How to be a better pet owner
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.
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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.