By far, the most common surgery performed on pets in the United States are spay and neuter procedures. These surgeries remove the reproductive organs of both male and female animals which helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and pet overpopulation. However, spaying and neutering of male and female dogs and cats has other beneficial outcomes as well. It has been established that cancer of the mammary glands is seven times more likely to occur in unspayed female dogs than in those that have been spayed. Also, one in four unspayed female dogs have been shown to have developed some level of uterine infection. The optimal time to spay dogs to prevent mammary tumors is to spay them before they are 2 ½ years of age. However, the optimal time to spay and neuter dogs is not established if all types of disease and body condition are taken into consideration. As an example, enlarged prostate conditions in the male dog can start in mid-life and will progress as the dog increases in age. The older they are the larger the prostate gland may become. This is a non-cancerous condition, but does increase in intensity as the dog ages causing other potential problems specifically in the urinary tract. Testicular cancer in intact male dogs will affect approximately one in one-hundred dogs. The greatest down side of not spaying or neutering your pet dog or cat is overweight or obesity. It has been established that 54% of dogs and 59% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Talk to your veterinarian about how to control the weight of your pet after spaying or neutering has been performed. The Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization calls for sterilization of cats by 5 months of age. This procedure should be scheduled at the end of the vaccination series for cats.
The winter months of 2017-2018 have been noticeably severe for the Influenza virus for humans, dogs and poultry. There has been an unprecedented occurrence of influenza in humans this year. Dozens of countries world-wide have reported avian influenza whereby entire flocks of chickens must be depopulated to prevent spread of the virus to other poultry and egg producing companies. Canine influenza has now been diagnosed in more than 40 states in the United States. It all started in March 2015 in and around the Chicago area when more than a thousand dogs were diagnosed with canine influenza. In the beginning, it was thought that outbreak was being caused by the H3N8 virus that had been around since being discovered by the University of Florida in 2004 at various greyhound race tracks and had sporadically infected susceptible dogs in any location in which the local dog population had not been exposed to the virus to develop passive immunity. However, much to the chagrin of veterinarians and pet owners alike, the virus that infected thousands of dogs in the Chicago area was due to the H3N2 virus that had been isolated only in Asia prior to the Chicago outbreak. A vaccine for H3N8 influenza virus had been developed and approved for use in 2009; however, no vaccine for H3N2 had been developed at that time and the virus was extremely virulent, meaning it spread to all susceptible dogs quite easily. When the virus enters a community where there has never been exposure all dogs are susceptible, and it will cause symptoms in more than 80% of those dogs with as many as 10% of those infected developing into much more serious conditions including pneumonia. Veterinary pharmaceutical companies immediately started research on vaccines for the H3N2 virus and today, most veterinary hospitals offer a bivalent vaccine that protects against both H3N2 and H3N8 viruses. It is recommended that all dogs get a flu vaccine, especially those dogs that visit boarding kennels, dog parks, grooming facilities and travel with their owners. It has been determined that the H3N2 canine influenza virus can and has infected cats. There is no vaccine available for cats currently. Also at this time, there is no evidence of transmission of H3N8 canine influenza from dogs to horses, ferrets, or other animal species including humans. The H3N2 strain, however, has been reported in Asia to infect cats, and there’s some evidence that guinea pigs and ferrets can become infected. There are no cases identified where transmission of either virus can be transmitted to humans.
The past year has been a devastating year for pets from natural or man-made disasters. Three major hurricanes, flooding, tornados, wildfires and diseases have taken their toll on our family pet population. There are many orphaned pets that are in shelters and rescue facilities waiting for a forever-home. Please consider adopting one of these pets. Disasters can strike at any time and at any place. Be prepared with all family members by having an evacuation plan, an evacuation survival kit and numerous practice sessions in place. Written instructions, both for emergency first responders and family members may save time and lives. Lives, money, and anxiety can be spared with proper emergency and disaster planning. And that makes for a better life for all family members, including the animals in our lives.