are usually reduced by spaying or neutering, including roaming and territorial aggression.

There are many theories when it comes to the medical and behavioral effects of spaying and neutering dogs and cats. It is a controversial subject and there are numerous viewpoints out there among trainers, breeders, and within the veterinary profession.
The chief intent of this article is to state proven scientific facts. we’ll go through the medical benefits of neutering and spaying both dogs and cats, and finish with our personal beliefs on the behavioral changes that can occur.
The principal benefit of spaying female dogs and cats is the prevention of mammary cancer. A dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer later in life. After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7 percent, and after the second heat the risk approaches 25 percent. Statistics are similar in cats.
The prevention of what is frequently a very difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer is reason enough to spay our dogs. Another potential condition in intact females is a bacterial infection of the uterus called pyometra. Treatment is surgery in a potentially unstable patient and can be very costly.
Less common conditions such as uterine and ovarian cancer are 100 percent prevented by spaying. Intact female dogs come into heat about every 8 months, resulting in bloody vaginal discharge and an unpleasant odor.
The major health benefits involved in neutering a dog involve the prostate gland. As dogs age, the prostate will gradually enlarge. This is known as benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH (think Flomax commercials). The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection. This is an extremely painful and sometime life-threatening condition which is not likely to resolve without neutering and often invasive surgery.
Other medical conditions that are prevented include testicular cancer, along with certain types of hernias and perianal tumors. The effects of neutering male cats are more behavioral and are listed below.
There are no concrete facts when it comes to the behavioral changes seen in spayed and neutered dogs and cats. Neutering male dogs and cats can reduce urine marking in your house, aggression towards other dogs, and territorial aggression. It is important to realize that these behaviors can become a habit and continue after neutering.
Many experts say that once a pet is older than 1 year of age and still intact, undesirable behaviors are more likely to become permanent even if they are neutered at that time. The most dangerous behavior seen in intact males is roaming, i.e., running away to look for a mate, because it leads to animals running away as well as car accidents.
The reproductive tracts of the female dog and cat are dormant for most of the year. From a behavioral standpoint, the animals will “act spayed” most of the time and no personality changes should be noted with spaying. When in heat, females are more likely to be aggressive and can show erratic behavior such as howling and writhing on the ground. And an intact male can detect females in heat from miles away so it is not safe to leave them outside unsupervised.
The medical benefits resulting from spaying and neutering pets lead to longer and healthier lives. In addition, the majority of animals will be more relaxed and less prone to undesirable behavior. The Vail Valley Animal Hospital recommends spaying and neutering at six months of age. They are outpatient procedures and animals can go home the day of the surgery.
Dr. Charlie Meynier, DVM, has been a practicing vet for more than 12 years with a degree from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Jim Stortz, DVM, has been a practicing vet since completing his Emergency and Critical Care Medicine internship in 2006. The Vail Valley Animal Hospital offers services at both Eagle Vail and Edwards locations. For more information and to make an appointment, call 970-949-4044 (Eagle-Vail) or 970-926-3496 (Edwards) or visit