Archive for the ‘Puppies’ Category

Ovariectomy (OVE) Versus Ovariohysterectomy (OVH) Revisited

December 26, 2011
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Photo Credit: Roger H. Goun

If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile now, you may remember two of my previous posts. While OVH surgery involves removal of the uterus and both ovaries, with OVE surgery just the ovaries are removed. Both are effective techniques for spaying (neutering) female dogs and cats. I am bringing this topic to your attention for a third time based on a recently published article within the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The article is titled, “Ovariohysterectomy Versus Ovariectomy for Elective Sterilization of Female Dogs and Cats: Is Removal of the Uterus Necessary?” Let me get right to the article’s punch line by presenting the authors’ final paragraph:

We do not believe that there is any scientific evidence for the preferential teaching of ovariohysterectomy instead of ovariectomy by schools and colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada, and it is our view that ovariectomy provides an equally effective technique for elective sterilization of female dogs and cats with no recognized disadvantages. Potential advantages of ovariectomy include a smaller incision, better viewing of the ovarian pedicle, and possibly less risk of complications associated with surgical manipulation of the uterus.

The authors’ conclusion is based on a review of recent literature comparing these two surgical techniques. When I’ve previously recommended OVE as the spay surgery of choice, here are the two concerns that you, my readers have voiced:

  1. You are unable find a surgeon who will perform OVE surgery. Here is what I recommend. Call multiple veterinary hospitals in your community and ask if the vets on staff are willing to perform ovariectomies (if the receptionist is uncertain about what you are asking, you may wish to tactfully ask to speak with a veterinarian or technician). If nothing else, you will be raising awareness about this recommended alternative. Based on what you’ve told me, some of your vets have been willing to educate themselves and perform their very first OVE surgery in response to their client’s request, and the results have been fabulous. If one is adept at removing ovaries and uterus, removing just the ovaries is a “no brainer.” So, it is perfectly fine if your vet performs his or her very first OVE on your dog or cat (I would normally strongly advise against your pet being your vet’s “first” surgery or procedure of any kind). Board certified surgeons gladly perform OVE surgery and may do it the conventional way (incision made on the underside of the abdomen) or via laparoscopy (a method that employs scopes which are introduced into the abdominal cavity via small incisions). The only drawback to having a specialist do the work is that the price tag for the work will be considerably higher than the norm.
  2. You have voiced concern that if the uterus is not removed, your pet could develop pyometra, an accumulation of pus/infection within the uterus that necessitates its surgical removal. Please don’t buy into this ridiculous notion! Pyometra only occurs under the influence of progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries. Without the ovaries no progesterone is produced and there is no risk for development of pyometra. Period!

I want to emphasize that if you cannot find a surgeon who will perform OVE surgery on your dog or cat, no biggee! There is truly nothing wrong with removing the uterus. I only wish to create recognition for the fact that it is completely unnecessary to do so. Lastly, if you are contemplating spaying your older pet (her uterus has been around the block a few times), visual inspection of the uterus at the time of surgery is warranted. If the uterus appears abnormal, it should definitely be removed- the one situation where OVH rather than OVE makes perfect sense.

Has your pet recently been spayed? Which surgical procedure was performed?

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Even More to Say About a Better Way to Spay

March 17, 2011
In January I wrote a piece called, “A Different Way to Spay” (http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=1931) describing two techniques for performing spay surgeries.  The method widely embraced in the United States is ovariohysterectomy (OVH) in which both ovaries as well as the uterus are removed.  The second way to spay- popular in many other countries- is ovariectomy (OVE) in which only the ovaries are removed and the uterus is left behind.  

Charlotte, OVE spay at 7 months © Kathie Meier

Since publishing the piece, many of you wrote to me expressing your frustration at not being able to find a veterinarian willing to perform OVE surgery.  I’ve written about those comments and provided an overall update on this topic for PetConnection.com- I sure hope you will read it (http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2011/03/15/a-better-way-to-spay-your-dog-that-you-probably-never-heard-about/).  Additionally, Dr. Tim McCarthy, a wonderful PetConnection colleague provided a response blog discussing the benefits of performing spays via laparoscopy- a form of minimally invasive surgery (http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2011/03/17/another-better-way-to-spay-that-you-probably-never-heard-of/).     

I look forward to your feedback about both articles.  If you are new to PetConnection, I hope you will follow my blog posts there as well as the ones you find here at Spot Speaks.     

Best wishes for good health,      

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook          

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.   

    

 

A Different Way to Spay

January 2, 2011

This blog presents an idea that will be new for many of you and may be new for your veterinarians as well.  I thought presenting a novel idea would be a great way to kick of the new year! 

Taking a fresh look at the things we take for granted can be wonderfully enlightening.  Sometimes, the little light bulb overhead begins to sizzle and sparkle, illuminating a new and better way of doing things.  Consider this example- when some savvy veterinarians took a fresh look at performing spays, a surgery we’ve been doing the exact same way for decades, guess what happened!  They came up with a revised technique that accomplishes all of the objectives of the spay surgery with fewer complications!  How cool is that!

Spay is the term used for neutering a female dog.  As I was taught in veterinary school, the medical jargon for spaying is ovariohysterectomy (OVH). “Ovario” refers to ovaries, “hyster” refers to uterus, and “ectomy” means removal of.  In other words, spaying the traditional way involves surgical removal of the uterus and both ovaries.  The objectives of the spay surgery are to render the dog infertile, eliminate the mess and behavioral issues associated with a female dog in heat, and prevent diseases that may afflict the uterus and ovaries later in life.  Thanks to some innovative veterinarians, what we now know is that ovariectomy (OVE)- removal of just the ovaries sans uterus accomplishes these objectives just as effectively as does the OVH.  And, here’s the icing on the cake- removal of the ovaries alone results in fewer complications when compared to removal of the ovaries and uterus combined.

Here’s a simple short course in canine female reproductive anatomy and physiology that will help explain why leaving the uterus behind makes sense. The shape of the uterus resembles the capital letter “Y”.  The body of the uterus is the stem and the two uterine horns represent the top bars of the “Y”.  An ovary is connected to the free end of each uterine horn by a delicate structure called a fallopian tube (transports the egg from the ovary into the uterus).  While the uterus has only one purpose (housing developing fetuses), the ovaries are multitaskers.  They are the source of eggs of course and, in conjunction with hormones released by the pituitary gland, ovarian hormones dictate when the female comes into heat and becomes receptive to the male, when she goes out of heat, when she ovulates, and when her uterus is amenable to relaxing and stretching to house developing fetuses.  After the ovaries and the hormones they produce have been removed from the body the uterus remains inert. The dog no longer shows symptoms of heat, nor can she conceive. Additionally, any chance of developing ovarian cystic disease or cancer is eliminated.

What happens when we leave the uterus behind- is it not subject to becoming diseased later in life?  Here’s the good news- the incidence of uterine disease in dogs whose ovaries have been removed is exceptionally low.  Pyometra (pus within the uterus), is the most common uterine disorder in unspayed dogs, and typically necessitates emergency surgery to remove the uterus.  Without the influence of progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries, pyometra does not naturally occur. The incidence of uterine cancer is extremely low in dogs (0.4% of all canine tumors)- hardly a worry, and studies have shown that the frequency of adult onset urinary incontinence (urine leakage) is the same whether or not the uterus is removed during the spay procedure. 

If you are not already convinced that the “new spay is the better way”, consider the following complications that can be mitigated or avoided all together when the uterus remains unscathed:

– Compared to an OVH, an OVE requires less time in the operating room.  This translates into decreased likelihood of anesthetic complications.
– Removal of the uterus requires that the surgeon perform more difficult ligations (tying off of large blood vessels and surrounding tissues with suture material before making cuts to release the organs from the body).  A uterine body ligation that isn’t tied quite tightly enough can result in excessive bleeding into the abdominal cavity and may necessitate blood transfusions and/or a second surgery to stop the bleeding.
– The ureters (thin delicate tubes that transport urine from each kidney to the bladder) run adjacent to the body of the uterus.  If a surgeon is not being extremely careful, it is possible to ligate and obstruct a ureter in the course of removing the uterus.  This devastating complication requires a second corrective surgery, however damage to the affected ureter and adjoining kidney may be irreversible. 
– Removal of the uterus occasionally results in the development of a “stump granuloma”- a localized inflammatory process that develops within the small portion of uterus that is left behind.  When this occurs a second “clean up surgery” is typically required. 
– We know that the degree of post-operative patient discomfort correlates with the degree of surgical trauma.  No question, of the two surgical options the OVH creates more trauma.

European veterinarians have been performing OVE’s rather than OVH’s for years.  In fact, the bulk of the research supporting the benefits of leaving the uterus behind has been conducted in Europe.  Slowly, veterinarians in the United States are catching on, and some veterinary schools are now preferentially teaching OVE rather than OVH techniques to their students.  What should you do if you are planning to have your dog spayed?  Talk with your veterinarian about this article and provide a copy for him or her to read.  Perhaps OVE surgery is already their first choice.  If not, perhaps your vet will be willing to take a fresh look at performing this old fashioned surgery.

Wishing you many blessings for the new year,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

My Puppy Mill Education

December 19, 2010

After the November election, I learned that Missouri voters passed legislation known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B).  As I began surfing the Internet to learn more, I anticipated reading about strict new regulations that would dramatically limit the number of dogs per “breeding factory” along with regulations that would enhance the physical and emotional well being of dogs unfortunate enough to wind up in puppy mills.  Here is what I read.  Proposition B stipulates that breeders may have up to 50 breeding dogs at any given time (no, the number 50 is not a typo). Additionally, this new legislation requires that dogs be provided with:

-Sufficient food that is provided at least once daily
-Access to water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants
-Necessary veterinary care (an examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian)
-Sufficient housing including protection from the elements
-Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely and fully extend limbs
-Adequate rest between breeding cycles (no more than two litters during an 18 month time period)

Fifty dogs at a time? Daily food and clean water required? Enough space to allow dogs to stand up and stretch their legs?  Was this really the best that puppy mill reform legislation could provide- nothing more than the bare basics to sustain a modicum of physical comfort for puppy mill “livestock”? How could this be? I addressed my surprise and disappointment by contacting and asking questions of Jennifer Fearing, the California senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States who was in Missouri prior to the election canvassing for votes for Proposition B. Her responses were informative and heartfelt, and she was so genuinely patient in responding to my lack of awareness.  Jennifer has graciously allowed me to share her comments with you:

“Under the old Missouri law, dogs can be kept in wire-floored cages just six inches longer than their bodies.  The cages can be stacked on top of each other.  A veterinarian must make an annual walk-through of a facility but there is no requirement that the dogs get actual exams or even treatment for any existing conditions or injuries.  Dogs are bred on every single heat cycle, leading to dogs so bred-out that we routinely see young dogs (three to four years old) whose teeth have all fallen out because their systems are so overtaxed and malnourished, and whose teats are dragging on the ground.  The old law does have a provision regarding extreme temperatures, but it says that dogs couldn’t face extreme temperatures for more than three consecutive hours, making enforcement impossible because no inspector is going to stand around with his thermometer in the air for three hours.  There is a vague requirement for an exercise plan, but that too is unenforceable and as a result we see dogs who have clearly lived their entire lives on wire floors and never set foot on solid ground.
 
The new law, which goes into effect one year from passage:  Every dog must have a solid-floored enclosure that allows constant, unfettered access to a larger outdoor area.  Larger enclosure sizes are required with specific sizing requirements based on the size of the dog.  Each dog must receive an annual exam and any dog who is sick or suffering must receive veterinary treatment.  No dog may have more than 2 litters in any 18 month period, which essentially means every 3rd cycle is rested, giving them a chance to recuperate from the exhausting cycle of carrying and nursing pups.  The time limit mentioned above is removed so that dogs cannot be kept in temperatures below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees, period.
 
Just as importantly, these new requirements are simple and easy to enforce.  Currently in Missouri, if law enforcement gets a complaint call they must call in the experts from the Department of Agriculture to help interpret 30+ pages of vague, confusing and outdated regulations.  Because of backlogs and understaffing, it can take six months or longer for an Ag inspector to even show up.  But any Sheriff’s deputy can interpret these new requirements – anyone can see if a floor is solid or wire; if cages are stacked; if the dogs have access to an outdoor area; if there are more than 50 dogs; etc.  So instead of leaving the dogs to suffer for another six months, law enforcement can file criminal charges on the spot.
 
And the penalties may seem modest but any violation of the new Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is a criminal offense, which leads to license forfeiture. And if conditions rise to the level of animal cruelty, the offender can be charged instead under the existing state animal cruelty law.
 
Missouri is only the fifth state to cap the number of dogs a commercial breeder can keep.  Since 2008, Oregon, Washington and Virginia have set the number at 50, and Virginia includes a provision allowing the state to allow more than 50 if certain conditions are met.  Louisiana has a cap of 75.  It’s important to remember that these bills are not intended to ban commercial breeding, they are simply designed to eliminate the worst abuses at puppy mills and create more humane living conditions for the dogs who live there.  And the data (from state and federal inspection reports) are clear that the largest facilities accumulate the most frequent and most severe violations.
 
I should mention too that the new law is in addition to, and not in lieu of, the existing regulations.  Those regulations still exist, this law is simply an overlay to correct the weak and vague areas of the regulations that allowed dogs to suffer.
 
Finally, the significance of this law passing in the epicenter of the puppy mill industry cannot be overemphasized.  It will lead to similar restrictions in other states and to vast improvement in the living conditions of dogs kept for the commercial pet trade.”

Jennifer’s explanations certainly changed my perspective about the benefits provided by Proposition B.  While this legislation will not create an existence for a puppy mill victim that in any way resembles my notion of what every dog deserves, no doubt its enforcement will make a positive difference in the current dismal quality of many lives.  I must admit that after reading Jennifer’s response my overriding feeling was, “Shame on me!” As a veterinarian I’m embarrassed by my naïveté about puppy mills.  To some degree, I think I’ve been floating along that river in Egypt (De Nial)- far more pleasant to be “out of touch” rather than “in touch” with the true horrors of what goes on in puppy mills. Sure, via my blog and in Speaking for Spot I’ve advocated against supporting puppy mills by avoiding purchasing puppies from pet stores or on line (sight and site unseen). I simply don’t think my efforts have been adequate.  While I’m certain that I need to do more to create puppy mill reform, I’m not yet sure what that “more” looks like yet. Stay tuned- I will keep you posted as I figure it out. Have you taken a stance against puppy mills?  If so what has been your strategy?

By the way, I debated whether or not to release a blog on such a serious topic while my readers are in the midst of the holiday hustle.  My hope is that the thoughts expressed will provide some inspiration- always a good thing during the holiday season.

Best wishes for a lovely holiday season.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

A Rottweiler Reunion

March 28, 2010

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may remember a series of stories I posted about two pregnant Rottweilers that were abandoned at my veterinary hospital (www.speakingforspot.com/blog 2/20/09, 3/8/09, 3/17/09).  In fact, these girls were so darned pregnant that, within 24 hours, one of them, now named Mia, delivered ten healthy, happy puppies.  Mia and her little sausages were fostered by Jill, a member of the amazing team of receptionists at my hospital.   Jill ended up keeping the runt of the litter, now known as Dodger, and she managed to find wonderful homes for Mia and the other nine pups. Candy, the other mama, found her way to Linda, a Rottweiler maven who works tirelessly doing Rottie rescue work.  Candy delivered five pups while in Linda’s care.  Mama and all five pups were placed in caring homes.  

   

  

  

Jill has managed to keep tabs on Mia and all but one her puppies.  As the adoptive families report, they are all matches made in heaven!  At their recent one-year birthday reunion (held at a local dog park) the puppies were all playing while their humans were sporting grins from ear to ear!  Although there were thirty or so dogs at the park that day, the siblings seemed to hang out preferentially with one another.  Have a look at the “before” and “after” photos.  In the adult photos, there are clearly two distinct facial appearances. (Perhaps two different dads were involved in the creation of this litter!) Charlie, Bandit, and Giovani have kept their original names.  Abby, Delilah, Ember, Freda, Hans, Ivan, and Juno have become Maggie, Dee Dee, Dodger, Ava, Trixie, Bruno, and Sadie.    

Dodger is the dog furthest to the right in this photo

  

Those little sausages have all turned into massive dogs with weights varying from 80 to 110 pounds.  And guess who the 110 pounder is!  None other than Dodger, the original runt of the litter!  

I hope this blog makes you smile and reminds you to support your local animal rescue organizations.  

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,  

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook  

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.  

A Rottweiler Reunion

March 27, 2010

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may remember a series of stories I posted about two pregnant Rottweilers that were abandoned at my veterinary hospital (www.speakingforspot.com/blog 2/20/09, 3/8/09, 3/17/09).  In fact, these girls were so darned pregnant that, within 24 hours, one of them, now named Mia, delivered ten healthy, happy puppies.  Mia and her little sausages were fostered by Jill, a member of the amazing team of receptionists at my hospital.   Jill ended up keeping the runt of the litter, now known as Dodger, and she managed to find wonderful homes for Mia and the other nine pups. Candy, the other mama, found her way to Linda, a Rottweiler maven who works tirelessly doing Rottie rescue work.  Candy delivered five pups while in Linda’s care.  Mama and all five pups were placed in caring homes. 

  

 

 

Jill has managed to keep tabs on Mia and all but one her puppies.  As the adoptive families report, they are all matches made in heaven!  At their recent one-year birthday reunion (held at a local dog park) the puppies were all playing while their humans were sporting grins from ear to ear!  Although there were thirty or so dogs at the park that day, the siblings seemed to hang out preferentially with one another.  Have a look at the “before” and “after” photos.  In the adult photos, there are clearly two distinct facial appearances. (Perhaps two different dads were involved in the creation of this litter!) Charlie, Bandit, and Giovani have kept their original names.  Abby, Delilah, Ember, Freda, Hans, Ivan, and Juno have become Maggie, Dee Dee, Dodger, Ava, Trixie, Bruno, and Sadie.   

Dodger is the dog furthest to the right in this photo

Those little sausages have all turned into massive dogs with weights varying from 80 to 110 pounds.  And guess who the 110 pounder is!  None other than Dodger, the original runt of the litter! 

I hope this blog makes you smile and reminds you to support your local animal rescue organizations. 

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder

January 23, 2010

So, you’ve decided to adopt a dog and feel certain that a purebred is your heart’s desire.  You’ve done your research to be sure that the size and temperament of the breed you’ve chosen is the right fit for you, your lifestyle, and everyone else who lives with you (including both two-legged and four-legged family members). Now, what’s the best way to find this dog of your dreams? 

Here are some good options for finding your new dog (hopefully, we are in agreement that pet store and site unseen online purchases are not good options- see http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=710).  If you are open to adopting an adult dog, let the staff of your local shelter or humane society know what you are looking for- a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there.  I also encourage you to contact breed-specific rescue organizations (google the name of your breed along with the word “rescue”).  Life’s unforeseen circumstances (death, divorce, financial woes, etc.) cause many wonderful dogs to end up with rescue groups. 

Another good option for finding your new dog is via a reputable breeder.  (For the sake of my writing sanity and your reading sanity, throughout this article I refer to breeders with the feminine pronoun.) The word reputable is reserved for the breeder who is truly passionate about the breed she fancies.  Not only does she possess knowledge about the breed’s history, she knows everything there is to know about their inherited health issues (every single breed has them), temperament, and special needs.  She is a wealth of information about breed ancestries (pedigrees) and the reading material on her nightstand likely includes breed-related magazines. Compare this description to what is referred to as the “backyard breeder,” the individual who produces pups without giving significant thought to inherited diseases, pedigrees, conformation, performance, or temperament.  Their reasons for breeding have nothing to do with preserving the integrity of the breed; perhaps they want their children to witness the “miracle of birth,” believe in the myth that healthy female dogs must have a litter, or are naïve enough to believe that producing pups is a money-making proposition. 

Working with a reputable breeder provides the very best insurance policy that your new pup will have an ideal temperament and the genetic potential for a lifetime of good health.  So, how do you go about finding a reputable breeder?  I encourage you to attend some dog shows and local breed club functions to do some schmoozing. Take note of any consensus you perceive (positive or negative) about particular breeders.  Pay an online visit to the American Kennel Club (if you reside in the United States) and/or the national breed-specific association (i.e. Golden Retriever Club of America).  These sites contain referrals to breeders, but in no way guarantees that they are reputable– you still need to do your homework! Once you’ve created your “short list” of puppy providers, use the list below of a dozen simple ways to be certain you are working with a reputable breeder. 

1.  A reputable breeder insists that you visit her home and all of her dogs. In addition to the puppies, she wants you to meet their mother and, if they are on site, the sire and other relatives (aunts, uncles, and cousins).  She wants you to see that the dogs are not confined to a sterile kennel environment and that they have many opportunities for human interaction from an early age.  Additionally, this visit provides the breeder with an opportunity to see how you interact with dogs. 

2.  A reputable breeder will want to show you all the paperwork pertaining to her pups’ pedigree and health clearances (consult with the breed association to learn which medical issues are pertinent for your breed).  Not only does she have this paperwork for your pup, but for the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well.  She will take great pride in this paperwork as it demonstrates her quest to enhance the breed and produce the very best puppies possible.  She will be sending a copy of this paperwork home with you and your pup along with a binder full of other important documents: general information about the breed, breed related health issues, recommendations for obedience classes, grooming tips, results of temperament testing, vaccination and deworming history, record of veterinarian examination, photos of the relatives, and everything you need for American Kennel Club Registration (and you thought you were just getting a puppy!). 

3.  A reputable breeder will want to tell you about any significant health problems that have arisen in any of the dogs she has produced (no breeder is immune).  Not only does this suggest integrity on her part, it also lets you to know that she has stayed in contact with her clients throughout the lifetime of the dogs she’s placed. 

4.  A reputable breeder has more questions for you than you have for her!  You will likely be asked to fill out an application and provide references.  She will request a description of your immediate family, other pets, prior dog experience, house and yard (she may want to come for a site visit), time spent at home versus work, amount of money you are willing to spend on veterinary care, and what activities you hope to share with your dog. If you feel as though you are being interrogated, it is because you are!  The reputable breeder is looking for a single permanent relationship for her pup; she will readily decline a new home that she feels is less than ideal.  Keep in mind, she is well versed in her breed’s best and worst qualities, and knows that these traits are not well suited to every individual and household.  By the way, you will not be allowed to choose a puppy from the entire litter.  The reputable breeder rarely produces more than two or three litters a year and most of the pups will be spoken for well in advance. If she does not have a pup that is right for you, she will gladly refer you to another reputable breeder. 

5.  A reputable breeder is in no hurry to send her puppies off to their new homes.  They may even be held a few weeks longer than the traditional 6 to 8 weeks of age during which time she continues to evaluate each pup to determine which are show or performance prospects.  She will also continue to evaluate the personalities of the pet-quality dogs for more successful pairing with prospective buyers. 

6.  A reputable breeder is happy to provide you with references including people who have purchased her puppies in the past, other breeders, and the veterinarian(s) who cares for her dogs. 

7.  A reputable breeder will ask you to sign a contract that details not only what she expects of you, but also what you can expect of her.  The contract will include some form of health guarantee and, with rare exception, will require your agreement to neuter your pup at the appropriate age.  The contract will also spell out your breeder’s ongoing involvement throughout your dog’s lifetime. She will be an enthusiastic source of support and advice for you, and will want to be informed about any significant health issues that arise.  Not only might this health feedback influence future breeding decisions, she will want to provide a “heads up” to the people who adopted your dog’s littermates.  Additionally, if for any reason and at any age, your dog needs to be “rehomed” the reputable breeder will want to be involved in the process. She would never want one of her dogs to wind up in a shelter or passed from home to home. 

8.  A reputable breeder does not accept credit cards.  She simply doesn’t sell enough puppies to make this worthwhile. 

9.  A reputable breeder sends her pups to their new homes via automobile or within the passenger compartment of the airplane accompanied by a responsible human.  They are never transported in the baggage compartment of an airplane.  

10.  A reputable breeder works with one breed, or occasionally two.  She truly has a love affair with the breed and has focused a huge amount of her time and energy researching all of its particular nuances. She views “designer hybrids” such as Labradoodles (Labradors crossed with Poodles) and Puggles (Pugs crossed with Beagles) to be no different than any other mixed breed of dog.  They detract from, rather than enhance the breed she loves so dearly. 

11.  A reputable breeder shows her dogs in American Kennel Club recognized conformation shows and/or breed-related performance events (obedience, agility, hunting tests/field trial, tracking, herding, etc.). Her dogs may earn AKC good citizen certificates. All of these are clear-cut way for others who are knowledgeable about the breed to evaluate her dogs.  The breeder’s pride will be evident when she shows you the certificates and trophies detailing the accolades and accomplishments of the dogs she’s produced. 

12.  A reputable breeder has a job other than breeding puppies (unless she happens to be independently wealthy).  Breeding pups to pay the mortgage and put groceries on the table inevitably leads to making poor breeding choices.  As one of my colleagues recommends, “Ask the breeder if they make money breeding dogs. If they say, ‘no,’ or better yet, laugh while saying no, you can figure she is a decent breeder.”   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

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Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

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Puppy Mills: Part II

January 16, 2010

I received an abundance of feedback in response to my recent blog about puppy mills.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your feelings concerning this emotional topic.  Virtually all of the comments expressed agreement that puppy mills are despicable and we wish they would cease to exist.  They also included important ideas that prompted me to think, “Wow, I wish I’d included that in my blog!”  Needless to say, I can’t resist sharing these wonderful comments and stories. 

Many of you reminded me that puppy mills spawn significant behavioral issues in their “merchandise” that can be just as devastating, if not more so, than the health issues that arise: 

Debbie wrote, “The physical abnormalities in puppy mill dogs are often accompanied by behavioral problems as well, fear being a major issue for many of these dogs who receive inappropriate or inadequate socialization. Like many medical issues the damage done due to inappropriate socialization may also be irreparable.” 

Diane commented, “I wanted to point out that for me, behavioral issues are also a major concern in addition to the health problems.  Don’t get me wrong, I get my business from people who buy these puppies, but honestly, I would rather just have a class full of wonderful healthy puppies and find some other way to make money.” 

Viviane wrote, “The health problems associated with puppy mills are truly heartbreaking and your post about this brought me to tears.  As a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant, I also see the behavioral results of this sort of breeding operation all too often, and that too is heartbreaking for unsuspecting souls who fall for a sweet face only to discover profound shyness and/or reactivity.  The dog that should have given a lifetime of joy and companionship and of course received the same, now is a beloved but seriously flawed family member who requires management and training to varying degrees for a life time.” 

Vanna stated, “I think it is really important to also point out that these puppy mill dogs aren’t properly socialized early on and therefore there are often serious issues by the time they bring the dog home.  Of course there is also an issue since they aren’t breeding for temperament.” 

Some thought I was tough enough on the puppy mills, but far too soft on the people who patronize puppy mills.  

Kerri commented, “It angers me because people who are educated about these horrible operations still buy from them. You say in your post, “Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.” When I read that, I thought it was letting the buyers off way too easy. By the late 1990s when I rescued my first Doxie and wrote an investigative piece, Disposable Pets (http://www.writeforyou.biz/Disposable-Pets.htm) it was becoming known, but I think the general public could still be excused for ignorance. Today, the puppy mill buying public would have to literally live in a bubble not to know the problem of puppy mills and the terrible conditions from which these dogs come.” 

I couldn’t resist sharing Diane’s inspirational comment with you:  “Here! Here! I go one-step further…… I do not buy ANYTHING from pet stores that sell puppies!” 

A few people reminded me that, as states are cracking down on puppy mills, the innocent victims wind up in shelters and breed rescue organizations.  The people who care for them will require extra help for these emotionally fragile dogs.  There is an instructional DVD addressing this unique situation (check out www.missiondog.com). 

Lastly, before I share Jeff’s poignant puppy mill story, please be reminded:  The purebred dog of your dreams may be awaiting you at your local shelter (yes, many purebred dogs do land there) or breed rescue association.  Please don’t forget to consider these options when you are thinking about “expanding the family.” 

Now, here is Jeff’s story:  

“Nancy: As you may perhaps recall, you sent a couple of very kind emails last year when our little Yorkie, Shelly, died suddenly after having three vaccinations in one day.  Soon after we were lucky enough to adopt two Yorkies who were saved from a raided puppy mill near New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Forty-six Yorkies were found in an abandoned house in the winter with no heat or water.  They were living in birdcages.  The Bucks County SPCA is the hero of this story.  Their director, Ann Irwin and her people responded to the police in the middle of the night.  She mobilized her whole staff and descended on the house at two in the morning and snatched up the poor little dogs.  I visited the SPCA a day later when they were giving the little tykes baths.  Most were so matted and filthy that they just shaved masses of fur rather than try to wash them.  We adopted a very small female, Molly, who they estimate is 5-6 years old.  She has numerous cesarean scars on her tummy from her various births.  When we got to the house, I took her outside to pee, but she was shocked at standing on grass; a first time experience.  After a day or so I was concerned that she wasn’t drinking water.  Then it struck me that she probably was not used to drinking from a bowl.  I bought her a tube type water dispenser like you would give to a hamster in a cage.  She practically emptied it.  I don’t think Molly will ever be completely house broken.  The extraordinary thing is how affectionate she is.  Having gone through what she did one would think she would fear humans.  She is the most loving little dog I have ever owned. The second dog is a puppy from one of the pregnant mothers who they let go to term.  We originally called her Lucy, but I renamed her Lucifer because she is so bad!  These dogs are a great joy, but I have no illusions about Molly.  I don’t think she will become an old dog due to her difficult years living in birdcages in unheated basements with poor nutrition.” 

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly in her new home

Molly in her new home

Molly and Lucifer

Molly and Lucifer

Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and stories.  Let’s hope for ongoing progress in the fight against puppy mills.  Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

 

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Puppy Mills: People and Their Puppies Pay the Ultimate Price

January 10, 2010

Twice during the last month, I’ve experienced feelings of anger while in the midst of euthanizing one of my patients.  Normally I feel mostly sadness, often combined with an element of relief knowing that suffering is gently and humanely coming to an end.  Anger is an unusual visitor, but this emotion is sure to surface whenever I euthanize the innocent victim of a puppy mill (puppy mills are large scale breeding operations that produce puppies for profit with little or no attention paid to breed related inherited diseases).  I feel angered when confronted with a sweet little life, cut way too short and clients left confused, bereft, and devastated by the untimely loss of their beloved puppy. Such was the case with Max and Chloe and the people who cared for them. 

Max, was an insanely sweet and adorable Boston Terrier.  Once an effervescent, bubbly Boston, this nine-month-old pup had become listless- fatigued by the exertion of breathing.  You see, Max was born with an abnormally narrowed windpipe (imagine you or me trying to breathe through a straw).  My client Ed recalled thinking that his new pup’s breathing seemed abnormally noisy when he picked him up from the airport. He was shipped to California at 10 weeks of age from a breeder in Missouri.  Ed had been looking for a Boston Terrier and fell in love with Max the moment he saw his photo online.  He did not feel the need to visit the kennel where Max was born because he was so reassured by the emails and telephone conversations he and the breeder had exchanged.  She seemed to provide all the right answers to Ed’s questions.  Max’s health was guaranteed- any problems and Max could be returned, no questions asked. 

Other than the extra noise associated with Max’s breathing (not uncommon in a smoosh-faced breed such as a Boston Terrier), Ed thought he had a normal puppy on his hands.  It was only as Max’s body grew in relation to his small windpipe that he developed labored breathing, eventually needing to utilize almost every ounce of energy struggling simply to breathe. Ed was devastated by the news that we had no way to fix this problem.  With his own heart breaking, he held his sweet little Max tightly as I injected the euthanasia solution.  

Chloe, an eleven-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was born with defective kidneys.  Joe and Cindy first laid eyes on Chloe when they happened to pass through a shopping center pet store on their way to the movie theatre.  They never made it to the movies that afternoon- they bought a puppy instead! They simply couldn’t resist the charms of the little blonde puppy with the big brown eyes.  Joe and Cindy noticed that Chloe drank lots of water, and she could never be fully housetrained. A few months later, when she began vomiting and refusing her food, kidney failure was diagnosed.  Ultrasound revealed that both of Chloe’s kidneys were small and malformed- clearly a birth defect.  The once vigorous playful puppy gradually had become profoundly weak and lethargic.  Unfortunately, we had no reasonable way of creating long-term improvement for Chloe.  Heartbroken, Joe and Cindy gently stroked and loved their little girl as I ended her life. 

Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.  These puppy purchasers simply don’t know better or allow their emotions to override their sensibilities.  They are vulnerable to the precious face in the online photo or the adorable puppy in the pet store window (pet stores are notorious for purchasing from puppy mills).  Puppy mill breeders often “seal the deal” by guaranteeing their puppies’ health, knowing full well how emotionally traumatic and near impossible it is for most people to “return a pup” once deep attachment occurs (deep attachment typically requires less than five minutes!).   

My new year’s wish is that my veterinary colleagues and I will see far fewer victims of puppy mills in 2010.  You can help my spreading word to people you know who are interested in purchasing a purebred or “designer hybrid” pup.  Educate them about the dangers of purchasing a puppy online, sight (and site) unseen.  Encourage them to avoid the impulsive pet store purchase.  By buying online or from a pet shop, they may be risking losing their beloved new family member at much too young an age, or inadvertently committing the next 10-15 years of their lives to taking care of an inherently unhealthy product of a puppy mill.  One less purchase from puppy mills, even indirectly is one step closer to their eradication.  Please stay tuned.  In my next blog, I will teach you how to recognize the telltale signs of a conscientious breeder. 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

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BObama

April 15, 2009

It’s official! The Obama family has adopted a pup named Bo. Every journalist, commentator, and blogger will be looking for a unique angle on this fabulous story. Some will extol the virtues of Portugese Water Dogs compared to other breeds. Others will write about reputable breeders versus puppy mills, mutts versus purebreds, positive versus negative reinforcement training techniques, and even which pair of White House slippers will be the first to fall prey to puppy shenanigans.

Here’s what’s important to me about the “BObama story.” Although they may not know it yet, by saying, “yes” to a family dog, Michelle and Barack Obama will be providing their daughters with a gift of a lifetime! As the mother of three children who grew up with dogs, and as a veterinarian who has enjoyed countless wonderful stories of kids and their dogs, I predict the following for the First Family:

-Bo will be a “keeper of secrets” for Malia and Sasha when they are not sure anyone else can be trusted.

-The girls will turn to Bo for unconditional approval when they are feeling judged by the world around them.

-Bo will be allowed in the girls’ bedrooms when their need for privacy precludes all others from entering.

-During the “turbulent teens,” Bo will be the soft fluffy shoulder of choice for Malia and Sasha to cry on.

-When Mom and Dad are deemed to be utterly embarrassing, Bo will remain in Malia’s and Sasha’s good graces.

-When the girls leave home for college they will miss their mom and dad, but they will pine for Bo.

The President and First Lady are bound to be in store for some “Bo headaches” such as accidental puddles, over exuberance with White House visitors, and the creation of fringe on unfringed area rugs. Such nuisances will pale in comparison with the incredible reward of observing the giving and receiving of unconditional love in one of its purest forms- that which defines the relationship between a child and a dog.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102105836