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How to be a better pet owner

Updated on January 1, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock, and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


Being in retail pet food sales, I get to talk with dozens of pet owners every day, not necessarily lengthy conversations, mind you, but enough to pick up on some things that owners wonder about. Sometimes I jot them down and collect enough to make a column. Guess what I've got enough of?

People who get a puppy or a kitten often wonder at what age they should be spayed (females) or neutered (males). And by the way, it’s spayed…not spaded…like a lot of folks say. Sorry. Pet peeve. Sort of like when people say nucular instead of nuclear.

Until fairly recently it has been typical to perform the procedures when the animal is between 5 and 8 months of age. In the case of females, it's best to have the operation done before their first heat cycle.

Doing so greatly reduces the chances of mammary cancer later on since the surgery is performed before hormonal changes are induced by the first estrus. The trick is to time it right. Or at least that's the way it used to be.


Nowadays more and more veterinarians are performing the surgery earlier, making it pretty much a sure thing that it will be performed before the first heat. But it wasn't always that way.

Some shelters began early-spay and neuter programs, with procedures being performed as early as 10 to 14 weeks, so that animals could be adopted out in an altered state. That would help reduce the burgeoning unwanted pet problem.

Some breeders thought it desirable, also. If puppies were sold already altered, or with the assurance that the procedure would be completed within a specified time period, unintended breeding wouldn't take place and the purity of the gene pool would be preserved.

There was some controversy over the safety of performing those initial early-spay/neuters since the long-term effects were unknown. But pilot programs started popping up and those animals were studied to middle age and beyond.

Early spay/neutering is generally regarded as safe, now, since valid studies have shown that growth rate and overall health have not been compromised. In fact, animals altered very early in life tend to show faster post-operative recoveries.


As I've pointed out before, sometimes being a pet columnist means you have to discuss indelicate matters from time to time. This is one of those times. A common problem among dogs is the heart break of room-clearing gas. Sound familiar (no pun intended)?

The culprit is usually fermenting carbohydrates in the dog's digestive tract, in the form of soy, wheat and corn found in his food and treats. Soy seems to be the biggest offender, and it's in a lot of the treats you buy, as well.

Dogs can also get gassy from ingesting dairy products such as milk and cheese. As they emerge from early puppyhood they lose the enzyme lactase, which digests lactose, and most become lactose intolerant.

Table scraps can cause gas problems, too, since most dogs have a hard time digesting them. Guys are the worst offenders in that practice. Know why? They need a scapegoat to cover their own intestinal indiscretions. Wake up guys. The wives and children have been on to you for years!

As a rule, a gassy dog is not an unhealthy dog as long as there are no other symptoms. But should the gas be combined with diarrhea, vomiting, or disinterest in food or depression, for example, you should check with your veterinarian.

Is there any hope of reducing the problem? Sure. Improve your dog's diet, and take him out for regular brisk walks or energetic play sessions. There are anti-flatulence products on the market too, available from your vet or pet supply store.

I had a customer who was perplexed because the vet wanted him to collect a urine sample from his dog. The solution: duct tape! Attach a clean plastic bowl to a yardstick with the duct tape. Those containers that whipped topping or margarine come in are perfect.


Take Boomer out for his constitutional and when he's ready to piddle, extend your homemade yardstick/specimen bottle between the fire hydrant and the dog’s nozzle. Unless your vet specifies a "first morning catch" try for what they call a clean-voided midstream.

That means you waste the first few seconds worth, which contains impurities that may contaminate the specimen, collect a couple of seconds worth, and let the remainder splash onto the fire hydrant for other dogs checking their peemail to enjoy.

Collect just a couple of seconds worth. It doesn't take very much. When you get back home, transfer it to a number 10 mayonnaise jar or some other suitable vessel. You're vet will really, really be impressed. Oh, and don’t let the neighbors’ whispers bother you. Their day will come.


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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Ann, Sorry, I wasn't ignoring you. I responded right away but it apparently didn't post for some reason. I was "refreshing" the hub and the summary just now and saw your comment. The green "Approved" tab wasn't showing and it indicated the status as approved. Strange. Must be the Hub Pages gremlins.

      Anyhow, what I originally said was that, around here, they're doing it at 6 or 8 weeks also, but mainly for the shelters and pet adoption agencies.

      That way, the animals can be adopted in an altered state, eliminating the concern that the new pet parents may not have the surgery performed...or not in time to prevent at least one litter.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • annstaub profile image


      6 years ago from Round Rock, TX

      Here in Texas, they are spayimg and neutering animals as young as 6 weeks of age!

    • KathyH profile image


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Too funny, peemail? I almost spewed my coffee all over the screen here! We like walking at the local doggie park nearby when we go for our evening walk, and we see dogs leaving "peemail" for others all the time. :)

      Thanks for the helpful tips! :) Voted up for sure!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi wetnosedogs, thanks for commenting. I've always been against table scraps because, in my view, most people tend to overdo it. An occasional piece of chicken breast or turkey breast is pretty harmless, of course, but you wouldn't believe how many people are amused by the things their dog will eat. And I'm truly convinced that, in most cases, that's the motivating factor, not the well being of the dog.

      They'll eat cat turd, for crying out loud, of course they'll eat almost anything we offer them! It's just that they're not always able to assimilate our foods.

      If they had a better sense of taste, they wouldn't eat a lot of the things they do, but with only 1/6 the number of taste buds that we have, and with most of those clustered at the tip of the tongue, they're not designed to be gourmands.

      When we had our store, we'd get 60 to 80 pet owners a day coming in and I'd engage in conversations with at least a third of them. I loved that part of the biz, and got a quality education besides.

      Thanks for stopping by (and thanks for letting me rant); it's always good to get your comments. Regards, Bob

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      Didn't realize table scraps caused gassy symptoms. My daughters' dogs were gassy at one point. The table scraps are no more since the female is on a diet and we don't hear gassy episodes so much.


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