Spay And Neuter: The Pros, The Cons, And Things To Consider


The pros and cons of spaying and neutering

Spay and neuter – that’s a very common thing that we hear almost every day now. Many pet owners approach me and ask my opinion regarding the matter. Some are very supportive towards the spay/neuter program, some are still considering whether their pets need it or not, while some others are hesitant or worried about the side effects of it. So what are the pros and cons of spaying/neutering?

Let’s start with the pros:

  • No off-spring (obviously!).
    Finding homes for your new family members is not as easy as you may think. Every year about 17 million dogs and cats were turned over to animal shelters. Only one out of every 10 taken in to the shelters found a home. This means that over 13.5 million had to be destroyed. The tragedy is that this is unnecessary. Much of the problem could be eliminated by a simple surgery: sterilization. By sterilizing pets, owners can help lower the numbers of unwanted and homeless animal companions.
  • No risk of pyometra in queens and bitches. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus that may occur in dogs and cats. The uterus is generally filled with pus. Removing the whole uterus will eliminate the risk of getting pyometra.
  • Less risk of mammary cancer.
  • No dominance and aggressive behavior.
    Dominance and aggression are often (but not always) related to sexual hormone. Getting your pets spayed and neutered removes their sexual hormone which also removes their dominant and aggressive behavior. This is especially helpful to reduce fights in a pack of male dogs or in a clowder of toms.
  • More gentle, more calm, and more affectionate pets.

Apart from the pros, here are the cons of spaying/neutering:

  • Excessive weight. Neutered pets tend to become fatter because their metabolism is slower once the sexual hormones are removed. This problem can be solved by decreasing your pet’s meal portion and take them for more exercise.
  • Hormonal imbalance and diseases related to it. A few examples of common hormonal imbalance diseases are hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. Dr. Karen Becker wrote that Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, said that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance (read full article here).

De-sex, sterile, intact. Which one is better?

Before we start reading the answers, let’s familiarize ourselves with these terms to make sure we’re on the same page:

  1. De-sex: the animals have all their reproduction organs removed. Females do not have ovaries and males do not have testicles anymore. Hence they cannot breed and they don’t have their sexual hormones secreted. Examples of this practice are spay and castration.
  2. Sterile: the animals have their reproduction organ partially removed so they cannot breed and produce offspring, but they still have sexual hormones secreted by ovary or testicle. They still have their sexual hormones and minimal behavioral change is observed. Examples of this practice are tubal ligation, hysterectomy/ovary sparing spay/partial spay (applicable in bitches, but not preferred in queens), and vasectomy.
  3. Intact: no change is made to the animal’s reproductive systems. They still have their reproductive organs and hormones, and can produce offspring.

Spay and castration are the most common methods for de-sexing, but there’s another option called sterilization. If you ask me which one is better, I always opt for sterilization without fully de-sexing the pets. Popular methods of this option are ovary-sparing spay and vasectomy.

In sterilization, your pets will have almost no risk of hormonal imbalance and behavior change is minimal because the reproductive system is kept in a more natural condition than de-sexing.

Bitches which are sterilized but still have at least one ovary intact will still show signs of heat in their behavior. Some people refer this to “clean heat” because there will be no blood, but the bitch will still show heat behaviors.

Should I get my pets fixed?


Like I always say, you know your pet better than anyone else and eventually the decision is yours. However here are a few things to take into consideration before deciding to have your pets de-sexed or sterilized:

  • Indoor or outdoor pets. If you keep your pets indoor all the time and they have no chance to meet (or breed) with neighboring animals, maybe they need neither de-sexing nor sterilization. However if you don’t supervise your pets outside, please sterilize them so you are not contributing to the stray overpopulation problem. Don’t be an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision.
  • Hyperactive and aggressive pets. Aggression and hyperactivity are related to sexual hormone. Most pets become less aggressive and less active after they’re de-sexed because the hormone producing organs are removed. If your pet is highly aggressive and dangerous, de-sexing is an option, but of course a better solution is to contact an animal behaviorist to alter their aggressive behavior.
  • Number of pets. If you have more than one pets in your place, they make hierarchy and normally there’s only one dominant male leading the group. The presence of other dominant males in the group will lead to fighting and possibly injuries. If you experience this problem with your pets it’s better to have them de-sexed.
  • Species of your pets:
    1. Old bitches are prone to pus-filled uterus infection called pyometra. It can’t be treated with antibiotics and the only way to treat is to remove the uterus through surgery. If you have a bitch then you should consider spaying her in her young/adult age. When a bitch is too old, there are higher risks of getting a surgery done on them (for example they may not survive anaesthesia, they make slow recovery, the surgical wound may lead to a complicated health problems, etc) and in this case often the final solution to pyometra is to put them to sleep.
    2. Spaying in queens have less complication and less negative impacts compared to spay in bitches. The only negative impact they will experience is being overweight. No significant case of hormonal imbalance disease has been observed in spayed queens.

The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your pet’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership. – Dr. Karen Becker

Ready to make the decision? Or still unsure? Contact me if you still have questions regarding spay and neuter.


Introduction to Using Essential Oil for Animals

What is Essential Oil?

Essential oils are aromatic, naturally occurring chemical components of plants that are usually extracted by distillation. Thorough lab testing of these chemical constituents has led to an understanding of their benefits, and in recent years, interest in therapeutically blended essential oils for animals has increased.

Every batch of a medical drug must by law be identical to the batch that preceded it. Plants, on the other hand, adapt and change with the tiniest variable in their environment, for example, a change in the water supply. So essential oils, created from ever-adapting plants, never reach a point where pathogens become resistant to them. They stay at least one step ahead – which makes them much smarter than anything we can create in a laboratory.”


The Benefits of Essential Oil

Essential oil is one of my favorite treatment method and here are a few reasons why:

  • it works on physical level to easy the physical symptoms

  • it affects the animals at the cellular level

  • it works on the emotional and psychologic level

  • it helps behavior modification

Their uses include blends for increasing appetite; boosting the immune system; combating fatigue; and dealing with puppy teething, ear cleaning, bad breath, colds and congestion, separation anxiety, and many more. Application methods range from soaps and shampoos to salves and sprays.

Most essential oils have been found to confer benefits of one kind or another—among them, anti-infectious (antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial), sedative, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), immunostimulant and expectorant.

Using Essential Oil For Your Animal Companion

One of the expert vets in using essential oil, Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM, stated she was cautious when she first introduced essential oil for her pet cats. She watched them closely and she did countless blood and urine test to make sure the cats stayed healthy and that there was no toxicity caused by the oils. Over time she felt confident of using essential oil for pets and now she has been using this modality in her practice for many years.

In a survey sent to members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 15 respondents reported significant use of essential oil in their practices, and in quite disparate ways (Keith, Elizabeth Rowan. 2010. “Essential Oil Use in Canine Veterinary Medicine.” Dissertation, South Dakota State University (click here for the abstract).

holiztic vet essential oils.jpg

I am aware that there is some controversy in using essential oil for animals, especially for cats. Some complications have been reported as well, but we cannot conclude that essential oil is dangerous without knowing the details of the oils used, especially when there are research which state that essential oil causes significant health change in animals. There are many factors that can cause problems from essential oil usage, some very common ones are the quality of the oil and the amount of the oil applied. Make sure you only pick medical grade oil and use only a small amount diluted in carrier oil because animal’s sense of smelling is more sensitive than human’s.

Using cheap but poor grade essential oil will likely cause more health problems than curing the animals. Just like any other health related products, you want to pick one which has the best quality for the best result and if any problem occurs it is fair to say that the brand is not of the best ones. For example: canned food. If your pet becomes sick to a poor quality canned pet food, we cannot outlaw all canned food , but we have to find better quality.

For essential oil, make sure you pick a brand that has medical-grade oils, because you want to use the oils for medicating your pets. Otherwise, non medical grade oils may not show any health improvement when used for your pets. As another general rule of thumb: find information about the essential oils and animals from a reputable source.

Upcoming next: DOs and DONTs when applying essential oil for your pets.

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4 Simple Steps to Make Natural Calcium Supplement

Calcium is one of the most important minerals to maintain your pet’s health, especially in young pets, pregnant and nursing mothers. A lack of calcium results in weak bones and teeth, bone deformities, weak joints and in a severe case called hypocalcemia, it causes disorientation, muscle twitch, tremors and sometimes seizures. Notable pet behavior of this condition is licking cement, concrete and brick.

Depending on what kind of diet you feed your pets with, the total calcium in their diet may not be enough. Thus calcium supplement is needed, but buying a commercial calcium supplement can be expensive sometimes and they may be loaded with chemicals and preservatives. The good news is, you can make simple calcium supplement for your pet (and for yourself too) from only egg shells in a few simple steps.

What you need
  • 30-60 egg shells (depends on how much supplement you want to make)
  • saucepan
  • oven (optional)
  • rolling pin/food processor/coffee grinder
  • air tight container
What to do

Collect egg shells and keep them in the fridge until you have enough of them. An easier and faster alternative is to get egg shells from your neighboring restaurants. Talk to the manager nicely and you may collect the shells for free! Once you have enough egg shells, here are the simple steps you have to do: 1. Soak egg shells in water and wash from any dirt, dust and egg white. Removing the inner layer of the egg is not necessary because it has nutrition and minerals too.

Tips: crush the egg shells into smaller pieces to save the amount of water needed.

egg shell calcium1

2. Boil egg shells for at least 10 minutes to kill pathogen microorganisms.

Tips: Clean the egg white completely in step 1 to avoid foam formed during this step. If that happens, don’t worry, simply remove the foam.

calcium egg shell (03)

3. Drain and dry the shells. If you have oven, you can bake them to remove the moisture completely. The next step is easier to do with less moisture.

Tips: Lay them on moisture absorbent material, such as sponge or newspaper for faster drying process.

eggshell calcium4

4. Grind the dried shells finely into tiny pieces, grains, or powder. Coffee grinder works best for this purpose, but not necessary. I currently don’t have any fancy kitchen appliance so in this process only mortar and pestle were used. If you don’t have fancy equipment, simply use glass or rolling pin to grind. calcium egg shell (06) Done! Store in an air tight container. Add some silica gel packets if necessary to keep it dry. One teaspoon of the powder contains 800 mg calcium in average. To find out how much calcium your pets need, please check with your vet for advice.

calcium egg shell (07)

Directions: Mix the calcium powder with your pet’s food. Note that calcium is not water soluble and mixing them with water will make them sink to the bottom.

Recommended dosage is 1/2 teaspoon per 10 kg body weight, twice a week. This dosage may vary due to different body weight, calcium necessity and calcium intake from other food source (growing, pregnant and nursing animals or animals with calcium deficiency need more calcium than animals in normal condition). If you are not sure, you can always contact me for free consultation.


A Very Simple Enrichment for Your Pets

What is enrichment?

Enrichment is something to keep the animals occupied for a while and chase the boredom away. Usually it involves treats to attract animals’ attention but enrichment could be anything as long as it stimulates the animal’s sensory organs and can keep them busy with the enrichment.

The simplest way to explain is: enrichment = toy.

Examples of common enrichments are scratch board for cats, toys, balls, Frisbees for dogs, water sprinkler, kong toys, and many more, bones. While some of you may think pet’s toys are expensive, you can make simple enrichment with very basic household equipment. One of my favorite enrichment is essential oil.

There are a lot of essential oil brands out there, some with good quality, which is of course pricey, while some cheaper brands only offer fragrance oil instead of essential oil. A good essential oil brand doesn’t add chemicals to enhance the fragrance. A truck of herbs or flowers may only result in/only yield/only produce a few drops or a few milliliters of pure essential oil, that’s why they are expensive.

Here are some reasons why essential oil can be a good enrichment for your pets:

  1. Your pet’s olfactory organ, especially dog’s, is better than any other sensory organs (sight, hearing, taste, touch). They are very observant with various smells surrounding them. You only need a drop or two of essential oil to make them busy for a while until the oil evaporates and the smell is gone.
  2. Essential oil is natural. A real essential oil is made of pure natural substance, such as flowers and leaves. When used correctly/when using the correct oil safely, a drop of essential oil is much better than a pack of chemical-loaded snack or plastic toys.
  3. Animals have amazing natural instinct. If the oil is dangerous for them, they might not like it. Always check with your veterinarian before giving an oil that you’re not familiar with. If you are not sure you can ask me for advice.
  4. If used regularly it can calm them down when they smell the oil. It can resolve ‘home sick’ problem (or master sick, in this case) when you are away from them
  5. You can use the oil for other purposes. For example, eucalyptus can be used as disinfectant; lemongrass can be used as insect (and external parasite) repellent; lavender is good to treat skin problem and to calm the nerves down; lemon oil can be used for cooking and making drinks; peppermint can soothes itchy skin and has energizing property.

Check the video of essential oil enrichment that I gave to Rambo the leopard at our rescue center. A few drops of various essential oils around his enclosure kept him busy for the whole afternoon!

Tips: Experiment with different smell and make note of which smells your pets like. The effect is similar to catnip effect in cats.

Always check your essential oil before giving them to your pets! Your pets may be allergic to it. Some oil can be dangerous for specific animals. If you are not sure you can contact me for free consultation.