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Spay and Neutering My Pet

What are the benefits Spaying / Neutering?

Why do we spay female dogs and neuter male dogs? Spay/neuter helps produce healthy and good-tempered purebred dogs. Spay/neuter allows a breeder to remove dogs from breeding who should not be bred because some of their puppies and the people who lived with those puppies would suffer. Spay/neuter puts a stop to passing on undesirable genetic traits, while allowing the pup or dog being “culled” from the breeding program to go on and have a great life.

Another significant reason is that spay/neutered dogs do not produce puppies who join the population of unwanted dogs. Spay/neuter is part of the solution to having to put massive numbers of dogs to sleep because there are not enough homes for all of them.

But what’s in it for us? What’s in it for the dog who is spay/neutered instead of being left intact? What’s in it for the family who will live with that dog? After all, you could conceivably keep your intact dog from breeding-though you might be surprised at the difficulty that involves!

But let’s say you could do that and didn’t mind the inconvenience. Leaving breeding ability aside, why ELSE would you want your dog spay/neutered? Lots of really good reasons exist for doing this. Too often, people stop at the overpopulation reason and never get to the “good stuff” that will matter much more to the average dog and family. Let’s talk about the good stuff.


A male dog who remains intact experiences a huge increase in testosterone in adolescence. At several months of age, the male’s testosterone level can be several times that of an adult male! This gives a real jump start to hormone-related behaviors, including urine marking in your house, aggression toward other male dogs, territorial aggression, and escape-oriented behavior in order to roam.

Some male dogs, especially tiny terriers and hounds, may be impossible to housetrain if you wait too long to neuter them. With all dogs, be guided by your veterinarian’s opinion as to the best time for spay/neuter. Six months to one year of age is usually about the right time.

For best behavioral results, it’s best not to wait past a year of age to neuter males. Once a hormone-triggered behavior has continued long enough, you can be dealing with a firmly entrenched habit that will not fade even after neutering. Frequently, neutering helps with behavior problems, even if done much later, so don’t give up on it just because you’ve missed the optimum time.

Intact male dogs tend to have more difficulty concentrating on tasks and to show erratic behavior in the vicinity of a female dog in heat. Intact males may not be able to eat or sleep when a female dog in heat is in the same house! Jumping fences to go after a female down the street is common, even in dogs who have never roamed before.

Your 1-year-old or 2-year-old intact male dog may be acting like a neutered male in terms of being easy to live with, but chances are that if you leave even an easy-going fellow intact to the age of 3 years, you’ll see undesirable behaviors. The age of 3 is prime time for an intact male dog to be involved with a terrible tragedy, such as those dogs who have killed children. Obviously, not all intact male dogs are aggressive child-killers. But the risk is increased, and parents need to know this, as does everyone who has a large-breed male dog. If you don’t have an important reason for breeding the dog, and the right facilities to keep the dog from harming anyone, why live with this increased risk?

If you want to take your dog out and about, whether for family outings, runs at the dog park, or pursuit of dog sports such as agility, the dog will function better if neutered. Dogs are much more the victims of their own instincts than humans, less able to override impulses.

What is Sex for Dogs?

When dogs mate, they usually tie. This means they are “stuck together” due to the structures of their reproductive organs. The tie tends to last around a half hour. Dogs do sometimes mate without a tie, so the lack of one doesn’t mean the encounter can’t result in pregnancy. Behaviorally, though, this is quite a different sexual experience than that of humans.

Female dogs invite breeding only when they are in heat/estrus, which comes approximately twice a year. That interval can vary by breed and by individual dog. Dogs often have “silent heats,” which can go undetected by their human families and result in the dog not being carefully confined during estrus and therefore winding up with an accidental pregnancy. Female dogs are often forcibly mated. This is surely not natural sexuality.

Looking to the wolf pack, not all members mate. The social structure of the pack and the environmental conditions at the time exert control over which pack members will mate on any given cycle in order to avoid overpopulation and starvation. Usually there will be one litter. If times are bad, there may be no pups at all.

The phenomenon of false pregnancy that is very common in female dogs may be to provide extra parenting for the pack’s pups. Female dogs who live together tend to cycle together, putting the non-impregnated females in false pregnancy at the same time the pregnant one has pups in need of nurturing.

Estrus in the wolf pack comes about once a year, but humans have selectively bred dogs to be more productive and thus more profitable to breed. The result is that breeding is not “natural” for dogs. Dogs who are spay/neutered can actually have more active social lives with other dogs than those who are intact. Intact dogs experience stresses that spay/neutered dogs are spared.

People get confused about dogs’ sexual attitudes toward humans. For example, a woman having her menstrual period is at the lowest estrogen level of her cycle. Conversely, a female dog in heat is loaded with estrogen. So the scent of a menstruating woman would not be sexually stimulating to a male dog or antagonizing to a female dog. If a dog seems to behave differently when a woman is having her period, it would be for other reasons.

It is wise to give your puppy opportunities to play with a puppy or gentle dog of the opposite sex from time to time when young. Though this play is seldom specifically sexual, it seems to help dogs develop sexual orientation toward other dogs, rather than toward humans, pillows, etc.


Female dogs, like males, have an increased risk of aggression if left intact. Estrus can cause moodiness, and hormone changes in pregnancy can make some females downright aggressive. Her attitude can change overnight. If your dog is going to have contact with children, that’s another reason to seriously consider spay/neuter.

With estrus, intact female dogs may show erratic behavior, signs of pain that may be similar to cramping in humans, and a greatly increased propensity to get out of the house or fenced yard. Some dogs stay clean, while others may leave stains around the house. You won’t be able to leave her outdoors unsupervised for even a second because the scent of her urine (she will urinate quite frequently) attracts male from a mile or so away.

When a female dog is in heat, both she and the intact males in her vicinity will show changes of behavior, and many of the spay/neutered dogs in the vicinity will, too. It is not fun managing a female dog in estrous.

Many people spay their female dogs after one cycle, because it’s so much more difficult than they expected it to be. Many more spay their females after one litter because it’s not only more work and more heartbreak than they expected, but it’s also much more expensive. Spaying the dog prior to ever getting pregnant can spare both her health and her temperament from sometimes dramatic deterioration. Also, dogs can die attempting to give birth.

Two or more female dogs in the same home will in many cases not be able to get along, especially if one or more of them are intact. Like aggression problems with male dogs, if you wait until the fighting has already begun, fighting may have become a habit that will not be changed with the relief of the hormone pressures when you spay.

Female dogs will sometimes fight each other to the death. That would not be necessary in the wild, where one of them could be driven away to form a new pack. In our homes, it’s up to us to manage the dogs so that two incompatible animals are not forced to live together. Spaying dogs before they are fully mature increases the chance of them living together in peace.

Family vs. Career

An intact dog tends to expend a lot of attention and energy in the direction of reproduction. A spay/neutered dog retains the full character of its male or female identity, but has more attention and energy to devote to other things.

What things might a dog do instead of focusing on reproduction? Guide dogs are spay/neutered to help them focus on life aiding blind people. Other assistance dogs to people with disabilities are commonly spay/neutered, too, in part because it helps the dogs focus on work. Certain pups are set aside for breeding future guide dogs when they come from bloodlines of dogs who are serving well in the work and show themselves to be good prospects as they mature.

Since dogs produce litters rather than the single babies and occasional twins born to human, it’s not necessary for a huge percentage of dogs to reproduce. Plenty of future dogs can come from the carefully selected dogs who live with people with time and talent to devote to responsible breeding. This is a high calling, and we’re all indebted to those people who do it well. They are vital to the future of dogs. If this is what you want to do, find an expert breeder to mentor you, so that you’ll be producing from the best of dogs.

Most dogs have careers as companions to humans. Through this labor of love, they enrich and even extend our lives. Spay/neuter makes it easier for us to responsibly care for dogs, and increases the enjoyable activities we and our dogs can do together.

So now you know the behavioral benefits of spay/neuter. When there is no good reason to keep a particular dog intact for breeding, spay/neuter is a great way for you and your dog to live happily ever after.

Canine Spay: What is involved?

Sterilization of female dogs is commonly performed with a surgery called a spay, in which both ovaries and the uterus are removed. It is a major surgery. Owners have usual questions regarding this procedure.

Why All Female Dogs Should Be Spayed.
Mammary Cancer
A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer. After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7% and after the second heat the risk is 25% (one in four!). It is easy to see that an early spay can completely prevent what is frequently a very difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer.
But is it too late if a dog is already past her second heat? No, in fact spaying is important even in female dogs who already have obvious tumors. This is because many mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogens; removing the ovaries, the source of estrogens, will help retard tumor spread.

Spaying removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in the prevention as well as the treatment of mammary cancer.

Simple Convenience

The female dog comes into heat every 8 months or so. There is a bloody vaginal discharge and attraction of local male dogs. Often there is an offensive odor. All of this disappears with spaying.

What Is Pyometra?

Pyometra is the life-threatening infection of the uterus, which generally occurs in middle-aged to older female dogs in the six weeks following heat. The hormone progesterone, which primes the uterus for potential pregnancy, does so by causing proliferation of the blood-filled uterine lining and suppression of uterine immune function. It is thus easy during heat for bacteria in the vagina to ascend to the uterus to cause infection. The uterus with pyometra swells dramatically and is filled with pus, bacteria, dying tissue, and toxins. Without treatment, the pet is expected to die. Despite her serious medical state, she must be spayed quickly if her life is to be saved.

This is an extremely common disease of older unspayed female dogs! Pyometra is not something that might happen; consider that it probably will happen.

The older unspayed female dog has an irregular heat cycle. There is no end of cycling comparable to human menopause. If you still decide against spaying, be very familiar with the signs of pyometra. (These include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst, marked vaginal discharge.) Learn more about pyometra.

Now That We know why it Is a Good Idea To Spay, What Exactly Happens?

It is very important that the patient has not been fed in at least 8 hours. Anesthetic medications commonly induce nausea and vomiting can be very dangerous in a sedated patient (vomit can be inhaled/aspirated leading to pneumonia).

A preoperative evaluation is performed; blood work may be recommended. Some veterinarians place an intravenous catheter to facilitate the administration of anesthetic drugs, for any fluid administration, and for use in case of emergency. This necessitates shaving a small patch of skin on one of the legs. Should you notice such a shaved patch, this is undoubtedly from an intravenous catheter.

A tranquilizer or other pre-anesthetic medication may be administered to ease the induction of anesthesia. A special medication is given intravenously to induce sleep. This medication is called an induction agent and lasts only long enough to establish the maintenance of anesthesia by the inhalant anesthetic (gas). Once the pet is asleep, a tube is placed in the throat to ensure that a clear airway is maintained through out the procedure.

Sometimes a cough is noted for a couple of days after surgery. This may have been caused by the tube in the throat. Such coughs only last a couple of days; anything that persists longer should be re-evaluated.

The tube is hooked up to a machine that delivers a specific concentration of inhalant gas mixed in 100% oxygen. A technician is assigned to monitoring of the pet. The patient is monitored throughout anesthesia by checking gum color, heart rate, respiration rate, and other parameters.

In the surgical prep area, the abdomen is shaved and scrubbed. The bladder is emptied and the patient is moved to a surgical suite, where she is draped with special clothes or papers to isolate the area where surgery will take place.

An incision is made on the midline of the abdomen, and the three points where the ovaries and uterus attaches are tied off and cut. The abdomen is checked for bleeding and two or three layers of stitches are placed to close the incision.

It is helpful to know that should the skin stitches come out, there are two layers below holding everything closed. Sometimes skin stitches are not placed but if they are present, you will need to return in 10 to 14 days to have them removed.

The anesthesia technician continues monitoring until the pet dog wakes up and coughs out the throat tube. The patient is kept in an observation room until she is able to walk.

My hospital feels strongly that a night in the hospital is important to an uneventful recovery. This night in the hospital is analogous to strict bed rest, just what you would expect to be needed after a major abdominal surgery. This night also allows for proper administration of pain medication for a longer time period as well as a post-operative check up with the doctor the morning after surgery.

What To Expect at Home

Most spay patients go home the next day as if nothing had happened, although some will need pain medication for a few days.

Some nausea may occur in the first couple of days after surgery and it would not be unusual for the pet to refuse food for a day or two after surgery.

As noted above, a cough may persist for a couple of days as a result of the throat tube. This should not persist longer than a couple of days.

Dogs who show a propensity to lick their stitches will need an Elizabethan or “E” collar to restrict access to the stitches. This is not very comfortable for the dog but must be used strictly until the stitches are out and the incision is healed.
Activity should be restricted during the week following surgery. Excessive activity can lead to swelling or fluid accumulation under the incision. If a fluid pocket forms, it should resolve on its own after a few weeks. If a fluid pocket forms and drains liquid from the incision, the dog should be re-checked with the veterinarian.

spaying is one of the most important preventive health measures that can be provided for a female dog of any age.

What About Behavioral Changes?

The female dog’s reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year. It only activates for the 3-week period of heat. This means that from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the time. It is unlikely that any change will be evident.

Health benefits from spaying are too important to ignore. Please call for spay scheduling for your female dog.

Canine Neuter: What is involved?

What Are the Health Benefits to the Dog?

There are several health benefits to neutering. One of the most important concerns the prostate gland, which under the influence of testosterone will gradually enlarge over the course of the dog’s life. In old age, it is likely to become uncomfortable, possibly being large enough to interfere with defecation. The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection, which is almost impossible to clear up without neutering. Neutering causes the prostate to shrink into insignificance, thus preventing both prostatitis as well as the uncomfortable benign hyperplasia (enlargement) that occurs with aging. It is often erroneously held that neutering prevents prostate cancer but this is not true.

Other health benefits of neutering include the prevention of certain types of hernias and tumors of the testicles and anus. Neutering also reduces excessive preputial discharge.

What Behavioral Changes Can Be Expected after Neutering?

The only behavior changes that are observed after neutering relate to behaviors influenced by male hormones. Playfulness, friendliness, and socialization with humans are not changed. The behaviors that change are far less desirable. The interest in roaming is eliminated in 90% of neutered dogs. Aggressive behavior against other male dogs is eliminated in 60% of neutered dogs. Urine marking is eliminated in 50% of neutered male dogs. Inappropriate mounting is eliminated in 70% of neutered dogs.

What Exactly Is Done Surgically?

An incision is made, generally just forward from the scrotum. The testicles are removed through this incision. The stalks are tied off and cut. Castration is achieved. If the testicles are not removed, the desirable benefits listed above cannot be achieved. The skin incision may or may not have stitches.

What Can I Expect upon Discharge from the Hospital?

The scrotum is often swollen in the first few days after surgery, leading some people to wonder if the procedure was really performed. If the dog is immature at the time of neutering, the empty scrotum will flatten out as he grows. If he is mature at the time of neuter, the empty scrotum will remain as a flap of skin. Sometimes the incision is mildly bruised but this is not unduly sore for the dog and pain relief is almost never necessary post neuter. Most male dogs are eager to play by the day after surgery but to keep the incision intact; it is best to restrict the dog from boisterous activity.

At What Age Can Neutering Be Performed?

Neutering can be performed at any age over age 8 weeks. Dogs neutered before puberty (generally age 6 months) tend to grow a bit bigger than dogs neutered after puberty (testosterone is involved in causing bones to stop growing, so without testosterone the bones stop growing later). Neutering can also be performed in the geriatric patient should the prostate gland become enlarged and the best medical decision is to shrink it. In this event, preanesthetic blood work and other diagnostics relevant to anesthetizing an older patient would be recommended.

The traditional age for neutering is around 6 months of age and many veterinarians still recommend neutering at this age.

The benefits of neutering (both health and behavioral) can still be obtained regardless of the age at which neutering is performed.

Will He Get Over-Weight or Lethargic?

Activity level and appetite do not change with neutering. A male dog should not gain weight or become less interested in activity post neuter.

Will he Still Be Interested in Females?

His interest will be reduced but if he is around a female dog in heat, he will become aroused by her. Mounting behavior often has roots in the expression of dominance and may be expressed by a neutered male in a variety of circumstances that are not motivated by sexuality.

What if a Dog Has an Undescended Testicle?

Undescended testicles have an increased tendency to grow tumors over descended testicles. They may also twist on their stalks and cause life-threatening inflammation. For these reasons, neutering is recommended for dogs with undescended testicles. This procedure is more complicated than a routine neuter; the missing testicle can be under the skin along the path it should have descended to the scrotum or it may be inside the abdomen. Some exploration may be needed to find it thus there is often an incision for each testicle. The retained testicle is sterile and under-developed. If there is one descended testicle, this one will be fertile, but since retaining a testicle is a hereditary trait it is important that the male dog not be bred before he is neutered.

Feline Spay: What is involved?

Spaying your cat is an important part of basic cat health care. Spaying at a young age prevents mammary cancer and spaying at any age prevents unwanted kittens, noisy heat cycles, and possibly even urine marking in the house. The following is a list of frequently asked questions gleaned from years of veterinary practice as well as from answering questions on line. We have found that, even though the cat spay is a routine and commonly performed procedure, many pet owners still have questions. Hopefully, this site will be helpful.

What is actually removed during spaying?

Spaying is an “ovariohysterectomy,” which means that both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. The cervix is tied off, leaving the vagina to end in a blind sac. Since it is the ovaries that are responsible for the heat cycles, possible mammary tumor development, and behavior problems, it is crucial that the ovaries be removed intact; some veterinarians will leave the uterus behind, though, it is generally regarded as best to remove the entire tract, uterus included.

How long will my cat stay in the hospital?

Our hospital prefers to keep surgery cases overnight so that they can have “bed rest” in a properly confined area. We believe that this first night of confinement helps the incision in healing. Some hospitals and most spay clinics will release the cat on the same day as surgery so that she may be observed at home in case of problems. Either way is legitimate and largely depends on the preference and philosophy of the doctor in charge of setting policy.

Will she have stitches?

Some veterinarians always place skin stitches. Some veterinarians never place skin stitches and prefer to close the incision with “buried” stitches which are internal. The spay incision is closed in several layers (the abdominal muscles, the tissue under the skin, and the skin itself may all be closed separately). Skin stitches necessitate a return visit for a recheck, which is always a good idea after an abdominal surgery. Obviously, it may be more convenient for the owner not to have to make a return trip and it may be simpler not to have to worry about the cat pulling out her skin stitches and causing herself injury. Our hospital employs both methods though aggressive or feral cats almost always receive buried sutures so as to eliminate possible bite injury to the staff at suture removal.

What can I expect regarding recovery period/incision care?

One of the advantages of keeping cats overnight after spaying is that they usually go bouncing out of the hospital as if nothing has happened. Some cats will not eat for the first day or so but if the cat does not seem back to normal by the day following discharge, we would like to know about it.

Cats discharged on the same day as surgery may experience more soreness if not confined to a small area. Food and water are generally withheld until the next day or late that night and the cat should be kept quiet and not allowed outside. Cats should not be discharged while still groggy in any way from anesthesia as they are a danger to themselves and to their human handlers.

Later in the recovery period, it is not unusual to notice swelling at the incision site. Cats often react this way to internal sutures and this kind of swelling is common and resolves spontaneously. Such swellings are firm and there is no fluid drainage or bleeding from the incision. They generally resolve in 3-4 weeks.

Any fluid drainage from the incision is abnormal and the cat should be rechecked by the veterinarian who performed the spay if possible.

What if she is in heat at the time of spay?

Some female cats are disruptively annoying when they are in heat, yowling and carrying on and they are spayed to end the heat quickly. Other cats are spayed in heat randomly when the owner does not realize that the cat is in heat. Either way the spay is slightly more difficult due to the engorgement of the tissues and larger blood vessels. Spaying in heat does not carry a significant risk to the cat but, since extra surgery time is frequently required, an extra charge may be incurred.

What if she is pregnant at the time of spay?

Spaying can be performed at any time during the course of pregnancy. Often, the owner is unaware that the cat is pregnant. If there is any question, make it clear to your veterinarian what your wishes are should your cat be found pregnant. The incision can be closed and the pregnancy can proceed or the spay can proceed and the developing kittens will be removed along with the rest of the uterus. Due to extra work and surgery time, most veterinarians will charge an extra fee for spaying a pregnant animal. Some veterinarians will not knowingly spay a pregnant animal after a certain stage of pregnancy. At our hospital, we are commonly asked what to do about newly adopted stray cats thought to be pregnant. As we work with numerous rescue groups we are keenly aware of the pet over-population problem. We encourage spaying of strays or newly adopted female cats regardless of pregnancy. There are simply too many kittens without homes as it is.

What’s the difference between spaying in a hospital versus spaying in a low cost spay clinic?

This question may have a very regional answer depending on what sort of low cost facilities are available in a given area. Most areas have some sort of low cost spay/neuter option (consult your local animal shelter for more information). There are some general principles that tend to hold true.

Low cost spay/neuter facilities operate on a very tight budget. They have to in order to provide a low cost service and still be able to pay for supplies and staff. This means they use cheaper materials for suture and anesthesia, often have limited hours (our local facility closes at 2pm and all the morning’s surgical patients must be discharged by that time, other facilities may be open only certain days), and may not have state of the art monitoring equipment or capabilities in case of emergency. Probably most important is the fact that in order to stay in business, a low cost clinic must perform a high volume of surgeries each day. This limits the individual attention a patient can receive if an “assembly line” approach is used. Often these are the situations where only the ovaries are removed and the uterus is left behind so as to save time or where the entire spay is performed through a tiny incision only a half inch or so long so as to save time closing (and sacrifice inspection of the abdomen for bleeding). Most of the time, the end result is the same: a spayed happy female cat and, of course, cost can be an important factor. It is a good idea to know what one is paying for, however. It may be a good idea to have a tour of your local spay/neuter facility and see what they have to offer.

A full service hospital tends to have more nursing care (such as a technician tableside monitoring anesthesia throughout the procedure), monitoring technology (EKG, pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitor, respiratory monitor etc.), fluid support, all day (sometimes all night) patient observation, safer anesthetics (which tend to be more expensive), less reactive suture materials (which also tend to be more expensive), and most importantly individual attention to each patient. As a prominent member of the surgery board once said, “Speed is not a legitimate goal in surgery. Doing a careful, meticulous job is the real goal.”

It should be noted that many full service hospitals have some low cost options. Sometimes there are special arrangements for rescue or shelter dogs, people with multiple pets, senior citizens or even an annual special. Check with your vet to see if you qualify for any special programs.

Will spaying affect her personality?

The female cat spends at least half the year with her reproductive tract dormant (cats only cycle Spring and Summer). This means that, behaviorally speaking, she acts spayed most of the time and no personality change should be noted. This said, it is important to realize that a cycling cat can be extremely solicitous of affection. This kind of playful, flirtatious behavior will stop with spaying.

How long after having kittens can she be spayed?

The mammary (breast) development that comes with nursing can make the spay surgery more difficult. Ideally, a month after weaning allows for regression of this tissue and spaying can proceed. Unfortunately, it is possible for a female cat to become pregnant during this waiting period if her owner is not careful.

At what age can my cat be spayed?

The traditional age for spaying is six months, however, this practice has enabled kittens to be adopted from the shelters unspayed. Often the new owner fails to return for spaying and the result is further contribution to the pet over-population problem. The last ten years has brought us a great deal of research into “early” spaying and we now know that there is no problem with spaying as early as 8 weeks of age. Our hospital finds such tiny tissues difficult to manipulate and we like to spay our female patients when they weigh at least 3 1/2 to 4 pounds.

Will she get fat and lazy after spaying?

Estrogens have a natural appetite suppressing effect and the loss of estrogens may lead to an increased appetite. It is important to realize that estrogens only circulate in a female cat during her mating season. Behaviorally, she should not be any different (or hungrier) than her Winter self.

Can she still come into heat after spaying?

Without ovaries, she should be unable to come into heat. Occasionally, a remnant of ovarian tissue is left behind by mistake. This can lead to some annoying behaviors as the female cat comes into heat (though she would be unable to get pregnant if her uterus has been removed as is customary with spaying). Special testing or even surgical exploration may be needed to determine if there is an ovarian remnant.

Once again, spaying is an important part of cat ownership. We recommend that all cats be spayed.

Feline Neuter: What is involved?

Neutering a male cat is an excellent step in helping your young man grow into a loving well adapted household citizen.  The main reason to neuter a male cat is to reduce the incidence of objectionable behaviors that are normal in the feline world but unacceptable in the human world.

ROAMING: > 90% will reduce this behavior with neutering Approx. 60% reduce this behavior right away
FIGHTING: > 90% will reduce this behavior with neutering Approx. 60% reduce this behavior right away
URINE MARKING: > 90% will reduce this behavior with neutering Approx. 80% reduce this behavior right away. (The extreme odor of tom cat urine is reduced after neutering as well.)

Another reason to neuter a male cat has to do with the physical appearance. A cat neutered prior to puberty (most cats are neutered at approximately age 6 months) do not develop secondary sex characteristics. These include a more muscular body, thickenings around the face called “shields,” and spines on the penis.

The feline neuter is one of the simplest surgical procedures performed in all of veterinary medicine. The cat is fasted over night so that anesthesia is performed on an empty stomach. The scrotum is opened with a small incision and the testicles are brought out. The cords are either pulled free and tied to eachother or a small suture is used to tie the cords and the testicle is cut free. The skin incision on the scrotum is small enough so as not to require stitches of any kind.

EARLY NEUTER? A common animal shelter practice has been to adopt a young kitten with the new owner paying a neuter deposit to be refunded when the kitten is neutered at the traditional age of six months. The problem has been that new owners do not return and young cats go unneutered. Early neutering allows for kittens to be neutered prior to adoption. There has been some controversy over this practice as it flies in the face of tradition but all research to date has shown no negative consequences to early neutering. Some myths have been:

  • EARLY NEUTERING IS MORE LIKELY TO PREVENT OBJECTIONABLE BEHAVIORS THAN IS NEUTERING AT A LATER AGE.This has not borne out. Neutering at any age is associated with the same statistics as listed above.
  • KITTENS NEUTERED EARLY WILL BE STUNTED OR SMALL.This is not true though early neutered kittens will not develop the more masculine appearance described above.

Our hospital supports early neutering but prefers that kittens presented for neutering weigh at least 3 lbs so that the tissues are not too difficult to manipulate.

There is minimal recovery with this procedure. Most hospitals, like ours, discharge kittens the same day as surgery. There should be no bleeding or swelling. It is a good idea not to bathe the kitten until the incisions have healed 10-14 days from the time of surgery.

Canine Training Information

Help! How do I crate train my puppy?

Every puppy needs to learn the skill of resting calmly in a crate. This skill will be needed at the veterinary hospital, for traveling, and for restricted activity due to illness. It’s also a lifesaver for many young dogs during the destructive chewing stage that starts at several months of age and can last until age 2 to 3 years in some breeds.

After a dog has become trained and reliable in the house, the crate will often be needed only for specific reasons rather than everyday use. One critical situation that can call for bringing out the crate again is separation anxiety. The ability to relax in a crate can save a dog’s life during this crisis.

Usually it works best to crate the puppy in your bedroom when you’re sleeping. If you want the dog to share your bed, wait until the adult temperament emerges. Then if it turns out the temperament is not suited to bed privileges, you will not have the difficult job of teaching the dog to stay off the bed. Teaching a puppy to stay off the bed from the beginning is much easier, both for you and for the pup.

People tend to make the mistake of giving the puppy attention for making noise in the crate. When you do this, you confirm the puppy’s instinct that being alone is death (it would be, in the wild), and that calling for help will bring someone. Having the crate in your bedroom for sleeping tends to help because the puppy can hear, smell and possibly see you. Not being alone, the puppy usually finds it easier to get used to the crate. Your sleeping helps set the scene for the puppy to sleep, too.

Keep the puppy on a good schedule of food, water and outings so the puppy’s body will have the best chance of making it through the night without a bathroom break. If the pup does need a break, make it very low-key with dim lights and soft voices and no playtime. If you completely avoid going to the puppy when the puppy is making noise, problems usually pass quickly. But make no mistake, lost sleep comes with the puppy-adoption territory! Don’t miss the chance to start your puppy off right, or you will lose a lot more sleep over a longer period of time, because crate-training will take much longer.

The worst thing to do is let the puppy yell for a long time, and then go to the puppy. Doing that teaches the puppy to persistently make noise in the crate. It communicates to the pup that you want to be notified with lots and lots of noise! It also causes the puppy enormous stress that can become a lifelong response to being confined in a crate. Adult dogs in this stressed state can break out of crates and badly injure themselves. This is not the future you want for your puppy.

What you want the puppy to discover is that nothing bad happens from being alone in a crate. You also want the puppy to learn that it’s okay to let you know of a need, but you will not come in response to loud racket. Check on the puppy after the puppy has become quiet again.

If your puppy isn’t making it through the night without a potty break, schedule it so that the puppy doesn’t have to wake you up and ask. Realize, too, that the puppy’s body will awaken and need to potty whenever someone in the household gets up. That person or someone else will need to give the pup a potty break.

Don’t trick a puppy about the crate. Give a treat when the pup goes in, but don’t be sneaky about shutting the door. Don’t put the puppy into the crate when the puppy is sound asleep, to wake up trapped in a crate. That can cause the puppy to distrust both you and the crate.

Be careful not to abuse the crate. When you are at home and awake, supervise the puppy in person rather than using the crate. Puppies need exercise, mental stimulation and guidance from you in order to grow up healthy and happy. Too much crate time is not humane. Puppies sleep 14 hours a day or so. If the crate time is scheduled so the pup can use it for sleeping, that’s ideal.

Make the crate a pleasant place to rest. A few safe chew toys and a treat can help the puppy relax and drift off to dreamland. Everyone in the household can sleep better with a crate-trained puppy.

How to Train my Adult Dog?

Adopting a dog carries the responsibility of keeping that dog from getting hurt unnecessarily, or from injuring people or other animals. Some dogs don’t require a lot of training to keep them out of trouble, but others need homes where training is a way of life. If you have a dog now, which kind of dog do you have? If you’re thinking of getting a dog, which kind is right for your home?

The Basics

The term obedience training used to be synonymous with basic dog training, and implied that training a dog and military boot camp had a lot in common! Military dog training did influence early training techniques for family dogs. When obedience trials became a popular sport with dogs, classes continued to use the term obedience.

Dog training has advanced due to the generations of trainers refining their techniques more and more. People still train their dogs for obedience trials, but they also train for other purposes such as hunting, search and rescue, police work, assistance to people with disabilities, therapy work and much more.

Along with the refinement of other dog training have come specific classes for family dogs. These classes may provide you and your dog with the skills you need to live successfully in your community, or you and your particular dog may need to go further with training. Other types of classes as well as private trainers and behavior specialists are available.

When you and your dog train together, you deepen your ability to communicate. Instead of trying to control your dog physically, you’ll be able to tell the dog what you need. This is less stressful and safer for you both. Here are some of the skills a trained dog needs in order to live successfully with a typical family:

1. Come when called. Like all other training, this skill must be practiced in your life with your dog at home and everywhere you go together. Having a dog who comes when called doesn’t mean you’ll let your dog run loose, but it’s life insurance when your dog accidentally gets out. It’s also important in day-to-day as well as emergency handling.

2. Sit and/or down. Many things you need to do with your dog start by having the dog get still in a seated or lying-down position. A sit gets the dog anchored in one place, and a down lets the dog relax there. The sit is not comfortable for dogs to do for very long, and some find it painful. You don’t want to require your dog to do anything that is going to cause the dog pain, so you may at times need to have your dog do a down instead, or remain standing.

3. Stay. Practicing stays with your dog helps your dog learn composure and the ability to remain calm. Too many dogs lack this ability, and it makes their lives harder for them as well as for their families. The stay exercise is also a way to become your dog’s leader without making a fight of it.

4. Walk on a loose lead. Trainers argue about what collars are most effective and most humane. Actually, keeping tension on the leash makes any collar both less effective and less humane. If the leash is loose, the collar (or head halter or harness) is putting less pressure on the dog, most of the time no pressure at all. A dog conditioned to work with the leash loose is easier to handle and easier to train. Instead of being dragged around by the leash, the dog learns to pay attention to the handler. Keeping the leash loose spares the dog potential injuries from training devices that can rub off hair and abrade skin.

5. Housetraining. Lack of reliable housetraining is a major cause of small dogs losing their homes. Possibly you don’t care whether or not your dog is housetrained, but think about how you’ll feel in the future and what the dog’s chances will be in the world without housetraining. The habits a dog forms while someone is too busy to worry about housetraining can be powerful habits to change later, especially if they’ve been formed during puppyhood.

6. The ability to rest calmly in a safe, confined area. A dog crate is the logical confinement area for many situations, but it’s possible for some dogs to do well in other confinement. One way or another, you need to be able to leave your dog alone someplace safe without the dog stressing.

7. Not to bite humans. For family dogs, your best bet is to teach the dog not to put teeth on human skin. If the dog will work in some protection capacity that involves biting, you’ll need to do management, handling, and training to keep innocent people safe.

For More Serious Dogs

If your dog is large, rowdy, or has powerful drives, you’ll both be happier with further training. The following trained skills will help:

1. Greet people with four feet on the ground. Jumping up on people sometimes seems like a minor problem, considering the friendliness of the typical jumping dog. The whole idea from the dog’s point of view is to get closer to the face and hands for greeting, but people don’t want to be knocked over or get their clothing torn or dirty.

2. Chew on dog toys. If a dog has a concept of property, it’s not the same as a human concept. A dog can’t understand that something of yours would be difficult to replace, or costs money. Even without understanding why, a dog can learn—with your help over time as the dog gains maturity—to focus chewing on specific items. For a power-chewer, this is an important skill!

3. Refrain from chasing vehicles and children. Dogs bred to have high drives for following moving objects (herding, hunting, etc.) may fall into dangerous habits without your guidance. Your best bet is to get good training help with this sort of dog early, before the chasing habit has a chance to start. To do their jobs properly, these dogs are carefully trained. Untrained, the instincts essential to their work can be turned in destructive directions.

4. Retrieve. The best game to play with a dog is also the foundation for much advanced dog training as well as a great solution to quite a few dog problems: retrieving. Ideally you’ll want to start shaping it in your dog soon after the dog comes to live with you, no matter what age the dog is at that time. Work on it a little every day.

Training Doesn’t Count until It’s Reliable

Many people will tell you their dogs are “trained” to certain behaviors, and yet the dog will not perform the behavior in the face of excitement or distraction. Sometimes when a dog shows some understanding to put rear down and head up on hearing the word “sit,” maybe four times out of ten, the person considers the dog trained.”  This is a dangerous assumption.
Training needs to be reliable where it is needed most often, around distractions and stress, and in emergencies. Not only does your dog need to reliably come when called to dinner, but also to come in from the backyard when the dog is out there barking at a teasing child on the other side of the fence.

If you had an accident away from the house with your dog and the dog was running, frightened, near a busy street, your dog would need to be able to reliably come when you call in spite of the fear. In case there is a car coming, the dog also needs to be able to stop and wait on your cue, until it’s safe to continue. Much of this depends on your learning how to handle the dog, so that you will react correctly in an emergency. That takes training for you both, and lots of practice.

Training happens when you practice properly, repeating the practice until the proper behaviors become deeply established habits. The most important behaviors such as coming when called need to be so strongly conditioned that the dog’s first impulse will be to just do it, not stop and think first.

Your role as handler also needs to be thoroughly practiced so that you will automatically use the tone of voice your dog will recognize as the cue to carry out that behavior. This can require an incredible amount of self-control from you, but most of all it requires plenty of practice.

Training is Discipline at Its Best

When people hear the word discipline, they often think of a cruel overseer administering a beating. Have you ever been in a marching band, drill team, team sport, or any other unit that requires unified action? That’s real discipline, and there’s nothing cruel about it. Disciplined activities build self-esteem. Dogs are quite capable of taking pride in doing a good job. Training builds your bond with your dog, and gives your dog a better chance at a long and happy life.

Recommended Training Facilities in Chattanooga

We Recommend using:

PDX: Play Dog eXcellence
4113 Dayton Blvd
Chattanooga TN  37415

Contact information:
Phone: 423-870-7740
Fax: 866-370-7821

PDX will work with you to create a specialized plan to help you and your pet succeed in training.

Questions regarding Diseases

What is Pancreatitis? How do I help my pet avoid it?

What causes Pancreatitis?

There are many factors that may predispose your pet to pancreatitis; these include obesity, high-fat diet; concurrent disease, such as diabetes or Cushing’s Syndrome; certain medications or toxins; and infection.
Dietary indiscretion (e.g., eating inappropriate materials, garbage, or table food) is a leading cause of pancreatitis in dogs– and those dogs that have experienced dietary indiscretion are known to be up to 10 times more likely to develop pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis in cats is often secondary or accompanied by other disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, or liver disease. Other causes in cats include infection; injury; and certain medications, toxins, and insecticides.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis can differ among dogs and cats:

Dogs with Pancreatitis will often stop eating and drinking because of the pain associated with this disease.
Canine Symptoms:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Abnormal posture; arching of the back
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Gagging

Cats are instinctively wired to hide signs of sickness, and cats with pancreatitis are no exception. Typically, they have vague signs, especially as compared to dogs, so it isn’t often obvious to their owners that they are sick.
Feline Symptoms may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

Your veterinarian will take a complete history and preform a thorough physical exam of your pet. Additionally diagnostic tests will be required to determine if your pet has pancreatitis. These may include:

  • Chemistry tests – to evaluate Kidney, Liver, and pancreatic disease or dysfunction, as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count (CBC)– to screen for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions.
  • Electrolyte Tests – to ensure your pet isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance.
  • Pancreas-Specific tests– to help diagnose or rule out the disease.


Your Veterinarian will suggest a treatment plan that is specific to your pet. The treatment depends on the severity of the disease and may include:

  • Hospitalization at the clinic
  • Fluid therapy and electrolytes
  • Pain medication
  • Antivomiting medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Nutritional support
  • Treatment of other concurrent diseases
  • Other Medications, depending on your pets symptoms

How do I work to prevent Pancreatitis:

  • DON’T let your dog become overweight – weight management is just as important for our four-legged friends as it is for us!
  • AVOID High-fat diets
  • AVOID giving your dog table scraps, especially if she isn’t accustomed to eating people food – We understand it is difficult but it is not healthy for your pet. Watch this brief video of Household Foods and Hazards to avoid.
  • MAKE sure you talk with your veterinarian about all of your pets medications
  • DON’T let your dog get into the trash!

If you are worried that your dog may be showing signs or symptoms of pancreatitis, Please see your veterinarian immediately.


*All Information received from IDEXX Laboratories Pamphlet on Pancreatitis – “The Facts about Pancreatitis and your Pet”

What is Parvo Virus? What do I need to do if I think my puppy has Parvo?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk. Dogs that are ill from canine parvovirus infection are often said to have “parvo.” The virus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated stool, environments, or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Even trace amounts of stool containing parvovirus may infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. It can be transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.

Signs of parvovirus

Some of the signs of parvovirus include:

  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • vomiting
  • severe, often bloody, diarrhea.

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of signs.
If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.


While no specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, treatment consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections until the dog’s immune system is able to fight the virus. Due to the highly contagious nature of parvovirus, infected dogs must be isolated in order to prevent the spread of the infection.

Preventing parvovirus

The best way to prevent parvovirus is through good hygiene and vaccination. Make sure to get your puppies vaccinated, and that your adult dogs are kept up to date on their parvovirus vaccination. Talk to your veterinarian about a canine parvovirus vaccination plan that is best for your pet. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies or dogs with unknown vaccination histories congregate.

What is Heart-worm Disease?

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a fairly large worm up to 14 inches long that, in adulthood, lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected dog. Dogs aquire this infection through mosquito bites as mosquitoes readily pick up larval heartworms from infected dogs and carry them to new dogs. Some geographic areas have severe heartworm problems while other areas have none. In order for the parasite to establish its presence in an area, the following conditions must be met:

  • Types of mosquitoes capable of carrying larval heartworms must be present
  • The weather must be warm enough to allow heartworm larval development within the mosquito
  • There must be infected dogs (or coyotes) in the area
  • There must be vulnerable host dogs in the area

When these conditions come together, an area becomes endemic for heartworm disease.



The adult heartworm is fairly large, several inches in length, and it prefers to live, not in the heart, but in the pulmonary arteries. It swims into a cozy tubular artery, where it is massaged and nourished by the blood coursing past it. In the pulmonary arteries of an infected dog, the worm’s presence generates a strong inflammatory response and a tendency for blood to inappropriately clot. If enough worms are present, the heart must work extra hard to pump blood through the plugged up arteries.

If the worm infection is a heavy one (over 25 worms for a 40 lb dog), the worms begin to back up into the right ventricle (the chamber that pumps blood through the lung). The worms actually take up a significant amount of space within the heart, leading to less blood being pumped.

When over 50 worms are present, the ventricle is full and the atrium, the chamber receiving blood from the rest of the body begins to contain worms.

When over 100 worms are present, the entire right side of the heart is filled with worms and there is very little room for any blood to be pumped. This drastic phenomenon is called Caval Syndrome and most dogs do not survive it.

MICROFILARIAE (First Stage Larvae)

With adult male and female worms present, mating begins to occur. Heartworms do not lay eggs like other worm parasites; instead they give live birth and the baby worms are called Microfilariae. Microfilariae are released into the circulatory system in hope that they will be slurped up by a mosquito taking a blood meal and carried to a new host. Microfilariae may live up to 2 years within the host dog in whom they were born; if after this period a mosquito has not picked them up, they die of old age. Microfilariae may also be transmitted across the placental barrier to unborn puppies if the mother dog is infected with heartworm. It is important to realize that such puppies will not develop adult heartworms or heartworm disease from these microfilariae; in order for a heartworm to reach adulthood, it must be passed through a mosquito.

Parasitic worms have 5 larval stages and are termed L1, L2, L3, etc. Heartworm microfilariae are first stage larvae: L1s.

Note: Heartgard30 and Interceptor, the main heartworm preventives available commercially, will kill microfilariae. Dogs on heartworm preventive, even if infected with adult heartworms, will not test positive for microfilariae.


Within the mosquito’s body, the microfilariae will develop to L2s and finally to L3s, the stage capable of infecting a new dog. How long this takes depends on the environmental conditions. In general, it takes a few weeks. A minimum environmental temperature of 57 degrees F is required throughout this period. The process goes faster in warmer weather.


When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the L3 is not deposited directly into the dog’s bloodstream. Instead, it is deposited in a tiny drop of mosquito “spit” adjacent to the mosquito bite. For transmission to occur, there must be adequate humidity to prevent evaporation of this fluid droplet before the L3s can swim through the mosquito bite and into the new host.

Once safely inside the new host, the L3 will spend the next week or two developing into an L4 within the host’s skin.

The L4 will live in the skin for 3 months or so until it develops to the L5 stage and is ready to enter the host’s circulatory system. The L5, which is actually a young adult, migrates to the heart and out into the pulmonary arteries (if there is room) where it will mate, approximately 5 to 7 months after first entering the new host.

Note: L3s are readily killed by Interceptor but not by Heartgard30. Interceptor and Heartgard30 both act primarily on the L4s living in the skin. After a dose of either medication, any L4s present will be wiped out. Heartgard30 is also able to kill the younger L5s.

What is the Feline Leukemia Virus?

Feline leukemia virus, a retrovirus, is a common infection of cats. It is the cause of more cat deaths, directly or indirectly, than any other organism and is widespread in the cat population.

Disease Transmission
Feline leukemia virus infection (FeLV) can be transmitted several ways:
a. by the saliva of infected cats contaminating the eye, mouth, and nose membranes of non-infected cats via licking.
b. by passing infected blood to non-infected cats.
c. from mother to fetuses (developing kittens) during pregnancy.

Most infected cats eliminate the virus and become immune. In those cats that do not develop immunity, the virus spreads to the bone marrow.

Proliferative and degenerative diseases may occur in any of the tissues invaded by the virus, or the virus may be indirectly responsible for other illnesses because of its immunosuppressive effect. A large percentage of the cats that are exposed to the virus will have latent (hidden) infections and will be capable of transmitting the disease in saliva, tears, and urine. Some of these latent carriers will become clinically ill when stressed.

Diagnostic Tests
Necessary diagnostic tests may include blood chemistry, hematology, radiography, bone marrow aspiration, ophthalmoscopy, and specialized antibody tests.

a. There is no effective treatment for the myeloproliferative (bone marrow) form of leukemia. Treatment is mainly supportive, and may require blood transfusions, prednisone, and anabolic steroids.
b. FeLV cancer (lymphoma) has a better response to therapy than the myeloproliferative diseases do. Treatment may include chemotherapy, glucocorticoids, interferon, Protein A, and supportive treatment.

Eighty-five percent of cats with FeLV infection die within 3 years of the diagnosis.

Prevention Of FeLV
There are several preventive measures that can be taken to decrease the risk of contracting FeLV.
a. Cats can be FeLV tested, and then vaccinated if they are negative. Vaccination is recommended for high risk cats only. FeLV vaccination of infected cats does not affect the carrier state, the capacity to infect other cats, or the development of disease in the infected cats. Vaccination may also be associated with adverse events. (Duration of immunity may vary from fifteen weeks to three years.)

—Kittens may be tested at any age. However, infection in newborn kittens may not be detected until weeks to months after birth. Therefore, several FeLV tests during the first six months of life may be necessary to feel completely “safe” about a negative test result.

—-All kittens or adult cats that test negative by the first ELISA screening test – but with a known or suspected exposure to FeLV – should be retested. This is done to rule out possible negative results obtained during incubation of the FeLV virus. Although the majority of cats will test positive within several weeks, final retest of negative cats should be no sooner than 90 days post-exposure.

b. In large catteries, a test and removal program can be instituted.
c. Multi-cat households with FeLV positive cats should be maintained as a closed colony. (No new cats should be brought into the household, to prevent the spread of infection to the new arrivals.)

Retroviruses are unstable, live for only minutes outside the cat’s body, and are readily destroyed by most disinfectants.

Because the feline leukemia virus is so unstable, a new, healthy cat can be brought safely into a “contaminated” house within days of the departure of a FeLV infected cat.

What is the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus also known as FIV?

FIV stands for “feline immunodeficiency virus,” just as HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. In fact, these two viruses are closely related and much of the general information that has become common knowledge for HIV also holds true for FIV.  FIV is a virus that causes AIDS in cats; however, there is a long asymptomatic period before AIDS occurs and our job is to prolong this asymptomatic period. The average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis for FIV is 5 years. Humans cannot be infected with FIV; FIV is a cats-only infection.

How Is FIV Diagnosed?

Most of the time, infection from FIV is discovered using a screening test performed in your veterinarian’s office or from a blood panel run at your veterinarian’s reference laboratory. Once a cat has been identified as positive by a screening test, a follow-up confirmation test called a “Western Blot”  is the next step. Once this test is positive, the cat is considered to be truly infected.

It should be noted that administration of the new vaccine recently released for commercial use will cause a cat to test positive on both of the above tests. We do not currently have a test that will distinguish a vaccinated cat from a truly positive cat.

My hospital is not currently recommending this vaccine for now.
If you are like most of the cat-owning community, you may have a vague familiarity with the FIV virus but are unclear on the details. You may not even be sure about the difference between the FIV virus and the FeLV virus, and you rely on your veterinarian to tell you what you need to know.

Fortunately, for most cat owners the FIV virus has been an academic matter. A new kitten receives a screening test around age 6 months. Cats are often re-tested when they are ill, but since most of our feline patients live their entire lives indoors, the FIV virus is not of much concern.

For outdoor cats, it is a whole other story. The FIV virus is spread by bite wounds between cats.  Adult cats, rather than kittens, are at risk. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that outdoor cats be tested annually for this virus and for the Feline Leukemia Virus (the “FeLV” virus).

FIV, like HIV, can live in its host’s body for years before leading to a life-threatening AIDS situation. Ultimately, FIV is suppressive to the immune system and the average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is 5 years.
In August 2002, Fort Dodge Animal Health released a vaccine for FIV and promoted it heavily. My hospital has looked long and hard at this vaccine which, on the surface, seems like a good idea for outdoor cats or cats living with FIV-positive housemate cats. I choose to say no to this vaccine at least until more information is available. I’m happy to list the features of the product that leave us with reservations.

  • There are five strains of FIV virus, called “Clades.” The vaccine was made using Clades A and D and tested using Clade A. Clade B, for example, is a very common strain in most regions of the United States and no testing of the vaccine has been performed thus far against Clade B.  This means that a pet owner might wrongly believe they were protecting their cat fully against the FIV virus with this vaccine. California has both Clades A and B.
  • The FIV vaccine is “adjuvanted.” An adjuvant is an additive used with killed vaccines to improve their ability to stimulate the immune system.  Unfortunately, adjuvanted vaccines have been implicated in the development of certain tumors in the cat.  My hospital currently does not use adjuvanted vaccines for cats, and has no desire to administer a vaccine that stimulates tumor growth even under rare circumstances.
  • Vaccinated cats will test positive on all current methods of testing for the FIV virus. This means it will no longer be possible to distinguish vaccinated cats from truly infected cats. The vaccine is advertised at protecting 82% of cats, which means 18% can still be infected. This is nearly a one in five chance of unknowingly having an infected cat.

FIV infection is preventable by keeping cats indoors and preventing cat fights.
We choose to wait this out a bit and see how the FIV vaccination is faring a year or so hence.

How Did My Cat Get Infected?

The major route of virus transmission is by the deep bite wounds that occur during fighting. There are other means of spreading the virus but they are less common. Mother cats cannot readily infect their kittens (except in the initial stages of infection). FIV can be transmitted sexually and via improperly screened blood transfusions.  Casual contact such as sharing food bowls or snuggling is very unlikely to be associated with transmission.
Isolation of an FIV+ cat is not necessary in a stable household unless the FIV+ cat is likely to fight with the other residents.

What Do I Do Now?
Some lifestyle changes will probably be needed now that you know you have an FIV+ cat.

  • Keep Your Cat Indoors Only
    Now that you know your cat has an infectious disease, the responsible thing is to prevent the spread of this disease in your community. This means that your cat will need to begin life as an indoor cat. Cats who are used to living outdoors will make a fuss about being allowed outside. It is crucial that you do not give in as this will simply reinforce the crying and fussing. If you just allow the fussing to run its course, it will cease and the cat will get used to its new indoor only life.Cats who are inclined to slip past people entering the home when the door is open can be managed by leaving them in a closed room when someone is out of the house. This way, when the person arrives home, the cat does not have access to the front door.
  • No Raw Foods
    There are currently numerous fad diets involving raw foods for pets. It is crucial that one not succumb to these popular recommendations when it comes to the FIV+ cat.  Uncooked foods, meats especially, can include parasites and pathogens that a cat with a normal immune system might be able to handle but an FIV+ cat might not. Stick to the major reputable cat food brands.
  • Vaccination
    Vaccination should be continued for these cats just as they are for other cats. Some experts recommend using only killed vaccines to avoid any possible reversion to virulence of the live vaccine virus strains. This has not panned out as a problem in reality, plus the killed vaccines have been associated with vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas, an additional problem an FIV+ cat does not need.  We still recommend live virus vaccines for FIV+ cats just as we do for FIV- cats.

Parasite Control
The last thing an FIV+ cat needs is fleas, worms, or mites, especially now that he is going to be an indoor cat. There are numerous effective products on the market for parasite control. Consult with your veterinarian about which parasites you should be especially concerned with and which product is right for you.

  • Immune-Stimulating Agents
    There are numerous products on the market claiming to stimulate the immune system of the FIV+ cat. These include Acemannan, levamisole, Immunoregulin®, and Interferon Alpha. None of these products have been shown definitively to be helpful though it appears that they certainly do not do any harm. Our hospital recommends Interferon Alpha for asymptomatic cats as it is relatively inexpensive and our impression is that it helps. Interferon alpha is used in an extremely dilute form (not the much higher anti-viral doses) and is used as a salty liquid added to the cat’s food or administered orally on a daily basis.
  • General Monitoring
    While a non-geriatric FIV- cat should have an annual examination, the FIV+ cat should have a check-up twice a year. Annually, a full blood panel and urinalysis is prudent. Also, it is important to be vigilant of any changes in the FIV+ cat. Small changes that one might not think would be significant in an FIV- cat, should probably be thoroughly explored in an FIV+ cat.


What About Medications Used in HIV+ Humans?

AZT (brand name Retrovir®) is a prominent antiviral medication for the treatment of human HIV infection. Tests in FIV+ cats indicate that those with either neurologic signs or with stomatitis (oral inflammation) may benefit most. At this time at least (in cats), AZT seems to be something to save for when symptoms of viral infection appear. There are some bone marrow issues with red blood production and some periodic monitoring tests are advisable. If problems arise, fortunately, they are reversible and should resolve with a few days of discontinuing medication.
Drugs other than AZT seem to have more potential for toxicity and are not recommended for feline use.

The Immune-Suppressed Owner

Immune-suppressed cats and immune-suppressed owners do not mix well. Those who are immune suppressed, be they human or non-human, are inclined to become infected with opportunistic organisms, and in turn shed larger numbers of those organisms than one might naturally come into contact with in the environment. This means that someone who is immune-suppressed (human or not) can serve as an amplifier for infectious agents. An immune-suppressed cat can increase an immune-suppressed human’s exposure to infectious agents and vice versa. This is obviously not a good situation. The same is true for multiple immune-suppressed cats living together. If possible, there should be only one immune-suppressed individual per home.

Questions for your veterinarian

Questions to consider when choosing your Veterinarian

Do they treat your pets like family?
At AMP it is our belief that pets are family!  We are not only medical professionals but also pet owners.  We know how we would want our own 4-legged kids to be treated, so we strive to provide that level of care to your furry children.

Do they accommodate unexpected visits, emergencies, schedule changes, and walk-ins?
We are open and ready to see you when the doors open, until the doors close at night.  We understand that people have hectic schedules, that is why we welcome drop-offs and walk-ins.  We do not close our doors during the middle of the day.  We preferentially see appointments first, and get to our walk-ins as quickly as possible.  Emergencies are never turned away during the day, and get priority care and treatment.

Is there more than just one doctor on staff?
Here at AMP we have multiple doctors to oversee and assist on cases and wellness visits.  We believe the more eyes that are on your pet, the better.  We are in constant contact with area professionals and are ready to refer a difficult case to a specialist if the need arises.   Our goal is to provide the best care possible for your pet, and that takes a whole team approach.

What are the wait times for appointments?
There is nothing more annoying than going to a Doctor’s office and waiting hours to be seen (especially if you have a pet on a leash!).  Here at AMP, when you have a scheduled appointment, you will not wait more than 5 minutes to be seen by the medical staff.  That is our promise.

Are they equipped with an in-house laboratory and updated diagnostic equipment?
We believe that information is vital to the quick diagnosis and treatment of your pet.  We are equipped with a state of the art digital x-ray system and a full in-house laboratory.  This means we can get a full panel of bloodwork, a urinalysis, and digital X-rays on your pet in less than 20 minutes.  When your pets life is on the line, speed counts.

Do they offer any other services besides Veterinary care?
We are a full-service boarding facility capable of providing basic husbandry needs for your pet including baths, nail trims, ear cleanings, anal gland expressions, and day-boarding.

Are they friendly?
The first impression of a Veterinary practice begins on the phone.  Our mission is to provide the best customer service and experience that we can deliver.  Our staff is thoroughly trained and prepared to answer your questions and make you feel at home.  We do not make you feel guilty or ashamed.  Our goal is to make you feel welcome and have you leave knowing your expectations have been exceeded.

Do they welcome all pets?
We are primarily a dog and cat clinic.  We welcome pets of all temperaments and size.  We are trained and prepared to treat and provide care to pets that may be hard to handle.

Do they give you options?
We know and understand that pet ownership is a privilege, not a right.  That does not mean Veterinary care has to cost an arm and a leg.  We strive to provide advanced and compassionate care that is reasonably priced.  We offer money-saving wellness plans and payment options so that you can provide the best for your pet.