Posts Tagged ‘millions of animals euthanized each year’

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Adopting a Senior Dog or Cat has Benefits!

Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog (or Cat)

Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog

Adopting a senior dog has a lot of advantages. These golden oldies are already housebroken, obey obedience commands, and require significantly less exercise than their younger counterparts.

“There’s nothing quite so wise and wonderful as an old dog,” says Judith Piper, founder of Old Dog Haven in Arlington, Washington.  The rescue group has a dedicated network of foster homes that specialize in saving dogs eight years and older. Most pets usually arrive at the organization after their elderly owner dies or is no longer able to care for them.

Senior dogs are also surprisingly in demand with adopters — in part, Piper says, because what you see is what you get. A dog’s size, personality, and energy level are already known. There’s no guessing what that small pup will become as an adult.  In  today’s electronic age, an increasing number of people work from home and want mellow four-footed colleagues to keep them company. Still others adopt older companions simply to get started the world of dog ownership. “It’s really easier to start with an older dog that isn’t as demanding as a puppy,” Piper says.

Sound tempting? Before filling out an adoption application, here are a few things you should consider:

  • Older dogs require more potty breaks throughout the day. That means you’ll need to install a pet door, hire a dog walker, or come home for lunch to let your pet outside to relieve itself.
  • Large dogs with arthritis don’t do well in two- and three-story homes because of the stairs, and won’t be able to accompany you on lengthy walks or hikes.
  • As older dogs continue to age, they might lose their sight or hearing. Because of this, adoption experts say, households with toddlers (either your own or grandchildren who visit frequently) are not idea. Young children who accidentally startle or frighten a deaf or blind dog might get bitten.

Another consideration is the high cost of veterinary care, says Jamie Pinn, executive director of H.A.R.T Senior Dog Rescue in Fillmore, Calif. For more than 20 years the nonprofit has specialized in rehoming dogs aged 7 and older. Each pet undergoes an extensive medical exam, so adopters know upfront about any potential health issues. “We feel we owe that to whoever is going to take them on,” she says.

Canines at Old Dog Haven also undergo complete physical exams. Rescue groups recommend that adopters use local veterinarians with experience in treating ailing geriatric animals, who are also known for not pushing pricey medical procedures.

Adopting an older dog is an often-overlooked option but one that many rescue groups say you won’t regret. These mellow canine companions will happily pay you back for giving them a home by filling your life with so much love and joy, you’ll wonder why you never considered it before.

About the Author: Maryann Mott is an Arizona-based pet journalist.

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Cat & Dog Spaying (Castration or ovariohysterectomy or OH)

Cat & Dog Neutering · Cat & Dog Spaying

Photo of a spayed kitten

What is Cat Spaying or Dog Spaying?

Spaying removes the ability of a female to have young. Spaying your dog or cat is a surgical operation that removes both the ovaries and the uterus through an incision in the abdomen. Because the ovaries produce most of the estrogen in a female’s body, the pet no longer has a surge of estrogen, a heat cycle, bleeding from the vulva, or the tendency to attract males. The procedure for females is called a spay surgery or ovariohysterectomy (ovario=ovary, hyster=uterus, ectomy=removal).

Benefits of cat and dog spaying

Spaying is the most common surgery for female pets because it has so many benefits for the pet and the family. Spaying:

  • prevents estrus cycles and vaginal bleeding,
  • prevents the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens,
  • prevents infection in the uterus (pyometra),
  • lessens mammary cancer, and
  • lessens cat yowling.

Cat and dog spaying and behavior

There are misconceptions about behavior changes that occur when a dog or cat is spayed. One of the misconceptions is that it’s better to allow pets to have one litter because after that they are better pets. This is not true. What is true is that most pets are spayed between 5 and 10 months of age when they are immature. After being spayed, they mature and assume the more responsible behaviors of adults.

Another misconception is that working dogs that are used to protect and guard property will not be as effective if spayed. The reality is that protecting and guarding are genetic behaviors. Whatever genetic behaviors pets have before being spayed, they have after being spayed. Thus, a German Shepherd that is good at protecting property remains so when spayed. If the Shepherd is too young to display protective behaviors, but is genetically inclined to be a good working dog, she will develop appropriate behaviors as she matures. Other examples of genetic behaviors that are not altered by spaying include the Great Pyrenees’ ability to guard sheep, the Border Collies’ tendency to herd, and the Northern breeds’ tendency to dig.

A third misconception is that spay surgery will control aggression in dogs. Unfortunately, the tendency to be aggressive does not change when dogs are spayed. In fact, when highly aggressive dogs are spayed at a young age, they become even more aggressive following surgery. This is in contrast to older aggressive dogs that remain aggressive when spayed but do not become even more aggressive following surgery. When aggression is a problem, a full medical exam, nutritional changes, behavior therapy, and medications are the best approaches—not spaying. Spaying may still be recommended for aggressive dogs because it prevents these dogs from having young with similar predispositions.

Some pet owners believe that dogs and cats become fat and have less energy after being spayed. Sometimes a change in activity occurs because we have gotten used to our pets and are playing with them less than we did when they were young. Other times, pets are truly less energetic following spay surgery. If pets are fed the same amount after being spayed as before the surgery—especially if they were on diets for young, growing pets—they will put on weight after being spayed. This is entirely preventable if we increase activity and decrease feeding size.

There is a misconception that spaying will fix all elimination problems. Spaying will not fix elimination problems due to anxiety, submission, or excitement. On the other hand, spraying (urinating on vertical surfaces) and marking territory are decreased by spay surgery if the pet is spayed before the behavior has become ingrained. For tips on how to resolve elimination problems, visit the Behavior Section of PetHealth101.

One behavior that is eliminated with spay surgery is false pregnancy. False pregnancy occurs in dogs that are not pregnant but behave as though they are for up to 60 days following estrus. These dogs transport little toys from place to place as though they are moving puppies. Their mammary glands may produce milk, and the pet may make a nest in a dark, quiet place away from the family. Some pets become increasingly moody and aggressive.

Best age to spay your cat or dog

Spaying is done at all ages. At some humane facilities and animal shelters, spaying is being done when pets are 6 to 8 weeks old so that no adopted pets will have unwanted litters. Pets spayed by the family veterinarian are traditionally scheduled for surgery between 5 and 10 months of age. The smaller the breed, the more quickly the female matures, so that spaying of small dogs is best done at 5-6 months of age. The larger breeds mature more slowly so that spaying can be delayed until the pet is closer to one year of age. Thus, Chihuahuas may be spayed at 5 months of age and Bull Mastiffs may be safely spayed when 10-12 months of age. Spaying before the dog is mature ensures she does not go through estrus and become pregnant.

When mature dogs are spayed, surgery is timed for a period between heat cycles when the blood vessels to the uterus are small and there is less likelihood of bleeding. With mature cats, bleeding is generally less of a problem than with dogs so that time is slightly less critical.

When scheduling surgery for a pet that has just had a litter, it is best to wait about two months after delivery so that the young are weaned, the mother has quit nursing, and the uterus has returned to its normal size.

Negative effects of cat and dog spaying

While spaying offers many benefits, there can be undesirable health and cosmetic changes. For example, spayed pets—especially those altered before they have reached their full growth—are generally taller and leaner. Their heads may also be narrower. For most of us these are insignificant cosmetic changes, but for those for whom appearance is of utmost importance, spaying before the pet is full grown may not be acceptable.

Of more consequence are the undesirable health changes. The following medical problems increase with early spaying and neutering:

  • incontinence, and
  • bone and joint problems (knee injury due to cruciate rupture, hip dysplasia and bone cancer),

1. Incontinence
Both male and female dogs may become incontinent if surgically altered, and the likelihood of incontinence increases if pets are altered when very young. Incontinent dogs dribble urine during the day and may leak urine when they sleep at night. Most incontinent dogs improve when given acupuncture and drugs such as Proin or Cystolamine (phenylpropanolamine), estrogens, testosterones, or anti-parasympathetic medications. However, these drugs can have detrimental side effects and they must be used for the life of the pet. Incontinence occurs with cats but is uncommon.

2. Bone and joint problems (cruciate rupture, hip dysplasia, and bone cancer)
Spayed dogs have increases in three types of bone and joint problems: torn knee ligaments (anterior cruciate ligament or ACL), hip dysplasia, and bone cancer. ACL injuries are common in spayed dogs of every size. Hip dysplasia and bone cancer (osteosarcoma), are common only in large dogs. Some veterinarians believe bone problems occur in spayed dogs because their bones grow larger than those of intact dogs. The larger growth occurs because estrogen, which normally tells the bones to stop growing, is not present to give the stop-growth signal. It appears that larger bone size predisposes these pets to bone and joint cancer. It also appears that the earlier a pet is spayed the greater the likelihood of bone cancer.

Overall effect of cat and dog spaying is positive

While there are serious consequences as a result of spaying, fewer pets have problems because they are spayed than have problems because they are not spayed. On the whole, spaying pets is far wiser than leaving females intact. New methods, including the use of tubal ligation rather than an ovariohysterectomy may help prevent problems that arise from our current method of spaying.

How cat and dog spaying is done (the procedure)

Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries through an incision in the abdomen. While there are several different techniques, all pets are anesthetized for the procedure so that blood tests prior to surgery are recommended. Surgery can take from 30-60 minutes, which is long enough that most pets should receive IV fluids during surgery.

Veterinarians provide pain medication in addition to anesthesia so that after the anesthesia wears off the pet remains comfortable. Most veterinarians keep the pet overnight in the hospital, but some hospitals do not have employees working during the night so your pet may be better off at home. Veterinarians dispense pain medication to keep your pet comfortable as it heals. It was once believed that pain after surgery was desirable because it prevented pets from being active and damaging the surgical site, but research has shown the opposite is true: Pets provided with pain medication heal faster than pets not given pain medication.

To begin the surgery, hair is clipped from the lower abdomen, the area is cleaned, and an incision is made through the skin on the midline between the navel and the pubic bone. The abdominal muscles are separated, and the intestines moved slightly so that the ovaries, which are at the back of the body close to the spine, are found. The ligaments, nerves, blood and lymph vessels traveling to the ovaries are tied off on both sides. Then, the bladder is moved aside and the uterus identified. Nerves, blood and lymph vessels are tied off, then the cervix is tied off. Traditionally “tying off” was done with suture material, but some veterinarians use metal staples rather than suture material. With all the tissues separated and tied off, the scalpel slices through the uterus and ovaries and removes them without any bleeding into the abdomen. The peritoneal lining around the intestines and abdominal organs is sutured closed, then the muscles and skin are closed. Some surgeons use staples, others use suture material.

Surgery can be done with a laser or with a scalpel. Lasers create less scarring and discomfort, but the surgery is more expensive because it takes slightly longer and the equipment is expensive.

Postoperative cat and dog spay care

Recovery from a spay surgery takes several weeks. It’s important to keep your pet quiet and severely limit exercise for the first week and walk with a harness and leash. Feed only broth until you see your pet’s intestines are working and it is passing gas or defecating normally. Then, provide one meal of easily digested food such as chicken soup and rice. This fully stimulates the intestines, which may be sluggish after anesthesia. If your pet does well with the chicken soup and rice, return to normal feeding. If your pet vomits or has no appetite, notify your veterinarian.

Over the next couple weeks, slowly increase the amount of activity. Pets that become active too quickly can have several problems:

  • an open incision site (dehiscence),
  • abdominal bleeding,
  • infection, and
  • pain.

To keep your pet comfortable after spay surgery

  • Use a calming pheromone, such as Comfort Zone DAP for dogs or Comfort Zone Feliway for cats.
  • Provide fiber to establish normal bowel habits and prevent constipation in an animal that is less active than normal. Be Well for Dogs and Be Well for Cats are excellent sources of fiber and healing antioxidants.
  • Place a cool pack on the abdomen to decrease swelling and pain.

Notify your veterinarian if your pet has

  • a fever
  • swelling
  • heat or redness
  • bleeding from the vagina or incision site
  • vomiting
  • no urine within 12 hours
  • no appetite within 24 hours
  • no stool within 24-36 hours
  • a tendency to lick the area excessively, or
  • an opening of the incision.

Pyometra (pyo=pus and metra=uterus) is a bacterial infection in the uterus that is often fatal. Spayed pets rarely develop pyometra, and then only if there is an infection in the uterine stump. Unspayed dogs and cats develop pyometra under several conditions:

  • have had many estrus cycles that stimulated growth of cells inside the uterus,
  • have vaginal infection or diarrhea that allows bacteria to travel up the vagina to the uterus, or
  • have taken estrogen medications, such as mismate shots.

There are two forms of pyometra: open and closed. Both open and closed pyometra can be fatal but it’s easier to recognize open pyometra and begin treatment. Open pyometra occurs when the bacterial infection creates pus that is able to drain from the uterus into the vagina and out the body. Closed pyometra occurs when bacterial infection cannot drain and builds up with the uterus causing sepsis.

Symptoms of pyometra can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, increased drinking and urinating, and a swollen abdomen. Because these symptoms are nonspecific, it is difficult for many pet owners to realize what is happening until the infection has become life-threatening.  It is even harder to recognize the symptoms of pyometra in cats than it is to recognize them in dogs.

The best treatment for pyometra is to remove the uterus and ovaries by spaying the pet immediately. If surgery is not done, and the pet is treated with prostaglandins, antibiotics and IV fluids, the pet may recover its health, but the cells inside the uterus have not changed, and the condition may reoccur. If prostaglandins are used in treatment, the pet should be bred at its next estrus cycle.

If you are going to spay or neuter your pet, this brochure from Best Friends Animal Society talks about the benefits and also counteracts some of the myths.

Anyone who needs assistance finding affordable spay/neuter services can benefit by using the SPAY/USA referral service.

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