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Low Calorie Snacks for Your Pets

Low Calorie Store Bought Options

Licky Stik 1 calorie/10 licks
Fruitable Skinny Minis 2 calories
Zuke’s Mini Naturals 3 calories
Charlee’s Bear 3 calories
Hills T/D Small Bites 9 calories
Bravo 10 calories
Steward Freeze Dried Liver Treats 10 calories
Hills T/D Original Bites 17 calories


Low Calorie  Human Food Options

Cucumbers 1/4 cup 5 calories
Cauliflower 1/4 cup 6 calories
Green Beans 1/4 cup 9 calories
Melon 1/4 cup 12 calories
Canned pumpkin 1/4 cup 20 calories
Popcorn air popped 1/2 cup 22 calories
Cottage Cheese 1 oz. 30 calories
Baby Carrots 8 count 30 calories
Pumpkin, canned 1/4 cup 20 calories
Tuna, canned in water 1 oz. 36 calories
Turkey Breast, Lean 1 oz. 50 calories
Chicken, Lean 1 oz. 52 calories
Beef, Lean 1 oz. 64 calories
Apple 1 medium 80 calories
Mini Marshmallows 9 count 100 calories
Banana 101 calories


High Calorie Store Bought Treat Options

Milk- Bone Small 20 calories
Pup-Peroni 23 calories
Greenies, Teeny 25 calories
Grillin’ Bites Beef Steaks 30 calories
Beggin’ Stips Bacon 30 calories
Milk-Bone Medium 40 calories
Greenies, Petite 54 calories
DentaStix Regular 70 calories
Greenies Regular 90 calories
Milk-Bone Large 115 calories
Greenies, Large 144 calories
Pig Ear 182 calories
DentaBone Medium 188 calories
Milk-Bone Extra Large 225 calories
Greenies, Jumbo 270 calories


High Calorie  Human Food Options

String Cheese Stick 80 calories
Egg 1 large 81 calories
Peanut Butter 1 tbsp. 81 calories
Bologna 1 slice 87 calories
Marshmallows 4 large 90 calories
Bread, white 1 slice 94 calories
Cheese Slice 102 calories
Hot Dog 242 calories
McDonalds Small French Fry 250 calories
McDonalds Hamburger 280 calories
McDonalds Cheeseburger 330 calories

Weight Loss Program

54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.

We are excited to join you in helping your dog reach a healthy weight.  As discussed, we will determine current calories being consumed, target weight, and options for weight loss. Please bring your dog in every four  weeks for a complimentary weight evaluation. At that time feeding adjustments will be made based on progress. Just like in humans, it takes time to put weight on and take weight off.  In the first month we may see no change in weight, weight loss, or even in some cases weight gain. But with time and dedication success is possible!


Why is a Healthy Weight  Important

Some common disorders associated with excess weight in dogs include:

  • Shorter life expectancy, obese dogs have been shown in studies to live up to two years shorter than lean dogs
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Respiratory and Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • If your pet has arthritis, keeping him/her at a healthy weight makes it easier to manage the discomfort associated with joint pain

Make a family commitment

A commitment to reach and maintain a healthy weight for your pet requires a commitment from the entire family – a weight loss plan isn’t going to succeed if one family member sneaks your pet extra food. Remind your family that there are many ways other than food to demonstrate and express their love for your family pet.

Common calorieintakes, human/dog/cat

10lbs 180-200 calories
10lbs 200-275 calories
20lbs 325-400 calories
50lbs 700-900 calories
70lbs 900-1050 calories
90lbs 1100-1350 calories
Male 2500 calories
Female 2000 calories
  • 20 lb dog eating 1 hotdog equals a person consuming 3 entire hamburgers
  • 20 pound dog lb eating 1 small oatmeal cookie equals a person eating 1 hamburger or 1 chocolate bar
Calorie Burning Options

  • Use a portion of your pet’s daily food as treats
  • Treats should make up only 5-10% of your pet’s diet
  • Teach a trick for a treat or introduce puzzle toys that requires the cat or dog to work for the treat. This is a great way to increase your pet’s exercise level, stimulate the mind, and give rewards at the same time.

Dog Urine Damage on Lawns

Causes, Cures and Prevention

  • Outline: Urban legends about urine damage, page 1
  • Only female dogs cause spotting in lawns, page 1
  • Dog spots are more common with certain breeds of dogs, page 1
  • Dog spots occur because urine is alkaline (has a pH above 7.0), page 2
  • Dog spots can be prevented by using food supplements that acidify a dog’s urine, page 2
  • Dog spots can be “cured” by sprinkling the affected area with backing soda, gypsum, dishwashing
  • detergent, etc. to neutralize the urine. page 2
  • Dealing with dog spots, page 2
  • What can be done with the dog(s)?, page 2
  • If the affected spots are green and grass growth is stimulated (no browning is apparent), page 3
  • If the affected spots are brown (the turf may or may not be dead), page 3

Urban Legends About Urine Damage

Dog urine damage is a common problem for home lawns, and one that has generated numerous home remedies and commercial products claiming to be cures for the spots. This lawn problem is misunderstood when it comes to causes and cures. Dog spotting on turfgrass is caused by the deposition of a high concentration of nitrogen (N)-containing compounds and associated salts on a small area in the lawn. These deposits are often concentrated in a relatively small portion of the lawn, resulting in turf injury or death. Some common “urban legends” surrounding dog urine damage to lawns are:

Only female dogs cause spotting in lawns.

FALSE. Dog spotting in lawns is most often caused by dogs that squat when they urinate, thus depositing a large volume of concentrated urine in a small area. Most “squatters” are female dogs, but some males do this as well, especially in their own yard. Many male dogs tend to “mark” vertical objects in the landscape (trees, posts, etc.), which presents problems for \ landscape plants.

Dog spots are more common with certain breeds of dogs.

MOSTLY FALSE. Dog spotting is more likely to occur (or be more obvious) with larger dogs, since they produce larger amounts of urine. Dog spots can occur with smaller breeds, especially if the dog tends to urinate in a limited area of the lawn.

Dog spots occur because urine is alkaline (has a pH above 7.0).

FALSE. Dog spots occur because a high concentration of N and salts has been deposited in a very small area of the lawn. In some cases, the added N causes dark green spots and rapid grass growth, without injuring the grass. In other cases, the result is a brown spot – often surrounded by a halo of dark green grass. The browning is caused by the concentrated nitrogen deposited in the center, which burns the leaf tissue, and may or may not cause tissue death. The lower concentration of salts on the periphery fertilizes the grass – resulting in a darker
green ring.

Dog spots can be prevented by using food supplements that acidify a dog’s urine.

FALSE. Dog spots do not occur because a dog’s urine is alkaline. Products advertised to “naturally” reduce urine alkalinity (including the amino acid, dl methionine, also known as methioform) may cause urinary system problems and can affect calcium deposition in growing bones of younger dogs. The addition of baking soda, potassium citrate and other salts are likewise not recommended as curatives for dog spots. A veterinarian should always be contacted before giving a dog a food supplement known to affect urine pH. There are medically sound reasons for altering urine pH, but the prevention of dog spots in lawns is not one of them. There are no dietary supplements that have been scientifically proven to reduce either the incidence or severity of dog spotting in lawns.

Dog spots can be “cured” by sprinkling the affected area with baking soda, gypsum, dishwashing detergent, etc. to neutralize the urine.

FALSE. The only “product” that can neutralize the urine’s negative effects is water. Gypsum and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are salts and may compound the problem. Dishwashing detergents, which act as wetting agents or surfactants, may enhance water movement into and through the soil. While this theoretically could promote leaching and dilution of accumulated salts, some dishwashing detergents can burn grass plants.

Dealing with Dog Spots
What can be done with the dog(s)?

  • Train the dog to use a non-turf area in the landscape, such as an area covered with mulch or gravel, or select a location where dog spotting will not become an aesthetic problem and damage can be tolerated. This is the ONLY sure solution for the problem!
  • Always provide adequate water for your pet; increased water consumption will dilute urine, reducing the potential for turf injury. While the addition of salt, garlic, tomato juice and other “home remedies” to your pet’s food can increase water consumption (thus diluting their urine) your veterinarian should always be consulted before doing so. The increased salt intake can cause problems for older dogs, as well as for those with heart or kidney conditions.
  • Except for the addition of water to a dog’s food, no additive or supplement should be fed to your pet without first consulting with your veterinarian. Certain additives may increase a dog’s water intake, but can have detrimental and unintended consequences for its health.
  • If the affected spots are green and grass growth is stimulated (no browning is apparent):
    • Increase nitrogen fertilization frequency and/or the amount of fertilizer to help mask the urine-induced stimulation of growth and color; dark green spots will be especially visible on lawns that are not receiving adequate nitrogen fertilization.
    • Maintain adequate irrigation to prevent accumulation of salts in the soil; drought or lack of water can allow salts to accumulate and injure or kill turf.
  • If the affected spots are brown, (the turf may or may not be dead):
    • Increase irrigation amount and/or frequency to help dilute salts that have accumulated in the soil. This may help still-living turf recover, and will dilute salts in those areas where the turf has been killed (allowing for more effective re-seeding).
    • When turf has been killed, the dead sod and some soil (0.5-1 inch of soil) can be removed. Re-sod the area with new grass.
  • Individual dead/damaged spots can be re-seeded as follows:
    • In a Kentucky bluegrass lawn: Spot seed with Kentucky bluegrass (marginally effective) or perennial ryegrass (more effective). Tall fescue, K31 tall fescue, “dwarf” fescue, or annual (Italian) ryegrass should NOT be used for spot-seeding a bluegrass lawn.
    • In a tall fescue lawn: Spot seed with turf-type tall fescue (sometimes called “dwarf” fescue). Perennial ryegrass can also be used, but it has a finer texture and the newly seeded spots will look different from the rest of the lawn. Do NOT use K31 fescue or annual (Italian) ryegrass for spot-seeding a tall fescue lawn.
    • Fine fescue lawns: Seed with fine fescue seed. The use of perennial ryegrass or tall fescue is NOT recommended, as the spots will have a different color, texture, and growth rate.
    • Zoysiagrass and bermudagrass lawns: Patch using sod from a sod farm, or by transplanting sod from an inconspicuous area of same the lawn.

Consult your veterinarian before supplementing a pet’s diet with any product or food additive claiming to reduce dog spots in lawns. Similarly, no “spray-on” product for lawns, claiming to prevent or “cure” dog spots, has been scientifically proven to be effective.

Authors: Alison Stoven O’Connor, Ph.D, CSU Extension Horticulture Agent, Larimer County; and Tony Koski,
Ph.D., Extension Turf Specialist; Colorado State University Extension.
For additional information on lawn care, refer to
Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes are available online at
Colorado Master Gardener training is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Colorado Garden Show, Inc.
Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.
Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.
No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.
Copyright Colorado State University Extension. All Rights Reserved. CMG GardenNotes may be reproduced, without
change or additions, for nonprofit educational use with attribution.
Revised October 2014

The Optimal Age for Spay/Neuter: A Critical Analysis of Spay Neuter Literature

Provided with permission from Dr. Philip Bushby
Southwest Veterinary Symposium 2018

Philip A. Bushby, DVM
Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA


In the past few years the standard practice of sterilizing canine and feline pets has been challenged. Research studies document both benefits and risks associated with ovariohysterectomy and castration creating some level of confusion in the profession. Some in the profession argue for delay in performing these surgeries or abandonment altogether, while others argue for early age or pediatric spay/neuter. On one end of the spectrum are concerns over the incidence of certain orthopedic conditions and cancers and on the other end concerns over pet overpopulation and euthanasia of homeless pets in animal shelters. Who is correct? Should dogs and cats be sterilized and is there an optimal age for such surgeries?

The Ugly Truth

Estimates are that between 6 and 8 million animals are admitted to animal shelters in the United States each year. Approximately 50% of those animals are euthanized. Most of the euthanized animals are healthy, most of them friendly, most of them would be perfectly good pets if there were enough homes. But there aren’t enough homes and it doesn’t end there. Millions more are killed on highways, die of disease, or die of starvation. Every one of these animals is the offspring of owned animals that were not spayed or castrated somewhere in the lineage. Many people view this as an emotional issue, and it is emotional. But it is much more than that. It is a public health issue, and a risk to the health of peoples’ pets. It’s also financial issue. Billions of dollars are spent each year catching, caring for and eventually killing unwanted dogs and cats.

If a new disease were discovered causing the death of 3 to 4 million owned pets a year, the veterinary profession would scramble to find the cause, to discover how to treat, how to cure. We know the cause of pet overpopulation and we know the cure. But these animals are not in peoples’ homes. For the most part, they are hidden away. The deaths occur in back rooms of animal shelters or on the back roads. Out of the public view. Out of sight, out of mind.

The question we must answer is should we spay/neuter, and if so, when? At what age should you do the surgeries? We have seen the recommended age for spay/neuter change over the years. None of the recommendations have been based on a comprehensive analysis of sound research. In fact, until recently, there had been very little research on the impact of spay/neuter. The recommendations are based on opinions, on personal biases, or on the results of just a few research studies.

Research (Supportive of Delayed Spay Neuter or Don’t Spay Neuter)

Recent research publications have caused some in the profession to question not only pediatric spay/neuter, but spay/neuter in general. Four studies out of UC Davis veterinary school have resulted in many people, veterinarians and animal owners, expressing concern about the age of spay/neuter or about even performing spay/neuter at all. These studies are:

  • UC Davis: Golden retriever study 1 (February 2013)
  • UC Davis: Comparison of Labrador retrievers with Golden retrievers 2 (2014)
  • UC Davis: Neutering of German shepherd dogs 3 (2015)
  • UC Davis: Gonadectomy effects on the risk of immune disorders 4 (2016)

These articles report on retrospective studies that looked at the incidence of joint problems (CCL rupture, hip dysplasia), various cancers (lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumors) and immune disorders. They reported varying degrees of increase in incidence of certain orthopedic conditions, neoplastic conditions and immune disorders in sterilized dogs.

Close examination of these papers, however, should cast doubt on the assumption that we should avoid or delay spay neuter.

  • Lack of control of variables: In the best research, all variables are controlled except the one you are measuring. Retrospective studies can’t do that. We don’t know the impact of diet, lifestyle, environment, preventive care, genetics or other factors on the results in these studies out of UC Davis.
  • Biased research population: At referral institutions cases managed by primary care veterinary clinics are not represented. For example, the private practitioner might manage the dog with mammary neoplasia, pyometra or testicular cancer, but refer the case of osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma or lymphoma. This would totally skew the research population. It gets even more confusing. What if animals are sterilized because they have an orthopedic condition as opposed to have an orthopedic condition because they were sterilized. And let’s complicate things a little more. There are two primary reasons why people don’t sterilize their dogs and cats; they want to breed them or they can’t afford the surgery. If someone cannot afford the cost of a spay or castration, what are the odds of them taking their pet to a referral hospital for specialized care? Again, skewing the research population.
  • Association does not prove cause and effect: In the past ten years, the incidence of diabetes and the number of people practicing yoga have both increased. That does not mean that yoga causes diabetes or that diabetes causes people to want to do yoga.
  • Small sample size: The UC Davis studies are actually reporting on very small numbers of cases. Random variation in scientific studies results from the chance distribution of measurements. The smaller the sample size the greater the chance for inaccuracy based simply on random variation.
  • Lastly, if all the findings in the UC Davis studies eventually prove to be true, you still cannot extrapolate from one breed to the next and certainly not from one species to another. The UC Davis author’s point that out, but many in the public or in the profession seem to ignore that fact.

The value of these studies out of UC Davis is that they point to the need for more research, preferably prospective studies in which case criteria and data collection standards are defined in advance and consistently applied. But they do not, at this time, justify wholesale changes in spay/neuter decision making.

There are key factors that should be considered when debating whether or not to sterilize or at what age to sterilize. We must be careful not to base such major decisions on studies with small number of animals. Secondly, in making any decisions about the medical or surgical care of pets we should look at all factors that influence health and longevity, not on just a few.

Research (Supportive of Spay Neuter)

A study at the University of Georgia analyzed the records of over 80,000 patients and demonstrated that sterilization is strongly associated with an increased life expectancy in dogs.5 In this study the life expectancy of sterilized dogs, both male and female, was increased in comparison to life expectancy of intact dogs.

  • Mean age of death of intact dogs: 7.9 years
  • Mean age of death of sterilized dogs: 9.4 years
  • Sterilization was associated with increased life expectancy of males by 13.8%
  • Sterilization was associated with increased life expectancy in females by 26.3%

While sterilization was associated with a decreased risk of death from some causes, such as infectious disease, it was associated with an increased risk of death from others, such as cancer. In this study sterilized dogs were “dramatically” less likely to die from:

  • Infectious disease
  • Trauma
  • Vascular disease
  • Degenerative disease

and sterilized dogs were more likely to die from:

  • Neoplasia
  • Immune-mediated disease

Within the neoplasia category, occurrence of transitional cell carcinoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors was increased in sterilized dogs.

Within the neoplasia category, occurrence of mammary cancer was significantly decreased in sterilized dogs.

In interpreting what appears to be conflicting information in the literature, keep in mind that recognizing that something may increase the incidence of a condition is of little value without knowing what the incidence is. Doubling or tripling the incidence of a condition that is extremely rare, may leave the condition extremely rare. One need only to look at the overall incidence of various cancers to recognize that significantly increasing the incidence of a tumor that is relatively rare still leaves that tumor relatively rare, while significantly decreasing the incidence of a tumor that is common may make that tumor uncommon.

Banfield operates over 1000 veterinary hospitals that share a common computerized medical record system. Each year Banfield releases a “State of Pet Health Report.” In 2013 that report was based on analysis of data from 2.2 million dogs and 460,000 cats.6 Looking at longevity compared to spay/neuter status they discovered that:

  • Spayed dogs lived 23% longer than intact dogs
  • Neutered dogs lived 18% longer than intact dogs
  • Spayed cats lived 39% longer than intact cats
  • Neutered cats lived 62% longer than intact cats

What can we conclude so far?

  • Sterilized dogs and cats live longer
  • Sterilized dogs – higher incidence of certain cancers
  • Sterilized dogs – lower incidence of mammary tumors
  • Sterilized dogs may have higher incidence of some immune diseases
  • Intact dogs are more likely to die of infections and trauma
  • In some breeds sterilized dogs appear to have greater incidence of certain orthopedic conditions

Perhaps the most comprehensive reference related to age of spay neuter is a 2007 article by Margaret Root-Kustritz.7 In this article the author summarizes the literature up to that date detailing the relationship of sterilization status and disease incidences between sterilized and intact pets.

If we could see into the future for each animal we could determine which animals were going to develop osteosarcoma if they were sterilized and which were going to develop mammary neoplasia or pyometra if they were not. We could then make the best decision for each animal. Lacking that ability, we should make our recommendations based on population dynamics. In the United States, approximately 80% of the female dogs are spayed. The incidence of mammary neoplasia is 4% but that is almost exclusively in intact dogs, virtually 0% in spayed dogs. Making the incidence in intact dogs nearly 20%, 100 times the incidence of osteosarcoma at 0.2%. Some of the articles say that sterilization doubles the risk of osteosarcoma. But again 80% of the dogs in the U.S. are sterilized. So that “doubling” effect is essentially already represented in the 0.2% statistic.

If you total the reported incidence of all the conditions that are considered serious or moderately serious and in which the incidence is increased in sterilized dogs, the total is 3.0%. The chances of a sterilized dog getting any one of these conditions is 3.0% versus the chances of an intact female dog getting mammary neoplasia at 20% or pyometra at 24%.

You simply cannot make spay/neuter decisions based on the potential impact of spay/neuter on just a small handful of conditions or diseases. You must take into consideration the potential impact of sterilization on the overall health and longevity of the animal.

In 2017 Dr. Kustritz updated that article to include the relevant research since 2007.8

The key point in her latest article is this. The question about the effect of gonadectomy on health is one of causation: does gonadectomy at certain ages cause or prevent specific health issues? Defining an association is not enough, if it was think of the number of people practicing yoga that would come down with diabetes. At this point, none of the articles that document incidence document causation. The research is not there. To adequately determine causation, you need:

  • Randomized clinical trials
  • Unbiased subject selection
  • Adequate same size
  • Accurate and precise measurement of the factors of interest
  • Adequate control of confounding factors
  • Cautious & critical assessment of results

When you read the scientific literature, watch for these. Recognize that when any of these are compromised, so too are the results. We need more research; more quality research!

Spay Neuter (Cats, Pediatric Cats and Dogs)

It seems like most studies have focused on dogs, but what about cats, and what about pediatric spay/neuter? Studies out of Texas AM and Cornell have looked specifically at the medical and behavior effects associated with early-age spay/neuter and concluded that there were no serious long-term medical or behavioral effects associated with early-age sterilization in dogs and cats.9-11

Epidemiological studies in 1981 and 2005 document a significantly lower incidence of mammary neoplasia in cats when spayed prior to their first heat cycle.12,13 Given that median survival time of cats with mammary neoplasia is generally less than 1 year and that up to 96% of mammary tumors in cats are malignant, the reduction in incidence of mammary neoplasia is very significant. A 1997 study documented fewer anesthesia and surgical complications in cats sterilized under 12 weeks of age when compared to those sterilized at or after 6 months of age.14 The theory that castrating male cats prior to sexual maturity makes the penis smaller and predisposes to urinary tract obstruction has been proven to be false. In a 1996 study, Dr. Margaret Root Kustritz and Shirley and Gary Johnston demonstrated no difference in urethral diameters between cats castrated at 7 weeks, castrated at 7 months or left intact.15 None of the short-term or long-term studies have shown an increased incidence of urinary obstruction in neutered male cats.

A prospective study of 800 kittens comparing those sterilized between 8 and 12 weeks of age with those sterilized between 6 and 9 months found no evidence that age at the time of sterilization had any effect on the number of, or occurrence of, potentially undesirable behaviors.16

Feline Fix by Five

In 2016 the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization was convened to look specifically at spay neuter issues in cats. What they found was that having cats spayed before their first heat cycle:

  • Significantly decreases the risk for mammary carcinoma
  • Eliminates reproductive emergencies such as pyometra and dystocia
  • Prevents unintended pregnancies that may occur as early as 4 months of age
  • Potentially decreases behavioral problems linked with cat relinquishment.

In 2017 the AMVA formally endorsed the concept paper developed by the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization which recommends that cats be sterilized prior to 5 months of age. Endorsements have also come from the American Animal Hospital Association, The Feline Practitioners Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, The Winn Feline Foundation, The Catalyst Council, The International Cat Association, The Cat Fanciers Association and PetSmart Charities. The Feline Fix by Five campaign has been developed in an effort to educate the public and the veterinary profession of the benefits of sterilizing cats before 5 months of age.

The Shelter World

Our program at Mississippi State University has been taking students to animal shelters since the early 1990s. We obtained a Mobile Veterinary Clinic in 2007 and a second Mobile Clinic in 2013. Since 2007 we have performed over 70,000 spay/neuter surgeries. Nearly fifty percent of these surgeries are pediatric. We currently serve 25 animal shelters/humane groups across northern Mississippi. In 2007, the shelters we served had a euthanasia rate in both dogs and cats of greater than 60%. In 2016, euthanasia rates had dropped to 20% in dogs and 34% in cats.

Humane Alliance (now called ASPCA Spay Neuter Alliance) is, perhaps, the largest high-volume spay/neuter clinic in the world. Humane Alliance was established in 1994 in Asheville, NC, an area with rapidly growing human population over the past 20 years and statistically that would mean a rapidly growing pet population as well. In the 20+ years since Humane Alliance started performing sterilizations there has been a 75% reduction in intake and a 79% reduction in euthanasia in local animal shelters.

An animal care center in east Tennessee has performed over 55,000 spay/neuter surgeries since 2007. In that time, they have recorded a steady increase in live release rate from their animal shelter, a decrease in dog and cat intake, and a decrease in euthanasia.

Trap neuter return is a growing method of controlling feral cat populations and studies show that areas that have implemented trap neuter return have significantly reduced shelter intake and euthanasia of cats.17,18

So How Do You Decide?

Decisions related to if and when to spay/neuter must be based first on the life situation of the animal: is it in a home or homeless? And secondly on an assessment of all known relationships between reproductive status and health and longevity, not just a few. When making decisions related to increase or decrease in incidence of a condition we must consider what the overall incidence is and the impact of the change.

This is what we appear to know.

  • In the shelter environment spay/neuter increases adoption rates, reduces shelter intake and reduces euthanasia.
  • There are several conditions that have low incidence in which the incidence may be increased with sterilization. These conditions include:
    • Prostate neoplasia
    • Transitional cell carcinoma
    • Osteosarcoma
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Hypothyroidism
  • Sterilization decreases or eliminates the risk of several conditions that have high incidence:
    • Mammary neoplasia
    • Pyometra
    • Benign prostatic hypertrophy
    • Testicular neoplasia
  • Sterilization may be associated with an increased incidence of:
    • Cranial cruciate rupture
    • Hip dysplasia
    • Elbow dysplasia
    • in some breeds of dogs
  • Sterilization significantly increases life expectancy in dogs and cats.


For shelter animals, spay/neuter is prior to adoption.

For cats, there are few documented adverse effects of spay/neuter in cats and many documented positive effects. Female cats can come into heat by 4 ½ to 5 months. Spay or castrate before 5 months of age.

For owned dogs the owner must make an informed decision based on species, breed, intended usage and current medical knowledge at hand. For most breeds the protective effect of spay before the first heat cycle on mammary neoplasia far outweighs the potential risks associated with other cancers and orthopedic conditions.

Owned female dogs spay prior to 5 months of age.

For owned large-breed male dogs house pets orthopedic concerns may outweigh all others spay/neuter after growth stops 1518 months.

For owned large-breed male dogs free roaming population concerns may outweigh all others spay/neuter prior to 5 months of age.

For owned small-breed male dogs no evidence at this time for orthopedic issues castrate prior to sexual maturity 5 months.


There is much we still don’t know about the impact of spay and neuter. We must, therefore, always remain open to new information as research continues and, if need be, change our minds. In doing this we must, however, always be willing to look critically at new information to determine if conclusions are valid based on the research data.

Summary of Key Points

  • Cannot make spay/neuter decisions based on the impact of spay/neuter on a small handful of diseases. Must take into consideration the impact on the overall health and longevity of the animal.
  • To determine cause and effect
    • Randomized clinical trials
    • Unbiased subject selection
    • Adequate same size
    • Accurate and precise measurement of the factors of interest
    • Adequate control of confounding factors
    • Cautious & critical assessment of results
  • When making decisions related to increase or decrease in incidence of a condition, must consider what the overall incidence is and what the change is

Summary of Recommendations

Table 1. Recommended ages to spay neuter


Spay or castrate

Dog or cat in shelter

Prior to adoption (as young as 6 weeks of age)

Cat (male or female)

Prior to 5 months of age

Dog (small breed, male or female)

Prior to 5 months of age

Dog (large breed female)

Prior to 5 months of age

Dog (large breed male – free roaming)

Prior to 5 months of age

Dog (large breed male – house pet)

After growth plates close: 15–18 months


1.  Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, et al. Neutering dogs: effects on joint disorders and cancers in golden retrievers. PLoS One. 2013;8(2).

2.  Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador retrievers with golden retrievers. PLoS One. 2014;9(7).

3.  Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Neutering of German shepherd dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence. Vet Med Sci. 2016:1–9. doi:10.1002/vms3.34.

4.  Sundburg CR, Belanger JM, Bannasch DL, et al. Gonadectomy effects on the risk of immune disorders in the dog: a retrospective study. BMC Vet Res. 2016;12(1):278. doi:10.1186/s12917-016-0911-5.

5.  Hoffman JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DE. Reproductive capability is associated with lifespan and cause of death in companion dogs. PLoS One. 2013;8(4).

6.  Banfield. Banfield State of Pet Health Report.. Published 2013. (VIN editor: the original link was modified on 8/7/18)

7.  Root Kustritz MV. Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007;231(11):1665–1675. doi:10.2460/javma.231.11.1665.

8.  Root Kustritz M, Slater MR, Weedon GR, Bushby PA. Determining optimal age for gonadectomy in the dog: a critical review of the literature to guide decision making. Clin Theriogenol. 2017;9(2):167–211.

9.  Howe LM, Slater MR, Boothe HW, et al. Long-term outcome of gonadectomy performed at an early age or traditional age in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2000;217(11):1661–1665.

10.  Howe LM, Boothe Harry W, Hobson H Phil, Holcom Jennifer L, Spann Angela C, SMR. Long-term outcome of gonadectomy performed at an early age or traditional age in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001;218(2):217–221.

11.  Spain CV, Scarlett JM, Houpt KA. Long-term risks and beneftis of early-age gonadectomy in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2004;224(3):380–387.

12.  Hayes HM, Milne Kl, Mandell CP. Epidemilogical features of feline mammary carcinoma. Vet Rec. 1981;108:476.

13.  Overley B, Shofer FS, Goldschmidt MH, et al. Association between overiohysterectomy and feline mamary carcinoma. J Vet Intern Med. 2005;19:560.

14.  Howe LM. Short-term results and complications of prepubertal gonadectomy in cats and dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1997;211(1):57–62.

15.  Root MV, Johnston SD, Johnston GR, et al. The effect of prepuberal and postpuberal gonadectomy on penile extrusion and urethral diameter in the domestic cat. Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 1996;37(5):363–366.

16.  Porters N, deRooster H, Verschueren K, et al. Development of behavior in adopted shelter kittens after gonadectomy performed at an early age or at traditional age. J Vet Behav. 2014;9(5):196–206.

17.  Johnson KL, Cicirelli J. Study of the effect on shelter cat intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project of 10,080 cats from March 2010 to June 2014. PeerJ. 2014;2:e646. doi:10.7717/peerj.646.

18.  Levy JK, Isaza NM, Scott KC. Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter. Vet J. 2014;201(3):269–274. doi:




Immune modulator


By Dr. Karen Burgess


Brand name and formulations



What is Apoquel used for?

Apoquel is labeled for the treatment of itch associated with allergies.  It is in general a very effective tool in the management of allergies for pets.  There are many other immune modulatory uses for Apoquel that are being discovered daily.  Apoquel begins controlling itch within four hours of administration and can be used short or long term safely.

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel is an inhibitor of a specific mediators of inflammation, JAK1 and JAK3(Janus Kinase).  JAK1 is one necessary component in the cascade of events that lead to an allergic response, typically “itchiness” and inflammation in dogs.  By using Apoquel this process can be safely interrupted.

How is Apoquel given and what if a dose is missed?

Apoquel is typically prescribed for once daily dosing after an initial two week course of twice daily administration.  If a dose is missed and it is less than 12 hours late, go ahead and give the missed dose.  If it is within 12 hours of the next dose, skip a dose and resume regular schedule with the next dose.

Are there any side effects associated with Apoquel use?

In rare instances pets may experience vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lethargy.

Who should not take Apoquel?

Apoquel should not be taken by pets being given immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory drugs.  Examples of this include prednisone and cyclosporine.  Apoquel is not approved for animals less than one year of age, pets with cancer, or generalized demodex infections.

What follow up is necessary with Apoquel use?

Laboratory work should ideally be done prior to use and then annually thereafter.


Ear Meds- How To

How to Administer Ear Medication
By Dr. Karen Burgess


Understanding the Ear

  • Always remember that the ear is a delicate structure. When inflamed or infected it may be very painful.ear pinna
  • The ear is really just a canal or tube lined by skin. If a pet has underlying skin disease it is common to also have ear issues and it is fairly uncommon for a pet to just “get an ear infection”. Instead it is often a sign of underlying skin disease or systemic allergies.
  • The anatomy of some breeds can affect the ear’s ability to stay healthy. Whether it is a too narrow passage or an ear with excessive secretions these are typically lifelong issues.
  • The ear canal is L-shaped with a vertical and horizontal portion. The vertical portion is visible to the naked eye, the horizontal portion is visible only via a veterinarian’s otoscope. The tympanic membrane (TM) lies at the end of the horizontal canal.  Often a pet owner may see a normal appearing vertical canal while the otoscope may reveal a completely occluded horizontal canal.  To address ear disease both the vertical and horizontal portion of the ear must be treated while protecting the TM.  The TM or eardrum can be damaged by disease, medications, or objects placed into the ear (i.e. Qtips).  While the eardrum can heal, damage can also potentially affect hearing longterm.

Medicating 101

  • If you feel you are not able to safely treat your pet’s ears, do not proceed. Ear cleaning can be scary and painful which could potentially make a normally docile animal become aggressive.
  • Before starting, gather supplies: ear medication, towels, treats, old clothing.
  • Location, location, location-find an area where your pet can be confined. An elevated surface or corner of a room often works well. Having an extra pair of hands is often helpful.  For smaller animals a towel can be used to “burrito” wrap and better control the process.


  • Find an appropriate area to work in. Flooring with good grip or the ability to have your pet sit with their bottom against a corner or wall may be helpful.
  • Hold the ear flap up vertically with your non-dominant had allowing visualization of the ear canal.

ear 1

  • Holding medication in dominant hand, place the opening of the ear medication (often a spigot or long slender dropper) over the opening into the ear canal and gently squeeze instilling ointment or liquid into canal.

ear 2

  • Hold the ear flap (also called the pinna) closed like a resealable bag. Massage the base of the ear briefly as long as not too uncomfortable for pet.
  • Allow pet to shake head, medication may come out but some will stay in. Wipe inner ear flap if necessary to clean off any residual debris.
  • Give treats and verbal praise throughout process.


Travel, Plane

Plane Travel with Pets
By Dr. Karen Burgess

Restraint while flying and at the airport
Safety for your pet during a flight is of utmost importance.  It is best to avoid extreme outdoor temperatures when flying a pet in cargo.  Many airlines will not allow cargo shipment of pets below 40 degrees or above 80 degrees.  Animal crates are shipped in cargo, but they may sit on the tarmac or in holding for some time before and after flight.  Double check with the airline to insure that your pet is being shipped in a climate controlled region of the plane.  Airports will often have designated areas that dogs can be walked outside of the terminal.  Pets are usually not allowed out of their carrying cases once within the terminal.  It is strongly discouraged to remove your pet from their crate if at all possible as the sights, sounds, and commotion of an airport may frighten them and cause them to act differently than in the comfort of the home.  Using a harness instead of a collar is in general more reliable for travel.

Selecting and preparing a crate
While on the flight, whether in cargo or the passenger cabin, pets should be confined to an airline approved carrying cage that allows them to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably.  Contact your airline prior to travel to confirm acceptable crate size and weight; typical requirements include waterproof bottom, spring locked doors, disabled wheels, no handles, adequate ventilation, and metal hardware.  As an added level of security plan on cable tying the crate door closed on the day of travel.  Crates will need to be labeled with stickers designating live animal and direction of crate.  You should also include contact information and general information about your pet in a protective sleeve (ex. medical or temperamental issues, picture of your pet).

Preparation for airplane travel
The more effort made to prepare for airplane travel the better likelihood of success.  Determining well in advance that a pet experiences motion sickness or is frightened by travel can allow ample time to address and even correct these issues.  When making flight arrangements research your airlines pet policy clarifying weight, size, and temperature limitations.  Avoid flights that have layovers, connections, or a high likelihood of delays.

Now, even if future travel is not anticipated, get acclimated to the crate and car rides
Acclimating your dog or cat to their carrier or crate in a stress free time can lay the groundwork for potential future travel.  Leaving your carrier out for general exploration is a good idea.  Periodically put a treat or special toy in the crate for your pet to discover.  Feeding your cat or dog in the crate can also help create positive feelings.  Acclimate to car rides by periodically take your pet to the car and allowing them to get in and out giving verbal and treat rewards simultaneously.  Assuming your pet is not showing signs of distress start taking them for short rides (ex. pull out of the garage and then back in, pull out of the driveway and then back in, drive around the block, etc.) always providing rewards.  If your pet becomes nauseous, contact your veterinarian to discuss potential treatment options moving forward.

Month prior
Continue desensitizing your pet to the vehicle.  Ensure that you have proper identification in the form of a secure collar and tag.  Contact your microchip company and confirm that all contact information is up to date.  Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to update vaccinations, obtain health records, and a health certificate if required.  Check supplies of medication (flea/tick, heartworm, etc.) and obtain any necessary refills.  Research your destinations finding appropriate lodging.  Determine where emergency veterinary hospitals are on your route in case urgent care is required.  Contact your airline and confirm necessary travel information for your pet and carrier size.

Week prior
Check supplies of dog food necessary for travel.  Consider whether bottle water would be helpful to bring.  Pack your pet’s carry bag including food, dishes, leashes (bring an extra), plastic bags for cleanup, toys, bedding, litter and pan for cats, medications, medical records, and first aid kit.  Print out airline pet policy information to have on hand in case there are any issues on arrival at the airport.  Ensure that all supplies and paperwork required by the airline are in order.

Day of travel
Do not feed your pet six hours prior to travel.  Plan on taking a break prior to entering the terminal to allow your pet to stretch, eliminate and drink.  Always leash your dog prior to opening the car door.  Identify pet friendly break spots and always clean up after your pet.  Provide fresh water in the crate if allowed by the airline (hanging water bottle or non-spill crate crock with frozen water).

What if a pet experiences motion sickness?
Motion sickness can have medical and psychological origins.  Slow desensitization can dramatically help.  In addition there are several over the counter and prescription medications available for motion sickness that can be discussed with your veterinarian.  Sedation for flights is typically not recommended and may even be prohibited by the airline.  It is better to allow your pet to cope as they normally would in their crate.


By Dr. Karen Burgess

What is conjunctival tissue?
The conjunctiva is the pink fleshy tissue that covers the eye and tissue surrounding it.  In a cat or dog with healthy eyes this conjunctiva should not be easily seen.  In cases of conjunctivitis where the conjunctiva is inflamed owners will often notice angry red tissue near the eyelid.  The conjunctiva is made up of mucous secreting cells similar to that found in the mouth and nose and serves to help protect and lubricate the eye.

What are symptoms of conjunctivitis?
Mild cases of conjunctivitis may appear as increased tearing that is clear or colored in nature.  More severe cases can develop swollen pink or red bulging tissue that appears to almost cover the eyeball.  The eye may become increasingly painful causing a pet to hold it shut or paw/rub at eye.  In severe cases it may be difficult to see any part of the normal eye.

Why do cats and dogs develop conjunctivitis?
There are numerous reasons for the conjunctiva to become inflamed.  Infectious causes include viruses and/or bacteria.  In some cases infections will develop secondary to some other underlying cause of conjunctival inflammation.  For cats viral conjunctivitis is extremely common and closely related to upper respiratory viral infections they are exposed to at a very young age.  In several of these situations the cat may recover from the initial infection but the virus remains dormant in their body reappearing later in life at times of stress or illness.  Non-infectious causes of conjunctivitis are typically related to the anatomy (size, shape, and location) of the eyeball itself.  Dogs often develop a condition where they stop producing tears which then leads to a “dry eye” and secondary conjunctivitis.  Some breeds of cats and dogs are more prone to having flat faces or bulging eyes which can change how the eyelid sits against the eye.  In these cases eyelashes or facial fur may rub against the eye and conjunctiva causing inflammation.  Allergic disease, foreign material caught in the eye, tumors, and immune disease are all additional causes of conjunctivitis.

How is conjunctivitis diagnosed?
A veterinary examination will typically reveal the presence of conjunctivitis.  Additional testing of the cornea and tear production may also be necessary.  If systemic disease is suspected bloodwork may be recommended.  In complicated cases referral to an ophthalmologist may be recommended.

What are treatment options for conjunctivitis?
Definitive treatment of conjunctivitis involves diagnosing the underlying cause for treatment and controlling secondary bacterial infections.  This may involve topical drops or ointment, oral medications, eye lubricants, or surgery.  It is important to protect the eye from self-trauma by using a protective collar or Elizabethean collar.  Pain medication may also be prescribed to help with associated discomfort.

What is the prognosis with conjunctivitis?
Prognosis is directly related to the ability to treat the underlying condition causing the inflammation.

Cats 411

Cat 411
By Karen Burgess, DVM 

What should be considered before getting a cat?
The introduction of any pet should first be discussed with all family members or potential human housemates.  Cats are a long-term commitment living up to twenty years. If unsure, ensure that no family members have an allergy to cats (typically to their saliva or dander).  If uncertain or unfamiliar with cats in general, it is a good idea to first visit and interact with cats in an animal shelter type setting.

What should I look for in a cat?
Ideally one would have the chance to spend at least an hour observing a prospective cat’s behavior.  Ensure that they are willing to be handled by humans and seem comfortable with all family members.  Cats that have been handled by people from a young age and raised by a mother cat tend to be better options (bottle raised kittens may have more issues with behavior in the future).   Observe for any signs of a respiratory infection (sneezing, nasal discharge), has solid stools, uses the litterbox, and has a good overall appetite.

What do I need to own a cat?
It is best to have the following supplies before bringing your new cat home.

  • Cat carrier, some shelters may provide a cardboard variety, plastic versions are typically more convenient and durable and are often available second hand at garage sales etc.
  • Litterbox, purchase the biggest available (even consider a concrete mixing container from Home Depot, often more affordable and larger than real litterboxes), avoid uncovered versions
  • Litter and scooper, clumping, non-scented preferable, commercial scoopers are typically most durable
  • Water and food bowls, separated
  • Cat food, try and find out what your new kitty is already eating and obtain a small amount of this to start with, having some additional cans of tasty cat food may also serve as a nice treat
  • Scratching post, horizontal and vertical, many types available, taller the better as cats typically want to scratch while in a full stretch, ask Healthy Paws for additional recommendations on scratching in general
  • Cat toys, various types available, favorites tend to be wand toys, balls, food dispensing balls, catnip products
  • Cat bed, covered often preferred
  • Cat hair brush and nail clippers for grooming
  • Cat collar, breakaway type (one that if a cat jumps and is caught by the collar will break away thus preventing choking), bell can be helpful in keeping track or your new friend

Where should my new cat stay?
In the beginning it is best to have a small room (laundry room, bathroom as example) set up as the cat room.  Put food, water, litterbox, bedding, scratching post, and toys in this room and use it as a home base.  Fill the litterbox with 2 inches minimum of litter and place food and water bowls as far away from the litter as possible.  Cats like hiding spots.  Keeping a carrier, covered cat bed, or even a box with one open side in the room may provide added security.  Use of the scratching post can be encouraged by sprinkling it with catnip or hanging a toy from the top.  As your cat and you feel more comfortable, gradually allow more access to other areas of the house.

Do I need to cat-proof my home?
Cats by nature are inquisitive animals often preferring vertical surfaces to allow a better view the lay of the land.  Small areas are also favorite hiding places for cats.  Take a look around the house before introducing your new cat to look for any potential areas that might require blocking off.  Look at all surfaces, including tops of cabinets/higher surfaces to ensure nothing will be harmed if your cat starts exploring.  Some common safety concerns for cats include…

  • Recliners
  • Washers and dryers/piles of laundry that unwittingly contain a sleeping cat
  • Doors left open to the outside
  • String, yarn, rubberbands, and hairties that may be ingested causing life-threating intestinal blockage
  • Trash cans that do not contain lids
  • Dangling electrical or window blind cords
  • Breakable objects that may fall during cat exploration (look for museum or earthquake wax to secure objects)
  • Household plants
  • Fireplaces, ensure have a screen
  • Boxes that are unintentionally thrown out with a cat inside
  • Burning candles
  • Closed closets or drawers that a cat may have hidden in

What about the first day at home?
Once home, take your new cat into their special room in their carrier.  Close the door, get situated sitting on the floor, open the carrier door, and wait patiently kitty decides how they want to explore.  Some cats will come bounding out and be excited about their new surroundings, others may hide for hours in the crate only coming out to explore when left completely alone.  Be patient, even shy cats can make wonderful pets; they just may require a bit more time to adjust.

When should the first veterinary visit be?
New cats should have a complete examination by a veterinarian within a week of coming home to ensure their overall health.

What are some good general cat resources?



Labwork, Urine Testing

Urine Testing
By Dr. Karen Burgess 

What is a urinalysis?
A complete urinalysis is made up of chemical (commonly called a dipstick) and microscopic or sediment examination.  The dipstick portion looks for the presence of red and white blood cells, glucose, ketones, protein and bilirubin in the urine.  It also quantifies the concentration and acidity of the urine.  The sediment portion of a urinalysis involves physically looking at a sample under the microscope in search of red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, bacteria, and abnormal kidney or bladder cells.  The urine is one of the first ways that kidney disease can be identified in pets.  If a bacterial infection is suspected a culture and sensitivity (C&S) may also be performed to identify specific bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic choice for treatment.

Labwork, Blood Chemistry

Blood Chemistry
By Dr. Karen Burgess


What is blood chemistry testing?
Blood chemistry testing uses the serum or non-red blood cell portion of blood to evaluate how a variety or organs and systems work in the body.  Often a variety of tests are combined to form a profile that is specific for a pet’s age or medical situation.

What tests are commonly performed in a blood chemistry profile?

  • Glucose-often also referred to as blood sugar, glucose provides energy to all of the body including the kidneys, brain, and muscles. Low blood sugar can cause seizures or collapse while persistent elevations of blood sugar may be indicative of diabetes.
  • Kidney testing-the kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and regulating sodium (salt) and water concentrations in the body. Ultimately the kidneys produce urine.   BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine are waste products that are filtered by the kidneys and elevations can occur with kidney disease or dehydration.  A sample of the urine is necessary to fully evaluate kidney function.  Electrolyte values are also often performed and further help determine kidney function.
  • Liver testing-the liver serves many functions in the body including waste removal and nutrient breakdown. ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a direct measurement of liver cell damage.  This value goes up and down very quickly allowing real time evaluation of damage to the liver.  ALP (Alkaline phosphatase) is a less specific test and can be elevated with liver disease, stress, or secondary to hormonal diseases.  GGT, AST, and bilirubin are all additional tests of liver function.
  • Protein values-the body requires protein as building blocks and in fighting off disease. Albumin, globulin, and total protein are all measures of protein in the body.   Low values of albumin in particular can lead to life threatening fluid accumulation in the body.
  • ElectrolytesNa (sodium), K (potassium), Cl (chloride), TCO2, and anion gap are all related to electrolyte balance. The body keeps electrolyte values in very narrow ranges.  Abnormally high or low levels can lead to collapse, heart failure, or other signs of disease.
  • MineralsCa (calcium) and Phos (phosphorous) are minerals that are tightly controlled in the body. Elevation in calcium can be associated with cancer and elevations of phosphorous with kidney disease.
  • Thyroid testing-thyroid hormone impacts the metabolism of a pet. Elevations, commonly seen in cats, can lead to heart disease, weight loss, and eventually death.  Abnormally low levels, more common in dogs, can cause abnormal weight gain, behavior changes, and skin disease.