NO LITTERING! Kitten Season Doesn’t Have To Be Tragic: Spay and Neuter Now
By Dr. Marty Becker
We’re on the verge of kitten season now, which means we’ll soon be getting questions about feline pregnancy from people who often had no idea they’d be midwife to pets who are often not much more than kittens themselves.
Typical questions include: How long does a cat’s pregnancy last? (On average, 66 days.) Do I need to help my pregnant cat with delivery? (Yes, usually by leaving her alone.) How do I know if she’s close to delivering? (Watch for enlarged nipples and the secretion of a tiny amount of milk.)
The question we’re asked least often is the most important of all: How soon after my cat gives birth can she be spayed? (As soon as the babies are weaned — the sooner the better!)
Studies show that 80 percent of the cats and dogs in the United States and Canada are spayed or neutered. If your cat is not among them, here are a few facts to consider:
• A neutered tomcat is less likely to roam, less likely to fight (and less likely to cost you money to patch him up), and less likely to spray urine to mark his territory. He’s more likely to live longer, because the cat who’s looking for a mate is really looking for trouble. If a car doesn’t get him, infectious disease (spread by fighting or mating) or cancer may.
•A spayed female is a more attentive and loving pet, because her energy isn’t constantly directed toward finding a mate. (Cats are in heat nearly all the time until they become pregnant.) If you spay your cat, you protect her from some cancers, infections and from sexually transmitted infectious diseases.
“Spaying” and “neutering” are the everyday terms for the surgical sterilization of a pet. Neutering — or altering — is also used to describe both procedures. The technical terms for the two operations are “ovariohysterectomy,” for the female, and “castration,” for the male — which pretty much explains why “spaying” and “neutering” are the preferred terms.
Although these procedures are common, many people don’t understand what’s involved. Spaying is the removal of the female’s entire reproductive system: The uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are taken out through an incision in the abdomen. Some veterinarians use stitches that have to be removed in about 10 days’ time, while others use those that are absorbed into the body. Recovery is fast, taking just a few days, during which you should limit your cat’s activities — no jumping or boisterous play.
In neutering, the cat’s testicles are removed through incisions in the scrotum, the pouch holding the testicles. These
incisions are generally left unstitched in this
relatively minor procedure. Post-operative care normally involves keeping the incisions clean and dry. Some veterinarians recommend keeping the cat inside (if he is not already an indoor pet) and using shredded
newspaper in place of
litter until the incisions close, which usually happens within three to five days.
Most of the people who write us about pregnant cats are dealing with “oops” litters, the result of not getting their cat to the veterinarian in time. We sure hope they’ll be calling to schedule an appointment for neutering as soon as those babies are weaned.
If you’re allowing your cat to have “just one litter” because you want a kitten, please adopt a kitten instead. You’ll find plenty to choose from at any shelter or rescue group. Many of them won’t find homes, so please help in any way you can.
Pet Facts – Cropping, docking still commonly done
• Of the more than 150 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, 13 commonly get ear crops, 48 have docked tails, and 11 have both cropping and docking. Ear crops seem more likely to disappear as a common practice sooner, as fewer pet owners choose to have their puppies’ ears sliced into an upright posture, and fewer veterinarians will perform the procedure. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes ear cropping and tail docking when done solely for cosmetic purposes and has encouraged the elimination of these procedures from breed standards.
•The average price for hay is $3 to $6 per bale, according a poll on www.thehorse.com. Only 10 percent of respondents were paying less than $3 per bale, while 21 percent paid $6 to $9 per bale, and 8 percent paid more than $11 per bale. A bale of hay commonly lasts about two to four days per horse.
• Rather than using drugs to sedate a cat for minor veterinary procedures, a new process called “clipnosis” may be used to calm and immobilize the animal. The technique places clips along the back of a cat’s neck, mimicking the way a kitten is carried by the scruff by a mother cat. Clipnosis has not yet been widely recognized as a safe and practical method of immobilization, but it may be growing in popularity with a recent study. The trial on 18 cats who were clipped four different times over a period of months found that the animals were not stressed, and some even purred while “clipped.” None of the animals displayed signs of pain or stress during the process. The more the animals were clipped, the more tolerant they became of the process. One caveat: The procedure was not effective on cats who were already excited or agitated.
• Women make up 77 percent of graduating veterinarians. Family-friendly hours and the wide availability of part-time or fill-in work are among the reasons why the profession is appealing, according to DVM360.com.
— Dr. Marty Becker and
Mikkel Becker Shannon
Resting Easy – A Few Clicks Can Donate A Comfortable Bed For Shelter Pets
By Dr. Marty Becker
Part of my work as a veterinarian involves staying current on the latest in disease prevention and treatment, which means I go to a lot of conferences.
I also speak at a lot of conferences, which is what took me recently to Orlando, where the North American Veterinary Conference is held every year. While I was in Florida, I taped some public service announcements, and that’s how I learned of a need for pet beds in shelters.
When I was at the Orange County Animal Services shelter I saw a sparkling-clean facility with a loving staff, all set up for 250 pets but filled with 800. This situation is not special to Orlando, of course, for all over the country job losses and foreclosures are forcing many to give up their pets. At OCAS, as in many other shelters, there aren’t enough beds to go around. Some pets share what beds there are, but others sleep on the floor, without even the little bit of warmth and comfort that comes from being off the concrete.
I thought of the senior dogs and cats sleeping on hard surfaces, becoming stiffer and more painful every day, lessening their chances of being adopted.
I thought about skinny pets, cold pets, pets in drafts and on wet floors, all of whom would be healthier, happier and more adoptable if this one basic comfort were available to them.
Like all my readers might have felt, I can’t take all those pets home. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t help and couldn’t get others to help. That’s when it came to me: Let’s get these pets some beds.
In other words, let’s help shelter pets rise up, lie down and move out.
Turns out the people at the Kuranda company of Annapolis, Md., are already on this. These cot-style beds are popular with shelters (and pet owners, too, of course) because they’re easy to assemble, durable, chew-resistant and easy to keep clean. The company has a program where people buy beds and have them sent directly to any of hundreds of shelters. The cost for a donated bed is discounted 30 percent off the regular price.
In just a few days of sending the word out through our PetConnection.com Web blog, and my Facebook and Twitter accounts, the 100 beds OCAS had requested had been donated.
It’s a great start, and now I’m reaching out even more, to help pets in other shelters.
Can you donate a bed for
a shelter pet? It’s easy! Go
to Kuranda’s Web site
(kuranda.com) and click on “Donate a Bed.” You can then choose from dozens of shelters, sorted alphabetically and also searchable by state. When you’ve chosen your shelter, the site will display what kind of beds the shelter has requested. Buy a bed, and the company will send it to the shelter you’ve chosen. It’ll take you just a couple of minutes and a credit card.
I have no association with the company and didn’t know about the program before the folks at OCAS pointed it out. And of course, there are lots of other ways to help your local shelter, with donations of time, money or goods — and by adopting!
Whatever it takes, let’s do it. The need is great, and it only takes a little from each of us to help.
Grooming for Health Regular Coat Care Can Spot Problems Early
By Dr. Marty Becker
Beauty is more than skin-deep when it comes to your dog. Keeping your pet well-groomed not only gives you a clean-smelling companion, it also helps keep your dog more comfortable and allows you to spot health problems before they become serious, even life-threatening.
How important is grooming to your pet’s comfort? Consider a simple mat, so easy to overlook. Have you ever had your hair in a ponytail that was just a little too tight? A mat can feel the same way to your dog, a constant pull on the skin. Try to imagine those all over your body, and you have a good idea how uncomfortable an ungroomed coat can be.
Your dog need never know what a mat feels like if you keep him brushed and combed — but that’s just the start of the health benefits. Regular grooming allows you to look for lumps, bumps and injuries, while clearing such things as mats and ticks from his coat. Follow up with your veterinarian on any questionable masses you find, and you may detect cancer early enough to save your pet’s life.
For shorthaired breeds, keeping skin and coat in good shape is easy. Run your hands over him daily, a brush over him weekly, and that’s it.
For other breeds, grooming is a little more involved. Breeds such as collies, chows, Keeshonden and Alaskan malamutes are “double-coated,” which means they have a downy undercoat underneath harsher long hair. The down can mat like a layer of felt against the skin if left untended. To prevent this, divide the coat into small sections and brush against the grain from the skin outward, working from head to tail, section by section. In the spring and fall — the big shedding times — you’ll end up with enough of that fluffy undercoat to make a whole new dog. Keep brushing and think of the benefits: The fur you pull out with a brush won’t end up on the furniture, and removing the old stuff keeps your pet cooler in the summer and lets new insulation come in for the winter.
Silky-coated dogs such as Afghan hounds, cockers and Maltese also need constant brushing to keep tangles from forming. As with the double-coated dogs, work with small sections at a time, brushing from the skin outward, and then comb back into place with the grain for a glossy, finished look. Coats of this type require so much attention that having a groomer keep the dogs trimmed to a medium length is often more practical. In fact, experts say that the pets who shed the least are longhaired dogs kept trimmed short by a groomer.
Curly and wiry coats, such as those on poodles and terriers, need to be brushed weekly, working against the grain and then with it. Curly coats need to be clipped every six weeks; wiry ones, two or three times a year (but clipping every six weeks will keep your terrier looking sharper).
Good grooming is about more than keeping your pet looking beautiful and clean-smelling, although that’s certainly one of the pleasant payoffs. Regular grooming relaxes the dog who’s used to it, and it becomes a special time shared between you both. A coat free of mats, burrs and tangles, and skin free of fleas and ticks, are as comfortable to your dog as clean clothes fresh from the wash are to you. It just makes you feel good, and the effect is the same for your pet.
Some added benefit for you: Giving your dog a tummy rub after every session is sure to relax you (and your dog, of course) and ease the stress of your day. And for allergy sufferers, keeping a dog clean may make having a dog
Plan For Pet-Friendly Yard Exercise, Fences Can Keep Plants Safe From Dogs.
By Gina Spadafori
Every year more of my yard gets turned over to sustainable projects, from my pet chickens and their fresh eggs to an ever-growing collection of raised beds and containers planted with the veggies I love — and some flowers, too.
This year, I’m taking back a huge swath of lawn, fencing it off and having a contractor really go to town, doubling the size of my garden and putting in drip irrigation and mulched paths to save on weeding and water. The way I’m planning it, my yard will be beautiful and productive — and I’m doing this while continuing to share my life with my dogs.
And you can, too. That’s because dogs and lush gardens — whether productive or decorative — aren’t mutually exclusive.
You can’t just plant whatever you want where you want it and throw a bored, unsupervised dog into the mix. Instead, plan your yard to take your dog into account, and mind your dog’s needs to get him to leave the plants alone. The basic guidelines:
• Exercise your dog. A dog with too much energy isn’t one you want to leave alone all day in a nice yard — and yet that’s exactly what many people do. If you don’t take care of your dog’s exercise requirements, he’s going to take care of them on his own, by digging a hole to China or by removing the shrubs in your yard.
Dogs who don’t get daily exercise are likely to expend that energy and cure boredom by doing things people don’t like — digging, chewing and barking. Dogs who are well-exercised are more likely to sleep while you are gone. When you leave, you should also offer your dog alternatives to choosing his own amusements: Provide him with chew toys. You can make them more appealing by praising him for using them and by stuffing hollow toys — such as a Kong — with something delicious, like peanut butter.
• Work with your dog’s habits. Observe how your dog uses your yard, and plan accordingly. For instance, many dogs consider it their duty to run the fence line, leaving a well-worn trail where many people hope to put flowers. Instead of fighting with your dog, go with his natural instincts. Place your beds and plantings away from the fence line, and let him do his guard-dog patrolling behind those plants.
• Consider giving your dog a yard of his own. At my house, the dogs are never let out in the main yard without supervision — and the veggie garden and chicken areas are fenced off — but they come and go at will into a side yard that’s just for them. A low fence covered with climbing roses hides from view both the dog yard and the chicken/veggie areas.
• Redirect digging. Some breeds were developed to dig, and expecting them not to indulge in it is unfair. You can find most of these digging dogs in the terrier group — the word terrier comes from terra, for “earth.”
You can keep many dogs from digging if you keep them exercised, limit their access to dirt and make the digging experience unpleasant. Sometimes, putting the dog’s own stools in the hole and covering them with dirt deters them. Many dogs won’t dig if their own mess is under the surface.
Another option is giving your dog a dig zone. While hardly clean fun, it is good fun, especially for dogs who are happiest with their noses in the dirt and their paws flying.
• Put special plants in safer places. Raised beds and hanging planters are the place to put your most precious plants. In borders, put the plants that can take being stepped on in front. What are some dog-friendly plants? Mint is a good one. This plant is nearly indestructible and greets each assault with a wave of cool mint smell. Some lilies are tough enough to be stomped or sat on, as well, and your gardening center may have suggestions for others that are dependable growers in your region.
Dogs don’t know a wisteria from a weed, and they never will. That’s why it’s up to you not to leave them unattended around plants you want left alone. When you leave for work, limit your dog’s space for his safety and to protect your plants. Most of a dog’s time alone is spent sleeping anyway, so he doesn’t need to have the entire run of the house and yard. Outings — for jogging, walking, fetch or swimming — should be done with your supervision.
If your dog is allowed in your yard under your supervision only, the chance of his digging or chewing is just about nil — you can stop him before the damage is done. And you can enjoy your beautiful yard together.
I know at my home, we do.
Save on Pet Care, Cut Your Costs Without Shortchanging Your Pet
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori /Universal Uclick
Let’s not kid ourselves: Things are tight, and people are learning to make do with less. That’s the bad news.
The good news: You don’t have to shortchange your pets to save money. By focusing on prevention, smart buys and sharing, you can slash what you spend on your pets. Some tips:
— Work with your veterinarian to cut costs. Vaccinations are no longer recommended annually for most dogs and cats, but that’s not a good reason to skip your pet’s yearly vet check (twice-yearly for older pets). These “well-pet” examinations can spot little problems before they become expensive ones. Ask your veterinarian to give you prescriptions for medications to be filled elsewhere, or to match prices. Check for short-term promotions such as for Dental Health Month (which is coming in February), or for ongoing discounts such as for multipet families or senior citizens. Consider pet health insurance as a backup in case of emergency — it can help save your pet’s life when money is the issue.
— Keep your pet fit and trim. A majority of dogs and cats are overweight, and those extra pounds increase the likelihood of serious health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer. If your pet is overweight, get your veterinarian’s help to reduce weight slowly to avoid the health risks of sudden weight loss, especially in cats.
— Learn to do things yourself. Most people can learn to handle basic pet grooming at home, from bathing to nail trims. If nothing else, you can probably stretch out time between professional groomings for high-maintenance pets with some at-home care. Check your library for grooming guides and find breed-specific tips with an Internet search.
Another do-it-yourself strategy is more about health than grooming: Brush your pet’s teeth — it’ll lengthen the time between necessary but expensive cleanings at your veterinarian’s.
— Minimize risk from accidents. Saving the life of a pet who has been hit by a car or poisoned can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars — and these tragedies can often be prevented. Keeping cats as indoor-only pets will prevent injuries and protect them from communicable diseases; a sturdy fence and the use of a leash will do the same for dogs.
Go through your home with an eye toward possible hazards, especially foods, plants and drugs that can be ingested, as well as cleaning supplies, pesticides and herbicides. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center offers information on all toxic risks to your pet at ASPCA.org/APCC.
— Consider purchases and buy in bulk. Shopping for pets can be great fun, but that new designer collar may be something you want to postpone if there’s wear left on what your pet’s wearing now. When it comes to toys, though, cut them back, but not out — good chew toys have saved many an expensive pair of shoes.
You can save money buying the largest bags of food or litter, or get case discounts on canned goods. Split your dry food purchases with family or a friend, and store your portion in an airtight container. (Do keep product info from the bag, though, in case there are questions or problems.)
— Look for freebies and secondhand items. Check classifieds, Craigslist and the Freecycle network (freecycle.com) to find bargains. Crates, cages and cat trees can often be had for next to nothing — or nothing at all. And don’t forget to return the favor: Don’t let supplies you no longer need rot in your garage. Sell them at a decent price, or give them away to other pet lovers, shelters or rescue groups.
— Share services. Other pet lovers are likely also feeling the squeeze, so look into sharing or trading services such as pet-sitting. Remember that bartered services don’t need to be the same: You can save just as much money if you can provide one kind of service (such as tax-preparation) for another (such as pet-sitting or dog-grooming).
Do you have favorite cost-cutting tips? Drop us a line at email@example.com and we’ll share them in a future column.
Who Will Stop The Pain?
By DR. MARTY BECKER and CHRISTIE KEITH Universal Press Syndicate
Just as with human medicine, advancements in the way we think of and treat pain for animals is improving the quality of life for pets, with veterinarians now being able to choose from a wide array of products and strategies to ease the hurt.
“Animals can feel all the same aches and pains that we can because they share the same physiologic structures,” says Dr. Robin Downing, owner of Colorado’s The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management.
Treating pain doesn’t just make the hurting stop: It also promotes healthy healing. Untreated pain slows healing time, interferes with sleep and depresses the immune system. The treatment of pain improves respiration, shortens post-surgical hospitalization times, improves mobility, and can even decrease the spread of cancer after surgery.
Most veterinarians prescribe pain medication when needed, but some still believe a pet will move around less during recovery from surgery or injury if in pain — a belief no longer supported by studies. If an animal needs to be restrained, it’s better to use a leash or a crate.
Still, many owners don’t give pets pain medications — even if they are prescribed — because of concerns about side effects. All drugs can cause unwanted effects, but those risks need to be balanced against the problems caused by untreated pain. Side effects can also be minimized by using drugs appropriately.
The family of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause ulcers and damage the kidneys in pets, just as they can in humans. But in the same way that people continue to use these drugs for everything from headaches to back injuries, NSAIDs have a valuable role to play in the management of animal pain. When NSAIDs are needed, it’s essential to follow label recommendations for veterinary testing and monitoring of liver and kidney function. Pet owners should review all potential side effects with the veterinarian and stop giving the drug immediately if vomiting or lethargy is observed, or if the pet stops showing interest in eating. Pain-management experts also suggest asking the veterinarian about the human drugs misoprostol and sulcrafate, which can help protect the stomach lining and prevent ulcers. For dogs, the prescription of Tramadol has been on the increase, and many dogs unable to tolerate NSAIDs have benefited. Tramadol can also be used with NSAIDs and can be taken with steroids, which NSAIDs cannot. Complementary and alternative medicine also has much to offer dogs and cats suffering from chronic pain. Acupuncture, physical therapy and supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can relieve arthritis pain.
The veterinary drug Adequan Canine, an injectable relative of glucosamine, can target inflamed joints and help rebuild cartilage. Some dogs and cats, such as those with certain kinds of cancer, need the powerful pain relief that only opiates can provide. Owners often dislike these drugs because they make pets groggy. Fortunately, if long-term use is necessary, the sedation effect