On Monday, Leia met her vet Dr. Jackie Menninger of Family Pet Clinic in Southampton. My pets and I have been going to Family Pet Clinic for 13 years. Dr. Menninger and her associates are a wonderful team, and they have taken excellent care of my cats and dogs. Given that I am hearing impaired, Dr. Jackie and her staff always go the extra step and take the extra time to communicate with me by email or via text messaging. It’s a highly professional and extremely well-run veterinary hospital. I never feel like I’m being processed or my visits being rushed. Dr. Jackie and the other vets in the clinic always spend the time that is needed to care for my pets and to answer my questions.
It was a routine “new puppy” visit for a health check which most breeders require be done in 3 to 5 days post purchase. Leia passed with flying colors, and Dr. Jackie remarked how calm she was for an eight week old puppy.
She weighed in at just over 13 pounds and needs a little more weight on her. She dropped weight after coming home, probably due to the transition, not enough food, and an increased activity level. So I’m increasing her food gradually to avoid any gastric upsets.
We discussed several topics: vaccinations, flea/tick control, and spaying, which motivated me to revisit my thinking about these somewhat controversial issues. It is leading me to share information and articles which have steered my thinking and opinions over the years.
Forgive me for this more informative type of post. Sometimes I can’t forget that I’m a retired librarian. We librarians do love information and strive to always find authentic information, checking currency of dates and reliability of sources. I do promise to return to writing more about Leia and her antics. Believe me, she’s really cute but no princess. She’s a pistol! She’s going to challenge me and keep me on my toes, but this is why I enjoy working with puppies.
OK, back to the somewhat controversial topics.
Vaccination: One of my favorite articles on WHY we vaccinate puppies several times from about 6 weeks until 12-16 weeks appeared in one of my WHOLE DOG JOURNAL issues a few years ago. It very succinctly explains the immunity (antibodies) most puppies receive from their mothers when they drink the colostrum after birth and how that acquired immunity slowly dissipates over the months as they start growing. This is when the puppy vaccinations kick in and encourage the puppy’s own immune system to overlap what they received from their dam. The article can be read at: https://www.dogsfurdays.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Puppy-Vaccines-Whole-Dog-Journal.pdf
Also, I, personally, am a follower of Dr. Jean Dodds DVM, a recognized authority on pet vaccinations. She posts a vaccination protocol annually for cats and dogs, and it is now adopted by all 27 veterinary schools in the United States. She cites that current research is showing that most of the core vaccines are good for at least 7 years and often for the lifetime of the pet. It makes a strong case for running titers instead of automatically re-vaccinating every three years. Her most recent protocol is available here. http://bannerckcs.com/Files/vaccination%20protocol.pdf
Heartworm and Flea/Tick Control: I admit that I’m a bit hard-headed when it comes to chemical use for flea/tick control. Dr. Jackie told me about a new oral flea/tick product called Credelio which is supposed to be safe(er) and also target all ticks carrying the entire spectrum of tick borne diseases. I have relented, over the years, to routine heartworm doses. I will use Frontline sporadically, but commonly opt to use an organic flea/tick repellant when I venture into areas where the potential for ticks is present. Two products I’ve had good luck with are Flea Flicker Tick Kicker and Nantucket Spider. NOTE:* I am, in no way, recommending ANY course of action because I believe that it is up to each individual pet owner to make their own decisions with the guidance of their veterinarian.
Spaying/Neutering: The philosophy on spaying/neutering has also changed over the years. It used to be that female dogs and cats were automatically scheduled for their spay surgery at the age of 6 months before coming into heat. When I got Hannah in 2007, I learned that the 6 month spay was no longer an established recommendation. So, being a librarian, I went online and started researching authentic sources. It was such a new concept, I needed to convince myself. I ultimately found a power-point presentation used in a reproduction seminar held at the University of Pennsylvania that explored the benefits of waiting to spay female dogs until after their first heat. In a nutshell, there are several reasons supporting the research.
Being a Labrador owner, I am naturally interested in the benefits as related to larger breed dogs. Experienced breeders of large breed dogs and vets who take care of larger dogs have noticed that dogs spayed/neutered before their first birthday grew much larger than dogs who remained intact until after they reached puberty. Multiple studies performed in the 1990’s corroborated this.
In 2000, a research study published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism came up with a hypothesis as to why this happens. When puberty approaches, estrogen is responsible for healthy maturation of the skeleton and the gradual closing of the epiphyseal growth plates, the spaces between the bones that allow the bones room to reach their full length. It’s believed that removing estrogen (i.e. the ovaries or testicles) in puppies will keep the growth plates open longer than is natural. This allows more room for the bones to grow larger/longer than they’re genetically programmed to, causing body proportions that can be unhealthy and abnormal for the dog’s frame. For example, the femur, the thickest bone in the hind leg, has a natural stopping point about eight months of age. But when the dog is fixed at the typical six months of age, the tibia, which should stop growing at about a year of age, will continue to grow, then causing an unnatural angle at the knee. These skeletal abnormalities can then potentially cause serious bio-mechanical deviations, joint stressors, and health problems as the dog ages.
Ultimately, in the end it’s up to the individual owner and his/her veterinarian to determine the best time to spay/neuter a specific pet. There is no accepted norm, and if you do conscientious research, you will still find a wide range of differing opinions. My opinion and decisions are driven by how the research applies to the breed I own.