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Tessa

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Purred: Sun Oct 28, '12 6:35pm PST 
OCTOBER 28, 2012 - EMERGENCY WATER RATIONS FOR DOGS: HOW MUCH?

Hurricane Sandy is developing and storm outages occur any time of the year, so we've all probably stocked up on emergency provisions. I was wondering how much water to have for the water bowls. Here are a few guidelines gleened from Google.

From Doggyspace =
"So how much water does your dog need?

There is no steadfast rule. In general, animals should take in two and a half times more water than food. Another useful guideline for dogs weighing 20 pounds or less is that they need about 1 cup (8 ounces) of water for every 5 pounds of body weight. So, a healthy 15-pound dog would need 3 cups of water a day."

From Ruffwear =
"For dogs under 20 pounds, a good rule of thumb is drinking one cup of water (8oz) per five pounds of body weight each day. This calculation gets a bit trickier with larger and more active dogs. According to Dogster.com, average dogs over 20 pounds consume between .5 and one ounce of water per pound per day, so a 50 pound dog would consume between 25 and 50 ounces (.75 – 1.5L) of water in day."

From Vetstreet =
"Q. How much does a dog normally drink every day?
A. The daily water intake for a dog is about three to six ounces of water for every five pounds of body weight — so a 25-pound dog would drink between a pint and almost two pints per day under average conditions. The amount goes up if the weather is hot, the dog is exercising or both. Depending on whether or not a pet eats canned or dry food, up to half of a pet's daily water consumption can come from food."

Tessa

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Purred: Thu Nov 15, '12 5:40pm PST 
NOVEMBER 15, 2012 - A COMMON WINTER DANGER!

From the online vet newsletter PetMD:

QUOTE
"Treating and Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets
November 15, 2012

Yesterday we talked about the pathophysiology of antifreeze poisoning in pets. Today let’s touch upon what can be done to treat and prevent it.

If you ever suspect that your dog or cat could have gotten into antifreeze, get to the veterinary clinic IMMEDIATELY. Medications and procedures that prevent the absorption of ethylene glycol (e.g., induction of vomiting and administering activated charcoal) can help, but since EG is absorbed so rapidly it is usually impossible to ensure that none of the toxin makes it into the blood stream. Intravenous fluid therapy will be started to restore or maintain hydration, correct electrolyte imbalances, and promote kidney function and the excretion of ethylene glycol and its metabolites. Bicarbonate is often added to the fluids to counteract excess levels of acid within the body. A urinary catheter and closed collection system should also be put in place so urine production can be closely monitored. If it begins to decline, medications (e.g., mannitol) can be given to stimulate it.

Ethylene glycol "antidotes" must be given to pets within eight hours of the poisoning to be effective. A solution of diluted ethanol is the classic form of treatment, and is (probably) why your veterinarian has a bottle on the pharmacy shelf. It works by competing with one of the enzymes that converts EG into its toxic metabolites so that more EG can be eliminated unchanged from the body. Ethanol is the best way to treat cats that have gotten into antifreeze and is significantly cheaper (and more readily available) than fomepizole, the commonly used alternative in dogs. The downside of ethanol treatment is that, like EG, it is a depressant and diuretic, which can further compromise the pet’s condition.

Fomepizole works in the same way as ethanol, but is easier to administer (e.g., via four intravenous boluses over thirty hours versus a constant rate infusion for 48 hrs) and does not have the side effects associated with ethylene glycol. It is quite expensive, however, and is only effective in cats if given within three hours of exposure.

When antifreeze poisoning is diagnosed after signs of renal failure are present (e.g., increased BUN and creatinine, or limited or no urine production), neither ethanol nor fomepizole treatment is helpful. In these cases, long-term dialysis (either via fluids given into and drained out of the abdominal cavity or with a hemodialysis machine) is required to give an animal’s kidneys a chance to recover from the extensive damage caused by large numbers of calcium oxalate crystals passing through. If kidney function does not improve adequately, kidney transplant or euthanasia becomes necessary.

Obviously, the best way to prevent antifreeze poisoning in pets is to eliminate their access to it, but this is often easier said than done. If you are aware that an antifreeze spill has occurred, soak it up with kitty litter, safely dispose of the mixture, and rinse the area with copious amounts of water. "Pet-friendly" antifreezes that contain a bittering agent to make the product taste bad or that are made from propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol are available and even mandated in some states, but that certainly doesn’t mean that every car on the road is using these alternatives.

If you’re looking for another reason to keep pets indoors, within a fenced yard, or on a leash — this is it. By the time your free-roaming dogs and cats make it back to you, it may be too late to save them from the deadly effects of antifreeze poisoning.

Dr. Jennifer Coates"

Tessa

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Purred: Wed Dec 5, '12 6:18am PST 
DECEMBER 5, 2012 - PRESCRIPTION DIETS?

Just reading the poor quality ingredients in Hill's and Royal Canine prescription diets makes me quake. Maybe there is another way.

From the Honest Kitchen:
QUOTE

3 Myths About Your Pet’s Prescription Diet
December 2nd, 2012 by admin
The following article was provided to The Honest Kitchen by our friend, Susan Blake Davis, CCN

www.AskAriel.com
Copr. © 2011 eNewsChannels™ and Susan Blake Davis

When your veterinarian recommends a prescription diet for your pet, it is because your pet has a health condition that requires dietary modification. Your veterinarian has your pet’s best interest in mind and is trying to help you take better care of your pet.

What is a pet prescription diet? A prescription diet is a commercially prepared food scientifically formulated to address a specific health condition. For example, a kidney diet has reduced protein and phosphorous. When pets are diagnosed with various health conditions, dietary modification can make a significant impact on their health and well-being. The adage “you are what you eat” holds true.

There is an important point of clarification however. Yes– your pet needs to follow a diet based on a scientific formulary prescribing specific nutritional requirements (e.g. low fat, high fiber, low sodium). But, what is often misunderstood however, is that the only option for achieving this dietary formulary is by using commercially prepared prescription food. In other words, just because your pet needs a low fat, high fiber diet doesn’t mean that there is only one way to serve it using a canned or dry commercially prepared “prescription food”. There are homemade and combined homemade/commercial alternatives and it is important for you to know your options so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for your pet.

Myth #1—The Commercially Prepared Prescription Diet Is the Only Food OPTION My Pet Can Eat

Yes and No—The reason your pet needs to be on a prescription diet is because it is a “prescription” regarding various food groups such as fats, protein and carbohydrates as well as the vitamin and mineral content. For example, pets with kidney disease need a diet low in phosphorous. So—yes, if your veterinarian has diagnosed a disease, you should follow the vet’s prescription regarding your pet’s nutritional needs . However, this doesn’t mean that the only food choice is the dry and canned food commercial options available at your veterinarian’s office. You can prepare a homemade option or use a combination of homemade with raw frozen food or other commercial foods, but the point is that whatever you feed, it needs to meet the nutritional needs set forth in the prescription!

It would be difficult for the average pet owner to figure out the appropriate dietary alternatives for their pet within the confines of the “prescribed guidelines” In fact, there is a risk that if you are doing a lot of food combining on your own, you may end up doing more harm than good. It is quite common for pet owners to use the prescription commercial food all the while adding in miscellaneous treats and table scraps, thereby defeating the whole purpose. The point here is that there are natural, homemade and alternative ways to give your pet a “prescription” diet beyond the commercial prescription foods but it is highly recommended that you seek out the advice of a pet nutritionist or holistic veterinarian to ensure the diet meets the nutritional needs of your pet.

MYTH #2—It’s Okay to Feed My Pet’s Prescription Diet to All of My Pets

Not necessarily—Not unless all of your pets have the same health problems and require the same prescription diet. In multiple pet households, it is quite common for pet owners to feed the same food to all of their pets. Would you give the same medication to all of your pets too? Prescription diets are a dietary formulary that restrict certain ingredients—this might be advantageous for the pet for whom the diet is prescribed, but not for other pets. For example, a pet owner may have a senior cat and a 2 year old cat. A young cat needs a high protein, high fat diet. If a young cat is fed a prescription kidney diet, the cat may experience muscle atrophy and other health problems associated with a low protein diet. This is again, why it is so important to either consult with a pet nutritionist or holistic veterinarian or ensure that each pet is only eating the food that is designated for them.

MYTH #3 –If My Pet Has Multiple Health Problems, a Commercially Prepared Prescription Diet Will Address All of my Pet’s Nutritional Needs

Not necessarily—When pets have multiple health issues occurring, commercial pet food options are not nearly as successful. For example, a dog may have severe allergies and liver disease. There is no one “magic” formula a vet can prescribe to address multiple health problems. The commercially prescribed liver diets may be lower in fat and liver-friendly, but will most likely contain grains which the pet could be allergic to. And even when a pet is using a commercially prepared prescription diet for one health condition, another one may develop in the process. For example, pets that are prone to bladder stones may use a prescription diet to prevent the bladder stones but then develop hot spots and itching. if your pet has multiple health conditions, using a custom-tailored diet specifically designed for your pet by a holistic veterinarian or pet nutritionist is a more beneficial approach.

When your pet is diagnosed with a particular health condition, you want to do what’s best to help. Diet clearly has an impact but there are many ways to approach your pet’s health problem. The important point is to know that there are options.

Susan says, “The Honest Kitchen pet food can be combined with homemade ingredients in varying proportions (depending upon your pet’s health concerns) as a wholesome, nutritious alternative to ”prescription diets”. Please work with a veterinary professional to ensure your pet’s specific dietary requirements are carefully managed.”

Learn more about how a pet nutritionist can help your pet by visiting www.AskAriel.com


Tessa

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Purred: Wed Feb 6, '13 5:17am PST 
FEBRUARY 6,2013 - SIDESTEP THE SIDE EFFECTS
We like homeopathic remedies and have a good results. Here is a quick article from the online Dogs Naturally Magazine.

Quote:
"HEALTH TIP

Did you know that the homeopathic combination remedy ZEEL is just as effective as Carprofen?

Carprofen (marketed as Rimadyl, Imadyl, Novox and Imafen, manufactured by Pfizer Animal Health) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug meant to reduce pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. German scientists compared carprofen to ZEEL in dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis and found that the effective of both ZEEL and carprofen was comparable.

The best part is that ZEEL has no side effects whereas nearly 10% of the dogs receiving carprofen in the study suffered adverse events.

See more here: http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/homeopathy-zeel-arthritis/

ZEEL can be purchased at most health food stores."

Tessa

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Purred: Tue Feb 12, '13 2:56am PST 
FEBRUARY 12, 2013 - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL!

No matter whether it's dog food, treats or shampoo, always read the label. Educate yourself on what is good or bad for us.
From the online Dogs Naturally Magazine

Quote:
"How To Choose A Safe Shampoo

Regular grooming can be an important part of keeping your dog healthy. Regular brushing will help spread the natural oils throughout your dog’s coat. Regular bathing will remove dead skin cells, excess sebum and will help control dust mites and allergens. Bathing your dog once a month is a great idea.

Choosing a chemical-free shampoo is essential. Reading the label is important because many products state they contain natural or organic ingredients but still contain toxic chemicals. Here are some shampoo ingredients you’ll want to avoid:

Added dyes or colorants: synthetic color additives for cosmetics are linked to cancers and other serious health problems. Examples are D&C Blue No. 4, or D&C Yellow No. 8, CI 1940 (also called Tartrazine, which is strongly linked to allergic reactions, migraines, hyperactivity and even tumors). Many are made from coal tar which is recognized as a carcinogen. Avoid brightly colored liquids: natural colors in chemical free shampoos usually range from an opaque white to a light yellow.

Added fragrance or perfumes derived from chemicals. Artificial fragrances are linked to allergies, headaches, nausea and other serious health problems. Use shampoos that contain organic essential oils.

Parabens are inexpensive and used by many cosmetic manufacturers as a preservative. Parabens mimic estrogen hormones and have been linked to breast cancer. Names include methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid), parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate). Look for shampoos that use citrus seed extracts, and natural vitamins A, C and E.

Mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum, derived from propylene glycol. It is one of the key ingredients in baby shampoo and baby oil. People use baby shampoo on their dogs, believing that if it is good for a baby it is good for their dog – but it is not even good for babies! It is often used in cosmetics and shampoos as an emollient. It can actually harm the skin and is linked to many other health issues, including liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Stearalkonium chloride is used in shampoos and conditioners as an antimicrobial and surfactant. It creates skin and eye irritations and may cause hypertension and ill effects on the brain and organs.

Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulphate are commonly used in cosmetic products as detergents. They can cause irritation to the mouth and upper digestive tract; may cause significant skin irritation especially if exposure is prolonged and/or repeated. Contact with eyes can cause severe irritation; if not washed out promptly, may permanently injure the tissue. Use products that are made with olive oil, coconut oil and other natural fatty oils.

DEA, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA are used as foaming agents in shampoos. May cause cancer.

This list just gives you a snippet of information on harmful ingredients in dog shampoos.

>>>It also applies to the ingredient list on your own shampoo and personal skin care products. Don’t believe the marketing hype. Read and understand the labels and think for yourself.

Tessa

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Purred: Mon Jun 3, '13 5:36am PST 
JUNE 3, 2013 - GO GREEN!

I think the green lipped mussel is the best and most natural supplement for joints.

QUOTED from the Dogs Naturally online magazine:

"Green Lipped Mussels: Why Your Dog Needs Them!

The name green lipped mussel conjures up all kinds of images when you are first introduced to the term. Most people are like: “Green WHAT mussel? Mussels have lips?” But this little guy is actually one of the largest in the mussel family and can only be found in the waters surrounding New Zealand. It’s noticeable green hue along the edge of their shell can be attributed to the name “green lipped” mussel. The native people of New Zealand, Maoris, have known the health benefits of the mussels since the 1970s, but they have only been introduced to the western world in recent years.

The Benefits of Green Lipped Mussel
So how does our new friend green lipped mussel (GLM) actually help us and our pets? Well, let’s talk joint pain for a moment. If you suffer from joint pain you are not alone. Millions of people around the world experience the aches associated with an inflammatory condition that can manifest itself as arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatism or gout. And we aren’t alone. As our canine and feline friends age, they too can experience the same discomforts. Unfortunately there isn’t a cure; however, there has been effectiveness shown for treating joint problems and arthritis through a variety of methods. Most often our pets (like us) are prescribed life-long medication to reduce the inflammation and lessen the discomfort.

There are several kinds of anti-inflammatory medications that treat this ailment. However, as with most forms of medication, some of these anti-inflammatories can have serious side effects. Dr. Karyl Hurley, a veterinarian at Waltham’s research center in England, presented her research to a British science conference and explained: “We know that over 50% of dogs over the age of eight start to develop arthritis in various joints. It is usually their hips, knees and elbows” and the usual route that is taken to help alleviate symptoms are daily anti-inflammatory drugs. “However,” she continues, “there is evidence to suggest that the use of these drugs may have adverse and distressing side effects including irritation, anorexia, vomiting and ulcers.” Who wants to rid their poor pet of joint pain only to create problems elsewhere in the body?

Well, this miracle from the sea is welcomed with open arms by pet owners who are constantly on the hunt for natural supplements for their pets. GLM is a natural food source and, unless you are allergic to shellfish, there are no negative side effects.

You and your four-legged friends can benefit from the mussels because, when harvested in peak condition, they are a rich source of omega fatty acids and minerals. Powdered extract of GLM contains very high concentration of omega-3s and a unique combination of fatty acids that is not found in any other marine or plant life. Studies have also shown that they are used in order to reduce pain, and they can act as a feeding stimulant. However, their greatest healing properties correspond to the fact that they are a natural anti-inflammatory due to them being an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with these two healing agents, they are a pair of important critical building blocks for bones and cartilage. They are key in reducing and inhibiting inflammation, and relieving pain associated with joint problems.

A Virtual Superfood!
In addition to their inflammatory healing properties, these mussels are considered a superfood because they contain a huge variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, enzymes, and many more nutrients. You’ve got to love green lipped mussel, even if it does smell a little… well, smelly. This brownish-green powder does smell exactly how you would expect dried mussel to smell. However, believe us when we say that we’ve seen our own dogs reap the many benefits of this stinky guy, and it’s worth it.

GLM isn’t only useful for pets that are already suffering from arthritis. Many pet owners use this supplement as a preventative in order to save their pets some pain and stiffness down the line.

“If I start giving GLM, do I still need to give glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3’s?”

GLM is especially effective when taken in conjunction with glucosamine, chondroitin and fish oil, forming a quadfecta of awesomeness (OK, maybe we got a little too excited there).

Think of the glucosamine and the fish oil as a rocket; GLM would be rocket fuel that pushes the rocket to attain magnificent heights. The rocket’s purpose? To fight inflammation.

Need more evidence?
Let us draw your attention to one of the many studies done in order to evaluate the efficacy of the GLM when added to a pet’s diet. The study used 31 mixed-breed dogs displaying varying degrees of arthritis. Each dog was evaluated and scored by veterinarians on a variety of factors. The dogs were randomly selected and placed into two groups. Both groups were fed the same diet, to which 0.3% green-lipped mussel powder was added for one of the groups. The change in the total arthritis score at the end of 6 weeks showed significant improvement in the test group versus the control group, especially in the joint pain and swelling categories. This study provides strong evidence that when GLM is incorporated into a diet, it can help alleviate arthritis symptoms in dogs.

How Much Does Your Dog Need?
Convinced? Good! The best way to supplement GLM into your pet’s diet is to sprinkle the extract over their food. The effectiveness of the extract depends on the quality of the product. The key to choosing the right brand is the manufacturing process. If the mussels are steamed open in order to get the flesh out, the heat destroys the nutrients in the mussels. Knowing your manufacturer and, therefore, knowing how your product is created, is important when choosing a brand.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2002 says that the size of your pet is a key factor that must be taken into consideration when determining the right dosage of GLM. The simplest way to do the math is to follow this general rule: 15mg of powdered extract per 1 pound of pet’s body weight.

But size isn’t the only important thing to keep in mind when measuring dosages. The severity of your pet’s condition is probably the most important factor. If your pet is suffering from arthritis and you do not see any improvement in the first 2-4 weeks of giving the supplement, you can increase the dosage slightly. After a month or so, once your pet’s health condition improves, you can decrease the dosage to the previous dosages mentioned.

It is always very important to consult with your vet before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet. Although no negative reactions have been reported in correlation with the use of the extract, it’s important to always keep a close eye on your pets when introducing them to new foods and supplements.

Take the plunge and put a little “mussel” to your pet’s diet.

Written by: Lise Blinn
Sourcing & Editing: Pet Nutrition Blogger, Rodney Habib"

Tessa

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Purred: Mon Jul 8, '13 8:52am PST 
JULY 8, 2013 - BEWARE! BAD RESCUE!

This is a great article from Examiner.com. Excellent guidelines for interacting with an animal rescue group. Don't give your time and money to the bad ones.
A good rescue group will be upfront and answer ALL of your questions.

QUOTE
"Warning signs of a bad rescue

ANIMAL ADVOCACY JULY 6, 2013BY: KATIE BRYNELSEN

How to identify a bad rescue
Credits: Katie Brynelsen

Recognizing a bad rescue from a good one is getting harder and harder, as the number of bad people involved in animal rescue continue to increase. It is important that everyone knows what warning signs to look for to identify a bad rescue because it can mean the difference between life and death for one or more animals. In addition, giving money to bad rescues just takes the money away from the good rescues and their animals that need it. Everyone involved in rescue needs to ask questions because the animals are counting on you to make sure they are safe. Here are some warning signs to watch for before you work with or donate to a rescue:

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1. If a rescue does not network animals locally.
2. If local rescuers do not know who they are.
3. If the rescue always gets animals from far away. Why are they not helping in their local area or more locally to where they live? Are they unable to get animals closer to where they live for some reason?
4. If the rescue does not make adopters do an application and home-check, sign a contract, and or check on the adopter, foster, or rescue that they plan to send the animal to. They should have applications for potential adopters and fosters, as well as information on volunteering.
5. If the rescue will not allow you to visit. They might tell you that you can visit, but when they time comes are they available and willing to allow you to visit with them and their animals?
6. If the rescue does not post follow-up information and photos on their website of the animals after they are adopted. Follow-photos should not just be taken just outside the shelter or when the animal first gets to rescue; but also while at the foster or rescue until adopted, and then an update and photos with their new family should be posted.
7. If the rescue does not hold adoption events, fundraisers, or use fosters.
8. If the rescue does not screen pullers, transporters, fosters, and adopters. They should not just adopt animals to anyone with money; if they are, then that is brokering.
9. If the rescue refuses to answer normal rescue questions. Remember if they are a 501 c 3, then they have to share certain information with you or you can report them to the IRS and state.
10. If the rescue starts attacking people asking them normal rescue questions and or starts bashing other rescuers in an effort to try to divert attention away from them and answering the questions you asked them.
11. If they will not release veterinarian’s information or allow you to pay the vet directly via phone or mail.
12. If they are not using donations for what they are supposed to be for. For instance, if donations are for needed vet care, then that is what they should be used for. If a rescue is not getting an animal needed vet care then do not use them.
13. If they will not give you the name and location of a rescue they are sending an animal or animals to.
14. If the rescue has been reported for complaints or cited for any violations.
15. If the rescue does not report how many animals they have and adopt out as they are supposed to on their website and or Facebook page. They should have multiple photos of each animal taken from good angles. Also make sure the photos are not just of them with the pet, because that is also a bad sign. In addition, if they do not have pictures with follow-up information on all of the animals they have rescued.
16. If the rescue is always complaining about how broke they are, what bills they have, and they are always saying how they need money. Especially, when the rescue complains about all of their personal bills all the time and wants help paying them. If they are really always that broke, then are the animals getting the proper care at home and by a vet that they should get? Legit rescues do fundraising and get donations and do not usually need to beg for funds.
17. If you catch them lying or changing their stories.
18. If they will not allow you to adopt or apply to adopt or foster from them.
19. If they mainly or only rescue animals with high pledges.
20. If they are rescuing large numbers of animals in a regular basis. This is especially important when they are sending the dogs far away and to the same rescues on a regular basis. Where are they all going? Do they post follow-up photos of all of them in their new homes? Legit rescues know that it takes time to adopt animals out to qualified homes, often times months or years.
21. If they ask for donations or pledges to be paid while the animal is still in the shelter or before providing follow-up information and photos of where that animal went and if it was adopted or rescued.
22. If they are affiliated with any known animal abusers or rescue scammers.
23. If they have posted fake reviews online about themselves.

The most important thing is that you ask questions. Don’t just pay your pledges without any information. Verify that the animal is truly rescued and safe per information and photos. One way to avoid this worry is to rescue and donate locally or more locally (within your own state). By rescuing locally you can visit the rescue and get to know the people operating it. In addition, you can also check on the animals yourself. When you find rescues you like locally, start donating money or supplies to them to help them to care for and to keep saving more animals. Remember, the animals are counting on us to keep them safe. They cannot speak up but we can. Ask questions and get answers or do not work with them. There are plenty of legit, good rescues that are more than happy to provide you with all the information that would love your support.

If you know about animal abuse or rescue scams, please report them to the proper authorities."

Tessa

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Purred: Sat Jul 20, '13 1:31pm PST 
JULY 20, 2013 - TO NEUTER OR NOT TO NEUTER...IS THERE A QUESTION?

For my part, neutering at the right age is just the thing to do to prevent "accidents" and homeless dogs. This article from the online magazine 'Dogs Naturally' is a real eye-opener concerning when that right age may actually be!

QUOTE;

"Spay, Neuter And Joint Disease

There are three topics you shouldn’t discuss with friends: religion, politics and mandatory spay/neuter. Talking frankly about spay/neuter is worth the backlash however because the health risks associated with it, especially when done in a young dog, are worthy of discussion. That isn’t to say that dogs shouldn’t be spayed or neutered; that’s a personal decision best left to the pet owner. Like vaccines and most routine veterinary procedures however, vets spend a lot of time discussing why you should spay or neuter your dog, but spend very little time talking about why you shouldn’t. The goal of this article is to give you the information your vet doesn’t, so you can make the best possible decision for your dog.

I’ll preface the article by stating that I breed Labrador Retrievers, a breed that can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as cruciate tears. The families that get one of my puppies receive a warranty of sorts, saying that I have done everything I can to prevent these issues and if, despite my best efforts, the puppy I’ve bred ends up with a debilitating joint issue, I will refund the purchase price to the puppy’s family.

There is one disclaimer however and it’s as follows: if the family decides to spay or neuter the puppy before 24 months of age, my warranty is null and void. The reason is that research shows I can’t guarantee the puppy’s joints won’t be affected by this seemingly simple medical procedure. Spay/neuter has the capability of permanently changing a healthy puppy joint into an unhealthy one.

Abnormal Growth
At the heart of the matter is how spay/neuter affects the dog’s hormones. When a dog’s reproductive organs are surgically removed, the sex hormones they produce also disappear. The sex hormones are responsible for more than just sexual behaviors and one of their responsibilities is regulating growth.

Breeders can readily spot the difference between an intact dog and a neutered dog: neutered dogs have longer limbs, narrower heads and bodies, and they are lighter in bone. When the sex hormones are removed, the growth hormones are missing important regulatory input and the bones continue to grow longer than they ought to. Studies have proven this to be true (Salmeri et al, JAVMA 1991).

In each long bone there is a growth (epiphyseal) plate, which is a band of cartilage found near the joint. This growth plate lays down bone as a puppy develops and, as it builds bone, the bone becomes longer and the puppy gets larger and taller. Once maturity is reached, this growth plate turns into bone and the puppy’s full height is reached.

When dogs are sterilized before maturity, the closure of some but not all growth plates may be delayed and this would be especially true if a dog is sterilized when only some of his growth plates are closed.

The dog’s elbow and stifle joints are similarly designed. Above each joint is one bone (the humerus and femur respectively), and below are two bones (in the elbow there is the radius and ulna and in the stifle there is the tibia and fibula). One bone effectively sits on two. What would happen if one of those bones underneath the joint stopped growing before the other bone and they ended up being different lengths? It would be very much like building a house on a slope: the weight of the home wouldn’t be evenly distributed and there would be increased load at the lowermost corner of the house.

The same could very well happen in the elbow and stifle joint when closure of the growth plates is artificially delayed and this could in turn lead to increased risk of both elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears.

There is research that supports this. Whitehair et al (JAVMA Oct 1993), found that spayed and neutered dogs were twice as likely to suffer cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Slauterbeck et al also found an increased risk (Clin Orthop Relat Res Dec 2004).

Chris Zinc DVM PhD DACVP explains, “…if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at eight months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament.”

Additionally, sterilization can cause a loss of bone mass (Martin et al, Bone 1987), and obesity (Edney et al, Vet Rec Apr 1986). Both of these factors could lead to an increased risk of cranial cruciate ligament tear. Furthermore, spayed/neutered dogs are greater than three times more likely to suffer from patellar luxation (Vidoni et al, Wien Tierartztl Mschr 2005).

Hip Dysplasia
The thought of hip dysplasia is enough to strike fear into any large breed dog lover. For that reason, the bulk of research on spay/neuter and joint disease is focused on this disorder.

Dogs who are sterilized before the age of six months have a 70% increased risk of developing hip dysplasia. The authors of this study (Spain et al, JAVMA 2004), propose that “it is possible that the increase in bone length that results from early-age gonadectomy results in changes in joint conformation, which could lead to a diagnosis of hip dysplasia.”

There is more evidence that spay/neuter can increase the risk of hip dysplasia. Van Hagen et al (Am J Vet Res, Feb 2005), found that of the sample dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia, those that were neutered six months prior to the diagnosis were nearly twice as likely to develop hip dysplasia.

Interestingly, a study by Dannuccia et al (Calcif Tissue Int, 1986), found that removing the ovaries of Beagles caused increased remodeling of the pelvic bone, which also suggests an increased risk of hip dysplasia with sterilization.

Osteosarcoma
Although not technically a joint issue, osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone. This bears mentioning because spayed and neutered dogs are twice as likely to develop this deadly disease (Ru et al, Vet J, Jul 1998).

In another study, male Rottweilers, a breed susceptible to osteosarcoma, were nearly four times more likely to develop osteosarcoma than intact dogs (Cooley et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, Nov 2002). In fact, Rottweilers spayed or neutered before one year of age had a 28.4%(males) and 25.1% (females) risk of developing osteosarcoma. Interestingly, the researchers concluded from their results that the longer the dogs were exposed to sex hormones, the lower their risk of osteosarcoma.

Playing Roulette
There are other related risks with spay/neuter, including an increased risk of many cancers, hypothyroidism, diabetes, urogenital disorders, pyometra, cognitive impairment, obesity and adverse vaccine reactions – not to mention the risk associated with the surgery and the anesthetic. These risks should all be considered when it comes time to decide if spay/neuter is an option for your dog.

What does seem to be clear is that the risk of joint disease in particular is greatly exaggerated if the dog is sterilized before the growth plates close. It’s important to remember that the sex hormones do play a synergistic role in your dog’s growth and development and their removal will create imbalance in the body. Just what the fallout from this imbalance entails remains to be seen, as research into the effects of sterilization is in its infancy, even though hysterectomies on humans and spay/neuter on dogs has been accepted as a normal procedure for decades!

The age at which the growth plates close is entirely dependent on the dog and the breed. In general, the larger the dog, the later the growth plates will close. In giant breeds, this could be nearly two years of age.

Conclusion
Getting back to my puppy contract, given the above research, I simply can’t guarantee the puppies I breed will have healthy joints if they are spayed or neutered, especially before the age of two. Whether the puppy’s family decides to keep their dog intact or sterilize him after that age is entirely up to the family. I do an extremely good job of screening the homes that apply for one of my puppies and if they aren’t responsible enough to keep an intact animal, they certainly aren’t responsible enough to deserve one of my precious puppies in the first place.

People who are involved in rescues and shelters may have a different view on this and they are certainly entitled to it. When considering if and when your dog should be spayed or neutered however, it’s important that you make the decision based on facts and try to steer clear of an emotional response that may affect the health and longevity of your dog. It’s really not for me – or your vet – to dictate what you should do with your dog.

Happily, there are alternatives to the complete removal of the sexual organs. Vets are starting to experiment with zinc injections to sterilize male dogs. This leaves about half of the circulating testosterone available to the body. Vasectomies and tubal ligations are also becoming more popular and they have the happy consequence of less interference with the sex hormones – and your dog gets to keep his reproductive organs right where nature intended them to be.

You have a choice in whether and when your dog is spayed or neutered and how important it is to you that his/her sexual organs and hormones remain in place. Once your dog is spayed or neutered, you can’t reverse your decision, so dig a little deeper and you just might find a solution that you and your dog can live with, happily and healthfully."

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