Responsible Pet Ownership

posted on February 01, 2018 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

February is National Responsible Pet Owners Month.  Pets are a joy to own, but they are also a commitment.  Dogs and cats can live 10-20 years, and some pets such as birds can live even longer.  They depend upon us fully to care for them, but in return they give us unconditional love.

So what are some ways to be a responsible pet owner?

  •  Spay or neuter your pet.  Unfortunately in the U.S., there is an overpopulation of companion animals, with many dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and other pets living in shelters and rescues.  Spaying and neutering helps prevent further overpopulation, and has some health benefits as well.
  • Get pets from reputable sources.  On a similar note, when looking to add to your family, consider rescues and shelters.  There are many pure bred rescues if you want a pure bred, and mixed breed animals often have the benefit of fewer health issues.
  • Go to the vet annually.  While your pet may not require yearly vaccinations, the physical examination is the most important part of your visit.  Pets are very good at hiding pain and problems, and going to the vet regularly may help catch issues earlier, when they are easier to prevent or treat.
  • Microchip or otherwise identify your pet.  Tags with phone numbers are important, and having a microchip with current information can help reunite with your pet should you get separated.  Make sure to keep microchip information current if you move or get a new phone number.
  • Go to training.  Training your dog helps strengthen your bond, and can help prevent or reduce behavior issues.  Things like agility can also give you both something active to do together.
  • Provide good nutrition.  Your pet needs a well balanced, nutritious diet to have a long, healthy life.  At the same time, don’t overfeed.  Obesity is a major issue affecting our pets and can cause multiple health issues.  Talk with your veterinarian about recommended foods and amounts.
  • Provide regular grooming.  Almost all dogs need their nails trimmed periodically, and most dogs need a bath every once in awhile.  Some pets require regular brushing to keeps tangles at bay, and some dogs need professional grooming to maintain a health coat and skin.
  • Hygiene is important as well.  Ears should be cleaned periodically.  Anal glands may need to be emptied on a regular basis.  Teeth should be brushed, ideally daily, with a pet tooth paste.  Regular veterinary dental care may be required as well.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.  Have a basic first aid kit handy; there are even some made specifically for pets.  Know that certain human medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are toxic to pets.  Have emergency veterinarian contact information handy.  Keep a file of copies of bloodwork and other important health information handy in case you need to see a veterinarian other than your regular vet.
  • Have pet insurance or a savings account for your pets’ health.  There are multiple options for pet health insurance that may be able to alleviate the cost burden and financial part of making decisions in an emergency.  Having a regular savings account for your pet’s yearly care, with a buffer for emergency situations is another way to handle this.
  • Provide mental and physical stimulation.  Exercise is important for our pets, helping control weight, as well as giving a release for pent up energy that could otherwise feed unwanted behavior.  Mental stimulation such as scent training, puzzle toys, and foraging for food/treats is also important for that same reason.
  • Travel safely.  Pets should be confined when in a vehicle for their own and your safety.  There are multiple seat belt and harnesses available, as well as carriers, confinement nets, or crates.
  • Pet proof your house.  Wires and cords make tempting play toys to puppies and kittens.  Plants may pose a toxic threat.  Yards may have unforeseen escape routes or dangers.  Imagine yourself at their level and educate yourself about potential toxins to keep out of their reach.
  • Clean up after your pets.  Dogs can spread disease to other pets and humans via their feces, so if they have a bowel movement in public, be sure to clean it up.  This is also just the nice, neighborly thing to do!
  • Teach children to respect animals.  Discuss with children how to ask before going up to strange animals.  Teach them to understand basic dog and cat body language cues, and teach them how to approach and pet animals appropriately.  Supervise children and pets when they are together.  Lead by example.

Overall, there are many things that play a role into being a responsible pet owner.  These are just a few examples of things that contribute to having a healthy, happy pet for many years!

Spaying and Neutering-What is it and Why do it?

posted on July 03, 2012 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

A neuter, or castration, is a surgical procedure in male pets where both testicles are removed.
A spay, or ovariohysterectomy (OHE), is a surgical procedure in female pets where both ovaries and the uterus are removed.

There are many benefits to having your pet spayed or neutered including both health and behavior benefits.  These include:

  • Neutered and spayed pets are less territorial and are less likely to roam.  Research indicates that 80% of dogs hit by cars are non-neutered males.
  • Spayed females typically stay healthier and live longer.  They have a lower incidence of mammary tumors (breast cancer) and no uterine or ovarian cancers.
  • Neutered pets can’t develop testicular tumors, which are the second most common cancer in males, and they also have a lower incidence of prostate cancer.
  • Dogs spayed before their first heat cycle have a less than 1% risk of developing mammary tumors, dogs spayed after 1 heat cycle have an 8% risk (or about 1 in 10 will develop a tumor), and dogs spayed after 2 heat cycles have a 26% risk of developing mammary tumors (or about 1 in 4).
  • Unspayed females have a 7 times higher risk of developing mammary tumors than their spayed counterparts.  Mammary tumors are the most common tumors in female dogs, and are the third most common type of cancer in female cats, and in cats more than 90% of them are malignant, or likely to spread.
  • One quarter of unsprayed females will develop an infection of the uterus, called a pyometra, and spaying greatly decreases the potential for this sometimes fatal illness.
  • Neutered and spayed pets are less aggressive, less likely to fight, and less likely to bite, as documented in multiple studies.
  • Neutered pets such as dogs, cats, and rabbits are less likely to mark furniture, walls, and rugs.
  • Female rabbits over the age of 4 have a 1 in 2 up to 90% chance of developing uterine cancer.
  • Female guinea pigs that get pregnant after 6 months of age will likely require a C-section to give birth, as their hips bones mature after this age and make the birth canal too narrow.
  • Female ferrets that go into heat can develop a fatal problem where the hormone estrogen causes the bone marrow to stop producing red blood cells, leading to a severe anemia that is not reversible.
  • Sometimes we may tell you that your male pet is cryptorchid.  During development, testicles are formed near the kidneys, and gradually make their way into the scrotum.  If for some reason this does not occur, the patient is called cryptorchid.  The testicle(s) can be anywhere from inside the abdomen to almost in the scrotum.  This is a heredity problem, so these animals should be neutered to prevent passing this trait on.  Internal testicles could also render the pet infertile.  Lastly, testicles that are retained inside the abdomen are 13 times more likely to develop cancer.

Due to these factors, we recommend spaying and neutering all pets.   We generally recommend performing these surgeries when your dog or cat is 4-6 months old, although health and behavior benefits may be seen at any age.  For other pets, we recommend spaying or neutering before they reach sexual maturity (see table below).
pet                 age at sexual maturity
dog                  4-12 months
cat                   4-12 months
rabbit               4-8 months
ferret                4-8 months
rat                    6-8 weeks
mouse              6-8 weeks
guinea pig        2-3 months
chinchilla          2-14 months
sugar glider      8-15 months
gerbil                9-18 weeks
hamster            6-8 weeks
hedgehog         2-8 months

Don’t leave your pet at risk, ask us today about getting them fixed!

Posted in: Behaviors Surgery