Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Addressing the Top Most Common 4 Pet Myths

Big Family

It’s no secret that Americans love their pets. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39 percent of households own at least one dog 33 percent own at least one cat, and many own multiples and/or other types.  And then there are the people and families with working dogs and companion animals who give their human a better shot at a full life. Furry family members bring joy and excitement to a household, relieve stress and actually help people live healthier and longer. Providing the best care possible for your pets helps ensure pets have a long, healthy life… and cuts down on the vet bills.

Unfortunately, with so much information available, it’s easy to become confused about what is really best for them. Dr. Ashley Gallagher, veterinarian at Friendship Hospital For Animals, petMD, Dr. Karen Becker and JOMP shed some light on some of the most common pet myths.

Myth 1: If cats have nine lives, what do dogs have?catchats_027

Cats’ curious nature and quick reaction times are likely the basis of the nine lives reputation, but in reality owners need to remember that both cats and dogs only have one life. That is why it’s important to schedule regular veterinary visits to ensure your pet has a long, healthy and happy one. If at all possible, going to the veterinarian shouldn’t only be reserved for times when your pet is sick. Your pet needs annual wellness check-ups, vaccines, dental exams and nutritional consultations, just like humans do.

Myth 2: (All) Table scraps are OK.

all-pets-petstittingDid you know that one ounce of cheddar cheese for a 20-pound dog is like a human eating more than one and a half chocolate bars? That same piece of cheese for a 10-pound cat is like eating almost three full chocolate bars! Table scraps are basically empty calories for cats and dogs, unless they are meat, fish or veggies (that they can and should eat). And definitely make sure that the table scraps and little sneaks never include any of the No-No foods.

Pets need balanced nutrition for their specific life stage and special needs to remain healthy. A good food like Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin  is great as a staple because it gives them nutrients that they might be missing and it is always good for emergencies if your pets well-rounded eaters.  But the best regular diet is either a raw-food diet (not right for all pets) or home-cooked balanced meals for your pets.  And make sure that your dogs are getting some bones in their diet.

Remember… in the wild they would be eating raw foods and up until a couple decades ago, when some big companies realized they could make money from making and selling commercial pet food, regardless of their nutritional value… commercial pet food, like commercial baby food and formula and convenience foods for humans, was born… none of which are best choice for animals, babies or humans.  There are also some great natural supplements, like StemPet and StemEquine around for pets.

Myth 3: Dogs wag their tail when they are happy.

Dogs wag their tail for many reasons; the most common is that they are either happy or nervous. Cats will also wag or flick their tail when they are upset or thinking. Pets communicate via complex body language rather than vocal expression like humans. Learning to read what your pet is telling you will go a long way in helping to build a fulfilling relationship. Ask your veterinarian for advice if you feel stuck learning your pet’s body language cues.

Myth 4: Letting my dog out in the yard is enough exercise.

Dogs and cats both need plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation to stay healthy. If you just leave your dog out in the yard alone they might not get much of either. It’s important to take them for walks, play fetch or simply run around together. Not only will it make for a happier, healthier dog, but it will also help to strengthen your relationship. Cats should be kept indoors for their safety, but there are plenty of toys that work their brains and their bodies at the same time. Some people even take their cats for a walk on a leash. Visit your local pet store to find some toys that fit the bill.

Each pet is unique, so ongoing care, including precisely balanced nutrition, regular wellness visits to the vet and daily play periods are all good things that keep your pet healthy and living well for many years to come.

h/t to the Press Enterprise – Lifestyles page


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Early Neutering: We’ll Call This Myth Busted…

Story at-a-glance
  • Spaying female dogs at a young age, especially before their first estrus cycle, has long been hailed as a method of eliminating or reducing the risk of mammary neoplasia (breast cancer). In fact, most animal welfare organizations and veterinarians are quick to list breast cancer prevention as one of the many benefits of early spaying.
  • But what is the science behind this assertion? As it turns out … there isn’t much. A study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. points to a lack of hard evidence of a link between spaying/early spaying and a reduction in mammary tumors in female dogs.
  • The U.K. study was a systematic review based on internationally recognized Cochrane Review guidelines used in human medicine. The results of the systematic review point to the need for similar high-quality research in veterinary medicine.
  • Pet owners are entitled to know the risks and benefits of any procedure performed on their furry charges. In this instance, a widely promoted benefit of spaying/early spaying may not offer the level protection from breast cancer dog owners have been led to believe.
  • Spay/neuter decisions by individual pet owners should be based on a holistic approach to the animal’s health and quality of life.

Early Spaying

By Dr. Becker

If you Google the term “benefits of spaying,” you’ll get tens of thousands of results, many of which list protection against mammary neoplasia (breast cancer) as a benefit of early spaying of female dogs.

In fact, according to well-known resource Petfinder.com1:

“Spaying before the first heat virtually eliminates the development of breast cancer later in life for both dogs and cats. (If the surgery is performed when the animal is older, this benefit will be lost.)”

And the ASPCA2 says this:

“Females spayed prior to their first estrus cycle have a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary cancer, a common cancer in unspayed females. The chances of developing this cancer increase if a female isn’t spayed until after her second heat cycle, but they still remain lower than the risk for unspayed females. So if your dog has already gone through her first heat cycle, it’s not too late. Spaying her will still reduce her risk of developing cancerous mammary tumors.”

According to Clinician’s Brief, a majority of veterinarians recommend spaying, and about 16 percent encourage performing the procedure before the first estrus cycle in order to receive the alleged added benefit of protection against mammary tumors.

Under the circumstances, it would seem there must be ample scientific evidence that spayed female dogs, and especially those spayed before their first estrus cycle, have less incidence of breast cancer … right?

Not So Fast … What Evidence Supports the Link Between Spaying and Reduction in Mammary Tumors?

Results of a study published last year in the Journal of Small Animal Practice3 were unable to validate the theory – a theory that is widely assumed to be a fact – that early spaying protects female dogs from mammary neoplasia.

The study was a systematic review conducted by members of the Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health Group of the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. A systematic review is an examination of several studies for the purpose of summing up the best available research on a particular subject. For the study, peer-reviewed analytic journal articles in English were eligible and were assessed for risk of bias by two reviewers independently.

The objective of the study was to evaluate the quantity and veracity of evidence that spaying, or the age at which a dog is spayed, has an effect on the risk of mammary tumors.

There were over 11,000 search results on the subject, of which 13 were English-language, peer-reviewed reports focused on the link between spaying/age of spay and mammary tumors. Of those 13, nine were deemed to have a high risk of bias, and the remaining four had a moderate risk of bias. (For more information on how bias was assessed and how the researchers screened the results, the full study can be found here.)

Of the four moderate-risk-of-bias studies, one found a link between spaying and a reduced risk of mammary tumors, two found no evidence of a link, and one suggested “some protective effect,” but no specific details were offered.

The Royal Veterinary College reviewers concluded that:

“Due to the limited evidence available and the risk of bias in the published results, the evidence that neutering reduces the risk of mammary neoplasia, and the evidence that age at neutering has an effect, are judged to be weak and are not a sound basis for firm recommendations.”

Simple translation: the idea that spaying, and early spaying of a female dog before her first estrus cycle, removes or reduces her risk of breast cancer is at the present time a theory rather than a fact.

The methodology used in the U.K. study was based on Cochrane Review guidelines, which are internationally recognized for their high standards in evidence-based medicine for humans. According to Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinary oncologist, results of this study highlight the need for quality research in veterinary medicine. Dr. Hohenhaus goes on to say:

“Despite lack of evidence found to support early spaying as preventing mammary tumors, veterinarians may continue to recommend it to prevent estrus cycles, unwanted litters, and pyometra. Clinical experience may suggest that early spaying decreases the risk of mammary tumors, but without additional well-designed trials, scientific evidence to support this is lacking.”

Spay/Neuter Decisions Should Be Based on Your Pet’s Health and Quality of Life

For the record, I’m not advocating leaving female dogs intact indefinitely, nor am I suggesting dogs should not under any circumstances be spayed or neutered at a young age.

My goal with regard to pet sterilization is simply to provide information to pet owners about the risks, since there is much information readily available about the benefits. In this case, where early spaying has been widely promoted as a way to prevent mammary tumors in female dogs, in light of the findings of the U.K. systematic review, I feel compelled to let pet owners know there is scarce scientific evidence available to back up that widely held belief.

If your dog is not yet spayed or neutered, I can offer some general recommendations for timing of the procedure:

  • Your dog should be old enough to be a balanced individual both physically and mentally. For the majority of dogs, this balance isn’t achieved until a dog has reached at least one year of age. Although some breeds reach maturity faster than others, many giant breed dogs are still developing at two years of age.
  • Other considerations include your dog’s diet, level of exercise, behavioral habits, previous physical or emotional trauma, existing health concerns, and overall lifestyle. If your pet is emotionally balanced (has no behavior problems) consider investigating a vasectomy or tubal ligation instead.
  • I encourage you to learn all you can about surgical sterilization options and the risks and benefits associated with each procedure.


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