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How Young is Too Young to Neuter?

Since the mid-20th century, pet overpopulation concerns have given rise to a message prevalent in public service announcements, veterinary education and rescue/shelter philosophies. That message is “Spay and neuter, the earlier the better.” However, in recent years, a controversy surrounding health risks of spaying and neutering at an early age has been increasing. New studies show uneven bone growth (certain bones growing longer than their counterparts), infectious diseases, adverse reaction to vaccines, cancer, and other problems being documented at statistically significant rates, even when adjusting for genetic, lifestyle and other factors.

spay neuter dogs too early health problemsLike most body systems, the endocrine system – which produces hormones – affects more than just the reproductive system. Sex hormones, by communicating with a number of other growth-related hormones, stimulate the closure of growth plates at puberty. And they do a lot more, too.

EARLIER, MORE FREQUENT CANCER IN EARLY SPAY/NEUTER DOGS

A Veterinary Medical Database search of the years 1982 to 1995 revealed that in dogs with tumors of the heart, the relative risk for spayed females was over four times that of intact females.

In addition to cardiac tumors, this and other studies have found that early spay/neuter practices contribute to a higher incidence of bone cancer, prostate cancer, and other types of cancer.

KNEE AND HIP PROBLEMS IN EARLY SPAY/NEUTER DOGS 

A study of 1444 Golden Retrievers performed in 1998 and 1999 found that animals spayed and neutered at less then a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered at more then a year.  Because of the absence of sex hormones that signal a slowdown in growth rates after puberty, early spayed/neutered dogs have longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrower chests and narrower skulls.

A study  by Dr. Kathy Linn and Dr. Felix Duerr showed that females spayed prior to seven month of age have a significantly greater tibial plateau angle.  This is because the tibial growth plate stays open longer then it is supposed to and the tibia continues to grow longer relative to the femur in “fixed” animals as opposed to those animals who are intact.  It is widely known and accepted that animals with a greater tibial plateau angle are at a much higher risk for ACL rupture.

Rob Foley, of South Bellmore Veterinary Group, examined ten years of patient data from his practice. “A summary of the data shows that while 2.1% of our spayed and neutered patients had to undergo knee surgery for an ACL rupture, only 0.3% of the intact animals had to have the surgery,” he says. This represents a seven fold increase for animals that have been spayed and neutered before the age of 6 months.

Other orthopedic abnormalities like osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia have also been correlated with early spay and neuter.  In addition, spayed and neutered animals tend to gain weight, are more likely to develop obesity, and have decreased lean muscle mass.  Obesity itself is a major risk factor for orthopedic abnormalities and injury.

WHY DO WE SPAY/NEUTER SO EARLY?

More and more veterinarians are recommending waiting until 18-24 months before spaying, or until the dog reaches full maturity (which can vary from breed to breed and individual to individual).

For most of us, spaying and neutering early is just something everyone knows. We hear it so often, from so many sources, that it becomes tradition to spay/neuter early. But few of us examine the reasons or evidence given.  It is commonly believed that neutering male dogs early can prevent prostate cancer. But a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan found that it has no affect on the rate of prostate cancer incidence. It is also believed, but not proven, that “fixing” a dog will solve behavioral problems. However, new research shows that this is unproven.

Many of the early spay/neuter messages aimed at the public come from activist groups. However, remember that their objective is ONLY to prevent litters while there are dogs needing homes. The thinking is that the only way to be sure to prevent a dog from reproducing is to spay/neuter before it can. This message serves their agenda, but I don’t see any discussion on their blogs, message boards or public service campaigns about the health hazards of pediatric spaying and neutering.

Many spay/rescue organizations spay and neuter as early as six weeks. However, they may be hampered by state laws that require shelter dogs to be spayed or neutered prior to being adopted. When someone adopts a puppy from a shelter, it’s not realistic to leave the pup at the shelter until it’s finished growing. One shelter solves the early spay/neuter problem with a higher adoption fee for intact puppies, a contractual obligation to spay/neuter and a portion of the adoption fee refunded with proof of spay/neuter when the puppy is older. And they do follow up.

Why do so many vets recommend early spay/neuter? Partly because of social messaging from spay/neuter activists, and partly because of two studies done in the ’60s and ’70s that concluded that spay/neuter solves behavioral problems. Those studies gained momentum and have been quoted so often that they’ve become part of the zeitgeist without anyone ever actually examining the data. The studies were not scientifically rigorous, because there were no control groups (groups of dogs that were intact to compare to the groups of dogs who were spayed/neutered). And the behavioral findings were not evaluated by canine behaviorists.

SHOULD I WAIT?

when should i spay neuter my dog age

The recent research suggests it’s best and healthiest for your dog to wait until he or she achieves maturity before you spay or neuter. Does this mean you should? It depends on how much you’re willing to take on in order to give your dog the implied health benefits of waiting. You can’t leave your dog in the back yard while no one is home. You can’t let your male dog off leash unless you’re in an enclosed area (or get distracted by conversation when you are). You have to be ready to intervene if he begins to exhibit sexual behavior with a female.

I’ve seen intact males at our dog park plenty of times, and they’ve all been relaxed, playful, well-mannered dogs. This attests to their training and supervision. It can be done, until it’s time to neuter.

For a female dog, waiting means providing the extra care needed if she goes through her first heat cycle before you spay. She’ll go into her first heat cycle at 6-12 months old (although if she’s not around intact males, she may not go into heat for two years or more). Once she’s had her first heat cycle, she’ll go into heat about every six months. Outdoor pens and back-yard fences don’t keep male dogs out when a female is in heat, so you’ll have to keep her primarily indoors, except for walks. Here’s a good article on how to care for a dog in heat.

Waiting is extra work, there’s no doubt. But it is possible. You have already taken on the responsibility for the health and safety of your dog. You already buy food, take your dog to the vet, provide fresh water, exercise him or her … these are thing you go out of your way to do for the health of your dog. If you’re not breeding your dog to keep exceptional genes and traits in the gene pool to improve the breed, it is best to spay. But choose for yourself the best age and time to do it. Remember, your dog relies on you — no one else — to make decisions that are best for him or her.

Thanks to AngryVet.com, CanineSports.com, HealthyPets.com, National Institutes of Health, Laura J. Sanborn

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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Cool New Products

 

Does Your Dog Need a Vet? 10 Signs

how to tell if my dog needs to see a vet

It’s late in the evening. Your dog has vomited twice. You’re starting to wonder if you should go to bed or get dressed and get him to a vet.

It’s sometimes a tough call because emergency vet bills are high. Between office visit fees, x-rays, tests and medications, most of us can’t easily absorb an unexpected hit of $1,000 or more.

Yet even more than that, we don’t want to endanger our dogs’ life or prolong their suffering. We want to help them when they’re in pain or distress.

So how do you make the right decision?

Here are 10 signs that you should get your dog to the vet, especially if your dog is exhibiting other signs of distress or discomfort.

  1. Restlessness. Dogs who get enough exercise during the day usually lie down or nap in the evening. If your dog is pacing, or lying down and then getting up within a few minutes, it could be a sign of anxiety and pain. You know your dog’s routine. If she is restless and there’s no other cause that it could be attributed to (i.e., houseguests, fireworks, a new neighborhood dog barking outside), get to the vet.
  2. High temperature. It can be tricky to take a dog’s temperature, especially if he’s not feeling well. So when he’s feeling fine, take his temperature a couple of times to get him used to the procedure and to establish a baseline normal temp for him. For most dogs, it’s 101 to 102.5. When he’s exhibiting some of the other signs mentioned here, an accompanying high temperature — which can indicate a viral or bacterial infection — might clinch your decision to seek veterinary attention.
  3. Hesitation to jump or climb. If your dog, who normally jumps into the car or onto the bed readily, or climbs stairs with no problem, suddenly looks unsure or waits for help, he could have an internal or structural problem you can’t see.
  4. Changes in body posture. Bloat is a serious illness that can take the life of a dog within hours. Dogs experiencing bloat will have a distended stomach due to gas buildup (hence the name). They will also exhibit other signs of illness, such as restlessness and panting. Your dog might be reluctant to sit down, yet looks as if he wants to, or he’s lying or sleeping in an unusual posture. Maybe his mouth is open but he’s not panting, or he’s holding one or both ears at an awkward position. These are things that may indicate he needs a vet.
  5. Hiding. Dogs who are in pain often don’t want to be bothered. If your dog hides in an uncharacteristic way, see if a treat or toy that she would normally respond to can coax her out. If not, she may be in trouble.
  6. Unusual ways of getting your attention. Dog’s can’t tell us they’re in pain, so they just usually deal with it by withdrawing or trying to make themselves more comfortable. However, sometimes, they do seek us out, because they know we’re their source of safety and comfort. If your dog uncharacteristically pesters you for attention, and your attention doesn’t seem to satisfy her need, there may be something more serious she’s seeking help for.
  7. Disruption in elimination patterns. Frequency, volume and condition of urine and feces is a good indicator of health. Get to know your dog’s normal patterns so that if they change, you’ll see it early on. When changing your dog’s food, watch for new elimination patterns and don’t be surprised if there’s a little diarrhea the first day or two as his system adjusts to the new food. But after that, things should get back to normal. It’s harder for homeowners who let their dogs eliminate in the back yard, because we often don’t see the result of the dog’s visit to the yard. But daily cleanups will give you an indicator, and it’s important to know what’s normal for your dog.
  8. Vomiting or retching with other symptoms. It’s not unusual for dogs to vomit. Some individuals hardly ever vomit while others vomit more regularly. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t chew properly, but it can be his body rejecting a toxic substance or bacterial infection. If your dog vomits once or twice, but otherwise acts and eats normally, it’s probably not an emergency. But if she can’t seem to stop vomiting, becomes listless, has diarrhea, or refuses food, she needs a vet. Also, if she’s retching but not bringing up anything, she could be bloating or have an obstruction, which also require quick veterinary intervention.
  9. ways to tell if my dog needs a vetUnusual vocalizing. Dogs usually don’t cry when they’re in pain. They tend to isolate. But if your dog is whimpering, crying, or wheezing in a way that’s not normal, definitely get to a vet.
  10. Unusual panting. Dogs pant when they’re hot, but if your dog is panting when he’s inside and would normally be resting (i.e., evening), there may be a problem. Our collie seemed to pant all the time, even in the air conditioning. The groomer took his beautiful coat off for the summer to help him stay cool, but he still panted. After some tests by the vet, we learned he had leukemia. If your dog shows unusual panting, especially when combined with weakness or unusual thirst, get him to the vet.

Remember, any of these signs could mean your dog needs to see the vet, but if your dog shows more than one sign, it’s even more likely that veterinary attention is needed. When in doubt, see the vet. It’s better to spend some money needlessly than to endanger your dog’s life because you’re unsure.

 

Natural Disasters: How to Help Our Dogs

Guest post by Pamela Schaub, Cape Cod (MA) Animal Disaster Response Team

When a disaster strikes we are usually unprepared. The good news is that it only takes a little forethought and preparation to preserve the safety or life of our beloved pets. In the past 10 years, an estimated 20 million Americans have been affected by natural disasters such as flooding, tornados, hurricanes, and severe lightning storms.

Order your free Rescue Alert Sticker from the ASPCA

Here are a few of the most basic ways to prepare, now, before a disaster strikes:

1) Take a clear photo of your dog so that he may be identified in the event he becomes separated from you.

2) Get a secure collar with appropriate I.D. tag containing at least one phone number. Better yet, microchip your dog. Most vets and shelters scan incoming lost pets for a chip.

3) Prepare an emergency “Go Kit” for you and your pet.  It’s an inexpensive way to have a piece of mind. Always know where it is. RedRover.org recommends the following items be packed for each animal in your home:

  • One-week supply of food. Store it in a water-tight container and rotate it every three months to keep it fresh. If you use canned food, include a spare can opener.
  • One-week supply of fresh water. If officials declare your household water unfit to drink, it’s also unsafe for your pets. Follow American Red Cross guidelines for storing emergency water for your family and your pets.
  • Medication. If your animal takes medication, a replacement supply may not be easily available following a disaster.
  • Copies of vaccination records
  • Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership
  • Photographs of your pets in case you need to make “lost pet” fliers
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Temporary ID tags. If you’ve evacuated, use this to record your temporary contact informationand/or the phone number of an unaffected friend or relative.
  • Carrier or leash for each animal. Caregivers of multiple cats or other small animals can use an EvacSak, which is easy to store and use for transport.

4) Have a plan and share it with family. If a disaster should force you from your home, determine a safe place to stay, and do it ahead of time. Find out where a local emergency pet sheltering facility is located. During times of disaster, temporary shelters are often facilitated by the ASPCA, IFAW, HSUS, etc.

5) Be sure your smartphone directory has phone numbers for emergency contacts and 24 hour veterinarians.

Remember, your own safety comes first. Be wary before, during, and after a disaster strikes, and never leave your household pet alone, tied up, or encumbered to fend for themselves.

Resources

 

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Rinse That Dog Off!

At $50 billion, the pet industry is huge, and growing. One of the fun things about being a part of it is discovering cool entrepreneurs who are finding ingenious ways to help us care for and have fun with our dogs. One of these people is Chris Crawford from Carlsbad, CA. An avid outdoorsman, Chris has invented the RinseKit, a portable, high-pressure mini-shower for washing off your stuff, your dog, your feet … anything, before getting into your car, tent or home.

How many times have you come back to the car from the dog park, lake, or a walk through the woods with your dog, only to look down in dismay at those muddy feet, that drenched fur, that smelly coat? I know I have. And what I’ve done is just bite the bullet. That’s life with dogs, right? You wait for the mud to dry and then take the car to a car wash with a vacuum. But what if you could quickly shower off the dog (or his feet at least) before letting him into the car?  

The RinseKit stores not only water, but water pressure. So when you squeeze the hose attachment, you actually have water pressure to spray off mud, leaves, sand … even ants.

Yes, ants.

I live in the land of fire ants and my big dumb 50-pound puppy stood (not stepped, STOOD) in an ant hill a month or two back. Her front paws were COVERED in biting ants. My little water bottle was pathetic, and with her fur, there was no brushing them off with our hands. Fortunately, we were at the lake, so my quick-thinking 7 year old snapped the leash on her and ran her down to stand in the lake. What if we hadn’t been right on the shore? I would have loved having this thing to get those ants off her quickly.

This bad boy can clean off whatever your dog tracks in. It’s so much better than trying to clean up with a dinky water bottle. That is, if you have any water left in it. And the little paw towels that you can buy at the pet supply store? Those are great when the mess isn’t very … messy. But I have tried using towels for mud, and maybe it’s me, but they just don’t work.

Having grown up in New England, I could see using it to get rid of those awful ice balls that form on dogs’ fur when they’ve been playing in the snow. You know, those days when it’s above freezing, but still cold enough for snow, and your dog is dying to go play in it. My long-haired Dachshund used to come back to the car with dozens — nay, hundreds — of ice balls in his coat. For some reason, ice balls take forever to melt. And when they do, they leave tons of water in your car. Wouldn’t you love to just spray them off, then quick-dry your dog’s legs and paws before hoisting him up into the car? He’s dry in minutes, his feet are clean, and he doesn’t have to spend the entire drive home sitting on what feels like four dozen quail eggs (not to mention the big ice balls that form between his toes).

What about those times when your dog steps in … well, you know. I’ve spent my fair share of time trying to dig it out of my dogs’ toes with whatever probe I could find, wiping it off with wet wipes or towels (then where do you put THOSE?), and generally cussing out people who don’t clean up after their dog. If I had a pressurized spray shower, I could blast the offending bits off my dog’s feet (or my own) and be on my way.

The RinseKit is catching on with campers, surfers, fishing enthusiasts, parents, and dog owners. A strong rinse, when ever you need it, is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, the orders are coming in faster than Chris can make them. So he’s gone to crowdfunding to ramp up the manufacture. The first 200 people to contribute $50 or more get a RinseKit later this year. The project ends July 15, so don’t delay.

Get more info at http://www.rinsekit.com or be a part of it by backing this project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/165845490/breakthrough-portable-shower-system

Disclosure: I have no connection with Chris Crawford or his company, have received no payment for this article, and only found out about the RinseKit a couple of weeks ago. I just think it’s neat, and I thought you would, too.

 
 

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Britons: Your country needs you…and your furry friends!

Is anyone else a bit gutted that the last episode of Animal Heroes is on Tuesday? This fantastic documentary series follows the lives of animals and their handlers in the armed forces, providing an in-depth look at the experiences of the incredible animals that work hard to keep our country safe.

Literally covering a lot of ground, the series has been everywhere from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the Parade Grounds of London whilst following the journey of 16 young hopefuls as they endeavour to prove themselves capable Protection Dog Handlers on a challenging ten-work course.

There have been two episodes so far and while your last chance to see these working dogs in action will be on Tuesday 18 June the sponsor of the series, Churchill Insurance, is ensuring these remarkable working animals stay in the spotlight a little longer by offering four lucky competition winners the chance to attend a Dog Boot Camp run by former RAF Police Dog Handler John Fitzpatrick.

Four dogs and their owners will be given the exciting opportunity to attend this unique dog boot camp from Churchill in September, where expert trainers will put pooches through their paces to see if they’ve got what it takes to succeed in the military.

Dogs will be treated to expert agility training and will receive a lesson in ‘petiquette’ while owners will learn about the methods used to train animals in the military. They will then be given the opportunity to test out their newly-acquired skills with victors awarded with a prestigious doggy distinction!

So how do you go about entering the competition? Give the five tutorial videos on the Churchill website a watch, choose which exercise you want to teach your pup and get practicing! Plenty of treats, toys and cuddles later and when you think you’ve nailed it, record your dog in action and upload it to the site.

Four winners will be decided by a public vote and will be sent off to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in Old Windsor in September for their prize.

Applications are open from 1 June to 11.59pm on 14 July 2013.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in In the News

 

6 Big Mistakes Most Dog Owners Make

dogpatted

We all mean well (bless our hearts), but most of us make mistakes in the care, feeding and training of our dogs. Here are six common mistakes that we dog owners make. I know I was. Take a look and see if you are, too, and share your comments about these and other mistakes we fall into.

1. FEEDING TOO MANY CARBS

Left to their own devices, dogs would eat nothing but protein. Yet we modern dog owners give them acommercially produced diet of cereal kibble. It’s not natural, and dogs’ health statistics show it. Dogs are not omnivores; they’re carnivores. You can increase your dog’s protein intake by adding chicken, fish, pork or beef to his dinner. If you can’t stomach feeding raw meat to your dog (which is most like their natural diet), you can cook it. But either way, getting more protein into your dog will improve her health, increase digestibility and be more tasty. Your dog will love you for it!

2. LEAVING THE DOG ALONE WITH NOTHING TO DO

It’s irritating to come home to find the sofa torn open, or the cabinets chewed up, or a favorite pair of shoes shredded beyond recognition. But when we leave the dog home alone with no constructive outlet for his boredom and frustration, what do we expect? Dogs need something to keep them busy, especially when the house is quiet and empty. Tough chews, treat-dispensing toys and other “approved” toys and treats can help. Try freezing a rope bone, or filling a marrow bone with peanut butter. Or fill a treat-dispensing toy with carrots or small treats.

It doesn’t have to be your dog in the picture. The point of the picture is to help someone get your dog to safety.

3. USING A BAD PICTURE IN A “LOST DOG” POSTER

Heaven forbid you ever lose your dogs. Doesn’t it break your heart when you see those “Lost Dog” flyers stapled to telephone poles around your neighborhood? What breaks my heart even more are the bad snapshots shown on the posters.

That picture you took with your phone of your dog sitting at your feet, in the house, at night, is not going to help your neighbors to recognize your dog when he’s loose. The dog will probably be spotted running from yard to yard, or along a roadway. So use a picture that shows your dog’s entire body, preferably running or walking, as seen from the side. HINT: The best photo might be a stock photo of a dog of the same breed who’s walking or running. Only you will know it’s not the same dog. To everyone else, it might mean the difference between recognizing your dog or not.

4. USING HO-HUM TREATS (THAT ARE TOO BIG) FOR TRAINING

Training treats are different from cookies or biscuits. A training treat should be a great smelling treat that your dog will do ANYTHING for. Examples include small bits of red meat, cheese, cubed hot dogs or vienna sausages. Training treats should also be small, so that the dog can eat them in one gulp, and not fill up after 5 minutes of training. When a dog has to stop and chew up a treat — or clean up pieces of it off the floor — your timing is thrown off. Experiment with different treats. Some dogs love cubed carrots. Others will do anything for a mini marshmallow.

5. SHARING MEDS

Some human medicines can be used to help dogs, but some are toxic to dogs. The most common cause of pet poisoning is non-steroidal anit-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Other medications can cause problems or be poisonous to dogs, too. Learn about them and keep a list in your medicine cabinet, or ask your veterinarian what to give.

6. NOT PROTECTING OUR DOGS

The dog park isn’t for everyone, or every dog. Some dogs are very sociable and LOVE the dog park. Others are fearful, anxious and completely miserable there. We make the mistake of thinking that because there are other dogs there, plus room to run, that our dog should and does love to go. But watch your dog’s reactions to other dogs. If he cowers, runs to you for protection, or spends most of the time hiding under the bench, it may be that he really doesn’t like it there. Another area where we should protect our dogs is when we’re on a walk and a person or dog approaches. We should definitely be confident and relaxed, but we should consider if an approaching dog is friendly before allowing it to get within contact range of ours.

If your dog is being harassed by other dogs – either on leash or at the dog park – remove your dog to a safer area. If your dog thinks that you will not protect her, it will impact the trust she feels for you. Not only that, she may assume a leadership role over you if the thinks that you are not a leader who cares for and protects the pack.

Fortunately, dogs are very forgiving, and there are few mistakes that we cannot make right. Give your dog a hug today and share your comments on the subject below.

 

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PuppyFlix: for the Dog Video Junkie

PuppyFlix_LogoI just can’t resist a photo or video of a cute dog or puppy. I mean really, who can? Well, now there’s PuppyFlix, the great new website with nothing but great dog videos. This is so great, I may have to start packing a lunch so I can look at these during my lunch hour.

The site was developed after receiving a lot of positive feedback from fans on the company’s first website, KittyFlix. Soon after the dog-friendly team decided that they had to make PuppyFlix, the site became very popular. Here’s what some of the site’s visitors are saying:

“I have now looked through almost every slide show on the site and am in love! What could be better than looking through hilarious and cute pictures of dogs all day, while learning a little something about them?”

“This is a great page! It’s nice to see pictures of dogs with different animals makes me laugh and smile…THANK YOU”

boudin2“‘I love KittyFlix and am sooo glad you made PuppyFlix!”

“Our goal is to build a community by educating, entertaining, and connecting fans through articles, videos and pictures,” says PuppyFlix’s John Logue, who invites our blog readers to send in their dog videos (which you can do here.)  When your JOB is cute and funny dog videos, how do you pick a favorite? We asked John, and here’s the link he sent. Check it out: http://puppyflix.com/videos/beagle-pup-learns-to-howl/

After each video plays, the site serves up three more videos you might like (YouTube-style). They also put them into categories such as “Sleepy,” “Grumpy,” “Clumsy,” and others, so you can find more like the ones you love. Once you start watching and laughing and saying “Awwwww” and re-tweeting, it could be a while before you come up for air.

My favorite? This one.

Note: do not go to PuppyFlix while you’re browing ground beef. Just saying.

Visit http://www.PuppyFlix.com often, and get your daily dose of cute.