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Common questions about canine and feline reproduction

Q.  What age is best to spay my female cat or dog?


A. Spaying is the removal of female reproductive organs which are the ovaries and uterus.  Because spaying of animals decreases the likelihood of unwanted litters, decreases the incidence of mammary tumor in older dogs and cats, decreases the incidence of uterine disease, most notably Pyometra and the decreased incidence of sexually dimorphic behaviors, it is my opinion and recommendation that dogs and cats be spayed after three months of age, but before the onset of their first estrus cycle.  I recommend five to six months as an ideal age to do so.


Q. What is the best age to castrate my male dog or cat?


Castration is the removal of a male’s reproductive organs which are the testicles.

Because castrating dogs and cats will decrease the incidence of sexually dimorphic behavior, decrease incidence of disease of the prostate and testes.  The sexually dimorphic behavior best controlled by castration are mounting, roaming, urine marking and aggression.  The only significant disadvantage of castration is weight gain, crucial ligament injuries and certain cancers like bone (osteresarcoma) and blood (hemargiosarcoma).  In cats we see an increase in the incidence of urethral obstruction.  I recommend that dogs and cats should be castrated at five to six months of age.


Q.  What are the normal physical examinations findings at various ages in puppies and kittens?


Normal rectal temperature varies by age averaging 96 degrees Fahrenheit in the first seven days of life, 98 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit from seven to 21 days and gradually achieveing adult values by seven weeks of age.

The eyelids open at about 10 to 14 days on average.

The ear canals are closed until 14 to 21 days.

Teeth erupt in a predictable manner, allowing use of indentation to determine age.  First teeth erupt at two to three weeks.

The most common disorders of the skin are fleas and dermatophytosis (ring worm).

Puppies and kittens start crawling at seven to 14 days; they start walking and urinating and defecating spontaneously at 14 to 21 days.


What are the causes of failure to thrive in puppies and kittens?


Puppies and kittens should be seen if the are not gaining weight.  The owners should weigh them at birth and everyday thereafter.  Environmental causes are hypothermia, hyperthermia, environmental toxins and maternal factors.  Genetic causes are developed mentally abnormally like cleft palate.  Infectious causes such as bacteria and viruses are always a problem.  Internal parasites like hookworm, roundworms, cocidia and giardia are a big concern.


• Dr. Basil Sands can be contacted at the Central Animal Hospital at 325-1288.

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