All Posts By


Autism – How The Human-Animal Bond Can Help

By Uncategorized No Comments


Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that can cause social, communicative and behavioral challenges that first appear in childhood but continue throughout adulthood.

The term “spectrum” refers to a range of symptoms. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has now defined ASD as “a single disorder that includes disorders that were previously considered separate that affect a person’s social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and motor coordination issues.”



One study, published by the University of Queensland in Australia, demonstrated that when present, animals help children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD):

– interact better along with demonstrating increased positive social behaviors
– display more social behaviors such as talking, making physical contact and looking at faces
– become more receptive to social advances from their peers
– laugh and smile more and also reduce behaviors such as frowning, whining and crying

Source: University of Queensland in Australia by Marguerite E O’Haire, and subsequently published in the journal PLOS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS)


In an interview published on the Autism Speaks website, Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, a researcher at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, stated, “Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with a dog, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship.”

Although her study addressed dog ownership, she emphasized that other pets may be better suited for particular children and families. A wide range of animal assisted therapies are available nationwide and include programs that offer interaction with horses and small animals.

Another study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing in 2013, surveyed parents of children who had autism about the children’s interactions with dogs.

Nearly two thirds of the families owned a dog
Of these, 94 percent said their child bonded strongly with the pet
Even in the families without dogs, 7 in 10 parents said their child enjoyed interacting with dogs


Organizations like the North Star Foundation provide specialized therapy dogs for those with autism spectrum disorders.

There are a growing number of organizations that train and provide therapy dogs for autistic children. Specially trained autism therapy dogs are trained to have a calming effect on an autistic person who is subject to tantrums and emotional out bursts. Such dogs are also trained to recognize patterns of repetitive motion and know how to ‘interrupt’ them by distracting the child. They are also taught to bark to alert adults that a child may be wandering off.


According to the Autism Speaks, each individual with autism is unique. Many individuals who are considered to be “on the autism spectrum” have exceptional abilities in visual skills as well as music and academic skills. On the other end of the range, many autistic children and adults are non-verbal but are able to learn to communicate by means such as gestures and eye contact.


Statistics published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight that around 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum and that the disorder is 4 to 5 times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. ASD affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.


Typical signs of Autism in children as outlined on the website include:

– A failure to respond to his or her name
– A resistance to cuddling and holding and a preference to playing alone and retreating into his or her own world
– Poor eye contact and a lack of facial expression
– A lack of speech from being completely non-verbal to delayed speech, or a loss of a previous ability to say words or sentences
– Failure to start a conversation or keep one going
– Speech behavior that has an abnormal tone or rhythm such as a singsong voice or robot-like speech
– Repartition of words or phrases verbatim, without an understanding of how to use them
– Failure to understand simple questions or directions
– A lack of personal emotions or feelings and an apparent unawareness of others people’s feelings
– A failure to point at or bring objects to share interest
– Social interaction that is aggressive or disruptive
– Further behavioral patterns cited by the Mayo Clinic include, “repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping, or activities that could cause harm, such as head-banging. A fixation of a particular object or activity with abnormal intensity, and odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or eating only foods with a certain texture.”

This information brought to you by HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation)

Images provided by “Free Images”.

It’s A Hot One This Summer! Heatstroke: Know The Signs

By Uncategorized No Comments

Know the signs: Heatstroke

Even the most responsible pet owner can find themselves in a situation where their pet has heatstroke! This is why it’s so important to know the signs and what you need to do if you suspect it.

Signs of heatstroke include:

• Increased heart rate

• Excessive panting or drooling

• Listlessness

• Confusion or disorientation

• Bright red gums

• Vomiting or diarrhea

• Collapse, seizure or coma

• Body temperature higher than 40°C

What to do:

• Move your dog out of the heat immediately.

• Use a hose or wet towels to start cooling your dog down. Do not use ice. Offer your dog water.

• Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Continue cooling him with wet towels during the drive.

• If you’re unable to get to a veterinarian right away monitor his temperature and check for signs of shock. Stop the cooling process when your dog’s temperature reaches 40°C or his body temperature can drop too low and increase the risk of shock.

• Even if your dog cools down take him to a vet as soon as possible as some medical problems caused by heatstroke may not show up right away.

Remember – theres’ never a good excuse to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle. Take the pledge at and spread the word using #NoHotPets on social media.

photo credit: Puppy Ears 🙂 via photopin (license)

Referenced: Ontario SPCA Blog

Crate Training and Travelling With Your Cat

By Uncategorized No Comments

Why are cats so reluctant to travel?
Cats are highly attached to territory, and movement away from that secure base is not something that is undertaken lightly! Travelling in cars, planes and other forms of human transport can be a very stressful experience for all concerned, in part, because the cat is no longer in control of its own experience. For cats that are not used to being confined to a crate, being confined in a carrier adds insult to injury and the cat’s fear of leaving its familiar surroundings is compounded by its fear of being enclosed. In addition, cats that are not used to the motion and sounds of the car or plane may become quite frightened by the experience.

My cat seems to get worse with every journey – why doesn’t he get used to it?
For most cats travel is a relatively uncommon experience and there is simply not enough opportunity for any significant level of habituation to be achieved. Unlike dogs, who come to see the car as a chance to accompany their owners on what might be a fun and adventurous outing, most cats see travel as an entirely negative experience and the likely destinations of feline transport confirm this. Visiting destinations such as veterinary clinics, boarding kennels, and unfamiliar or new homes are probably the most common destinations for a travelling cat and none of these give much opportunity for teaching cats that travel iscat fun! Thus, each subsequent trip may be more anxiety evoking than the last.

I want my cat to travel happily in the car – can I teach it?
Cats can certainly learn to enjoy car travel and there are cats that actively seek the inside of the family car and happily purr for the entire journey. In most cases these cats have been taught to travel; the best time to teach them is when they are very young. There is a period in the kitten’s life when it is most likely to adapt to new experiences and when it can come to accept just about anything as being normal, provided that it is fun! Unfortunately this period occurs very early in the kitten’s life and therefore the responsibility for introducing kittens to car travel may need to be undertaken by breeders. However, few breeders have the time to ensure that all of their charges are taken for daily trips in the car. Realistically it will be the new owners who need to start the introduction process and, even when the primary period of sensitivity has passed (after two months of age), short frequent pleasurable car trips will still be very valuable. Taking along some favored treats or play toys and making the first few trips to pleasant destinations can help to ensure only positive experiences. Although cats perching in the back window of a car may look cute it is important to ensure that your cat is under control during a journey and in most cases this will mean confining the cat to a carrier of some sort while it is in the car. Of course this can lead to further fear and anxiety if your cat has not been crate trained.

cat1My cat reacts badly to the carrier– what can I do?
One of the major sources of stress for cats during travel is confinement within a cat carrier that has only been used to transport the cat. If either the travel itself or the destination is unpleasant, the cat will develop further negative associations with the carrier, seeing it as a signal of the impending veterinary clinic visit or airplane ride. Training kittens to enjoy being in their carrying boxes can make these outings far less traumatic for all involved. Many kittens will learn to use a carrier as a safe area or bed if you begin at a young age to associate it with exploration, play, food or sleeping. Even when cats are older it is possible to break down the negative image of the carrier and work to make it a safe haven rather than a prison cell. For cats that get accustomed to spending time in their carrier, the carrier may actually help to settle the cat when the cat is traveling, visiting, or hospitalized. How secure an individual cat feels when placed in its carrier will depend on the amount and type of previous training, and individual personality differences between cats.

The first step is to select the right sort of carrier for your cat. There are a number of things to consider. The ease of cleaning and the way in which you put the cat into, and take it out of, the carrier are factors that are likely to be determined by your own preferences. Some cats are far more relaxed when they can see what is going on around them and the wire basket is better for them, but others feel more secure when they are totally hidden from view and a solid cat carrier will be a better choice for these individuals. Cats may prefer to enter and investigate carriers that have a front opening, a top opening or both. However, for owners, removing the cat from the top may proved to be easier, especially if the cat is not ready or willing to voluntarily leave its carrier.

Whichever type of cat carrier you purchase, the most important step is to introduce the cat to a carrier for which there has been no previous negative experience and to keep it on permanent display for the cat to investigate. You can increase the chances that the cat will use or explore the carrier, by putting treats, play toys or food inside, by lining it with a warm blanket, and by keeping it in an area where the cat likes to play and sleep. In some cases beginning with the top off the carrier may encourage investigation and as the cat becomes more comfortable the carrier can be closed. Some cats may soon take to the carrier as a sleeping, security or hiding area. Do not attempt to force your cat into the carrier. Your cat should first learn to enjoy and feel comfortable in the carrier before you begin to use it for transport.

I do not have time to introduce my cat to its carrier in this controlled way – what can I do to make the car trip next week more bearable?
If you must travel with your cat and have not had time to introduce your cat to its carrier it is important to take steps to make the confinement as stress free as possible. Putting familiar bedding inside the carrier, together with a favorite toy, can be useful. The idea is to make the carrier smell familiar and therefore reassure the cat that it is safe. Another possible way in which to increase the familiarity of the carrier is to apply a synthetic feline facial pheromone, such as Feliway®. This pheromone may help the cat to relax during the journey and, in trials, it has been shown to decrease the signs of anxiety in cats during car travel and during hospital stays, especially when sprayed into the cats own carrier. In order to be most effective it must be applied to the interior of the carrier 30 minutes before you need to put your cat inside.

Should I consider a sedative for car or airline travel?
If your cat becomes distressed during travel, medication is certainly an option. However, individual cats can act very differently to sedatives and anti-anxiety medications. Selecting the right medication for any individual is not always easy. You also need to be aware that medication may not last for the entire duration of your plane trip and therefore should not be used as an alternative to the behavior therapy approaches discussed above. Your cat will still need to be prepared for its travel by being introduced carefully to the carrier and the feline facial scent might also be used within the carrier to make the journey less stressful. This applies to long car journeys as well as for plane travel. If you feel that medication is necessary, because of the severity of your cat’s reaction to travel, you will need to discuss this in detail with your veterinarian. It may be useful to use a trial dose prior to traveling to determine the effects that it has on your cat and the optimum dose. Although sedatives can reduce motion sickness and may help your cat to sleep through the trip, they do not reduce anxiety and may pose some risk for cats that are elderly or have heart or other underlying illnesses. Anti-anxiety drugs and natural compounds that reduce anxiety are another option you might discuss with your veterinarian. They are a better choice for reducing anxiety but may not reduce motion sickness and are not as effective for sedation.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. June 2, 2016


Lyme Disease Awareness

By Uncategorized No Comments

What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. A spirochete is a type of bacterium. It is transmitted to dogs through the bite of a tick. Once in the blood stream, the Lyme disease organism is carried to many parts of the body and is likely to localize in joints. It was first thought that only a few types of ticks could transmit this disease, but now it appears that several common species may be involved. The most common type of tick to carry Lyme disease is the Deer Tick.

Can Lyme disease also affect people?
Yes, but people do not get it directly from dogs. They get it from being bitten by the same ticks that transmit it to dogs. Therefore, preventing exposure to ticks is important for you and your dog.

What are the clinical signs?bor
Many people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash at the site of the bite within three to thirty days. For these people, the disease can be easily diagnosed at an early stage. However, symptoms of Lyme disease are more difficult to detect in animals than in people.

The characteristic rash does not develop in dogs or cats. Because the other symptoms of the disease may be delayed or go unrecognized and because the symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases, Lyme disease in animals is often not considered until other diseases have been eliminated.

Many dogs affected with Lyme disease are taken to a veterinarian because they seem to be experiencing generalized pain and have stopped eating. Affected dogs have been described as if they were “walking on eggshells.” Often these pets have high fevers. Dogs may also begin limping. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later.

Some pets are affected with the Lyme disease organism for over a year before they finally show symptoms. By this time, the disease may be widespread throughout the body.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Dogs with lameness, swollen joints, and fever are suspected of having Lyme disease. However, other diseases may also cause these symptoms. There are two blood tests that may be used for confirmation. The first is an antibody test. This test does not detect the actual spirochete in the blood but does detect the presence of antibodies created by exposure to the organism.

A test can be falsely negative if the dog is infected but has not yet formed antibodies, or if it never forms enough antibodies to cause a positive reaction. This may occur in animals with suppressed immune systems. Some dogs that have been infected for long periods of time may no longer have enough antibodies present to be detected by the test. Therefore, a positive test is meaningful, but a negative is not.

The second test is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, a DNA testthat is very specific and sensitive. However, not all dogs have the spirochete in their blood cells. If a blood sample is tested, a false negative may occur. The best sample for PCR testing is the fluid from an affected joint.

How is Lyme disease treated?
Because the Lyme spirochete is a bacterium, it can be controlled by antibiotics. However, a lengthy course of treatment is necessary to completely eradicate the organism. The initial antibiotic selected to treat an infected pet may not be effective against the disease, especially if the infection is long-standing. In this situation, changing to another antibiotic is often effective. Occasionally, the initial infection will recur, or the pet will become re-infected after being bitten by another infected tick.

How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
The key to prevention is keeping your dog from being exposed to ticks. Ticks are found in grassy, wooded, and sandy areas. They find their way onto an animal by climbing to the top of a leaf, blade of grass, or short trees, especially Cedar trees. Here they wait until their sensors detect a close-by animal on which to crawl or drop. Keeping animals from thick underbrush reduces their exposure to ticks. Dogs should be kept on trails when walked near wooded or tall grass areas.

How do I remove a tick from my dog? tick
Check your pet immediately after it has been in a tick-infected area. The Deer Tick is a small tick and only about pinhead size in juvenile stage, but a little more obvious in adult phase and after feeding. If you find a tick moving on your pet, the tick has not fed. Remove the tick promptly and place it in rubbing alcohol or crush it between two solid surfaces. If you find a tick attached to your pet, grasp the tick with fine tweezers or your finger nails near the dog’s skin and firmly pull it straight out. You may need another person to help restrain your dog. Removing the tick quickly is important since the disease is not transmitted until the tick has fed for approximately twelve hours. If you crush the tick, do not get the tick’s contents, including blood, on your skin. The spirochete that causes Lyme disease can pass through a wound or cut in your skin.

Is there a vaccine that will protect my dog from Lyme disease?
A vaccine is now available for protecting dogs against Lyme disease. This vaccine is initially given twice, at two- to three-week intervals. Annual revaccination is also necessary to maintain immunity. The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. Some pets will receive the vaccine every two to three years based on the vaccine used, your pet’s lifestyle and individual risk assessment. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have regarding the type and frequency of vaccination with your veterinarian.



This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. May 19, 2016

The Basics: Puppy Training

By Uncategorized No Comments

puppytraining1At what age can I start training my new puppy?
You will be training your puppy from the moment you bring it home and start to house train. Puppies start learning from birth. Good breeders encourage handling and socialization from birth. Some training can begin as soon as the puppy can open its eyes and walk. Young puppies have short attention spans but expect them to begin to learn simple obedience commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’, from as young as 7 to 8 weeks of age. (Ask for our handouts on ‘Rewards – learning and reinforcement’, ‘Puppy training – sit, down, stand, and stay’; and ‘Puppy training – come, wait and follow’ for training on the specific tasks).

Formal dog training has traditionally been delayed until 6 months of age. Actually this juvenile stage is a very poor time to start. The dog is beginning to solidify adult behavioral patterns, dominance behavior is beginning to emerge, and behaviors learned in puppyhood may need to be changed. In addition anything that has already been learned or trained incorrectly will need to be undone and retaught.

When training is started at 7 to 8 weeks of age, use methods that rely on positive reinforcement and gentle teaching. Puppies have short attention spans, so training sessions should be brief, but daily. Puppies can be taught to ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stand’ using a method called food-lure training. We use food treats to entice the dog to follow its nose into the proper positions for ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stand’, and ‘stay’ (See our handout on teaching sit, down and stand).

How do I get started using food lure training?
Small pieces of food or a favored toy can be used to motivate your puppy to perform most tasks. Provided the reward is sufficiently appealing, the puppy can be prompted to get the desired response by showing the puppy the reward, giving a command, and moving it to get the desired response.

For example, food held up over the puppy’s nose and moved slowly backwards should get a ‘sit’ response; food drawn down to the floor should get a ‘down’ response; food brought back up should get a ‘stand’ response; food held out at a distance should get a ‘come’ response; and food held at your thigh as you walk should get the puppy to ‘heel or ‘follow’. By pairing a command phrase or word with each action, and giving the reward for each appropriate response, the puppy should soon learn the meaning of each command. The use of rewards and the specific training commands are covered in separate handouts on Rewards – learning and reinforcement for dogs and cats; Controlling stealing and teaching the “give” command; Teaching – sit, down, stand and stay; and Training puppies – come, wait and follow.

How often should I give the command?
Ideally you should give the command phrase once and then use your food to move the puppy into positions. Once the puppy has performed the task, add in verbal praise and an affectionate pat, which are known as secondary reinforcers (see below). Some trainers also use clickers as secondary reinforcers. If the puppy does not immediately obey on the first command, then you are likely proceeding a little too quickly. If you keep repeating the command, the puppy will learn that several repetitions are acceptable before it needs to obey. Keeping a leash attached can help to gain an immediate response if the puppy does not obey.

Remember that early in training your puppy does not know the meaning of the word. Therefore you could just as easily teach your puppy to sit with the word bananas, (or sit in any other language) as you could with the word sit. The key is to associate the word, in this case “sit”, with the action of placing the hind end on the floor.

How should I phase out the lure and food rewards?
At first you are going to let the puppy see the food in your hand so that you will have her attention and can use it to guide her into position. As your puppy begins to comply more readily, you can start to hide the food in your hand, but give the command and repeat the motion or signal that she has learned to follow. Soon the puppy will come to expect the treat each time she performs the task. Then, signal and give the command, but when she performs the task, reward only with praise and give the puppy an affectionate pat.

Next, you can begin to vary the frequency, giving praise with ’good dog’ and perhaps patting each time, but giving the food randomly, perhaps every 3 or 4 times. In time, the puppy should respond to either the hand signal or the command

Over time, the words “good dog” or the affectionate pat become secondary reinforcers. Because they have been paired with food in the past, they take on more meaning and become reinforcement in themselves. It is important to use secondary reinforcement because you will not always have food with you when you need your pet to obey. In addition, if you rely on food to always get your puppy to comply, you will have a puppy that will only do the task when you have a treat.

At first training may begin in designated sessions throughout the day, with a variety of family members. All rewards should be saved for these training sessions. Over time however, you should begin to ask your puppy to perform the tasks at other times.

How much time should I spend training my puppy every day?
You do not necessarily need to train in a set session daily. Rather, integrate these tasks throughout the day. A goal to strive for is at least 15 minutes of training every day. These can be short 5 minute sessions spread throughout the day. Try to have all family members ask your puppy to do these tasks. Remember to try and train in every room of your house. You want your puppy to ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘stay’ everywhere, not just in the training location.

Use these training tasks as you integrate the puppy into your life. For example, ask your puppy to ‘sit’ prior to receiving her food, ‘sit’ before you let her in or out the door, and ‘sit’ before you pet her. These are times when your puppy wants something and is more likely to comply. In this way you are training your dog all the time, throughout the day and also establishing yourself as the leader, the one who controls the resources.

Training your puppy prior to getting each reward also helps to prevent problems. Having your puppy sit before getting a food or treat prevents begging, while teaching your dog to sit before opening the door can prevent jumping up or running out the door. Be creative. The time you spend training your puppy now will pay off when you have an adult dog. To have a well-trained dog, you need to be committed to reinforcing the training tasks on nearly a daily basis for the first year of your puppy’s life. The more you teach and supervise your puppy, the less opportunity it will have to engage in improper behaviors. Dogs do not train themselves, when left to choose their behavior they will act like dogs.

puppytraini2What can be done if my puppy is too distracted or excitable to control?
Training should begin in a quiet environment with few distractions. The reward chosen should be highly motivating so that the puppy is focused entirely on the trainer and the reward. Although a small food treat generally works best, a favorite toy or a special dog treat might be more appealing. It might also be helpful to train the puppy just before a scheduled mealtime when it is at its hungriest. For difficult puppies or headstrong puppies the best way to ensure that the puppy will perform the desired behavior and respond appropriately to the command is to leave a leash attached and to use a head collar for additional control. In this way, the puppy can be prompted into the correct response if it does not immediately obey and pressure released as soon as the desired response is achieved. Clicker training is also an excellent way to immediately and strongly reinforce the desired response.

Should I also consider training classes?
Pet owners who are novices at training can begin a training program with these few simple steps. It takes repetition, time and perseverance for the puppy to be able to predictably and reliably respond to commands in a variety of situations. The training class serves many functions. Of course trainers can demonstrate techniques and help guide you through the steps in training. They can help advise you on puppy training problems, and can help you advance your training to more difficult exercises. The puppy will be learning in a group situation, with some real life distractions. And, considering human nature, the pet owner who takes his or her dog to a puppy class, will be forced to practice (do their homework) throughout the week, if they do not want to fall behind by the next class. A training class is a good place to meet and talk to other new puppy owners and see how all puppies behave.

Training classes for young puppies are also an excellent way to socialize your new puppy to a variety of people, other dogs, and stimuli, in a controlled environment. In addition, you will learn how to prevent problems before they can begin, or deal with them as they emerge, rather than having to find a way to correct problems that have already developed. Your puppy might also make some new friends of the same age. You could then visit these friends (or vice versa) with your puppy for social play and exercise sessions.

Since the primary socialization period for dogs ends by 3 months of age, puppy socialization classes are most valuable for puppies 8 weeks of age and older. If all puppies in the class have had initial vaccinations, are healthy and parasite free, the health risks are low and the potential benefits are enormous. Discuss when to start and the location of classes in your area with your veterinarian.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. May 9, 2016

What You Need To Know: Feline Spay and Neutering

By Uncategorized 2 Comments



What is meant by ovariohysterectomy or spaying?
Spaying is the common term used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure, the ovaries and uterus are completely removed in order to sterilize a female cat.

Why should I have my cat spayed?
We recommend that all non-breeding cats be sterilized. Here are several health benefits associated with spaying your cat.

  •  Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
  •  Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer diagnosed in intact or un-spayed female cats.
  •  If your cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, there is less than ½ of 1% (0.5%) chance of developing breast cancer.
  •  With every subsequent heat cycle, the risk of developing breast cancer increases.
  •  After 2½ years of age, ovariohysterectomy gives no protective benefit against developing breast cancer.
  •  Pets with diabetes or epilepsy should be spayed to prevent hormonal changes that may interfere with medications.

Are there other benefits to spaying my cat?
The most obvious benefit is the prevention of unplanned pregnancies. There is no medical or scientific reason for letting your cat have a litter before she is spayed.

Once a cat reaches puberty, usually at around seven months of age, she will have a heat or estrus cycle every two to three weeks for most of the year, unless she becomes pregnant. She will be “in heat” or receptive to mating for approximately one week in each cycle. During “heat” she may display unsociable behavior such as loud and persistent crying and frequent rubbing and rolling on the floor. This behavior coupled with her scent, will attract male cats from miles around. Removal of the ovaries will stop her estrus cycles.

When should I have my cat spayed?
Spaying should be performed before the first estrus or “heat cycle”. Most cats are spayed between four and six months of age although some veterinarians choose to spay cats at two to three months of age. It is possible to spay your cat if she is pregnant.

What does a spay surgery involve?
This is a major surgical procedure that requires a full general anesthetic. You will need to fast your cat the night prior to surgery. Most cats return home within 24 hours after surgery.

The operation is performed through a relatively small incision made most commonly in the midline of the abdomen, just below the umbilicus. Both ovaries are removed along with the entire uterus. The surgical incision will be closed with several layers of sutures. In many cases, skin sutures will be placed, and these will be removed after seven to ten days.

Are complications common with spaying?
In general, complications are rare during spaying of cats. However, as with all anesthetic and surgical procedures, there is always a small risk. The potential complications include:

  • Anesthetic reaction
    It is possible that any individual animal could have an adverse reaction following the administration of a drug or anesthetic. Such cases are impossible to predict, but are extremely rare. Pre-operative blood work is a useful screening test that may detect pre-existing problems which could interfere with the pet’s ability to handle the anesthetic drugs.
  • Post-operative infection
    This may occur internally or externally around the incision site. In most cases the infection can be controlled with antibiotics. This most commonly occurs when the cat licks the site excessively or is in a damp environment.
  • Sinus formation or Suture Reaction
    Although extremely rare, occasionally the body will react to certain types of suture material used during surgery. This results in a draining wound or tract that may appear up to several weeks after the surgery was performed. Often a further operation is required to remove the suture material.

It is important that you properly fast your cat prior to surgery according to your veterinarian’s instructions. In addition, any signs of illness or previous medical conditions should be reported to your veterinarian prior to any sedation, anesthesia or surgery.

Will spaying have any affect on my cat?
In the vast majority of cats, there are absolutely no adverse affects following spaying. In certain cats, notably the Siamese breed, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker, believed to be due to a difference in the skin temperature. This darker patch may grow out with the following molt as the hair is naturally replaced.

There are many myths and rumors that are not supported by facts or research. Be sure to address any questions or concerns you may have with your veterinarian prior to surgery.




What is meant by castration or neutering?
Neutering and castration are the common terms used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as orchidectomy or orchiectomy. In this procedure, both testicles are removed in order to sterilize a male cat.

Why should I have my cat neutered?
Neutering is very beneficial to the health of the cat, especially if performed at an early age. Following puberty, which occurs at approximately eight to nine months of age, the male cat often develops a number of undesirable behavioral changes. He will become territorial and start to mark areas, even inside the house, by spraying urine. This urine has a particularly offensive odor and is difficult to remove. As the tomcat reaches sexual maturity, he will start to enlarge his territory, straying ever farther from the house, particularly at night. It is for this reason that many of the cats that are hit by automobiles are non-neutered males. By increasing the size of his territory, he increases the likelihood that he will come into contact with other cats and will get into fights for territorial dominance. Inflicted fight wounds can result in severe infections and abscesses. Diseases such as FIV and FeLV, which can cause AIDS-like syndromes and cancers in cats, are spread through cat bites, these cats are most commonly affected by such incurable diseases. Last, but not least, neutering prevents unwanted litters and the needless deaths of tens of millions kittens and cats each year.

The longer a tomcat sprays and fights, the less likely neutering will stop these behaviors.

When should I have my cat neutered?
In most cases, it is recommended to neuter your cat before the onset of puberty. Puberty normally begins between six and ten months of age. The actual age chosen for castration will depend upon the preference of your veterinarian. Many veterinarians recommend castration at around five to seven months of age, although it is becoming more common to perform this procedure at an earlier age, such as two to three months, in an attempt to control overpopulation. Please contact your veterinary hospital for further details regarding their specific sterilization policies.

What does the operation involve?
Your cat will undergo a general anesthetic. You will need to withhold food for twelve (12) hours prior to surgery. However, your pet should have free access to water during most of the pre-operative fasting period. Your veterinarian will advise you how long to withhold water before surgery.

In male cats, both of the testicles are removed through a small incision in the scrotum. Since the incisions are very small, and since stitches may cause irritation of the sensitive skin of the scrotum, it is rare for the incisions to be sutured.

What surgical complications could arise?
In general, complications are rare during castration surgery, however, as with all surgical procedures, there is always a small risk:

  • Anesthetic complication
    It is always possible that any pet could have an adverse reaction following the administration of any drug. Such cases are impossible to predict, but fortunately are extremely rare. One potential danger arises from the cat not being fasted properly prior to anesthesia. It is essential that all instructions are strictly followed. In addition, any signs of illness should be reported to your veterinarian prior to an operation.
  • Post-operative infection
    This may occur internally or around the incision wound. In most cases the infection can be controlled with antibiotics.

What adverse affects might neutering have on my cat?
In the vast majority of cases no adverse affects are noted following neutering. In certain cats, notably the Siamese breed, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker, believed to be due to a difference in the skin temperature. This darker patch may grow out with the following molt as the hair is naturally replaced.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. April 29, 2016

What You Need To Know: Canine Spay and Neutering

By Uncategorized 2 Comments



Why should my dog be spayed?

It is recommended that all female pets are spayed. Important reasons for doing so is that it benefits your pet’s health, and contributes to managing an overpopulation crisis, whereby many animals are left needing homes.

What are the advantages of spaying my female dog?

  • Prevention of “heat” or estrus. 
  • When in “heat”, the female experiences an urge to escape in order to find a mate. This unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior will     be eliminated once spayed.
  • It eliminates the possibility of false pregnancy following the “heat cycle”.
  • Prevention of uterine infection known as Pyometra.
  • The prevention of breast cancer. Dogs spayed before the first” “heat” have less than 0.5% chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Elimination of the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Is spaying performed for any other reason?

  • The operation may be performed for several medical conditions. These include:
  • Treatment of intractable false or phantom pregnancy.
  • Females with irregular or abnormal cycles due to ovarian cysts.
  • Spaying is also carried out on occasions to correct certain behavioral abnormalities.
  • Treatment of uterine infection (Pyometra) or cancer.
  • Dystocia (difficult birthing) or post caesarian-section surgery.

What are the disadvantages?

Most of the perceived disadvantages of false. The most quoted of these are that the dog will become overweight, lazy and useless as a guardian. Obesity is probably the most common misconception of spay and neutering. Obesity is largely the result of overfeeding and not exercising enough. By regulating your dog’s diet and caloric intake, you can prevent obesity in spayed/neutered, intact males.

When should the operation be performed? 

Research shows that spaying a pet at an early age does not cause any increased risk. We recommend spaying between the ages of 4-6 months.

Is there any alternative to surgery?

Not at the present time, although there are several promising advances being made in this area.

Are there any dangers associated with the operation?

Spaying is considered a major operation and requires general anesthesia. With modern anesthetics and monitoring equipment, the risk of a complication is very low. It has been said that your pet has a greater chance of being injured in a car wreck than having an anesthetic or surgical complication.

What happens when I leave my dog for this procedure

Your pet will be examined by your veterinarian and pre-anesthetic blood tests will be performed (if you have consented to this procedure). If blood work is acceptable, your pet will then be anesthetized. All pets will have an intravenous catheter placed to administer the anesthetic and to provide fluid therapy during the surgery. After your pet is anesthetized, a breathing tube will be placed in the trachea (windpipe). This will allow the delivery of oxygen and the gas anesthetic directly into the lungs. The surgery consists of making a small incision just below the umbilicus and removing the ovaries and uterus. Many veterinarians use absorbable sutures so that you do not have to return to have them removed.

Are there any post-operative precautions I should take?

Rest and restriction of activity are the primary post-operative care you should provide. Most dogs can resume normal activity five to ten days after surgery. Until then, leash walks, no running or climbing stairs and lots of rest are the rule.



Why should I have my dog neutered?

Neutering should be considered if you are keeping any male dog as a pet. Remember that Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and Dogs for the Disabled are routinely neutered.

What are the advantages of neutering my male dog?

  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer and prostatitis
  • Reduces the risk of hormone-related diseases such as perianal adenoma
  • Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, the second most common cancer in intact dogs
  • Removal of sexual urges, which usually decreases roaming behaviors
  • Reduction of certain types of aggression

Is neutering performed for any other reason?

The operation may be performed to treat testicular tumors and some prostate gland conditions. It is also used to control hormonal (testosterone) dependent diseases such as anal adenomas.

Neutering may also be used in an attempt to treat certain forms of aggression.

What are the disadvantages?

Most of the perceived disadvantages are false. The most quoted of these are that the dog will become fat, lazy, and useless as a guardian. Obesity is probably the most commonly quoted disadvantage of neutering. Obesity is the result of overfeeding and not exercising enough. By regulating your dog’s diet and caloric intake, you can prevent obesity in neutered or intact males.

Neutering doesn’t cause a change in personality, guarding instincts, intelligence, playfulness and affection.

When should the operation be performed?

Research reveals that neutering a pet at an early age does not cause any increased risk. Most veterinarians recommend neutering at around six months of age.

Is there any alternative to surgery?

There have been recent advances in non-surgical neutering. These involve injection of a compound directly into the testicle. You should discuss this treatment with your veterinarian to determine if it is appropriate for your pet.

Are there any dangers associated with the operation?

Neutering is considered a major operation and requires general anesthesia. With = modern anesthetics and monitoring equipment, the risk of a complication is very low. It has been said that your pet has a greater chance of being injured in a car wreck than having an anesthetic or surgical complication.

What happens when my dog undergoes this procedure?

Your pet will be examined by a veterinarian and pre-anesthetic blood tests will usually be performed. If everything is acceptable, your pet will then be anesthetized. Most pets will have an intravenous catheter placed to administer the anesthetic and to provide fluid therapy during the surgery. After your pet is anesthetized, a breathing tube will be placed in his trachea or “windpipe”. This will deliver oxygen and the gas anesthetic, most commonly isoflurane, directly into the lungs. The surgery consists of making a small incision in front of the scrotum and removing the testicles. Many veterinarians use absorbable internal sutures so that you do not have to return your dog to the hospital to have them removed.

Are there any post-operative precautions I should take?

Rest and restriction of activity are the primary post-operative care you should provide. Most dogs can resume normal activity five to ten days after surgery. Until then, leash walks, no swimming, bathing, running or climbing stairs and lots of rest are the rule.


This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. April 26, 2016

Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Toxicity in Cats

By Uncategorized No Comments

Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Toxicity in Cats 

Pyrethrin and pyrethroid are insecticides typically used for treating flea and tick infestations in pets. Found in many types of flea, tick, and insect control products. Active ingredient names include pyrethrin, etofenprox, allethrin, resmethrin, sumethrin, and permethrin. Several name brands include Adams, Bio Spot, Duocide, Happy Jack, Hartz, K9 Advantix, Mycodex, Ovitrol, Proticall, Raid, and Zodiac.

These toxins cause interference with the pet’s nervous system if overdosed. DO NOT use permethrins on cats and DO NOT use any product on a cat unless it is specifically made for cats. Symptoms may be seen within a couple of hours, especially in cats. An adverse reaction to any of these toxins will affect the cat’s nervous system, The most common signs are tremors, drooling, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, hyperactivity, disorientation, vocalization, depression, difficulty breathing, and seizures. Death is possible. Additionally in cats, may see ear flicking, paw shaking, or contractions/twitching of the skin.


  • Allergic reactions — hives, congestion, itching, extreme sensitivity, shock, respiratory distress, death (very rare)
  • Idiosyncratic reactions — resembles toxic reactions at much lower doses
  • Mild reactions — excessive (hyper) salivation, paw flicking, ear twitching, mild depression, vomiting diarrhea
  • Moderate to serious reactions — protracted vomiting and diarrhea, depression, in-coordination, muscle tremors (must be differentiated from paw flicking and ear twitching)


  • Cats are more sensitive to these insecticides than dogs are; they have less-efficient metabolic pathways, extensive grooming habits, and long hair coats that can retain large quantities of a topically-applied product.
  • Cats with abnormally low body temperatures, such as after bathing, anesthesia, or sedation, are also predisposed to clinical signs of toxic poisoning.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.


  • Has your cat been exposed to these substances? How much and when?
  • Has your cat been around other animals that have been treated with them?
  • When did the symptoms become apparent?
  • It can be difficult to detect these forms of insecticides in the cat’s tissues or fluids.

Therefore, these questions are the best way to identify a list of possible irritants.


Adverse reactions such as salivation, paw flicking, and ear twitching are often mild and self-limiting. If your cat has been saturated with spray products, dry it with a warm towel and brush. If mild symptoms continue, bathe your cat using a mild hand-dishwashing detergent.

If symptoms continue and progress to tremors and incoordination, your cat will require immediate care and hospitalization. Cats that are seriously affected will need to be stabilized, including fluid support, seizure control, and maintenance of a normal body temperature. Once your cat is stable, a bath with liquid hand-dishwashing detergent and warm water is critical. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of the symptoms and to help detoxify the cat’s body.


It is important that you do not apply dog-only products on cats. Proper application of flea-control products greatly reduces the incidence of adverse reactions; therefore, closely follow all of the directions listed on the flea-control products you use.

If in doubt, always as your Veterinarian.

Thank you to and VSPN

What You Need To Know: Fleas, Ticks and Prevention

By Uncategorized No Comments

Image 1. Flea Life Cycle

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that suck your pet’s blood, and pose the risk of transmitting diseases to not just pets, but humans as well, through animals. These diseases are referred to as Zoonotic Diseases, which include Plague, Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonellosis and more. It is important that you seek proper care for your pets to protect them from these parasites.  

The first step: Visit your Veterinarian. 

AVMA recommends the following questions to ask your Veterinarian:

  • What parasites does this specific product protect against?
  • How often should I use/apply the product?
  • How long will it take for the product to work?
  • If I see a flea or tick, does that mean it’s not working?
  • What should I do if my pet has a reaction to the product?
  • Is there a need for more than one product?
  • How would I apply or use multiple products on my pet?


There are a variety of flea and tick preventatives offered that target pest control and the spread of zoonotic diseases.

  • It is important to note that parasite prevention is NOT  “one size fits all” : Factors such as age, breed, species, lifestyle and health status of the pet do influence the type and dose of the product to be used.
  • Know what kind of product you should provide your pet with, and how to use it
  • There are two kinds of preventative medications: 1) Topical– applied directly to the pet’s skin 2) Oral– tablets or chews that are given by mouth.
  • Medicine and pesticides must meet U.S. government required safety standards before they are sold- However, it is important that pet owners carefully read the label of flea and tick preventative medications before the pet is treated.
  • When using preventative medications, monitor your pet for symptoms or signs of an adverse reaction (anxiousness, excessive scratching/itching, skin redness/swelling, vomiting, and abnormal behavior) If any of these symptoms are present, please contact your veterinarian. 

Steps to protect your pets

  • If the product label indicates that the medication is to be used for DOGS ONLY, it is only to be used for dogs. NEVER cats, no matter the size or breed.
  • Read the entire label before you use the product- understand the medication and instructions- this means that you never apply more or less of what is recommended.
  • Ensure that the weight of the pet is noted. Look at the weight range provided on the label of the medication and make sure that your pet’s weight falls within that range. Dosage and weight go hand in hand. Giving a smaller dog a dose that is for larger dogs can harm the pet.

Always discuss the use of preventative medications with your veterinarian to ensure the most effective and safest choice for each pet.


The information provided may be found at:

Reference: American Veterinary Medical Association



What is heartworm disease?

By Uncategorized No Comments


What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in Canada/US and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats andferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, and foxes.


 The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.


How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?


The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.


How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?

Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).

When should my pet be tested?

Concerning dogs,  all dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm
    test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be
    tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure
    they are heartworm-free.
  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to
    starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and
    annually after that.
  • You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your dog on monthly
    preventive—then retest your dog 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms
    must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.


For more information, please visit: