Babesiosis in the UK – Is your dog at risk?

Babesiosis in the UK – Is your dog at risk?

UK Dog owners have recently become concerned about news reports of an ‘outbreak’ of Babesiosis; a disease usually only seen in parts of continental Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. National newspapers are reporting that one dog that has already died from the illness and that 3 more dogs are being treated by vets.

Vets are urging dog owners not to panic as so far these cases seem to be confined to the same area in Harlow, Essex.

What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a dog illness caused by Babesia Canis or Babesia gibsoni , a protozoal parasite(1) that is transmitted by ticks; it infects red blood cells and can cause severe anaemia and immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia. Babesia is usually only found in the warmer climates of North America, continental Europe, Africa and Asia. Continue reading

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National Pet Month, April 2016

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National Pet Month has been going strong in the UK for 27 years! It is all about celebrating the wonderful impact pets have on our lives and is supported by veterinary teams, animal therapy providers, animal charities, animal experts and pet shops from all over the UK. This year National Pet Month will focus on the Top 10 Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership, which remind us of how important it is for us to provide the very best care for our pets.

During national pet month we aim to

  • Promote responsible pet ownership
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of owning a pet
  • Increase awareness of the roles of pet care specialists
  • Highlight the value of assistance and working companion animals.

There will be many events going on for pet lovers this month, including the All About Dogs Show at Newbury Showground 11-12th April. You can access lots of pet care information on the This blog and free webinars about pet care are available to pet owners from Pet Webinars , with topics including pet care, diabetes, vaccines, hyperthyroidism and reptile care.

 Top 10 Tips For Responsible Pet Owners

1. Think carefully before getting a pet and learn about its special requirements

The prospect of getting a new pet can be very exciting and it is a wonderful feeling to be a proud owner. Anyone who has taken on a pet will know that within a matter of hours you are completely hooked, but there are a few things to think about before your commit to and bring home your new bundle of fun and cuteness.

  • Are you ready for a pet and who in the household will look after it ?
  • The species, size and breed of pet need to be considered carefully to ensure they will fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you want something as energetic as a Husky,  Collie, Labrador or Dalmation, you need to make sure you have time to exercise it properly for at least 2-3 hours a day. If you want Rabbits (you have to have at least 2 together), you need to make sure you have space for a large hutch and a large run and/or secure garden. Some cat breeds really don’t enjoy being left alone all day and may become destructive.
  • The potential costs involved with keeping a pet can be huge! The average annual costs of owning a pet have been estimated at £1000 – £1500 for a dog, around £1200 for a cat, £400 – £500 for a ferret, £500-£600 for a rabbit and £300-£400 for a guinea pig.
  • Your pet will need exercise, no matter what species it is. Do you have enough time to devote to ensuring that you can meet your chosen pet’s requirements? Can you provide suitable housing and exercise areas for your pet?

Read my articles Think before you get that new pet and How to choose a new pet and where to get it from before your rush into a decision.

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2. Ensure your pet is sociable and well trained

All pets can be trained and socialised, but it does take time and effort on your part. Dogs in particular must have the correct socialisation and training to ensure that they are well mannered and under control around other animals and people. You can read more about training your pet in this article

3. Provide a nutritious, well balanced diet to ensure your pet remains fit and healthy

It is very important that your pet receives the correct type and amount of food appropriate for his or her species, size and age. You must also ensure that your pet is not too thin or does not become overweight. Ask your veterinary nurse if you have any questions about what and how much your pet should be eating. Have a look at these articles for general advice on feeding Rabbits and Guinea Pigs.

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Overweight pets are not happy pets and are at a high risk of developing problems such as diabetes, heart disease and painful joints 

4. Provide suitable housing and bedding

It is important to provide a safe, comfortable living area for your pet at the correct temperature for their species. For dogs and cats, this is usually as simple as providing a cosy bed in an area of your home. For other species, always buy the biggest cage, hutch, tank or vivarium that you can afford and have space for. Did you know that many of the rodent cages, reptile tanks and rabbit/guinea pig hutches that are sold in pet shops are far too small? As a general rule every cage must be tall enough for the animal to stand up fully on his or her hind legs to stretch up completely.

  • Rabbits should have a hutch that is big enough for him or her to hop 3 times across the length and enable them to stand up on their hind legs for the average pair of rabbits this means a hutch that is at least 6 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft plus an exercise run of at least 8ft x 6ft.
  • Guinea Pigs need a hutch that is at least 4 ft x 2ft x 1.5 ft, plus an exercise run
  • Rats need cages that are a minimum of  2.5 ft x 1.3 ft x 1.5 ft for a pair of rats
This rabbit hutch is far too small!

This rabbit hutch is far too small!

5. Clean up after your pet and worm it regularly (where appropriate)

Ensure that you clean up any urine and faeces daily from litter trays, hutches, cages and vivariums, as well as cleaning up after your dog on walks. Doing this will help prevent illness, infection, parasites and disease from occurring or being transmitted between pets (and potentially people).  Check your pet’s bottom/genital area every day to ensure this is free from faeces and urine and clean them up if necessary. Worming is very important for dogs and cats and should be done at least 4 times a year. Read my article for more information on Why worming is important.

6. Protect against disease

We recommend that dogs, cats and rabbits receive their annual vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases. Some diseases, such as Leptospirosis in dogs, can also be transmitted to humans (although it is rare). There is a lot of debate over whether vaccinations are always necessary for your pet, so please read these articles on why I recommend them, before you make up your mind.

Protecting your pet from disease isn’t all about vaccinations; you can also protect your pet from disease by

  • Taking him or her to the vet for an annual health check. This will enable the vet to check your pet over and pick up any problems early and before they become too serious.
  • Check your pet over thoroughly every day. Look out for lumps, cuts, scratches and lameness as well as any behavioural changes that may indicate a problem.
  • Ensuring you prevent parasite infestations such as  worms and fleas which can have a big impact on the health of your pet. Speak to your veterinary nurse about which products are best suited to your pet.
  • Ensuring your pet does not become obese. Excessive weight puts pressure on the organs and joints in an animal’s body, making everything work harder and increasing the risk of disease.

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7. Prevent unwanted litters and neuter your pet when appropriate

The decision about whether to have your pet neutered or not is likely to be one of the biggest that you make as a pet owner. There is no doubt that neutering your pet can have really great benefits to their health and you will also be doing your bit to help the growing crisis of the thousands of pets already in rescue centres around the country, because there aren’t enough homes to go around. However, for many different reasons, not all pet owners (especially dog owners) will want to have their pets neutered and as long as these unneutered pets are managed responsibly, this decision is fine. We want you to be well informed so read our article on The pros and cons of neutering for more information.

8. Groom your pet regularly

Grooming your pet will not only keep his or her coat looking lovely, but also remove any uncomfortable knots and enable you to check for any lumps, bumps, cuts and scratches. Grooming can be a very good bonding exercise and most pets will tolerate it well if started at an early age.

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9. Control your pet and ensure it is properly identified

This tip is really targeted at dog owners, however, we do recommend that other animals, especially cats, are microchipped as well.

Microchipping

  • From 6th April 2016 it will be a legal requirement for ALL dogs in England to be microchipped and registered on an approved database.
  • Puppies will need to be microchipped and registered by the time they are 8 weeks old (this applies to all puppies, whether intentionally bred or an accidental litter).
  • When the puppies or dogs of any age go to a new home, the new owner will need to transfer the microchip details to their own name and address.
  • It is the responsibility of the owner/keeper of the dog to ensure that the database information such as name address and contact numbers are kept up to date.

Identification 

  • It is a legal requirement for every dog to be wearing an identification tag/disk with the owner’s contact number, address and postcode on it, when the dog is out in a public area. This applies even if the dog is already microchipped.

Control of your dog

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control. This now applies to both private property and public places. You can be prosecuted and you dog could potentially be put down if he or she is proven to be out of control!

  • You must be able to control your dog at all times, this means being able to call your dog back to you and making sure that he or she responds to you.
  • Your dog must not jump up at or chase other members of the public. Even the friendliest or smallest of dogs can cause damage by jumping up at someone, especially a child or an elderly person.
  • If there is any possibility that your dog is might attack another dog or a person he or she must be muzzled in public places.
  • You must not train or encourage your dog to attack/threaten people or other dogs.

Please read our article if your would like to know more about the laws of dog ownership in the UK

10. Take out pet insurance

Pet Insurance can help cover against any unexpected and costly veterinary fees if your pet is injured or becomes unwell. Most types of pets can be insured, but it is worth doing plenty of research and looking around before you commit to a particular pet insurance company. You can read our article for more information about pet insurance.

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The veterinary nursing team at Castle Vets offer free consultations, by appointment, for you to discuss any aspect of your pet’s care and wellbeing to ensure that you meet all of his or her individual needs. Our nurses are also happy to help anyone who is thinking about getting a pet and can offer advice about what type and breed of pet may fit in with your lifestyle, how to look after a pet properly and the costs that may be involved with pet ownership.

You can find out more about events that may be happening near you by visiting the National Pet Month Website.

Easter Pet Care

Easter Pet Care

Easter is nearly here and whether we celebrate or not, most of us will enjoy spending some quality holiday time with our family and our pets. With all that time to fill it may be a good opportunity to focus on our pets and perhaps teach them something new. Dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, ferrets and even birds can all be trained to perform simple tricks. Find a treat they really love to reward them for behaviour and they will usually repeat it.

High Five

High Five

Continue reading

Barking Dogs

Barking Dogs

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Although barking is a normal dog behaviour, it can be a real nuisance if you have to listen to it for long periods. Dogs may bark, howl or cry when left alone for a variety of reasons, but most often because they are bored, frustrated or distressed, so it is important to try and find out the cause of your dog’s behaviour if possible.

Complaints often arise about dogs that bark too much and especially, about those dogs that are left at home alone for long periods and bark once their owners have left the house. The most recent PDSA PAW report   estimates that around 2.3 million dogs are left at home for 5 hours (or more) on weekdays, but unfortunately many owners have no choice because they have jobs to go to.

If your dog is upsetting your neighbours, the first thing to do is talk to them and above all stay calm. Remember that any type of continuous noise can have a really negative impact on people’s lives and you have no idea how bad the problem is, because you are not there to hear it. Ask your neighbours to tell you and/or make a note of when the barking happens and for how long, as this may help you identify triggers (such as the postman or school children walking by) and enable you to provide distractions for your dog during those times.

Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, excessive and continual barking of dogs may be considered a Statutory Nuisance, and local authorities can take action to stop it, which can include a hefty fine for the owner, so it is important that you make every effort to prevent your dog barking and keep the peace with your neighbours.

Tips To Prevent Barking

  1. Only leave your dog for short periods and try to start this routine from home alone 2an early age; Get your dog accustomed to being left alone for short periods and gradually increase the length of time that he or she is left alone. Don’t leave adult dogs for more than 3-4 hours and puppies should only be left for an hour or so – if you are at work ask someone to check in on your dog during the day and let them out or walk them for you.
  2. Dogs often respond well to having stimulating and fun toys, such as a stuffed Kong or Puzzle Feeder, to occupy them whilst you are out and some even start to look forward to you leaving if it means they have access to a Kong with their favourite stuffing!  Make sure that you initially supervise your dog with any new chews or feeding toys so that you know they won’t be swallowed whole or cause choking! Please do not leave your dog unsupervised with bones or rawhide-type chews.
  3. Exercise your dog properly and well before you leave; this will ensure he or she is tired and ready to settle down when you go.
  4. Try creating a den for your dog as it will help them to feel more secure while you are out.
  5. A radio tuned to a talking or classical music station can provide company, soothing background noise and also help block out any noises from outside, this is especially useful if you have a dog that is worried by loud and unexpected noises.
  6. A pheromone diffuser or collar such as Adaptil can help reduce anxiety and provide a calming environment for your dog.
  7. Don’t shout at your dog for barking – you are just joining in and may make the situation worse.
  8. If your dog is barking at particular occurrences every day, such as the postman or milkman, try to distract them at this time with a game or some treats.
  9. Some owners use webcams to monitor their pets. These can be a great idea and the ones designed for babies and small children often work over wifi and have a speakerphone so you can chat to your pet; this will depend on the individual dog though, as some may be even more distressed if they can hear you but can’t see or smell you!
  10. If your dog gets very distressed about being left enrol him or her into a doggy daycare club or with a dog walker so that he or she has company all day.
  11. Vary your leaving routine and the amount of time you spend away from home if possible. Get rid of the predictive behaviour that can really get your dog worked up and distressed, for example putting your coat on and grabbing the car keys, but then sitting down and having a drink before taking your coat off again.

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PLEASE DO NOT USE ANTI-BARK COLLARS WITHOUT CONSULTING A FULLY QUALIFIED CANINE BEHAVIOURIST FIRST; PUNISHMENT OFTEN MAKES THESE SITUATIONS WORSE AND YOU COULD SERIOUSLY AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DOG. SHOCK COLLARS SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON ANY ANIMAL WITHOUT FULL AND PROPER SUPERVISION FROM A QUALIFIED DOG BEHAVIOURIST.

If your dog’s barking is causing complaint and/or upset, I recommend you contact a suitably qualified canine behaviourist who will work with you to try and solve the problem. The Pets In Practise team are local to the Reading area, or you can also look for qualified behaviourists on the Association of Pet Behaviourists website

Making Travelling & Vet Visits Less Stressful For Cats

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Most cats find travelling outside their home to be a very stressful experience.
Cats aren’t stupid, they know that the cat carrier means a trip to the vet where they will very likely be poked and prodded, often when they are already feeling poorly or sore. Or it could be a trip to the cattery while you are away on holiday, either way your cat knows that the cat carrier is not a good thing. I’m sure that more than a few of you have tried getting your cat through that small opening in the cat carrier and ended up completely stressed, with a few battle wounds and a missing cat!

We’ve all been here!

How to make travelling less stressful

1. If possible leave the cat carrier in your home (rather than the shed or garage) with a nice cosy bed in it. Rewarding your cat with a tasty treat when he or she chooses to go near or into the carrier , should encourage  frequent use and ensure your cat doesn’t always associate it with nasty trips. It also means that your cat learns to feel safe in there.

2. Make sure the carrier is sturdy and escape Two comfortable and happy kittiesproof once the door is closed. The last thing you want is a stressed cat leaping about in the car on the way to the veterinary surgery or cattery, or worse escaping while you are in a car park miles away from home.

3. Choose your carrier carefully. It is much easier to pick up a cat and pop him into the open top of a basket/carrier, rather than trying to force him through a small doorway in the front – if his feet are on the floor it is much easier to escape! If you can’t get a top opening carrier, my tip is to position the carrier so that the door is facing upwards and gently put the cat in.

4. It is always a good idea to have some sort of absorbent liner in the carrier in case your cat has an accident. Absorbent pet bedding such as Vet-Bed can be used or you could get some incontinence pads which are quite cheap to buy and easily cut to size.

5. Using Feliway (www.feliway.co.uk) spray in the carrier 15 minutes before you place you cat into it may help to keep your cat calmer on the journey and at the vets. Feliway helps cats naturally cope with stressful situations and is available from your veterinary practice or in some of the bigger pet stores.

6. If you are going to be travelling a long distance with your cat, ensure that he or she has access to fresh water. For very long journeys a larger travelling crate with room for a litter tray and somewhere to hide may make for a happier kitty. You may also want to consider chatting to your vet about medication to help your cat feel calmer on the journey; as well as using Feliway, products such as Zylkene or Scullcap & Valerian may also be helpful.

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How to place your cat into a front opening carrier
Turn the basket onto its end so the door is facing upwards. Have someone steady the carrier to prevent it from tipping over. Gently lower the cat into the carrier and close the door.

To avoid stress at the veterinary surgery

Put your cat in a carrier when you visit your vet because your cat will feel much more secure in there than if he or she were loose in your arms. There are cat harnesses available, but if your veterinary practice isn’t lucky enough to have a separate cat waiting area, your cat will be terrified and have nowhere to hide if a dog comes into the waiting room.

Turn your cat carrier around so that it’s door is facing a wall , chairback or yourself (obviously this doesn’t apply to top-opening carriers!). Some cats are also much happier with a towel or small blanket over the top of their carrier to give them even more privacy, especially if they are in a wire basket.

Try not to sit close to any dogs who might be visiting the vets. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen dogs being allowed to sniff the carrier containing a terrified kitty who cannot escape, and the dog owner saying “it’s ok, he’s good with cats” and the cat owner replying “Oh yes, it’s fine she lives with a dog” Poor cat!  The same applies to other cats, it is best to face them away from each other when possible.

At Castle Vets we are fortunate enough to have completely separate cat facilities so that our feline patients never have to be worried about dogs nosing their baskets and trying to get in. Our feline patients are much calmer and easy to handle because dogs never enter the waiting room, consulting rooms, kennels or operating theatre.

Feliway is often helpful as it will help keep your cat calm.

I hope you find this article informative, please let us know what you think in the comments.

If you have any questions please contact your veterinary practice

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Neutering Your Pet – Pros, Cons, Why & When

The decision about whether to have your pet neutered or not is likely to be one of the biggest that you make as a pet owner. There is no doubt that neutering your pet can have really great benefits to their health and you will also be doing your bit to help the growing crisis of the thousands of pets already in rescue centres around the country, because there aren’t enough homes to go around. However, for many different reasons, not all pet owners (especially dog owners) will want to have their pets neutered and as long as these unneutered pets are managed responsibly, this decision is fine.  This article will describe the pros and cons of neutering and hopefully give you all the information you need to make your decision.

What is neutering?

Neutering is the general term used to describe the surgical removal of the sex organs in animals to prevent them from breeding. Neutering or de-sexing are terms that can be used for both male and female animals.

Spaying: When we spay a female animal, we perform an ovario-hysterectomy , which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. The surgery involves a small abdominal incision in the dog, rabbit and guinea pig just below the umbilicus, or a small flank incision in the cat (unless the owner specifically requests an abdominal spay).

Castration: When we castrate a male dog, cat, guinea pig or rabbit we remove the testes to prevent reproduction. The surgery involves a small incision just in front of the testicles in the dog, guinea pig and rabbit or a small incision into each side of the scrotum in the cat. Sometimes male animals have a problem called cryptorchidism, in which one of the testicles has not descended properly, in these cases they may require abdominal surgery to remove the retained testicle.

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The first image shows the operation site for female dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. The second image shows the operation site for female cats. The third image shows the operation site for male dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. The fourth image shows the operation site for male cats

The reasons for neutering

There are many reasons to recommend that dogs, cats and rabbits are neutered; it benefits their health and helps reduce pet overpopulation. So many animals end up in rescue centers, or are even put to sleep, because there are just not enough homes available for them. Each year, approximately 150,000 stray or abandoned animals are taken in by animal welfare organisations in the UK, such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who try to find homes for them.

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The health benefits of neutering

Female animals
  • Prevents “heat” or oestrus (also known as being in season)
  • Prevents unwanted litters
  • Prevents hormone fluctuations that cause false pregnancy
  • Prevents Pyometra, a serious and potentially fatal womb infection
  • Prevents mammary (breast) cancer.
  • Prevents uterine and ovarian cancer.
  • Prevents the urge to escape and find a mate during heat.
  • Prevents unsociable behaviour during heat (Think PMS!)
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Prevents urine spraying and marking behaviour that sometimes occurs in entire female rabbits (does).
  • Neutered female cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Enables some animals to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy
 Male animals
  • Lowers the risk of serious conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis and hormone-related (testosterone) diseases such as perianal adenoma in dogs.
  • Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, a common cancer in entire dogs.
  • Removes sexual urges and the need to escape or roam to find a mate. Entire male cats can have huge territories and are more likely to get into fights.
  • Reduces certain types of aggression in male dogs
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Neutered animals are less likely to mark their territory with strong smelling urine.
  • Neutered male cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Neutered male rabbits and guinea pigs are less likely to show aggression towards other males
  • Enables some animals to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy

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Problems that can occur in un-neutered animals

Pyometra: This is an infection of the uterus (womb) in female animals. The uterus fills with pus, and toxins quickly spread throughout the body causing the animal to feel very unwell. If this condition is not treated quickly it can be fatal.

Mammary (breast) Cancer: Mammary cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands and organs throughout the body. While any pet can develop mammary tumors, these masses occur most often in older female dogs and cats that have not been spayed.

Ovarian Cysts: The symptoms of ovarian cysts will depend on the type of cyst but can include; swelling of the vulva, due to the high amounts of estrogen in the body, vulvar discharges that may contain blood and occur outside the regular bleeding in the heat cycle, hair loss, irregular heat cycles or lack of heat cycles, extended heat cycles, abdominal swelling due to pus or fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity.

False Pregnancies: False pregnancy is a term used to denote a common condition in a non-pregnant female animal that is showing symptoms of pregnancy or nursing without producing babies. Symptoms usually occur after her oestrus (heat) is over and is thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance. Symptoms can include; behavioral changes, mothering activity, nesting and self-nursing, restlessness, abdominal enlargement, enlargement of mammary glands, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite (anorexia), fur plucking (rabbits).

Prostate problems (dogs): Enlarged prostate occurs in more than 80% of un-neutered male dogs past the age of five. Some dogs with an enlarged prostate have difficulty with urination or bowel movements.

Testicular cancer (dogs): About 7% of un-neutered males develop a testicular tumor. Fortunately it seldom spreads. Although castration has a complete cure rate of approximately 90%, neutering prevents it entirely. If your dog has one or both testicles tucked up inside his body (called cryptorchidism) he is far more likely to develop a testicular tumor compared to a dog with descended testicles; this condition can also be passed on to offspring so a cryptorchid dog should definitely be neutered.

Behavioural problems and injuries: Roaming is the main problem for both un-neutered males and females as they are likely to want to try and find a mate. This can lead to road traffic accidents, fighting with others and injury. Dogs often have problems with recall and focusing on their owner if they are being led by their hormones. Some animals will also demonstrate hormone-related aggression.

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Neutered rabbits can live happily in groups without fear of territorial fighting and population explosions

Common myths about neutering

“It changes the pet’s personality”
The only behaviour changes are likely to be positive ones. Neutered animals often make better companions and are more affectionate. Pets are less likely to roam, which means less chance of getting lost or hit by a car, they are also less likely to mark territory or get in fights.

“Neutered pets become fat and lazy”
While it is true that a neutered animal needs fewer calories in the diet, it is ultimately overfeeding and/or a lack of exercise by the owners that causes obesity in animals. Make time for walks and play, and ask your veterinary nurse about reducing calories once your pet has been neutered.

“My pets are brother and sister so they won’t mate”
The fact that they are related to each other will make no difference to your pets, they will still mate and produce offspring.

“My pet is a pedigree and shouldn’t be neutered”
Your pet is a companion, not a financial investment or status symbol. Unless you are showing your pet and plan to breed, you should consider having it neutered. Remember that one in four animals handed in to animal shelters are pedigrees.

“I don’t want my male pet to feel deprived or less masculine”
You shouldn’t confuse human sexuality with an animal’s hormonal instincts. Neutering won’t cause any negative emotional reaction in your male pet. In addition, it greatly reduces the risk of prostate and testicular diseases in dogs and the possibility of FIV & FeLV and fight related wounds and abscesses in male cats.

“It’s too expensive to have my pet neutered”
The surgery is a one-time cost and a small price to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of life threatening illnesses, not to mention preventing more homeless animals. Our pet health club offers a 20% discount on neutering and there are also several animal charities that may provide assistance with the cost of neutering.

“Having a litter is good for her and it will be a great experience for the family”
Motherhood will not make your pet healthier or happier (and some animals make terrible mothers!). In fact, early spaying greatly reduces the likelihood of mammary cancer, and eliminates potentially life threatening infections of the uterus and ovaries.

If you are thinking about letting your pet have a litter, is important that you think things through properly and ensure that you make the health and welfare of your pet and its offspring an absolutely priority. Breeding because you think a male and female will produce cute offspring or because you think you will make some money is very irresponsible. Care must to be taken to ensure you can find good homes for the whole litter, that you will not be allowing genetic/hereditary problems to be passed on to the offspring and that you can afford to look after the mother and her offspring properly.
Before you let your pet get pregnant, think about the following things

  • Have you ensured that your pet is healthy, vaccinated and is not going to be passing on genetic or hereditary problems to the offspring? Have you had the appropriate health screening tests carried out such as checking for hip dysplasia and eye problems in dogs (further information can be found on The Kennel Club website), viruses in cats and dental misalignment problems in rabbits?
  • Is your pet’s temperament good? Do they have any fear or aggression issues?
  • Is your pet fully grown and mature enough to have a litter?  Usually between 18 months and 3 years old, but this is dependent on species and size, so ask your vet if you are not sure.
  • Can you find an appropriate mate? It is vitally important and you ensure that the mate is healthy and has also had the appropriate vaccinations and health tests. Just letting your female pet out to get mated by any roaming male suitor is highly irresponsible, she may end up with disease or illness (particularly in the case of cats) that can not only make her sick, but could be passed on to her offspring.
  • If your pet has difficulties giving birth you may end up paying for a very expensive caesarian operation. This could result in complicated surgery for the mother and you may end up with no babies or, worse, the mother could die too! (Pregnancy complications are not usually covered by pet insurance)
  • If the mother cannot or will not feed her litter are you prepared to hand-rear them and to give them food every 2 hours for 24 hours a day until they are weaned?
  • Food and care of the litter may be expensive until they go to new homes. Can you afford the cost of feeding, worming and possibly vaccinating them all? If the mother and/or her offspring become unwell can you afford the veterinary treatment that they will need? From 4th April 2016 all puppies will also need to be microchipped and registered before they go to a new home (this will apply to all litters, whether planned or accidental).
  • Do you know how to look after your pet during pregnancy and raise, habituate and socialise the offspring properly, before they go to their new homes?
  • Can you find good homes for all of the litter? What will you do if you can’t find homes for them or if they are returned to you because their new owners cannot keep them? Are you comfortable with the fact that you could be adding to the many thousands of animals in rescue centres that cannot find homes?

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Should you have your cat neutered?

We do generally recommend that cats are neutered, unless you have a registered pedigree cat that you are planning to breed from. This is because the vast majority of cats cannot be ‘chaperoned’ in the same way that dogs are and, when they are let outside, they are generally left to their own devices; making pregnancy in females highly likely and also increasing the risk of disease transmission through sexual activity and wounds, as well as injuries from territorial fighting. So unless you can prevent this by keeping your cat indoors and well mentally stimulated, or by cat-proofing your garden to prevent your cat getting out and other cats getting in, then neutering is usually the best option for your cat.

Should you have your rabbit or guinea pig neutered?

Whether to neuter your rabbit or guinea pig will very much depend on their housing circumstances and group dynamics. Female rabbits can often become territorial and aggressive from 4-6 months of age,  they may have repeated false pregnancies, and may growl at, bite and scratch their owners as well as other rabbits. Spaying reduces (and sometimes eliminates) these problems.  Male rabbits can be territorial, aggressive and spray urine. Neutered males of both species are often much happier and relaxed, they can also live with a spayed female or even another neutered male. Since rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept in groups of 2 or more, neutering of one or all is usually the best option.

Should you have your dog neutered?

It is up to you as the responsible owner to decide whether or not to have your dog or bitch neutered. At Castle Vets we generally do not recommend that male or female dogs are neutered until they have finished growing and have reached maturity, which is usually between 8 months and 2 years old, depending on the breed (bigger breeds take longer to fully mature). However, we also understand that some young and hormonal dogs can be a real handful, so we are happy to neuter at a younger age if you request it.

We have discussed the risks of not neutering above, but here are some of the benefits seen in dogs that have delayed neutering until they have reached maturity, or have not been neutered at all

  • Fewer fear-related behavioural problems, especially in male dogs (1)
  • Lower risk of Hip Dysplasia and Cruciate Ligament damage in larger breeds (2)
  • Lower risk of some cancer types such as hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma (3,4)
  • Lower risk of hypothyroidism (4)
  • Lower risk of obesity (although frankly this has more to do with what and how much is fed by the owner)
Being a responsible owner of an unneutered dog
  • Male dogs: If you own a dog and do not want to get him neutered, you need to make sure that you can prevent him roaming the neighbourhood and running away every time a bitch comes into season locally. It is as much your responsibility as the owner of a bitch in season, to prevent an unwanted mating. You also need to ensure that he has had proper socialisation, training and behaves well around other entire and neutered male dogs. If you can do this then you may not need to neuter your dog.
  • Bitches: If you own a bitch and do not want her neutered, you need to be sure that you can prevent her from being mated and becoming pregnant potentially twice a year and that you can cope with her seasonal bleed twice yearly as well (which can be very messy in some bitches). You will need to be careful about where and when you take her for walks during her season; she will still need exercise, but will be very attractive to any unneutered male dogs in the area. You also must never leave a bitch in season unattended outside, even in your own back garden, unless you are 100% sure that she cannot get out and other dogs cannot get in (you would be surprised at the length some male dogs will go to for a bitch in heat!)

Canine behavioural problems that neutering cannot solve

There are some canine problems that are often misinterpreted as being caused by the dog’s sex hormones and unfortunately neutering will not solve these problems. In some cases your vet may be able to give your dog an injection of a hormone suppressing drug that will mimic the effects of neutering and enable you to see if neutering will have any effect on the behaviour.

  • Over excitability and unruly behaviour: This problem is commonly due to adolescence and/or a lack of training and these dogs often respond really well to reward-based training and appropriate mental and physical stimulation. Increasing the amount of daily exercise and, if possible, giving them more opportunity to exercise off-lead can make a huge difference to these dogs.
  • Predatory hunting, herding or chasing behaviours: This is down to the breed/type of dog and what it has been bred to do rather than a hormonal issue. These problems often need the input of a qualified behaviourist to help you and your dog.
  • Fearful, unconfident dogs: Anecdotal evidence from many qualified animal behaviourists suggest that neutering these dogs may actually make the situation worse. Seek out advice from an appropriately qualified canine behaviourist to help you if your dog is fearful.
  • Bitches that show signs of aggression or reactivity when not in season: Spaying unlikely to improve the behaviour and there is a small risk that spaying could make the behaviour worse. We advise that you speak to an appropriately qualified canine behaviourist to help you if your dog is showing signs of aggression.
References
1. Association Pet Behaviour Counsellors
2. Slauterbeck, et al Canine Ovariohysterectomy and Orchiectomy Increases the Prevalence of ACL Injury
3. Gretel Torres de la Riva, et al Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers
4. Laura J. Sanborn, Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs

I hope you find this article useful and informative. Please contact your veterinary practice if you wish to discuss neutering your pet.