When should you spay or neuter your cat?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently published their guidelines on the age to spay or neuter cats. The official title of the document is “Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization Recommendations for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery.”

This is a highly controversial and debated topic (even more so in dogs). There are many opinions out there. Many people have an opinion on the subject, often based on dogma or personal beliefs more than on science.

The AVMA put together a group of various veterinarians (from corporations, private practice, vet schools and associations). They also included non-veterinarians: Steve Dale (behaviorist and journalist), a lady from the Philanthropy for Animal Advocates and the Chair of the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

So I think it’s fair to say that there were many cat lovers and cat advocates on the team. So what are their conclusions? I quote (I only added a few definitions):

“Current recommendations for the age to sterilize (spay/neuter) cats are arbitrary and inconsistent. Adoption of evidence-based guidelines is expected to limit confusion among cat owners, reduce the risk of unwanted litters, and maximize health and welfare benefits. (…)

The following key findings and proposals emerged from a review of the currently available scientific literature and group discussion:

1. Recommendations for the optimal age to sterilize cats may differ from the age to sterilize dogs.

2. Current scientific evidence documents benefits of spaying kittens before the first estrous cycle, including the following:

. Decreased risk for mammary carcinoma (aka breast cancer).

. Elimination of reproductive emergencies such as pyometra (aka an infected uterus) and dystocia (aka difficulty giving birth).

. Avoidance of unintended pregnancies that may occur as early as 4 months of age

. Potential decrease in behavioral problems linked with cat relinquishment.

3. Current evidence does not support an increased risk for cats of complications or long-term adverse health effects with pediatric (6-14 weeks) or juvenile sterilization (>16 weeks).

4. More controlled prospective research specifically examining different ages in sterilization in cats is needed.

As new information becomes available, the recommended age for sterilization of cats should be revisited.

5. There is potential to increase the number of sterilized cats and reduce the unplanned/unwanted litters of kittens if veterinarians routinely schedule this surgery for client-owned cats at the end of the kitten vaccination series.

Given the known benefits of sterilization and the lack of evidence for harm related to age at which the procedure is performed, the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization calls for veterinary practitioners and professional associations to recommend sterilization of cats by five months of age. This provides veterinary practitioners with a consistent message that may increase veterinary visits and spay/neuter compliance while reducing the risk of pet relinquishment and unwanted offspring.”

Bottom line: spay or neuter your kitten by 5 months of age. Simple!

Do you have ticks?

I’m not a physician, but I wanted to make you aware of an important study.

Researchers have recently shown that chances of finding a tick on a human doubles if they own a cat or a dog. This puts you at risk for diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme disease (there are others). A friend of mine was actually just diagnosed with Lyme disease.

So what should you do?

They recommend simple things:

. Check all pets daily for ticks.

. Check all humans daily for ticks.

. Talk to your vet about serious tick control

A great way to cope with losing a pet

Broadway, a sweet 4 year old Lab, had TPLO surgery to address a torn right ACL in February of 2016. Then another TPLO on his left knee in October 2016. Both times, he recovered well.

Then weird things started to happen: strange breathing, regurgitation (which is different from vomiting) and back leg weakness. Early signs of laryngeal paralysis and GOLPP (Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy) were suspected. Until things started to get worse. His quality of life deteriorated progressively.

After consulting with several specialists (in surgery and neurology), his incredibly loving and unusually dedicated owners reluctantly decided to humanely put him to sleep on May 25th, 2017.

Broadway’s owner wrote:
“Words cannot begin to express the loss I feel in my hear and in our home. To the amazing staff at the Animal Therapy Center; our committed and compassionate staff at HanoverView Animal Hospital, and Broadway’s devoted, caring and patient surgeon Dr. Phil Zeltzman; we are thankful and blessed that Broadway was cared for by each of you and extremely grateful for all of your help during this past year and most importantly during the last few months.

May he always know how very much he was, and remains, loved and that I would have gone to the ends of the earth if it meant he could have recovered and lived a long, healthy life. Until I see him again….”

The story could stop here.

So to cope with the grieving process, Broadway’s owner had a brilliant idea you may want to remember when you’re in a similar situation. She created a beautiful video collage to honor her best friend’s life. It’s long, but every picture exudes love, and the end is priceless. Grab a box of tissues before you click!



How to enjoy a Fear Free visit to the vet

I recently became Fear Free Certified.

What exactly does it mean? Fear Free is a nationwide effort to decrease fear, anxiety and stress in cats and dogs visiting a vet clinic.

Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” founded this certification program that teaches Drs. and their nurses make visits to the vet something pets and their owners can both look forward to.

Here are a few simple things that could be done during a “Fear Free” vet visit. The Dr and staff might:

. Initially avoid eye contact with your pet and focus on you instead

. Provide non-slip surfaces for your pet to stand or rest on to improve balance

. Use gentle pressure to soothe the pet using a towel or compression garment

. Create a calming environment with pheromone diffusers and aromatherapy

. Play calming music to promote relaxation

. Actively work to reduce stressful noises

. Create a relaxing environment through calming hospital colors and gentle lighting

. Prescribe anti-anxiety or other calming medications & supplements

If your pet is showing excessive signs of fear, anxiety, or stress, the team may delay or postpone the exam or other procedures until your pet is more relaxed


5 ways you can help make the veterinary visit Fear Free for your pet


1.. Prep your pet

Positively accustom your pet to the carrier or restraint device and condition happy experiences in the vehicle. Using low calorie treats is a great way to do that.

2.. Limit food before the appointment

Unless medically contra-indicated, bringing your pet in hungry increases the reward value of food during the visit to better condition your pet to the positives of care. Of course, you can’t do that if your pet will have anesthesia, or before certain blood tests. So please ask what you can do.

3.. Explore waiting room alternatives

Work with the receptionist or other team members to determine the optimal location to wait with your pet. In some cases, it could be your car. In other cases, you may need to bypass the waiting room and go straight into an exam room.

4.. Be open to non-traditional techniques

This can include not taking your pet’s temperature, examining your pet in your lap or on the floor. Treats and toys can be used to move a dog willingly onto the scale, into the exam room and onto the exam table

5.. Consider new strategies to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress

In many cases, pets will benefit tremendously from pre-visit medications, supplements or sedatives, as well as conditioning the pet to specific aspects of vet care prior to their next visit.


To learn more about signs of stress, see the table below. Some signs may surprise you.

Stressful veterinary visits can be a real problem for pets, pet owners and veterinary healthcare team members. So I see the Fear Free initiative as the ultimate win-win-win situation.

For more information, visit www.fearfreepets.com




  • Avoiding veterinary team members
  • Closeness to you or climbing up on you
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fidgeting (circling, barking, not able to sit still)
  • Hiding
  • Hypervigilance (looking around everywhere, seemingly paranoid)
  • Licking lips, or lips drawn back
  • Lunging
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Piloerection (hair raised)
  • Snarling, or biting avoiding veterinary team members
  • Tail down, tucked, or high over the back
  • Trembling
  • Turning away when you look at him, or turning his back to stimuli
  • Whining, growling, snarling, or biting
  • Yawning

How can surgery help dogs with repeated bladder infections?

Bella, a 4 year old female Labrador, kept having bladder infections despite several rounds of antibiotics.

Her family vet at www.brodheadsvillevet.com eventually diagnosed her with a redundant vulvar fold. This means that a simple exam of her back end revealed a little surprise: an extra fold of skin covering her vulva. This common condition is also called vulvar fold dermatitis or recessed vulva. My impression is that many dogs have this problem but haven’t been diagnosed yet.

How on earth can an extra skin fold cause bladder infections?

The excess skin forms a pocket where urine gets trapped. The moist, warm and dark environment creates ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. This can cause a foul odor in addition to ongoing infections.

In addition, Bella became very reactive & even aggressive toward the other pets in the household.

Signs of bladder infections may include licking of the vulva, scooting of the back end, bloody urine, urinary incontinence and “accidents” in the house. Other conditions may cause similar signs, so your family vet should eliminate other problems, such as bladder stones and even bladder cancer.

So what is the treatment of this bizarre condition?

  1. The Band-Aid approach is the “medical” treatment. We treat the symptoms by cleaning the area and giving antibiotics. But we are not treating the cause, so it can be rather frustrating every time the infection comes back.
  2. The best treatment is surgery. Yes, we can do cosmetic surgery on a dog’s vulva. Call it nip and tuck! Surgery allows removing the excess skin in order to provide better ventilation to the area.

The reconstructive surgery is called a vulvoplasty or episioplasty. The main challenge of the surgery is to remove just the right amount of skin: not too much and not too little.

Recovery generally takes 2-3 weeks. I don’t place skin sutures, so there are no stitches to remove in this sensitive area… All stitches are internal and eventually dissolve. An E collar (plastic cone) is critical for the full 2-3 weeks to prevent licking and to protect the incision.

Overall, this is a common yet frustrating condition. Fortunately, surgery is typically successful and pet owners are usually very happy with the end result… as well as their dogs!

Bella’s owner wrote: “I am ecstatic to say… Bella has not had a bladder infection since surgery!!”