Should I Breed My Dog?
Most shelters and rescue organizations are overflowing with mixed breed and purebred dogs that are perfectly friendly and adoptable, but there simply aren’t enough homes for them. As a result, approximately three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Producing more puppies, for any other reason than to improve the breed, just exacerbates the problem.
Dogs that have temperament problems, such as aggression or excessively submissive behavior, should not be bred. Dogs that have inherited medical conditions, such as hip dysplasia, also should not be bred.
What’s Involved in Raising a Litter?
Before you breed your dog, honestly consider if you have the time, commitment, and finances required to raise a litter. Ask yourself the following questions:
What Are My Responsibilities as a Breeder?
Good breeders take responsibility for their puppies not just until they find a new home, but for a lifetime. Reputable breeders:
There are always potential risks associated with pregnancy and birth, especially with very young or very old dogs.
Whether you breed your dog or not, spaying or neutering can help eliminate some potential health problems. Female dogs that are spayed are less likely to develop breast cancer and pyometra, an infection of the uterus that requires emergency surgery. Male dogs that are neutered are less likely to develop testicular cancer. Certain types of aggression are also less likely to occur in dogs that are spayed or neutered.
Should I Breed My Cat?
Most shelters and rescue organizations are overflowing with mixed breed and purebred cats that are perfectly friendly and adoptable, but there simply aren’t enough homes for them. As a result, approximately three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Producing more kittens just exacerbates the current cat overpopulation problem.
What’s Involved in Raising a Litter?
Before you breed your cat, honestly consider if you have the time, commitment, and finances required to raise a litter. Ask yourself the following questions:
What Are My Responsibilities as a Breeder?
Good breeders take responsibility for their kittens not just until they find a new home, but for a lifetime. Reputable breeders:
Are There Any Health Risks Involved With Breeding?
There are always potential risks associated with pregnancy and birth, especially with very young or very old cats.
Whether you breed your cat or not, spaying or neutering can help eliminate some potential health and behavior problems. Female cats that are spayed don’t develop uterine cancer and uterine infections; they are also less likely to develop breast cancer, and they also won’t subject you to yowling heat cycles and unwanted litters. Male cats that are neutered are less likely to urine mark in the house or roam the neighborhood looking for fights.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland (breast) cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands, lymph nodes, the lungs, and other 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. Siamese cats have a higher risk for breast cancer than other feline breeds.
In cats, 80% to 90% of these tumors are malignant (cancerous). Dogs fare a little better: 50% of mammary tumors are malignant. Any suspicious lump in the mammary area should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
The exact cause of mammary gland cancer is unknown. However, dogs and cats that are spayed before their first heat cycle are less likely to have breast cancer, so hormones may play a role.
Treatment with hormones for other conditions may increase the risk for this type of cancer. In the past, hormones were used to treat some behavior and skin problems in cats, but this has generally fallen out of favor. Some hormone treatments are still being used in dogs, such as estrogen in the treatment of urinary incontinence, but other alternatives are usually available.
Genetics may also play a role in canine breast cancer. Recent findings show that certain genes are over-expressed in dogs with this condition.
What Are the Signs of Breast Cancer?
There’s no way to determine if a lump is cancerous simply by feeling it. But since any lump in the mammary area has the potential to be cancerous, it’s a good idea to check your pet regularly.
Mammary tumors tend to be firm, nodular masses that feel like BB pellets under the skin. Tumors may be located in a single mammary gland (the area around one nipple), or they may be in several mammary glands at once. The skin covering the tumor may be ulcerated or infected. Nipples may be swollen or red, and there may be discharge from the nipple itself.
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose breast cancer is with a surgical biopsy (tissue sample) of the mass. In dogs with large masses, it may be possible to obtain a fine needle aspirate of the tumor, which involves placing a needle into the mass and extracting cells for examination under the microscope. This procedure may be more difficult with smaller masses or in cats. Since a biopsy usually provides a larger tissue sample (likely to yield a more definitive diagnosis), this is the best option. Biopsies generally require some form of anesthesia or sedation, so your veterinarian may recommend a preanesthetic evaluation and/or blood work.
How Is Breast Cancer Treated?
Early detection and surgical removal of the masses is the best treatment option. Before performing surgery, your veterinarian will most likely recommend blood work and radiographs (x-rays). Chest radiographs are important to check for metastases to the lungs, and abdominal radiographs may show signs of enlarged lymph nodes. If the radiographs show no evidence of metastasis, the pet has a better prognosis.
Because of the high rate of malignancy in cats and the fact that cancer often invades several mammary glands along the same side of the body, a radical mastectomy with removal of all mammary glands on the same side is often recommended. For cats with masses on both sides, two separate surgeries several weeks apart may need to be performed.
Unless dogs have multiple tumors, they may not need to have as much tissue removed as cats. Submission of the tissue for microscopic examination will determine if the tumors have been completely removed. If your pet still has her ovaries and uterus, your veterinarian may recommend spaying your pet at the time of mammary surgery.
Following surgery, your veterinarian may recommend radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is designed to kill any potentially cancerous cells in a focused area. Chemotherapy involves systemic drugs that treat cancerous cells that may have travelled to other parts of the body.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent breast cancer is to have your pet spayed before her first heat cycle. Even spaying your pet by 1 year of age can help reduce breast cancer risk. Pets that are spayed later in life will be at higher risk for breast cancer.
What Is It?
Bordetella bronchiseptica (B. bronchiseptica) is a bacterium that is commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It can also infect cats, rabbits, and, in rare cases, humans. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. B. bronchiseptica is highly contagious, easily transmitted through direct contact or the air, and resistant to destruction in the environment.
Signs of Illness
Signs of canine infectious tracheobronchitis typically develop 2 to 14 days after exposure to B. bronchiseptica. In mild cases, signs typically resolve within 10 to 14 days. More severe cases, particularly when a subsequent infection has occurred, can require a much longer recovery. Infected animals can continue to shed (spread) the bacterium for months after recovery.
In healthy adult dogs, B. bronchiseptica typically causes no more than a mild illness. In puppies or in dogs with other underlying health issues, however, it can cause severe illness or even death in rare cases.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Although sophisticated testing is available, diagnosis is generally based on a history of exposure to infected dogs or a recent visit to a kennel, combined with the presence of signs of illness.
In mild cases, treatment is generally supportive, as the disease typically resolves on its own unless a subsequent infection occurs. Precautionary antibiotics to prevent subsequent infection may be prescribed. In severe cases, treatment may consist of administration of antibiotics as well as medications to help your pet breathe more easily. Cough medication may also be prescribed if appropriate.
A harness, rather than a collar, is recommended for leash walking of ill dogs. A traditional collar puts pressure on already sensitive and irritated tracheal tissues and can induce coughing episodes.
The term kennel cough is a misnomer, as dogs don’t necessarily contract the disease as a result of being kenneled. Rather, they become ill because kennels can be stressful environments for some dogs, and stress can suppress the immune system, increasing susceptibility to disease. Also, kennel conditions (such as group housing) can make it easier to spread infectious organisms, such as B. bronchiseptica. Any place where large numbers of dogs gather together increases the risk of disease transmission.
Vaccination is the best way to protect your dog from illness associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis, particularly if your dog frequents kennels, groomers, dog shows, or dog sporting events. Although the B. bronchiseptica vaccination is not mandatory for every dog, it may be recommended in dogs whose lifestyle increases their risk of exposure to this organism. An intranasal B. bronchiseptica vaccine is available in addition to the traditional injectable vaccine. Ask your veterinarian whether vaccination is recommended for your pet and, if so, which type is best for your pet.
To reduce the risk of disease transmission, many boarding facilities require dogs to be vaccinated for kennel cough before entry.
Dr. Carlson is an avid contributor to her blog, make sure you check out her articles!