Tag: spay/netuer

Pet Vasectomies…Are You Nuts?!

Pet Vasectomies…Are You Nuts?!

 

A reader has asked me about vasectomies in cats & dogs and why they aren’t being recommended.  I’ll do my best to answer and have a discussion about this but also use this as an opportunity to discuss the more common procedure of orchidectomy, or otherwise known as castration or neutering.  I have chosen not to include any graphic medical photos though they really would emphasize some of the complications & problems.

I’ll be honest.  A vasectomy on a cat, dog, chinchilla, horse, and other animals is not something that I was taught in veterinary school.   Neither did my wife who graduated 2 years after me or the vet students or recent graduates (within the last 2 years) that I spoke to.  This really means that the first barrier to actually doing the procedure is actually most veterinarians not knowing how to do the procedure.  The procedure is described in some surgery textbooks but the caveat is that there are two ways to do the procedure.  This typically means there are risks to both ways as neither procedure is perfect.

EnlargedProstate radsSome complications can include scrotal swelling, bleeding, and failure of the procedure (meaning if not done properly by someone familiar with the procedure, a pregnancy can still occur).  There are also options for chemical castrations but there is similarly a possibility of complications particularly due to the technical skill needed to carry out the procedure as well as the chemical that is being placed into the body.

I always love doing surgery and learning new procedures.  So why do we veterinarians recommend castration as opposed to vasectomies?  The real issue is hormonal influence and behavioral tendencies of intact dogs.  Certainly, a dog or cat that has had a vasectomy will not be able to impregnate a female but they will still have the impact of testosterone on their body.  This is the reason the zoos often do vasectomies in their population of animals so that they can’t rampantly breed but will still maintain the behavior they would often exhibit in the wild.

Let’s be honest though…your cat is not a bengal tiger and your dog is not rare breed of wolf.  Sex hormones are good foraggressive dog helping manage weight.  Dogs that are intact do have a slightly higher metabolic energy requirement but not as significant a difference as seen in female animals.  Weight problems do not tend to be an issue as long as you manage food intake and proper exercise.  Additionally, we do not recommend neutering before 5.5 months as doing the procedure too early can cause bone growth to go on longer meaning that dogs will get larger.  This is not necessarily a good thing as it can lead to bone & joint problems.  Testosterone replacement appears to be more effective in humans than in dogs and is not a practice typically carried out in companion animal medicine.

cat fightCats & dogs that are intact do have a higher tendency to fight and roam.  From my time working in an emergency clinic, it would be a fair approximation to say that about 80% of dogs that I saw that were hit by cars, they were intact males.  Animals that are still intact also run the risk of testicular cancer.  More commonly though, the prostate becomes enlarged due to the hormones and this can cause enough swelling of the prostate gland that animals can having difficulty defecating or urinating.  There can also be an increased risk of perineal hernias which can cause further problems defecating or even the incredibly painful testicular torsion.  Lastly, have you ever smelled the urine of an intact cat?  Would you really want that in your house?

Feasibly, the benefits to castration far outweigh any potential gain from your cat or dog “keeping their manhood.”  Neutering your dog just makes sense in terms of pet over-population and the control of unwanted behaviors.  It is also a simple and cost effective procedure that can be done by your family veterinarian.  Maybe someday there will be a larger place in the veterinary community for this procedure but for now I’ll leave you with this classic bumper sticker I saw from Texas…neuter bumper sticker

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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How a Cat Picked a Veterinarian

How a Cat Picked a Veterinarian

 

I want to tell you a story.  The story of how a cat found a soul mate and her own veterinarian.  It’s also a reminder of why you should spay or neuter your pets because there is just no way we can find homes for them all.  You see, sometimes at a veterinary clinic, animals are left on our doorsteps.  No, this doesn’t happen everyday but it’s less common now because there are more shelters that people can abandon, errr surrender, their pets.  Then there was this one time I was happy to know that one cat probably got away from her family.

 

First days at home

First days at home

In the summer of 2001, I was working at Shores Animal Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.  I had been there for a little over a year and was waiting to hear about veterinary school applications.  We had arrived at the clinic in the morning to find a box…with a kitten in it…and a note.  The note said, “We found it in the bathtub of our construction site.”  The kitten was a small, scrawny, brown tabby.  We took her into the clinic and she was fed, cleaned up, and monitored for the day.  My boss and his technician examined her and gave her a presumptive diagnosis of ringworm.  Ringworm is not an actual worm but a fungus.  Being the compassionate people that veterinary professionals are, they couldn’t do anything but get this kitty some help.

 

Not so innocent but irresistibly cute

Not so innocent but irresistibly cute

As ringworm, or properly called dermatophytosis, can be a highly contagious skin infection, it was decided that she should be sent home with someone who didn’t have any pets so she could be treated and then we could adopt her out to a client.  And then John, our licensed technician, came and found me quietly doing my work.  I had been chosen to care for this little kitten as I was an eager pre-veterinary student and I was without any pets.  I was given a bottle of shampoo, cat litter, a bag of kitten food, and a little bundle of fur.

 

When I arrived home, I set her up in my bathroom as I had not kitten proofed the bedroom.  I went to check on her and she had vanished!  A frantic search ensued thinking I had lost my hospital’s cat and in a call to my mother I was greeted with her telling me, “congrats, you have a cat!”  It came to pass that she had wedged herself behind the bathroom vanity in her frightened state and only reaching into the dark hole was she able to be removed.  Later that night, she got her first bath and the screams were horribly saddening.  I could only relate the sound to that from a classic 1984 film….then I welcomed Gremlin to my family. Gremlins-Poster

 

Gremlin grew up and a year later we had moved to Illinois for veterinary school.  She became my own personal physical exam practice cat during first year and dutifully, though sometimes very wiggly, gave in to weekly abdominal palpations and thoracic auscultations.  Gremlin would sleep at my side at night and sit on my desk while I studied.  During my third year of school, a heart murmur was discovered and she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (more on this later). 

Living in Illinois 2004

Living in Illinois 2004

 

The years came and went.  We’ve gotten her heart issues under control.  She’s survived multiple moves across states & countries and finally to our home in Kingston, Ontario.  I even had a couple more scares with her getting lost when she just really had good hiding spaces including under a gas stove and behind a desk.  She even approved of my wife…true story but before Jennifer, any time a girlfriend came over or was mentioned, Gremlin would vomit.  She’s truly warmed up to Jennifer, though it may be the bribery Jennifer would offer her with treats or maybe she just gave up and accepted that she wouldn’t be the only girl in my life.

 

Admittedly, Gremlin is daddy’s little girl and is a spoiled cat…and she deserves it.  She was one of the first our pets to come and see what was going on with Charlie after his surgery.  She also gives the greatest snuggles since our previous family cat Zorro which helps me unwind and have a good sleep at night so I can rest up for helping more patients the next day.  Gremlin knows when Jennifer or I have had a bad day and comes to comfort us.  So I guess these things makes her a caretaker.  I’m extremely grateful to have her in my life just like all our pets (another cat of ours, Louie, was also brought into the clinic & surrendered).  But we can’t take them all and it’s not right to dump them on a doorstep, so we’re serious when we talk about spaying & neutering.  Sometimes the pieces just fall into place and we welcome them into our home.  So in case you’ve ever wondered how veterinarians pick a pet, just remember that it’s usually the pet that picks us, usually by a stroke of fate.  

Snuggling on the couch with her dad

Snuggling on the couch with her dad

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

How Not to Break the Bank

How Not to Break the Bank

I cried with a client the other day.  I had examined his dog and given him a generally good bill of health…except for one problem.  This particular pooch seemed otherwise okay and was full of spirit except that the one abnormality was the cause of some discomfort & pain.  This owner was very certain that he did not want his buddy to be in any pain.  He had made the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize his beloved dog.  Why?  Because he couldn’t afford to do anything for his pet.  It doesn’t matter what the problem was.  Broken leg, bad teeth, bladder stones….  All examples of relatively “simple” problems that can be treated and pain relieved.  I use the term “simple” here to describe medical problems that are straightforward with the potential for very easy resolution.

Now before we go any further, I’m not here to get into an argument over the cost of veterinary care.  Believe me, it ate at me to have to euthanize that dog and it probably will for a long time.  In some ways, I do feel the cost is high but I also have to respect the other side in that I myself am not yet a clinic owner so I do not know all of the additional costs to run a clinic.  I can attest to the fact that veterinarians graduate with a high amount of student debt.  What I am aiming to do here is maybe help others find ways to defray the costs and avoid losing their pets.

piggy bank bandageFirst off, I feel the need to remind everyone that a pet is like a child in that it is a responsibility.  Having a pet is a wonderful thing and it can offer so many benefits to a person.  But in return, that pet deserves to be cared for so keep that in mind when adopting or “rescuing” an animal.  There is no socialized healthcare for pets unfortunately and I too would like to claim then on my tax return.  Veterinary clinics are privately owned businesses, much like an auto repair shop or a restaurant, where payment is for services rendered.  So how can we help ease the strain or plan for those unexpected emergencies?

Save for that rainy day...

Save for that rainy day…

Save a little:  Set up a savings account for your pet, whether it be at a bank or in a mattress.  Each paycheck put a little something away…$5, $10, $25…whatever.  Over time, this will build up for those emergencies that might happen.  Surgeries & dental procedures aren’t inexpensive so you should start saving up anytime when you get a pet.  Face it, if you adopt a chihuahua, it’s going to need dental work at sometime.  Adding that male cat to your house?  Prepare for possible urinary problem.  To also help with savings, cut back on eating out and your doctor would agree with saving money on not buying addictive things.  I think this option for saving up is the best idea of what I’ll present.

Save a lot:  This focuses on the idea of preventative care.  Nothing hurts more than watching a puppy fade away due to parvovirus (despite our best efforts) because somebody chose not to vaccinate it – treatment is easily 4-5 times more expensive than vaccines.  Just because your cat will “never” go outside doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be spayed – a spay surgery will save you at least $1000 by having the procedure done when they are young & healthy rather than when already ill.  Preventative care is there for a reason…to try and keep your pets healthy and have a good quality of life.  With your senior pets, it is far better to check some blood tests while they seem healthy because often the results can show an abnormality before the patient will show signs of the disease.   Also, if we send your pet home with a cone of shame, it’s for good reason – if they chew out their stitches, not only will it hurt them but it will cost you; so keep it on to avoid unnecessary vet visits.

It's not a cone of shame but a cone of protection

It’s not a cone of shame but a cone of protection

Carry extra protection:  Yes, I’m talking about insurance.  Pet insurance is so much simpler than human insurance andinsurance-claim you can even choose your pet’s doctor!  Lots of insurance plans will cover for accidents and illnesses while some will even cover basic wellness care such as vaccines, dental cleanings, and heartworm prevention.  It is best to research plans before you commit to one and many of them will have a trial period.  Some of my favorite plans here in Canada are PetsPlusUs, Trupanion, Petplan, and Petsecure.  Your veterinary clinic may have a relationship with some insurance companies that may offer special deals so be sure to discuss this option with your veterinarian.

Community support:  In many parts of the country (USA or Canada), there may be city or municipality programs that can help defray costs.  Here in the city of Kingston, they have instituted a program to provide $250 vouchers to have your pet spay or neutered for people with financial hardship.  Similarly, there are groups that help TNR (trap neuter release) feral cats in order to help decrease overpopulation and keep more animals safe.  In Kingston, one such group who does great work is the Spay Neuter Kingston Initiative (SNKI) and if you support a feral cat colony, they might be able to help.  So check in the area where you live to see what might be available.TNR

Use common sense:  These are things that might seem obvious but I’ll put them here are reminders.  Keep your dog on a leash and your cat indoors.  This can avoid fights, bite wounds, and being hit by a car.  Brush your pet’s fur if it is long.  Ask your veterinary clinic to show you how to trim nails safely & properly.  Brushing your pet’s teeth daily (okay, at least 3-4 times a week) with an enzymatic pet toothpaste can help reduce the severity of dental disease thus lowering the cost.  Don’t let your pets get overweight.  And lastly, don’t keep putting off a vet visit for a problem thinking it will get better…the longer you wait, the worse it can be and subsequently cost more.

I’m not going to lie; pet health care is expensive.  NOT counting food, beds, toys, or fun outfits, the average cost for pet in their first year of life (all core vaccines, spay/neuter, deworming, etc.) just in terms of basic care and maintenance can be approximately $600-$1200 depending on species, size, & gender AND assuming no other problems arise.  This is why it’s important to plan ahead and not get a new pet on impulse.  Hopefully, some of the above advice can help your pet enjoy a happy long life with you.  Lastly, one final way to save money when getting a new pet is to adopt from a shelter or rescue group.  Many of these pets will already be spayed/neutered, have some vaccinations, and tend to be less costly for an adoption fee rather than purchasing a purebred – oh and they’ll love you just as much if not more!!

Adopt_a_Pet

 

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!