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Dove Creek Animal Hospital in Denton, Texas offers a myriad of veterinary services for your pets.
Cat Senior Care
Cat Adult Care
Cat Preventative Care
Cat Orthopedic Surgery
Dental Care and What to Expect if your Pet Needs it
Date Published: 06/14/2002
Date Reviewed/Revised: 06/21/2016
Root canals, dental x-rays, braces, crowns, caps, implants, and periodontal surgery for pets? You must be kidding! Not at all. Dental procedures are performed daily in veterinary practices. How does a loving pet owner know if dental care is needed, and where can a pet owner go for advanced dental care?
Examination is the key to diagnosis and helps determine the type of treatment needed. The veterinarian needs to know what to look for. A pet owner can help by examining their pet’s teeth and mouth at least monthly. First smell your pet’s breath. If you sense a disagreeable odor, your pet may have gum disease. Periodontal disease is the most common ailment of small animals and is treatable. Gum problems begin when bacteria accumulates at the gumline around the tooth. Unless brushed away daily, these bacteria can destroy tooth-supporting bone, cause bleeding, and tooth loss. Usually the first sign is bad breath.
If your pet is experiencing frequent pain or refusing to eat, has changed chewing habits, or has moderate to severe mouth odor, then an oral problem is probably the cause.
When examining your pet’s mouth, look for tooth chips or fractures on the tooth’s surface. Contrary to their popularity, chewing on cow hooves, antlers, rocks, bones, or other hard materials may break teeth. If the fracture is deep you may notice a red, brown, or black spot in the middle of the tooth’s surface. The spot is the tooth’s nerve and inside vessels, which when exposed to the oral cavity may eventually lead to a tooth painful abscess.
When your home exam reveals dental problems or if you are still uncertain, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. The veterinary oral examination will begin with a complete visual examination of the face, mouth and each tooth. Frequently pet’s mouths have several different problems that need care. The veterinarian will usually use a record chart similar to the one used by human dentists to identify and document such dental problems.
A more detailed exam then follows. Unfortunately cats and dogs cannot point to dental abnormalities with their paws, and to determine the proper treatment plan, other tests are usually necessary. General anesthesia is essential for a proper tooth-by-tooth evaluation. There is a wide array of safe and effective anesthetics and monitoring equipment that make anesthesia as safe as possible.
Expect your veterinarian or dental assistant to use a periodontal probe to measure gum pocket depths around each tooth. One or two millimeters of probe depth normally exists around each tooth. When dogs or cats are affected by periodontal disease, the gums bleed and probing depths may increase, which require additional care to save the teeth. Unfortunately by the time some pets come in for dental care, it is too late to save all of the teeth. Your veterinarian may also take x-rays of the entire mouth. X-rays show the inside of the tooth and the root that lies below the gum line. Many decisions are based on x-ray findings. Usually the veterinarian will visually examine the mouth, note any problems, take x-rays under anesthesia, and then tell you what needs to happen to treat the problems found if any.
Plaque removal and preventative care with periodic check ups should help hinder the loss of additional teeth. Plaque and tartar preventative products can be found at the Veterinary Oral Health Council. http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm
If your dog or cat needs advanced dental care, where can you go? Many veterinarians have taken post-graduate dental training in order to better serve their patients. Some veterinarians have passed advanced written and practical examinations given by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which certifies them as dental specialists. If you need one, your veterinarian can refer you.
Dogs and cats do not have to suffer the pain and discomfort of untreated broken or loose teeth or infected gums. With the help of thorough examinations, x-rays, dental care, and daily plaque prevention, your pet can keep his teeth in his mouth where they should be.
Dr. Jan Bellows is a board-certified veterinary dentist. His office, Hometown Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic, is located at 17100 Royal Palm Boulevard in Weston, Florida. He can be reached for consultations at 954-349-5800.
Flea & Tick
Flea and Tick Control Products for Dogs and Cats
VIN Dermatology Consultants
Date Published: 10/29/2008
Date Reviewed/Revised: 01/07/2019
This flea and tick control chart created by veterinary dermatology and toxicology specialists provides an easy comparison of the active ingredients, appropriate species and age, dosage and method of administration, effects, and pertinent notes for a specific product.
Note that all of the topical flea products are subject to wash-off when using anti-seborrheic (anti-dandruff) shampoos, or when frequent bathing or swimming are part of your pet’s routine.
Products that can be used on both dogs and cats are listed in each chart.
Heartworm Infection in Cats
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 09/18/2018
Do Cats get Heartworm?
The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes, but feline heartworm disease is a lung disease rather than a heart disease as it is in dogs. The parasite is the same but because the heartworm’s natural host is not a cat, the interaction between worm and host creates a very different condition. It isn’t good for either the cat nor is it good for the worm.
When Heartworm Meets Cat: The Biology
The story begins with a mosquito, just as in the canine situation. The mosquito feeds on a heartworm infected dog, the heartworm microfilaria (the youngest larvae) are sipped up into the mosquito during feeding, and develop in the mosquito’s body for the next couple of weeks. This is all according to plan for the heartworm’s life cycle until the mosquito bites a cat instead of another dog.
The third stage larval heartworms enter the cat’s body and develop in the tissues. The feline body is an inhospitable host and worm development is fraught with immunological attack. By the time the larva has reached its 5th stage, it is on its way to the pulmonary arteries to complete its maturation but most infections will end here as the feline immune system is nearly relentless in its assault. Only about 25 percent of the original infecting larvae will survive to adulthood, which means most infections are aborted in this last stage of larval development.
Most cats with adult heartworms only have a few worms (1-3 on average) and development to the adult stage takes an extra couple of months in the feline body compared to the canine body. Chances are that there will be a single sex worm population rendering reproduction impossible. Only about 20% of feline infections produce microfilaria (youngest worm larvae); further, the feline immune system is so aggressive that the larvae only live a matter of weeks whereas they can live for up to 2 years in a dog. When the adult worm dies, a huge amount of inflammation is generated and many cats do not survive this stage. If the cat does survive, there is likely long-term damage to the lung tissue.
It is unclear what percentage of an area’s feline population will be infected. The standard statistic is that a region’s feline incidence will be approximately 10% of the canine incidence but this appears to be a low estimation since feline infection cannot be defined by the presence of adult worms.
- Cats living in heartworm areas should be given heartworm prevention medications just as dogs should.
- In one study, 25-30% of heartworm infected cats were described as being indoor cats. Many mosquito species are not shy about entering homes
It turns out that heartworm disease in cats is not really comparable to the canine disease. In dogs, disease is vascular (adult heartworms cause trouble by plugging up the pulmonary arteries and generating inflammation there). Adult heartworms make it to the dog’s pulmonary arteries after a long maturation process that starts with a tiny larva being deposited adjacent to a mosquito bite in a tiny droplet of mosquito saliva. The baby heartworms do not cause much trouble in dogs and it is not until they have reached substantial size and final location that they are problems. In cats, heartworm disease is more frequently a lung disease and not a vascular disease at all. It is the baby worms that cause all the trouble in feline heartworm disease. If we consider that most feline heartworm disease is from the immature worms, the 10% statistic becomes substantially higher.
Heartworm disease in cats can produce an assortment of clinical pictures:
- Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing.
- Disease related to embolism or abnormal clots.
- Extreme nosebleed.
- Neurologic signs (probably associated with larvae accidentally migrating to the brain.)
- 10-20% of cats experience sudden death. (This is probably associated with death of adult worms.)
- Many cats never show noticeable symptoms and most of these cats (80% approximately) clear the infection on their own. How many cats are infected without symptoms? The answer is not clear because it is the symptomatic cats that get the most medical scrutiny.
Heartworm-Associated Respiratory Disease, or “HARD”
Also known as Pulmonary Larval Dirofilariasis
As stated, cats are not a natural host for the heartworm, which means the migrating larval heartworms are not likely to complete their life cycle. To recap from above, baby heartworms called microfilaria are slurped up by the mosquito feeding on an infected dog. The slurped up young heartworms must spend enough time (several weeks) in the mosquito’s body to develop into an infective stage at which point it is ready to infect a new host. The infective stage heartworm larva is deposited in a drop of mosquito spit adjacent to a mosquito bite, the larvae crawl into the skin puncture made by the mosquito, gain access to their new host, and continue to develop in the soft tissues of the new host, eventually making their way into the circulation and to the host’s pulmonary arteries.
The migrating young worm uses molecular signposts to tell it how to get to its host’s pulmonary arteries where it wants to finish growing up, mate and live out its life. The worm is prepared to read CANINE signposts and does not always migrate correctly trying to understand feline protein signals. The worm may get lost and end up who knows where in the body. If the young worms get to the pulmonary arteries at all, most of them are killed by the especially reactive feline immune response against them.
It is this immune reaction that causes heartworm disease in cats and it can start as soon as 75-90 days after the infecting mosquito bite.
When young heartworms die in the pulmonary arteries, the immune system breaks them into fragments and attempts to remove them. The resulting inflammation leads to lung disease which manifests as coughing, respiratory effort, and vomiting. The inflammation associated with the death of fifth stage heartworm larvae is vastly compounded should a coexisting adult heartworm die. In this situation, yet more inflammation results and even if the cat survives, all this inflammation creates permanent damage in the delicate lung tissues.
HARD mimics feline asthma and the two diseases look identical on radiographs. Cats with HARD will cough, wheeze (a musical respiratory sign similar to a sigh), and vomit (though it may be hard to tell aggressive productive coughing from vomiting). Breathing may be shallow and rapid and may progress to actual respiratory distress. Heartworm testing is the only way to distinguish these conditions.
Vascular Disease is Separate from HARD
While in most situations feline heartworm disease is a lung disease and not a vascular disease as it is in dogs, sometimes cats do get adult worms in their pulmonary arteries just as dogs do. These adult worms do not live as long as they do in the canine body and they do not achieve the same length/size. If they find a mate and give birth to microfilariae, the microfilariae are promptly killed by the feline immune system within the first month. In short, in the feline pulmonary artery, heartworms are much smaller. You would think this would make for milder vascular disease, but because cats are so small even one adult worm takes up a great deal of space in the vasculature. The more usual lung disease is all the worse if the reaction against the immature worms is complicated by a surviving adult worm in the vasculature. When this parasite finally dies, the subsequent blood clots and inflammation is frequently fatal to cats.
Most of heartworm disease in cats is caused by the inflammatory reaction generated by the worm. In dogs, heartworm disease is mostly about the obstruction of blood flow from the physical size of the worms.
Symptoms of Disease
The cat’s immune system is extremely reactive against heartworms. For this reason, it is virtually impossible to detect microfilariae in an infected cat. (The cat’s immune system removes them too quickly.) Also, symptoms of infection tend to be more immune-related than heart-failure related. Cats develop more of a lung disease, complete with respiratory distress, and chronic coughing or vomiting. Feline heartworm disease is often misdiagnosed as feline asthma. Sudden death may occur just as it may occur in infected dogs.
In cats there are two phases where the disease can exert symptoms. The first is when immature worms reach the lung and pulmonary arteries, as early as 75 to 90 days after infection. Even small worms are inflammatory and disruptive to the circulation. Cells of inflammation infiltrate the lung and interfere with the cat’s ability to breathe. The second phase where problems can occur is when the worm dies. Since cats are not the natural host for this parasite, most immature worms that make it to the lung are killed. The presence of the dead worm is extremely inflammatory. (Imagine your body trying to remove or digest the dead body of another animal inside your lung and circulation!)
The effects of this kind of widespread inflammation can reach far beyond the lung and circulatory system. The kidney can be affected as well as the gastrointestinal tract and even the nervous system.
Heartworm disease is primarily a lung disease in cats, not a heart disease.
In dogs, diagnosis is usually not complicated. A blood sample is tested for proteins that can only be found on the skin of the adult female heartworm. Most dogs have a population of worms in their arteries, so even one female worm will cause an antigen test to show positive. In cats, disease is caused by immature worms, not adult worms female or otherwise, so this kind of testing has limited applications. There may be no adult worms at all to generate a positive antigen test, yet the cat is infected.
In dogs, testing for microfilariae (offspring of adult heartworms born in the host’s body) are also commonly performed. Unfortunately, in cats microfilaria testing is virtually worthless. First, infected cats usually do not have enough adult worms for the production of offspring. There may be only a few adult worms; single sex infection is common. Further, microfilariae, if any, are simply cleared too quickly by the host’s immune system and are rarely detected. As mentioned, in cats heartworm disease stems at least in part from migrating immature larvae. No adult worms (and thus no off-spring) are necessary for disease so microfilariae testing is not worthwhile in cats.
Antibody testing may be more sensitive but is not adequate alone. A negative antibody test is good evidence that the cat is not infected; however, a positive antibody test may indicate several things. It could indicate a mature infection with one or more adult worms, immature worms in the body, or a past infection. (Antibody levels will remain somewhat elevated after the heartworms have long since died.)
So if no single test is reliable, what are we supposed to do for testing? First of all, unlike dogs where annual screening is the norm, healthy cat screening is probably not necessary. Instead, testing is best done if a cat is sick and heartworm disease is suspected. There is still some controversy about what testing should be accomplished in a symptomatic cat. Both antibody and antigen tests in combination are recommended by some experts, while others feel the antibody test alone is probably adequate. Of course, a cat with respiratory disease probably should have chest radiographs and cardiac echocardiography to further define the condition at hand.
Since the major signs of disease in the cat are due to inflammation and immune stimulation, a medication such as prednisolone can be used to control symptoms. A bacteria called Wolbachiacommonly lives within the heartworm and enhances its ability to generate inflammation. A course of doxycycline is often recommended to address these bacteria. The doxycycline course is short but the prednisolone will be long term. If the cat does not appear sick, the American Heartworm Society recommends attempting to wait out the adult worm’s 2-3 year life span and simply monitor chest radiographs every 6 months or so. Median survival time is 1.5 years for heartworm infection in cats. Radiographs are monitored to check progress.
One might wonder why we cannot use the same treatment as we do for dogs to kill any adult heartworms a cat might have. Actually, the same heartworm adulticide therapy used in dogs is best not used in cats as it is extremely dangerous to do so and is considered a last resort. There may not be a choice, however, depending on the degree of illness from the heartworm disease. Approximately one third of cats receiving heartworm adulticide therapy will experience life-threatening embolic complications when the worms die suddenly (generally an unacceptable statistic). One month of cage confinement is typically recommended to control circulatory effort after adulticide treatment and adulticide therapy should be consider the last resort for an infected cat where symptoms of the disease cannot be controlled with prednisone.
In studies of infected cats, 25% of infected cats were considered indoor only cats. Because of this and the disastrous effect of even one heartworm to a cat, the American Heartworm Society recommends monthly prevention for all cats living in heartworm endemic areas. Read their feline guidelines.
There are products on the market that are reliably effective.
The dose of ivermectin (active ingredient of Heartgard) needed to prevent heartworm infection in cats is about four times higher than that for dogs. Heartgard was the first FDA-approved heartworm prevention medication available for cats. It is a monthly flavored chewable available by prescription. The American Heartworm Society recommends testing prior to administration.
Revolution® entered the anti-parasite scene in 1999. This product covers fleas, roundworms, hookworms, and ear mites in addition to preventing heartworm in cats. This product is applied topically rather than orally.
Advantage Multi® combines imidocloprid for flea control and moxidectin for heartworm preventive in one product. This product is also applied topically.
For more information, see the American Heartworm Society.
Cat & Dog Microchips
Microchipping Could Save your Pet’s Life
Date Published: 08/02/2017
Date Reviewed/Revised: 08/22/2017
Microchip Implanter and Microchip
(Photocredit: Public Domain Image via Wikimedia Commons)
A microchip ID is a small transmitter about the size of a grain of rice. When a scanner passes over it, a signal is emitted indicating the unique identification number of the chip. This tiny but sturdy little implant can reunite you with a lost pet, serve as proof of ownership in a dispute, or even mean the difference between euthanasia and medical care in an emergency. In many communities, it is not legal to own an unmicrochipped dog and in many communities shelters automatically microchip any pet that is released through its doors for adoption.
Microchipping has been around for over twenty years yet there is still some resistance to chipping in the pet-owning public. Questions commonly arise about about how the chip is inserted, what information is contained on the chip, the difference between a registered chip and an unregistered one, what to do if a chipped pet is lost, and more. There are many misconceptions about chipping. For example:
- A microchip does not locate a missing pet.
- The city shelter does not maintain a microchip registry (though they may very well include the chip information in its licensing database).
- There is no central registry where all microchip information is maintained.
- Personal information is not stored on the chip.
Don’t forget to update your contact information with the chip registry when you move.
What Information is Encoded on the Chip?
Only the unique identification number is encoded on the chip. None of your personal information is on the chip. The chip number is similar to a Vehicle Identification Number on a car. It is registered in one of several central registries just as a car is registered and it is the central registry that has your personal information (name, address, phone number, alternate contact, pet description etc.). Each chip number is unique and no two chips have the same number.
Let’s clear up some confusion.
Microchip Implantation: Basically a Shot With a Big Needle
The microchip ID is small enough to pass through the bore of a large needle made for this purpose. Microchips are generally shipped in an individually packaged syringe made for chip implantation. Implantation is basically a shot and, if you like, it can be done in the examination room while you watch. The needle is fairly large so sometimes there is a yipe but, more often then not, the reaction is minimal. Chips can be implanted in newborn animals to assist in telling them apart. Some people like to wait until the pet is being spayed or neutered so as to be anesthetized for the rather large needle but waiting runs the risk of the pet escaping unidentified so it is a good idea to implant the chip as soon as possible.
A common misconception is that the chip implantation requires surgery. In fact, a chip can be implanted in a matter of seconds while you wait.
What Information is Encoded on the Chip?
Only the unique identification number is encoded on the chip. None of your personal information is there. The chip number is similar to a vehicle identification number on a car. Your pet’s number is registered in one of several central registries, just as a car is registered, and it is the central registry that has your personal information (name, address, phone number, alternate contact, pet description etc.). Each chip number is unique and no two chips have the same number.
Can a Microchip be Used to Locate a Lost Pet?
No. A microchip is not a location device. At the present time, GPS collars are available but their use is limited by the fact that a collar can be removed or can come off.
A microchip is an identification device, not a locator.
With all this Fancy Technology, Why is an Old-Fashioned Identification Tag included with the Chip?
An ID tag is usually provided with the chip. The ID tag has the chip number and phone number for the registry. The tag is not for your keyring or to keep in a drawer; it is meant for your pet to wear as a back up. If a lost pet is found by a neighbor, stranger, or basically by anyone who does not have their own handy chip scanner, they will see the ID tag and know who to call. The registry will either contact you or they will provide the finder with information on how to contact you. It is important to periodically check this tag over the years as the markings on the plastic tend to fade and if they are illegible, they will not be helpful. You can order replacement tags from the chip company or have engraved metal tags made by any of a number of pet tag companies, but be sure to include the registry phone number on the tag if you do.
What Happens if the Chip Does not get Registered?
It is vitally important that you register your chip. Simply having a chip will not bring your pet home to you. Many rescue groups, pet stores, and shelters will implant chips and let you know your new pet is chipped, but leave the registration (which usually requires a fee) up to you. Many animal hospitals will chip your pet and then give you the mail-in registration form to complete the process at home. Be very clear about this point when you get a new pet that comes with a chip. It is easy for the registration forms to get mixed up in receipts, vaccination records, and other paperwork.
If a pet with an unregistered chip is found it may still be possible to trace the owner. The manufacturer of the chip is usually identifiable from the chip number. The major microchip manufacturers keep records of the facilities to which they have sold their chips. In this way, the facility where the chip was implanted can be identified. If that facility has records, the owner may be identified and contacted. This process assumes the manufacturer keeps records (smaller companies do not), that the facility where the chip was implanted keeps records, and that the owner’s phone number is the same. If there are no records, this all leads to a dead end. It is really important to keep your registration current.
If your chip is not registered and someone finds your pet and wishes to keep him, they may simply register the chip in their own name.
Often a chip is implanted and the registration forms are given to you to fill out on your own. If you do not send in the forms, the chip will not be registered.
Must the Chip’s Registration be Renewed Annually?
For the major brands of microchips, the answer is no. Once the chip is registered, that registration is indefinite. This is a good thing in that the chip never becomes unregistered after it has been registered. The problem is that people move or the pet changes ownership and the chip information is never updated. Some chip registries have developed deluxe programs that do require annual renewal largely as a means to remind you to keep your information current.
Scan For A Microchip
(Photocredit: Public Domain Graphic via Wikimedia Commons)
How Many Registries are There?
There are many chip registries and a chip can be registered in any of them. The good news is that most chip distributors have their own registries and it is easy to find a chip’s most likely registry based on its number. For example, AVID chips are generally in the AVID database, HomeAgain chips are generally in the HomeAgain database etc.
Because so many chip registries have emerged, it can get tricky determining what registry to call when a found animal is located. The American Animal Hospital Association has developed PetMicrochipLookUp.org. This tool allows for a registered chip number to be connected to its registry. The registry can then be contacted for owner contact information. If the chip is not registered, then its manufacturer is identified and it may be possible to trace the owner by tracing the chip to the facility where it was implanted as described earlier.
It is important to consider the importance of the chip’s registry. It is vital that the registry be identifiable from the chip number as this will be how your pet is returned to you. If the pet is chipped but it is not possible to tell what registry to contact, the chip is useless. If the chip company does not participate in PetMicrochipLookUp.org, it will be very hard to determine where to call. Further, you need the registry to be reachable 24 hours a day and you want a company that is stable enough that you can count on its being in business for the entire lifespan of your pet. It is tempting to look for bargains in microchipping but this seems to be an area where it is best to stick to major brands and use their associated registries. One would think there was one single registry for all chips but there is not and one would think customer service would be consistent among registries but it is not.
What Should be Done for a Pet that was Adopted with a Chip Registered to a Prior Owner?
Each chip company seems to have their own policy for this situation. Some will require a written note from the original owner allowing registration change. Some companies attempt to contact the original owner for a defined amount of time and if the owner is not reached then the chip may be re-registered. Contact the chip company that issued the chip for instructions in this situation.
Is Licensing the Pet with the City Going to Automatically Register the Chip?
Don’t count on it. When a dog is adopted from a city shelter, it is common for the dog to be issued a license and for a microchip to be implanted and registered, but this depends on the city. The dog license registration will include information about the dog’s rabies vaccination, ownership and microchip number if there is one but that is not the same thing as registering the chip. If the pet is found and brought to the shelter, the chip will identify him in the shelter’s records but if the pet is found and brought any where else, identifying the owner will depend on whether or not the chip is properly registered.
What Should I do if my Pet is Lost?
Notify the chip company so that the chip number will be flagged as belonging to a lost pet. If the company has a system beyond their chip registry, your pet’s photo (assuming you have uploaded one) will be circulated to local animal hospitals and shelters. Be sure the chip company has your correct telephone number and contact information should your pet be found. Be sure to check the local animal shelter and inquire as to how to proceed there. Posters around the neighborhood also help. Hopefully your pet is wearing some sort of identification as well (such as the tag that came with the chip) so that you can be contacted by the finder directly.
What Do I Do if I Find a Pet?
Running the pet to a local animal hospital or shelter will allow for rapid scanning for the presence of a microchip. If a chip is discovered and it is registered, it should not be difficult to find the owner. It is amazing how long some animals are lost before someone thinks to scan them. If you find a stray dog or cat, be sure to have it scanned sooner rather than later in case someone is out there searching. If there is no chip or identification tag, check the lost ads in the local newspaper listings. If there is no match up, you may be legally compelled to bring the animal to the local animal shelter as this will be where the original owner is likely to look.
Situations Where a Chip Can Mean Life or Death
This is the obvious situation for which the chip ID was developed. If your lost pet is recovered by the local shelter or taken to an animal hospital as a lost pet, the pet is scanned, the number found, the registry contacted, and you will be notified. My hospital has seen lost pets recovered within an hour of escape from a yard or car.
If your home is burglarized, you can bet the criminals involved will not be careful to leave your doors or gates closed when they leave. Your pet may wander away in this situation and a permanent identification may be needed to help your pet get home.
Earthquake, flood, fire, mudslide, hurricane etc. all lead to pets separated from their homes. In some cases, Animal Control must evacuate pets from a community into a central holding area. Being able to prove a pet is yours is invaluable in this situation, especially if your pet is difficult to identify from a photo or does not have distinguishing markings. After Hurricane Katrina, a number of rescued animals were evacuated to holding areas and their photos posted on the Internet. Many pets were frightened and good photographs could not be obtained.
If a pet is injured while lost or injured while roaming – as in the case of an outdoor cat hit by a car – a good Samaritan might bring the pet to an animal hospital for care. A stranger may not be willing to cover expenses for a pet they found on the road and if your pet has no identification, you may never even know what happened. A microchip allows you to be notified so that proper decisions can be made.
Don’t forget to chip a pet before traveling with you. A traveling pet is unfamiliar with the area you are visiting and may be more likely to get lost
Neutering the Male Cat
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 04/18/2018
Neutering a male cat is an excellent step to help your young man grow into a loving, well-adapted household citizen. The main reason to neuter a male cat is to reduce the incidence of objectionable behaviors that are normal in the feline world but unacceptable in ours. A neutered male cat has had his testicles removed, not only ending his ability to reproduce but also removing his source of testosterone and his interest in hormone-driven behaviors.
Roaming: More than 90 percent will reduce this behavior with neutering. Approximately 60 percent reduce this behavior right away.
Fighting: More than 90 percent will reduce this behavior with neutering Approximately 60 percent reduce this behavior right away.
Urine marking: More than 90 percent will reduce this behavior with neutering. Approximately 80 percent reduce this behavior right away.
Other benefits of neutering include a drastic reduction in cat urine odor, reduced incidence of feline asthma and of gingivitis (gum inflammation). The reduction in fighting and roaming helps an outdoor male cat reduce his risk of FIV infection, bite wounds and associated abscesses, automobile-related trauma, dog/coyote-related injury, and other outdoor lifestyle situations that result from traveling away from home.
Cosmetic reasons to neuter a male cat has to do with the physical appearance. The mature tomcat is built for battle with a muscular body and facial thickenings (called shields) for protection against the bites of his combat opponents. Tomcats neutered after puberty will eventually lose these characteristics and male cats neutered before puberty never develop them.
A common shelter practice has been to adopt out a young male kitten with his new owner paying a neuter deposit, which is then refunded when the kitten is neutered at the traditional age of six months. The problem has been that new owners do not return and young cats go unneutered. Given that studies have found that approximately 70 percent of feline litters are unplanned and there is presently an enormous feline overpopulation problem, the importance of neutering cannot be overemphasized.
What Is Early Neutering?
Early neutering allows for kittens to be neutered prior to adoption thus preventing these kittens from contributing to the unplanned litter problem. There has been some controversy over this practice as it flies in the face of tradition and there have been questions about any negative health consequences from this practice.
Some concerns that have been explored have included:
Behavioral problems with regard to shyness or socialization issues in kittens neutered early.
This has not borne out. Early neutered kittens share the behavioral benefits listed above and temperament problems have not been documented.
Kittens neutered early may be stunted or small.
Actually, early neutering delays closure of the bone growth plates making for a slightly taller cat.
Early neutered kittens will have a narrowed urethra that will predispose them to urinary blockage.
This has not borne out, either. Urethral dimensions in male cats do not vary based on the age at neutering.
Early neuter predisposes to capital physis fracture or slipping.
There is actually some truth to this one so let us explain this orthopedic problem. Physis is the medical term for a bone growth plate; that plate is the area on an immature bone where the bone is actively growing in length. The bone in this area is softer and the two pieces can slip apart creating a problem for the growing bone. The “capital physis” is the growth plate of the head of the femur (one of the hip bones). If it slips, then surgery (a femoral head and neck osteotomy) is needed to restore function. Early neuter is one of several factors correlated to slipping a capital physis, the other risk factors being male gender, and being overweight. The problem seems to be a combination of being overweight and having delayed closure of the growth plates (as occurs with neuter before age six months). This injury is not common among early neutered kittens but early neutered kittens are overrepresented among cats with this injury.
A 2002 study out of Cornell University that followed 1600 cats for 11 years found no diseases, injuries or other issues common in kittens neutered between ages 3.5 months and six months versus those neutered after age six months. Ask your veterinarian about early neutering; some prefer that kittens weigh at least 3 pounds so that the tissues are not too difficult to manipulate.
What is Done Exactly
The feline neuter is one of the simplest surgical procedures performed in all of veterinary medicine. The cat is fasted overnight so that anesthesia is given on an empty stomach. The scrotum is opened with a small incision and the testicles are brought out. The cords are either pulled free and tied to each other or a small suture is used to tie the cords and the testicle is cut free. The skin incision on the scrotum is small enough so as not to require stitches of any kind.
There is minimal recovery with this procedure. Some clinics discharge kittens the same day as surgery. There should be no bleeding or swelling. It is a good idea not to bathe the kitten until the incisions have healed for 10 to 14 days from the time of surgery.
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 09/30/2017
Spaying your cat is an important part of basic cat health care. Spaying at a young age prevents mammary cancer and spaying at any age prevents unwanted kittens, noisy heat cycles, and possibly even urine marking in the house. The following is a list of frequently asked questions gleaned from years of veterinary practice as well as from answering questions on line. We have found that, even though a cat spay is a routine and commonly performed procedure, many pet owners still have questions.
What is actually removed during spaying?
Spaying is an ovariohysterectomy, which means that both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. The cervix is tied off, leaving the vagina to end in a blind sac. Since it is the ovaries that are responsible for the heat cycles, possible mammary tumor development and behavior problems, it is crucial that the ovaries be removed intact; some veterinarians will leave the uterus behind, though, it is generally regarded as best to remove the entire tract, uterus included.
How long will my cat stay in the hospital?
Some hospitals prefer to keep surgery cases overnight so that they can rest in a properly confined area; some veterinarians believe that this first night of confinement helps the incision in healing. Some hospitals and most spay clinics will release the cat on the same day as surgery so that she may be observed at home in case of problems. Either way is legitimate and largely depends on the preference and philosophy of the doctor in charge of setting policy.
Will she have stitches?
Some veterinarians always place an external closure of the skin in the form of either stitches or staples. Some veterinarians never place skin stitches and prefer to close the incision with buried stitches that are internal. The spay incision is closed in several layers (the abdominal muscles, the tissue under the skin, and the skin itself may all be closed separately). Skin stitches necessitate a return visit for a recheck, which is always a good idea after an abdominal surgery. Obviously, it may be more convenient for the owner not to have to make a return trip and it may be simpler not to have to worry about the cat pulling out her skin stitches and causing herself injury. Some hospitals employ both methods though aggressive or feral cats almost always receive buried sutures so as to eliminate possible bite injury to the staff at suture removal.
What can I expect regarding recovery period/incision care?
One of the advantages of keeping cats overnight after spaying is that they usually go home bright and alert as if nothing has happened. Some cats will not eat for the first day or so, but if the cat does not seem back to normal by the day following discharge, your veterinarian would like to know about it.
Cats discharged on the same day as surgery may experience more soreness if not confined to a small area. Food and water are generally withheld until the next day or late that night and the cat should be kept quiet and not allowed outside. Cats should not be discharged while still groggy in any way from anesthesia as they are a danger to themselves and to their human handlers. Additional pain medication may be prescribed.
Later in the recovery period, it is not unusual to notice swelling at the incision site. Cats often react this way to internal sutures and this kind of swelling is common and resolves spontaneously. Such swellings are firm and there is no fluid drainage or bleeding from the incision. They generally resolve in 3 to 4 weeks and represent reaction to the internal stitches as they dissolve. That said, it is prudent for any incisional swelling to be checked out. If the cat has been overly active, she can break internal stitches, which could be a problem.
Any fluid drainage from the incision is abnormal and the cat should be rechecked by the veterinarian who performed the spay if possible.
What if she is in heat at the time of spay?
Some female cats are disruptively annoying when they are in heat, yowling and carrying on and they are spayed to end the heat quickly. Other cats are spayed in heat randomly when the owner does not realize that the cat is in heat. Either way the spay is slightly more difficult due to the engorgement of the tissues and larger blood vessels. Spaying during heat does not carry a significant risk to the cat but, since extra surgery time is frequently required, an extra charge may be incurred.
Occasionally spaying a cat in heat leads to dramatic mammary gland development in the recovery period because the sudden drop in progesterone levels that accompanies removing the active ovaries mimics the drop in progesterone that accompanies giving birth to kittens. The subsequent mammary development (called mammary hyperplasia) can be spectacular but generally resolves without treatment as hormones normalize.
What if she is pregnant at the time of spay?
Spaying can be performed at any time during the course of pregnancy. Often, the owner is unaware that the cat is pregnant. If there is any question, make it clear to your veterinarian what your wishes are should your cat be found pregnant. The incision can be closed and the pregnancy can proceed or the spay can proceed and the developing kittens will be removed along with the rest of the uterus. Due to extra work and surgery time, most veterinarians will charge an extra fee for spaying a pregnant animal. Some veterinarians will not knowingly spay a pregnant animal after a certain stage of pregnancy. At my hospital, I am commonly asked what to do about newly adopted stray cats thought to be pregnant. As we work with numerous rescue groups we are keenly aware of the pet over-population problem. We encourage spaying of strays or newly adopted female cats regardless of pregnancy. There are simply too many kittens without homes as it is.
Will spaying affect her personality?
The female cat spends at least half the year with her reproductive tract dormant (cats only cycle seasonally, primarily in the spring and summer). This means that, behaviorally speaking, she acts spayed most of the time and no personality change should be noted. This said, it is important to realize that a cycling cat can be extremely solicitous of affection. This kind of playful, flirtatious behavior will stop with spaying.
How long after having kittens can she be spayed?
The mammary (breast) development that comes with nursing can make the spay surgery more difficult. Ideally, a month after weaning allows for regression of this tissue and spaying can proceed. Unfortunately, it is possible for a female cat to become pregnant during this waiting period if her owner is not careful.
At what age can my cat be spayed?
The traditional age for spaying is six months, however this practice has enabled kittens to be adopted from the shelters unspayed. Often the new owner fails to return for spaying and the result is further contribution to the pet over-population problem. (Up to 70% of litters from owned cats are unplanned.)
The last 20 years has brought us a great deal of research into and experience with early spaying and there are many advantages of spaying well before age 6 months. Young kittens recover more quickly from spaying than older kittens and kittens spayed at young ages seem to have a reduced incidence of asthma later on. Obviously, accidental pregnancy is not an issue when the kitten is adopted already spayed. Spaying can be performed in kittens as early as 8 weeks; however, my hospital finds such tiny tissues difficult to manipulate and I like to wait to spay our female patients until they weigh at least 3.5 to 4 pounds.
Will she get fat and lazy after spaying?
Estrogens have a natural appetite suppressing effect and the loss of estrogens may lead to an increased appetite. Further, sterilization surgery has been shown to slow a cat’s metabolism. Depending on the cat’s age and activity level at the time of surgery, a diet change to a “lite” diet may be in order. Ask your vet if you are not sure.
Without ovaries, she should be unable to come into heat. That said, feline ovarian tissue has been documented extending down the ovarian ligament, well outside the actual ovary but not visible to the naked eye. This allows for ovarian tissue to sometimes be retained even when the ovary has been removed intact. Occasionally, a remnant of ovarian tissue is simply left behind by accident. This can lead to some annoying behaviors as the cat comes into heat (though she would be unable to get pregnant if her uterus has been removed as is customary with spaying). Some testing or even surgical exploration may be needed to determine if there is an ovarian remnant.
Once again, spaying is an important part of cat ownership and one of the most significant steps in health care that a cat owner can provide for their female cat.
Dog Senior Care
Dog Adult Care
Dog Orthopedic Surgery
Preventing Heartworm Infection in Dogs
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 01/15/2019
Heartworm preventive medications are used to periodically kill larval heartworms that have managed to gain access to the dog’s body. At this point, the products available are intended for monthly use, with the exception of Proheart6 which is a biannual injection. This means each time they are given they kill all the heartworm larvae (stage L3 and L4) that have accumulated in the past month. Some products offer the ability to kill older larvae, which helps keep the pet protected in case the heartworm preventive medication is given late. There are many topical and oral choices.
There are currently many choices, topical, oral and even injectable; plus, while the subject is canine heartworm prevention, many of the products discussed have feline formulations as well. We have organized them here based on their active ingredients:
IVERMECTIN Based Products (Heartgard, Heartgard Plus, Iverhart Plus, Iverhart Max, Tri-Heart Plus)
MILBEMYCIN Based Products (Sentinel, Sentinal Spectrum, Trifexis, Interceptor, Interceptor Plus)
SELAMECTIN Based Products (Revolution)
MOXIDECTIN Based Products (Advantage Multi, Proheart6)
HEARTGARD®, HEARTGARD PLUS® made by Merial
IVERHART PLUS®, IVERHART MAX® made by Virbac
TRI-HEART PLUS® made by Merck
The approval of ivermectin in 1987 represented a huge breakthrough in heartworm prevention. For the first time, preventive medication could be given once a month instead of daily. These medications use an extremely low dose of ivermectin, which is adequate to kill any L3 and L4 larval stages (baby heartworms) that are inhabiting the pet’s skin tissues at the time the medication is given. In other words, infection takes place but is halted every month when the medication is given.
If Given to a Heartworm Positive Dog by Accident
In most cases, no reaction of any kind occurs when an ivermectin-based heartworm preventive is given to a heartworm-positive dog.
In fact, giving an ivermectin-based heartworm preventive to an infected dog is the first step in heartworm infection treatment. Ivermectin kills the developing larval worms (the incoming baby heartworms) and clears the circulating microfilariae (the newborn larvae born to the established adult worms), thus rendering the dog unable to spread its infection and minimizing the number of adult worms to be killed in the second phase of treatment when the adult worms are specifically addressed.
If the larval worms die too quickly, a shock-like circulatory reaction can occur so for this reason the American Heartworm Society recommends that the first dose of ivermectin be given under veterinary supervision. This allows the dog to be observed for several hours following the oral dose in case of trouble. That said, in most cases no reaction of any kind occurs and the larval worms are cleared without event. This does mean, however, that giving this product to a dog with heartworm will kill all circulating microfilariae and the dog will test erroneously heartworm negative by Difil or Knott’s testing. (ELISA test kits should still be accurate.) In addition to killing microfilariae, ivermectin will also suppress reproduction in the adult female worms and shorten the overall life span of adult worms. Ivermectin does not kill adult heartworms (just the immature ones) though, as said, it cuts their life expectancy.
The Reach Back Effect
There is also a phenomenon called the reach back effect. This means that if a dog goes off heartworm preventive medication for a prolonged period (four months was the time tested), re-starting it could still prevent adult heartworm infection in the heart and pulmonary arteries. In the 1988 experiment by Atwell, dogs who went off heartworm preventive for four months and then restarted with ivermectin had 95% fewer adult heartworms than dogs who went without ivermectin, though it should be noted that some heartworms were still able to establish infection. This means that if you skip several doses of ivermectin accidentally, it is still worth picking up where you left off.
Other Parasites Covered
Ivermectin at the heartworm preventive dose is not strong enough to kill common intestinal parasites. Because of this fact, pyrantel pamoate, a dewormer, was added to cover hookwormsand roundworms in the original Heartgard product to create HeartgardPlus. As other ivermectin-based products have entered the market, these have also added pyrantel pamoate to extend the spectrum of protection.
Whipworms are not covered by any of the ivermectin-containing products at this time, but in order to remain competitive in the market, manufacturers may pay for treatment for whipworm infections acquired while their product is used. The products containing both ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate are Heartgard Plus®, Iverhart Plus®, Pet Trust Plus®, and Tri-Heart Plus®. Iverhart Max® includes both pyrantel pamoate and praziquantel so as to cover tapeworms as well.
There are breed-related sensitivities with ivermectin as collie-related breeds have some difficulties, though the low doses used in heartworm prevention are not a problem for any breed.
Use of Large Animal Products
It is neither safe nor legal to obtain large animal ivermectin products for use in dogs for heartworm prevention. An assortment of doses have circulated around on the internet and in other sources advocating the use of highly concentrated ivermectin formulas for heartworm prevention in dogs. These doses are not comparable to the miniscule doses in licensed heartworm preventive products and using them represents an element of gambling. Large animal ivermectin products are vastly more concentrated than those meant for dogs and it becomes problematic to dilute them properly. Even small doses of these products are unnecessarily high and if they are inadvertently given to a sensitive individual death can result.
For information on these products from their manufacturers visit:
Milbemycin Oxime-based Products
INTERCEPTOR® made by Elanco
INTERCEPTOR PLUS® made by Elanco
SENTINEL® made by Virbac
SENTINEL SPECTRUM by Virbac
TRIFEXIS® made by Elanco
This product is also given monthly, also clears microfilariae (the newborn heartworm), acts by killing all L3s and L4s (the incoming larvae) accumulated in the month prior to administration, and will suppress female worm’s ability to reproduce. There are a few important differences to note between this product and the ivermectin-based products, though.
If Given to a Heartworm Positive Dog by Accident
If milbemycin is inadvertantly given to a dog with active heartworm infection, the microfilariae are killed much faster than with the ivermectin products. This might sound like a good thing but in fact it increases the likelihood of the previously mentioned shock-like reaction when all the first stage larvae die all at once. In a dog with a light infection, this might not be important but in a heavily infected dog it is safer not to use milbemycin to clear the microfilariae.
Of course, heartworm preventives are meant to be used in heartworm negative dogs. If these products are used according to their labeled instructions, this issue should never arise. Milbemycin-based preventives are safe and highly effective in preventing heartworms in dogs that are heartworm negative to begin with.
The Reach Back Effect
When milbemycin is given to a dog after a prolonged period without heartworm preventive (the Atwood experiment), the dog can be expected to have 41% fewer heartworms than if heartworm prevention was not resumed. This was not as good a result as with the ivermectin products because ivermectin is better at killing older heartworm larvae. If you find you have skipped several months of heartworm prevention in the middle of heartworm season, you might do better to restart an ivermectin-based product rather than a milbemycin-based product.
Other Parasites Covered
Milbemycin, however, does not require the addition of other dewormers in order to provide a broad spectrum of parasite control. The milbemycin products control roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms without the addition of a second parasiticide. Milbemycin is also available combined with lufenuron for the control of fleas in the form of Sentinel®. Lufenuron is an oral flea sterilizer that prevents any fleas feeding on the dog from laying viable eggs. It is also available as Sentinel Spectrum®, which adds praziquantel to regularly kill any tapeworms the dog has contracted from its flea infestation. Interceptor Plus combines milbemycin and praziquantel so as to control tapeworms along with all the other worms listed for milbemycin alone.
Milbemycin can also be used to treat demodectic mange. A specific dosing schedule is needed to accomplish this; heartworm preventive doses are not adequate but milbemycin offers a convenient treatment option for collie-type breeds.
There are no breed-related sensitivities for milbemycin.
See more information on Sentinel® from the manufacturer.
See more information on Trifexis from the manufacturer.
Revolution made by Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health)
Ivermectin’s entrance onto the anti-parasite warfront represented a culmination in the trend for broader and broader spectrum parasite control. Selamectin is a closely related cousin of ivermectin. It is designed for broad coverage of small animal parasites and will protect dogs not only against heartworm but also against ear mites, sarcoptic mange mites, ticks, and fleas. Cats are protected against heartworm, fleas, ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms. The product is topical, applied monthly and is fully approved for safe use in heartworm infected animals. Selamectin is not as effective at clearing microfilariae as other products and thus is not generally used to treat active heartworm infections.
See more information on Revolution from the manufacturer.
ADVANTAGE MULTI® made by Bayer
PROHEART6® made by Zoetis
Moxidectin is another relative of ivermectin. Two products use moxidectin to prevent heartworm infection: Advantage Multi® is available for both dogs and cats as a topical, and Proheart6® is available only for dogs as an injection.
Advantage Multi® combines moxidectin with imidacloprid, the flea-killing ingredient in Advantage®, to create a broad spectrum anti-parasite product for both dogs and cats. Advantage® and Advantage Multi® are made by the same manufacturer (Bayer). Advantage Multi® prevents heartworm infection, kills roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. The imidacloprid will kill fleas. Advantage Multi carries approval for use in heartworm positive dogs, meaning that it can be used to kill microfilaria in an active heartworm infection.
Proheart6® is an injection given once every six months, removing the need for owners to remember to use a monthly product. The moxidectin is contained in microspheres, enabling the drug to last a full six months (or in the case of the Australian version, a larger volume is given and it lasts 12 months). In other countries, Proheart6 rapidly captured 40-50% of the entire heartworm prevention market but in the U.S., it was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2004 after a number of adverse reactions were reported. A great deal of controversy surrounds these adverse reaction reports, especially since similar reactions have not been reported in the international market using the identical product made in the same manufacturing plant as the U.S. product. In June of 2008, Proheart6® returned to the U.S. market with some restrictions as the FDA studies the situation. These restrictions have been modified and gradually reduced. Only veterinarians specifically certified to administer ProHeart6 may do so.
Zoetis has rereleased Proheart6® into the U.S. market with several restrictions so that true reactions to the product can be tracked and not confused with other diseases or reactions to other medications. The following restrictions are presently in place:
- All veterinarians prescribing Proheart6® must receive specific certification.
- Proheart6® may not be used in dogs under age 6 months or started in dogs over age 7 years. (Proheart6® may be used in dogs over age 7 years if they have been using it without any problems prior to this age.)
- The dog must be negative for heartworm infection before receiving the injection.
- For the product guarantee to be active, a heartworm test must be performed 6 months after the initial Proheart6® dose to confirm the dog was not incubating a heartworm infection when it first started using the product.
- The owner must sign a consent form prior to injection.
- The owner must receive an information sheet provided by Zoetis explaining the product and its use.
See more information on Advantage Multi.
Learn more about Proheart6 made by Zoetis.
Strains of heartworm that are resistant to the preventives currently on the market (all those listed above) have been documented in the Mississippi River delta area. Resistance has emerged because of inappropriate use of preventives (i.e. the “slow kill” treatment of heartworm infection). It is particularly important in this geographic area to treat known heartworm infection definitively and promptly and not to skip doses of preventives. At this time, only this limited area seems affected and not all heartworm strains are resistant. Be sure to include avoiding mosquito contact in the preventive regimen for dogs in this area.
Traditionally heartworm prevention has centered on killing heartworm larvae in the first month of infection. Infection is not prevented per se because the worms actually do transmit into the new host’s body but they are killed long before they are able to develop and achieve significance. Indeed, prevention centers on using heartworm preventive products of this nature, as were reviewed above; however, more recently preventing actual mosquito bites has become a goal as well. Use of products that repel mosquitoes in combination with products that kill young heartworms is called the “Double Defense Heartworm Protocol.” Research has shown that better prevention is achieved this way. What products repel mosquitoes? Basically, any flea or tick products that contains permethrin will repel flying insects including mosquitoes. See a flea product comparison chart.
Neutering your Male Dog
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 01/31/2017
Why Should I Neuter My Dog?
Aside from helping control the current overpopulation of dogs, neutering a pet dog generally makes for a healthier dog and a better pet. Neutered dogs tend to live longer and have fewer behavior problems (see below). They are less likely to be relinquished to the shelter and do not contribute to over-crowding in community animal shelters with their off-spring. The local government is more interested in having fewer roaming dogs that could be dangerous and having less burden on the animal services budget. Pet owners are more interested in having a well-behaved and long-lived family pet.
What Are The Health Benefits To The Dog?
There are several health benefits to neutering. One of the most important concerns the prostate gland, which under the influence of testosterone will gradually enlarge over the course of the dog’s life. By age five years, it is usually significantly enlarged in an unneutered male dog. As the dog continues to age, his prostate is likely to become uncomfortable, possibly being large enough to interfere with defecation. The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection, which is almost impossible to clear up without neutering. Neutering causes the prostate to shrink into insignificance, thus preventing both prostatitis as well as the uncomfortable benign hyperplasia (enlargement) that occurs with aging. It is often erroneously held that neutering prevents prostate cancer but this is not true; neuter benefits on the prostate are about preventing enlargement and infection.
Other health benefits of neutering include the prevention of certain types of hernias and tumors of the testicles and anus. Excessive preputial discharge is also reduced by neutering.
What Behavioral Changes Can Be Expected After Neutering?
Numerous studies on the behavioral effects of neutering have been performed evaluating playfulness, fear of strangers, territorial aggression, mounting, urine-marking, roaming and other behaviors. The behaviors that are most consistently altered after neutering are inappropriate mounting, urine marking, and fighting. These behaviors were significantly reduced or completely eliminated in 50-60 percent of male dogs after neutering. Most pet owners look forward to curtailing these actions and thereby improving their relationship with the dog.
What Exactly Is Done Surgically?
An incision is made, generally just forward from the scrotum. The testicles are removed through this incision. The stalks are tied off and cut. Castration is achieved. If the testicles are not removed, the desirable benefits listed above cannot be realized. The skin incision may or may not have stitches.
What Can I Expect Upon Discharge From The Hospital?
The scrotum is often swollen in the first few days after surgery, leading some people to wonder if the procedure was really performed. If the dog is immature at the time of neutering, the empty scrotum will flatten out as he grows. If he is mature at the time of neuter, the empty scrotum will remain as a flap of skin. Sometimes the incision is mildly bruised. Most male dogs are eager to play by the day after surgery but, to keep the incision intact, it is best to restrict the dog from boisterous activity.
At What Age Can Neutering Be Performed?
Male dogs can be neutered at just about any age though the traditional age for neutering is six to nine months of age, which is still before puberty. There is some controversy regarding when the best age for neutering should be: after puberty, traditional age or “early”, which can mean any age from eight weeks up to six months.
The younger the pup is at neutering, the longer his long bones will continue to grow, which changes his conformation to a taller stature. This appears to have some musculoskeletal consequences, though surgical recovery at younger age is faster and there are fewer complications with the neuter itself. Shelters have had problems with adopters of young puppies failing to return for neutering. A common solution is to neuter prior to adoption to preclude the pup’s ability to contribute to pet overpopulation himself when he is older. Adopting an already neutered pup also helps avoid developing the above mentioned behavior issues that could lead the pup to be relinquished back to the shelter at a less adoptable age.
Senior dogs can also benefit from neutering. A diseased, enlarged prostate will still shrink down to a comfortable size even in an older dog. The neuter is a relatively simple low-risk surgery, which means that even an older dog can still benefit.
Will He Become Over-Weight Or Lethargic?
Metabolism changes with neutering in such a way that there is a moderate risk of becoming overweight after neutering. The dog owner should be prepared to make adjustments in diet or exercise if the dog seems to be gaining too much weight.
Will He Still Be Interested In Females?
His interest will be reduced but if he is around a female dog in heat, he will become aroused by her. Mounting behavior often has roots in the expression of dominance and may be expressed by a neutered male in a variety of circumstances that are not motivated by sexuality.
What If A Dog Has An Undescended Testicle?
Undescended testicles have an increased tendency to grow tumors. They may also twist on their stalks and cause life-threatening inflammation. For these reasons, neutering is recommended for dogs with undescended testicles. This procedure is more complicated than a routine neuter; the missing testicle can be under the skin along the path it should have descended to the scrotum, or it may be inside the abdomen. Some exploration may be needed to find it, thus there is often an incision for each testicle. The retained testicle is sterile and under-developed. If there is one descended testicle, the dog will be able to breed but since retaining a testicle is a hereditary trait, it is important that the male dog not be bred before he is neutered. It is not a good idea to pass on the retained testicle trait.
What Are The Negative Aspects Of Neutering?
This turns out to be a more complicated subject to study than one might think. The issues that are typically studied are orthopedic/joint related problems and different types of cancers and whether neutering a male dog truly changes the incidences of these. The Hoffman study of 2013 looked at over 70,000 canine medical records and found that neutering increases a dog’s lifespan by 14 percent. They found that neutered dogs were less likely to die of infectious diseases, degenerative diseases or trauma but were more likely to die of cancer or immune-mediated disease than their unneutered cohorts. Upon scrutinizing different cancers, incidences are still low. For example, the risk of developing prostate cancer is several times higher in neutered dogs vs. unneutered dogs but still greater than one percent in both groups. Cancer development is more about environmental exposures and heredity/breed predispositions than about testosterone, so it has been difficult to draw conclusions.
With regard to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture, probably the most common joint problems of dogs, body condition/obesity, general size of the dog, and genetics are likely to be the major risk factors but there does seem to be an increased risk of these issues in dogs neutered before puberty when their bones are still growing and conformation is not set.
Spaying your Female Dog
Date Published: 01/01/2001
Date Reviewed/Revised: 11/06/2018
Surgical sterilization of the female dog, commonly referred to as spaying, is one of the most significant aspects of female dog care an owner can provide. The benefits to the dog far outweigh simply not having puppies, though as pet over-population looms as a societal problem, it is important to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Spaying involves removal of the uterus and ovaries. It is a major surgery but a commonly performed one, ideally performed while a female dog is still in puppyhood, prior to her first heat cycle.
Here Are all the Reasons you should Spay your Female Dog
Mammary Cancer Prevention
A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cance
After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7% and after the second heat the risk is 25% (one in four!). It is easy to see that an early spay can completely prevent what is frequently a very difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer.
But is it too late if a dog is already past her second heat? No, in fact spaying is important even in female dogs who already have obvious tumors. This is because many mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogens; removing the ovaries, the source of estrogens, will help retard tumor spread.
Spaying removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in the prevention as well as the treatment of mammary cancer.
Pyometra is the life-threatening infection of the uterus that generally occurs in middle-aged to older female dogs in the six weeks following heat. The hormone progesterone, which primes the uterus for potential pregnancy, does so by causing proliferation of the blood-filled uterine lining and suppressing uterine immune function. It is thus easy during heat for bacteria in the vagina to ascend to the uterus and cause infection. The uterus with pyometra swells dramatically and is filled with pus, bacteria, dying tissue, and toxins. Without treatment, the dog is expected to die. Despite her serious medical state, she must be spayed quickly if her life is to be saved.
Illustration by Tamara Rees of VIN
- Pyometra is an extremely common disease of unspayed female dogs. One in four female dogs who have survived to age 10 will get it.
- Without treatment, the dog will die.
- Treatment is expensive.
- Treatment involves surgery in a potentially unstable patient. Mortality rates with surgery have been reported as high as 17%.
- Spaying prevents the whole thing.
The older unspayed female dog has an irregular heat cycle. There is no end of cycling comparable to human menopause. If you still decide against spaying, be familiar with the signs of pyometra, which include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst, and usually (but not always) obvious vaginal discharge.
The female dog comes into heat every eight months or so. There is a bloody vaginal discharge and local male dogs are attracted. Often there is an offensive odor.
All of this disappears with spaying.
Spaying of female dogs has been mandatory in the city of Los Angeles since 2008, which means it is not legal to own an unspayed female dog in that city. Exceptions include law enforcement dogs, dogs currently in competition training, service dogs and dogs with a medical exemption. Fines begin at $100. The city came to this resolution largely because of the huge expenses associated with its overcrowded shelter system and its euthanasia rate of approximately 4,000 unwanted dogs and cats per month. This problem comes down to one of population control; education has been inadequate to solve the problem as has simply charging $100 vs $10 to license unsterilized dogs. Spaying provides irreplaceable health benefits to the pet, convenience to the pet owner, benefit to the community, and it is now legally required.
Check the laws in your area, or ask your veterinarian.
Now That we Know Why it is a Good Idea to Spay, What Exactly Happens?
It is important that the patient has not been fed in at least 8 hours. Anesthetic medications commonly induce nausea and vomiting can be dangerous in a sedated patient (vomit can be inhaled/aspirated leading to pneumonia).
A preoperative evaluation is performed; blood work is recommended for older females and may be recommended as a normal preanesthetic consideration
A tranquilizer or other pre-anesthetic medication may be administered to ease the induction of anesthesia.
A medication is given intravenously to induce sleep. This medication is called an induction agent and lasts only long enough to establish the maintenance of anesthesia by the inhalant anesthetic (gas). Once the dog is asleep, a tube is placed in her throat to ensure that a clear airway is maintained through out the procedure.
Sometimes a cough is noted for a couple of days after surgery. This may have been caused by the tube in the throat. Such coughs only last a couple of days; anything that persists longer should be re-evaluated.
The tube is hooked up to a machine that delivers a specific concentration of inhalant gas mixed in 100% oxygen. A technician is assigned to monitoring this pet so that the concentration of inhalant gas can be changed as needed and patient mucous membrane color, heart rate, respiration and other parameters are followed.
In the surgical prep area, the abdomen is shaved and scrubbed. The bladder is emptied and the patient is moved to a surgical suite, where she is draped with surgical cloths or papers to isolate the area where surgery will take place.
An incision is made on the midline of the abdomen. Photo by MarVistaVet
An incision is made on the midline of the abdomen, and the three points where the ovaries and uterus attaches are tied off and cut. The abdomen is checked for bleeding and two or three layers of stitches are placed to close the incision.
It is helpful to know that should the skin stitches come out, there are two layers below holding everything closed. Sometimes skin stitches are not placed but if they are, you will need to return in 10 to 14 days to have them removed.
The anesthesia technician continues monitoring until the dog wakes up and coughs out the throat tube.
The patient is kept in an observation room until she is able to walk.
Some veterinarians feel strongly that a night in the hospital is important to an uneventful recovery. This night in the hospital is similar to strict bed rest, just what you would expect to be needed after a major abdominal surgery. This night also allows for proper administration of pain medication for a longer time period as well as a post-operative check up with the doctor the morning after surgery. As with all things medical, other veterinarians may have a different opinion and your veterinarian may send your dog home at the end of the day as long as they are deemed stable.
What to Expect at Home
Photo by MarVistaVet
Most spay patients go home the next day as if nothing had happened, although some will need pain medication for a few days.
Some nausea may occur in the first couple of days after surgery and it would not be unusual for the dog to refuse food for a day or two after surgery.
As noted above, a cough may persist for a couple of days as a result of the throat tube. This should not persist longer than a couple of days.
Dogs who show a propensity to lick their stitches will need an Elizabethan or “E” collar to restrict access to the stitches. This is not very comfortable for the dog but it must be used strictly until the stitches are out and the incision is healed.
Activity should be restricted during the week following surgery. Excessive activity can lead to swelling or fluid accumulation under the incision or even worse, a tear in the internal incision line. If a fluid pocket forms, it should resolve on its own after a few weeks. If something has torn inside, obviously the situation is more serious so it is prudent to have any incision swelling inspected at the veterinarian’s office. Fluid drainage from the incision would also be reason for a recheck.
What about Behavioral Changes?
The female dog’s reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year. It only activates for the three-week period of heat. This means that from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the time. This said, there has been a documented slowing of metabolism after spays and it may be necessary to use a reduced calorie food in an adult dog. Check with your veterinarian about nutritional recommendations
We offer a large variety of Nutritional Counseling for pets of all stages. This will include weight consults, discuss of proper diet for your pets needs. Listed below are the diets we carry in our Hospital, but not limited to additional brands.
Hill’s Science Diet Prescription Foods and Treats for Canine & Feline
Hill’s Science Diet Non-Prescription Foods and Treats for Canine & Feline
Royal Canin Prescription Foods for Canine & Feline
Click Here To Read More About Our Laboratory, Radiology, & Ultrasound Work
In House Lab Work
- Heartworm Testing
- FIV/FeLV Testing
- Intestinal Parasite
- Otitis Testing (Ears)
- Skin (Mites)
Laboratory, Radiology, & Ultrasound
Imaging Tests (Radiology Options) for Pets
Date Published: 08/13/2010
Date Reviewed/Revised: 01/11/2019
Imaging in veterinary medicine has advanced greatly since the first radiographs (x-rays) were taken of pets just decades ago. Today a multitude of imaging tests are available to help diagnose and treat diseases in our pets. These tests include radiography (x-rays), ultrasound, CT (or CAT) scans, and MRI scans. Each of these tests has its own advantages and disadvantages, and will provide the veterinarian with different information. Many of these tests are available in general veterinary practices, but some, such as CT and MRI scans, are most often performed by specialists in large referral practices or veterinary schools.
As with all tests, none of them is perfect for every situation. The following is a brief description of different types of imaging.
A radiograph, commonly called an x-ray, is a black and white two-dimensional image of part of the interior of a body. An image is generated by passing radiation through a particular structure or area, such as the chest or a limb, and the image is then captured. The traditional way of recording the image is on specific x-ray film that senses how much radiation passes through the structure and reaches the film, much like photographic film captures light. The denser a tissue is (such as bone), the whiter the image is on the film. Less dense structures, such as air in the lungs, allow almost all of the x-ray energy to pass through to the film, turning that area black.
In the past 10-12 years, many practices have upgraded to digital radiography. The principles are similar, but the images are captured on a digital recording device and displayed on a computer screen. No x-ray film is used. These images are easy to store as well as to transmit to other hospitals, or to copy to send home with pet owners. Not much more than a decade ago, these systems were considered to be too expensive for most private veterinary hospitals, but they are now being used in the majority of practices. As with most technology, the cost of installing a digital system has fallen as demand for them has increased.
Regardless of whether the images are on film or digital, radiography is the most common and readily available imaging test in veterinary practice. It is used to evaluate the size and shape of organs, such as the heart and lungs, as well as to demonstrate broken bones, some foreign objects, fluid accumulations, and many more abnormalities that may aid in diagnosis. It is also the most affordable imaging test, and is most often done prior to any of the other imaging options.
There is a subcategory of x-ray studies that use contrast dyes that show up on radiographs to highlight certain structures. The most familiar of these is the barium series, in which either a liquid or a paste containing barium is given orally or by enema to a patient to highlight a part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Because some objects do not show up on radiographs (such as plastic, cloth, toys, rubber, etc.), barium can help diagnose obstructions or blockages. Barium shows as bright white on radiographs, so if it reaches a certain point in the GI tract and stops abruptly, we can infer that there is something blocking its progress. Sometimes we can also see a foreign object outlined by the barium trying to get around it.
The reason it is called a barium “series” is because it’s necessary to take a series of x-rays at timed intervals as the barium goes through the stomach and intestines to the large intestines. The amount of time the series must be continued depends on what is found, but it can take up to 24 hours to complete in some cases, so usually the pet is hospitalized for the day. Some patients may even need to return to the hospital the next day for follow-up.
A barium study can be done in any clinic that has radiographic equipment and liquid barium. However, if the pet is vomiting so much that the barium cannot be retained in the GI tract, the test may not be useful.
Another example of a contrast study is the intravenous pyelogram (IVP) in which a dye is injected intravenously. This dye is filtered from the blood by the kidneys and excreted through the urinary tract, so a series of images is taken to show its progress through the kidneys and into the ureters and bladder. This progress can be helpful to demonstrate structural kidney diseases, ureters that are abnormally large or don’t enter the bladder in the correct place, and for certain bladder diseases.
There are other contrast studies that can be done, including cystograms, a dye placed in the bladder through the urethra by catheterization; myelography, a dye around the spinal cord; and more.
Unlike radiographs, no radiation is used in an ultrasound study. An ultrasound machine uses sound waves. The ultrasound waves move out from the wand and either become absorbed into organs, pass through them, or are reflected (echo) back. Depending on how many sound waves are absorbed or reflected, an image of the internal organs is formed by a sophisticated integrated computer, and the image is then displayed on a monitor. Real-time moving images are displayed, and still images can be captured as well.
Ultrasound is painless and does not require anesthesia or even sedation in most cases. For an ultrasound evaluation to be done, the pet does need to have the hair shaved from the evaluation area because it will interfere with the images.
This test is typically done after blood tests, x-rays, or a physical examination indicates a possible problem. It is useful for evaluating abdominal organs, eyes, and the reproductive system. As with people, it can be used during pregnancies. A specific ultrasound called an echocardiogram is used to visualize the heart and blood vessels as well as its valves.
Ultrasound can “see” some things that can’t be visualized on radiographs. For example, if the abdomen is filled with fluid, the organs can’t be distinguished on traditional x-rays because fluid and tissue have the same density. However, they appear quite different from each other on an ultrasound image, so we can see through the fluid. It is also useful, for the same reason, for seeing inside an organ such as the heart or liver.
On the other hand, it is not as good at seeing through air or bone, so it does not replace radiography but rather is complementary to the information we can get from radiographs. It is common to do both x-rays and ultrasound in order to get a good picture of what is going on.
Because the equipment can be expensive, not all veterinary hospitals have an ultrasound machine. However, in those cases, they can often arrange for a traveling ultrasonographer to come to the hospital. If this is not an option, then the pet can be referred to a hospital that has one. Ultrasound images are different than x-ray images, and in some cases, it may be preferable for a veterinarian who is experienced in obtaining and reading ultrasound images to do the evaluation, or in some cases, to have a board-certified veterinary radiologist do the procedure.
As with radiography, there is also a subset of ultrasound imaging tests called contrast ultrasonography in which a material that is visible to ultrasound waves is injected as the image is being watched on the screen. These procedures are usually performed by a specialist.
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