What You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

What You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Spaying or neutering is one of the best things that can be done to benefit the lives of cats and dogs. In addition to helping to curb pet overpopulation, it can help make your pet healthier and help to reduce poor behavior. In an effort to spread the word about the benefits of spaying and neutering, the HSUS, the Humane Society International and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association runs its annual World Spay Day campaign.

Observed on the last Tuesday of February, World Spay Day brings awareness to the impact of affordable, accessible spay/neuter options to save the lives of companion animals, stray/feral cats, and stray dogs who may otherwise be put down in shelters or killed on the street. This year will be the 23rd annual World Spay Day, and will be observed on February 28, 2017.pexels-photo-133069

In honor of World Spay Day, we’re taking a look at some of the invaluable benefits that spaying and neutering your pets can bring:

Reduce the number of homeless pets killed – There are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering shelters every day. Barely half of those animals get adopted. Unfortunately, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year.

Improve your pet’s health – Pets who live in the states with the highest rates of spaying/neutering also live the longest, according to this USA today study. Neutered males dogs live 18% longer than un-neutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than unspayed female dogs. The reduced lifespan for unaltered pets can be attributed, in part, to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, running out into the roads and other mishaps.animal-cute-kitten-cat.jpg

Also to consider is the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a far greater risk of developing pyrometra (fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer and other cancers of the reproductive system. Male pets who are neutered eliminate their chances of developing testicular cancer.

Reduce poor behavior – Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking than neutered dogs. Although this behavior is most-commonly associated with male dogs, females can do it too. For cats, the urge to spray is extremely strong in an intact cat. The simplest solution is to have yours neutered or spayed by four months of age, before there’s even a problem.

Neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues, even in cats that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam, and fighting with other males. In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater risk you run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.

Other behaviors that spaying and neutering can alleviate include:

  • Roaming, especially when females are “in heat”
  • Aggression; studies show that most dog bites involve dogs who are unaltered
  • Excessive barking, mounting or other dominance-related behaviors

And despite what many may think, while getting your pets spayed/neutered can help curb undesirable behaviors, it will not change their fundamental personality, like their protective instinct.

Given these reasons, it would seem that it doesn’t make sense to not have your pet spayed or neutered. But still, many pets are left unaltered. One of the most common reasons that people skip out on this critical part of their pet’s health is due to cost. What many may not consider, however, is the costs of caring for litters of puppies or kittens, medical costs for cancers of the reproductive system, and the medical costs associated with fights involving unneutered or unspayed pets. In the long run, having your pet spayed or neutered is more cost-effective.

If you or someone you know is looking for an affordable option to spay or neuter a pet, the Humane Society can help you identify low-cost options in your area.

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For more information on World Spay Day, visit http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/spay_day/

Advice from the Cookie Lady

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I hear it all the time, “My dog will do anything for you because you’re the cookie lady.” It’s true and it’s wonderful! I take pride in being a what Kathy Sdao calls “a good feeder.”

Let’s stop the shame game. There is no reason to be embarrassed for treating your dog for good behavior! I recall so many times walking through our local parks with my wonderful Pumpkin, happily heads up heeling by my side—his gorgeous amber eyes looking into mine as we passed a barking lunging dog. The owner of the other dog notice the treats I was delivering and shouted out, “I see your dog has you trained! How many treats does he eat?! That’s bribery” followed by derisive laughter. Well, laugh away I say. If I hadn’t been busy focusing on my gorgeous good dog I would have retorted, “It’s not a lure, it’s reward—big difference.” And I would have been happy to go into details had he been a willing listener. Instead I smiled, nodded and moved on. Now I have time to explain if you’re willing to listen.

Lures can sometimes be used initially to get a behavior started. With a lure, you are using the food (or toy) to manipulate the dog’s behavior. Common are pulling a treat above the head to get a “sit” and bringing a treat from the dog’s nose to yours to get eye contact or a “watch me” cue. Lures precede the behavior. They can get a behavior started but must be faded out quickly or the dog can become dependent on seeing the treat in order to perform the behavior. A reward on the other hand comes after the behavior is performed. Rewards too will be lessened in time, but perhaps never faded out. Before you panic– That wasn’t a typo. Let me explain.
If your employer stopped issuing you a paycheck, how long would you continue to work? Generally speaking, regardless of how much we enjoy our jobs we won’t work for free. Neither do dogs. Gasp! Yes I am saying dogs don’t work simply because they love us. Much of what we ask of dogs is completely unnatural and it is indeed work. Heeling, staying, leaving a treat on her paws and more—very unnatural. We all know how much work it is to modify our own behaviors such as eating healthfully, saving money, or quitting bad habits. Science tells us for humans and animals a reward system increases success in behavior modification programs. Look at your bank or credit card company. Does getting rewards increase your use of the card? Does your employer offer a gift for perfect attendance or safety records? We get tokens, points, and various other rewards for repeating certain behaviors. Dogs get treats and toys. There is no shame in rewarding good behavior! In time, we do put the rewards on a variable schedule so they will not be constant but that’s another topic.

Speaking of rewards, remember it should be something the dog wants. Not what you think is nice. Dry cookies are rarely motivating enough for any dog besides the biggest chow hounds. Having spent decades in human resources, I think of compensation scales. The more complex the work, the higher the pay. I apply the same to dogs. Sit at the door may equal a piece of kibble. Walking past another dog may equal a chunk of fresh chicken. Yes, fresh chicken—from the frig. I often chuckle that the same wonderfully caring clients who labor over reading labels and research the very best food to feed –insisting it have fresh human grade ingredients– are appalled at the thought of using “people food” as treats. Food is food. Fresh, healthy food is a nice reward and addition to your dog’s diet. Be a good feeder. Use food wisely. So often we give dogs table scraps or special treats just because we love them. While there’s nothing wrong with that, simply reserve them for extra special behavior!

A friend I see only seldom comments how her dog will do things for me that she does for no one else even though I may see her only twice a year. And I don’t have to give her treats. But as my friend points out, “she remembers you as the cookie lady.” Yep, she sure does. I have a history with this dog of being a good bet that she didn’t forget.

So my advice to you? BE THE COOKIE LADY!! Or COOKIE MAN! Enjoy the rewards YOU get—good behavior! 

Ohio, Who is Checking on Your Pet’s Vet?

dogsandcatsOhio, who is checking your pet’s vet?
The next time you take your companion animal in for a check-up, ask the receptionist: “When was the last time this  vet hospital was inspected?” Then share her answer with readers of this blog.

The mission of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board is public protection, i.e. the OVMLB is charged with ensuring an appropriate standard of veterinary care for your animal.

How can it accomplish its mission when the Vet Board neither knows nor has records to verify how many veterinary hospitals are in Ohio? How can it monitor and enforce standards without having access to the most basic data –  the names and locations of each veterinary hospital operating in the state?

After reviewing OVMLB financial statements obtained through a public records request, I formed an opinion about how our state veterinary board could improve in consumer protection.  I share with both the Board and with you the following ways:

  • Don’t give away half the revenue-  The OVMLB enjoyed a three year revenue of about $1,700,000 (2010-2012). With their expenses totaling only $900,000, the balance of $800,000 was returned to the general fund. Note that while other Ohio regulatory agencies have continued access to the money they send back to the general fund, this is not the case for the OVMLB.
    This restriction is not the standard in other states. The California Veterinary Medical Licensing Board, for example, sends about 3 – 5% of their annual revenue to the state general fund, but they continue to have access to use it if needed. Wouldn’t allowing the OVMLB access to their money improve their ability to fulfill its mission?
  • Stay home-  A review of the OVMLB expenses during the 2010-2012 reveals that investigative costs and travel expenses paid were almost equal. I attended a board meeting that began at 8:30 AM and ended at 10:40 AM with two short breaks. Why are board members being paid travel expenses for a two hour meeting? Teleconferences are free. Documents can be shared online before and during the meetings. Travel expenses could be reduced by $12,000 each year simply by using teleconferencing.
  • Protect the public- Nearly $20,000 was spent in 2011 and 2012 on auditing the agency. The primary function of any audit should be to seek answers to the following questions: “What is this agency supposed to be doing? “Are they doing it?” and “If they are not doing it, how can we help them to do it?” The audits performed, in my opinion, failed to supply the answers after two expensive attempts. The ledger of assets and debits may tally up, but the primary responsibility of the OVMLB,  public protection, remains unmet.
  • Focus on standard of care- A look at the amount of money spent by the board on hearings compared to other expenditures during the two year period of 2010-2011 is very revealing. It was about the same as parking costs and slightly lower than office supplies. Hearings, it appears, rank a bit lower than paper and pencils.  As the OVMLB is an oversight agency, the importance of hearings should be emphasized.
  • Surprise the vet hospitals- The Vet Board is hindered by a 1992 law which mandates that they give a 5-day written notice before sending an inspector. The existence of violations occurring in a veterinary hospital are not likely to be seen with such advance notice.

Finally, I cite three, recent examples of tragedies that might have been prevented if the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board was truly providing the rigorous oversight of veterinarians, vet techs, and vet hospitals as it has been mandated  to do by the citizens of Ohio.

  1. Dr. Bea Turk of Brunswick is an egregious example. Dr. Turk received several letters of reprimand, fines, violations, and several suspensions of her license by the OVMLB. Yet, she continued to practice unmonitored. Dr. Turk finally surrendered her license to the state this July.
  2. Brandi Tomko practiced veterinary medicine in Summit County without a license. She performed surgeries, wrote prescriptions, drew blood, etc. She had neither training nor credentials and many animals died under her care. She was found guilty by Judge Gallagher of Summit County and sentenced to jail time and fines earlier in 2013.
  3. Crystal Luli, founder of a pet rescue in Lorain, has had many allegations about conditions at a facility, including operating a veterinary hospital without a license.

Ohio animals, as patients, Ohio pet owners, as consumers, and Ohio veterinarians, as colleagues, deserve to have trust in the Ohio companion animal health care system. Yet the facts clearly demonstrate a “black hole” in veterinary oversight with the bulk of $300,000 each year being used to maintain a government bureaucracy, not to ensure public trust or public health.

Ohio, contact your state representatives and senators.  Urge them to support a veterinary oversight bill for the improved health care of Ohio companion animals.  Contact information for your state legislators can be found on my web site: www.pawsandthelaws.com

Contact me for additional references and resources and stay connected to current animal legislation by “liking” my FB page.

Caged: How Ohio Politicians Keep the State’s Puppy Mill Business Booming with Little Regulation

beachy puppy mill dogExcerpt from the Eric Sandy article, “Caged: How Ohio Politicians Keep the State’s Puppy Mill Business Booming with Little Regulation” published July 24, 2013, Cleveland Scene:

Kasich

“It’s kind of hard to believe that it took this long to get this done,” Gov. John Kasich quips with his pol-tinged half-charm. “I mean, wh-what was the holdup, right?!”

He is surrounded by animal advocates and more than a few bouncy pups, all of whom seem to cast raised eyebrows as the governor scribbles his name on a dog-breeding bill that largely accomplishes nothing.

The words Kasich personally approved on a cold day in December last winter became effective in March—kind of. Little has changed so far in the land of Ohio’s puppy mills, and not much will. Vagaries dot the bill’s language like puppy kennels along the rolling Holmes County landscape. And knotty conflicts in the process ravage whatever intent the Statehouse set about with initially.”

Why did it take so long to achieve passage of a legislative bill supported by a majority of the citizens, a bill that would protect consumers and dogs from the cruel, unscrupulous and disease-ridden practices of  puppy mill breeders.   How is it possible that the enactment of the much celebrated Puppy Mill Law (Senate Bill 130) will in fact provide little if any change in the way the puppy mill industry operates or in the standards of care the Ohio Department of Agriculture are now supposed to establish and regulate…

Read Caged: How Ohio Politicians Keep the State’s Puppy Mill Business Booming with Little Regulation and tell us what you think.AMISH-AUCTION-2-150x150

Special Needs Adoptables: The FIV+ Cat

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Brewster has FIV and remains a very content and healthy cat. The only thing missing in his life is a family to call his own. To read more about Brewster, please click on his photo.

Many folks looking to adopt a cat hear the letters FIV or the name Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and turn away immediately without truly understanding that an FIV cat will have all of the normal loving and fun traits of an uninfected cat. I would like to take a moment to present some educational information on this misunderstood condition.

Feline Immunodeficiency has been around for many years. FIV is only spread from cat to cat. It cannot be spread to humans or other animals. The virus depletes a cat’s white blood cell count. Without treatment, an infected cat will eventually be unable to fight off infections. The virus is transmitted through blood or saliva. The most common way a cat contracts FIV is through biting. It is most often seen in outdoor unneutered male cats, although it can also be passed from a mother to her kittens.

Some important facts about adopting an FIV cat:

  • FIV cats can live in the same household along with cats that do NOT have it
  • FIV is NOT transmitted through routine contact, sharing litter boxes or food bowls
  • FIV cats can live the same long healthy lives as cats without FIV
  • An FIV cat does best in a low stress home
  • FIV is a feline disease. It can NOT be transmitted to other animals or people
  • House cats that are allowed outdoors are far MORE likely to contract FIV than a cat living in a home with an FIV positive cat

Currently in the United States, 1.5% to 3% of healthy cats are FIV positive. These are cats that may or may not develop further symptoms showing illness. It is important to recognize the signs of an FIV cat. Signs that a cat has become infected can vary, however, the most common are gingivitis (gum inflammation), diarrhea, sneezing, sniffling, a discharge from the nose or eyes, or even possible kidney failure. If you notice any of the FIV signs listed above, take your cat to your vet as soon as possible. While there is no cure for FIV, treatments that boost the infected cat’s immune system such as antibiotics are quite effective in helping manage infections.

Prevent the spread of FIV in your community by practicing common sense and responsible pet ownership:

  • Have your cat spayed or neutered
  • Keep cat vaccinations up to date
  • Keep your cat indoors

Have more concerns or questions?  Consult your veterinarian and visit the following sites for more information.

http://www.eastcountyanimalrescue.org/2011/10/fiv-stigma-and-why-adopting-fiv-cat-may.html

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-care-feline-immunodeficiency-virus.aspx

FIV Cats – Owners Support Group