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The Purrfect Companion

The power of pet therapy is thought to be stronger than any medication, not only for people going through tough times or in poor health, but also for the elderly as well. Proven to increase mental alertness, build self-esteem, and decrease loneliness, pets can provide a warm and fulfilling relationship that older people—or indeed all of us—desire. Moderncat.com will explain why cats are beneficial to the elderly.

“Pet ownership for older people can be very beneficial by giving them something to love and care for, as well as a companion in the home, especially if they live alone,” said Dr. Sonny Presnal, Director of the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “I don’t believe there are any appreciable risks, providing that good decisions are made in the choice of a pet for older people.”

Having the responsibility of caring for a pet can be a healthy situation for most elderly people. Sometimes, a pet can be the only reason that he or she feels a need to get up in the morning; it provides them with a sense of purpose. “It gives older pet owners something to care for, which in the case of a dog may mean they are out taking the dog on a walk instead of sitting in the house,” said Presnal. In addition, there are many studies that attribute pet ownership to relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and bettering mental health.

Not only do pets help the elderly overcome various health ailments, but also they can significantly decrease their owners’ sense of loneliness. As you probably already know, pets are automatic people magnets and are often a great conversation starter. People love talking about their pets, and others love interacting with the pets they encounter. This can often lead to new friendships and can provide beneficial social interactions that elderly people may not have otherwise had the chance to experience. This, in addition to simply having something to care for, significantly decreases loneliness and accompanying depression.

When choosing a pet, you must take into consideration the limitations of the elderly person’s physical and mental health. “A large, active dog may not be suitable for older people, due to the risk of injury to the owner from an accidental collision that may cause them to fall,” said Presnal. “Fractures from falls can be very dangerous for older people, especially hip fractures.”

A young puppy or kitten may not be a suitable choice either, due to their high maintenance requirements. An older dog or cat that has matured past their ball of energy phase can be a perfect companion. Not only does adopting an older pet benefit their owner, but may save the pet from euthanasia, as often people are (unfortunately) not interested in adopting older animals.

A concern that many elderly people considering pet ownership face is the possibility that they will no longer be able to care for their pet later on. This can happen if their health suddenly decreases, or if the animal becomes in need of extensive veterinary care. “There are many mobile veterinary services available for older persons who may not drive or who otherwise have problems transporting their pets for veterinary care,” said Presnal. There are also programs, such as the Stevenson Center, that provide for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals when their owners can no longer do so.

The Stevenson Center, which Presnal directs, is a unique program that has veterinary students who live at the center to provide companionship and care for the resident pets at night and on weekends and holidays. “As part of the CVM, the resident pets receive the ultimate in veterinary care at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital,” said Presnal. “We believe the level of care and companionship is unequaled by any other similar program.”

It is proven that animals can help enrich the lives of their owners both physically and emotionally, and this can be especially true for the elderly. The right pet can provide them with a sense of purpose, nonjudgmental acceptance, and companionship that both animals and humans need to stay happy and comfortable.

Can Spaying or Neutering Your Dog Cause Cancer?

We receive many questions about the timeline and safety of spaying and neutering dogs. Thankfully, Dr. Becker from Mercola addresses these inquiries in a recent article that covers a study, titled “Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas,” was conducted by a team of researchers with support from the Vizsla Club of America Welfare Foundation. It was published in the February 1, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The findings are below.

The Vizsla study involved 2,505 dogs, and reported these results:

  • Dogs neutered or spayed at any age were at significantly increased risk for developing mast cell cancer, lymphoma, all other cancers, all cancers combined, and fear of storms, compared with intact dogs.
  • Females spayed at 12 months or younger, and both genders neutered or spayed at over 12 months had significantly increased odds of developing hemangiosarcoma, compared with intact dogs.
  • Dogs of both genders neutered or spayed at 6 months or younger had significantly increased odds of developing a behavioral disorder, including separation anxiety, noise phobia, timidity, excitability, submissive urination, aggression, hyperactivity, and/or fear biting. When it came to thunderstorm phobia, all neutered or spayed Vizslas were at greater risk than intact Vizslas, regardless of age at neutering.
  • The younger the age at neutering, the earlier the age at diagnosis with mast cell cancer, cancers other than mast cell, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, all cancers combined, a behavioral disorder, or fear of storms.
  • Compared to intact dogs, neutered and spayed dogs had a 3.5 times higher risk of developing mast cell cancer, regardless of what age they were neutered.
  • Spayed females had nine times higher incidence of hemangiosarcoma compared to intact females, regardless of when spaying was performed, however, no difference in incidence of this type of cancer was found for neutered vs. intact males.
  • Neutered and spayed dogs had 4.3 times higher incidence of lymphoma (lymphosarcoma), regardless of age at time of neutering.
  • Neutered and spayed dogs had five times higher incidence of other types of cancer, regardless of age of neutering.
  • Spayed females had 6.5 times higher incidence of all cancers combined compared to intact females, and neutered males had 3.6 times higher incidence than intact males.

Vizsla Researchers Conclude More Studies Are Needed on the Biological Effects of Spaying and Neutering, and Also on Methods of Sterilization That Do Not Involve Removal of the Gonads.

The Vizsla researchers concluded that:

“Additional studies are needed on the biological effects of removing gonadal hormones and on methods to render dogs infertile that do not involve gonadectomy. Veterinarians should discuss the benefits and possible adverse effects of gonadectomy with clients, giving consideration to the breed of dog, the owner’s circumstances, and the anticipated use of the dog.”

(The full Vizsla study can be downloaded here.)

Dr. Becker responds, “I absolutely agree with the researchers’ conclusion that studies are needed on alternative methods of sterilizing dogs that do not involve removing the gonads. As I explained in an earlier video, over the years I’ve changed my view on spaying and neutering dogs, based not just on research like Vizsla study, but also on the health challenges faced by so many of my canine patients after I spayed or neutered them. These were primarily irreversible metabolic diseases that appeared within a few years of a dog’s surgery.

My current approach is far removed from the view I held in my early days as a vet, when I felt it was my duty and obligation to spay and neuter every dog at a young age. Nowadays, I work with each individual pet owner to make decisions that will provide the most health benefits for the dog.

Whenever possible, I prefer to leave dogs intact. However, this approach requires a highly responsible pet guardian who is fully committed to and capable of preventing the dog from mating (unless the owner is a responsible breeder and that’s the goal).

My second choice is to sterilize without desexing. This means performing a procedure that will prevent pregnancy while sparing the testes or ovaries so that they continue to produce hormones essential for the dog’s health and well-being. This typically involves a vasectomy for male dogs, and either a tubal ligation or modified spay for females. The modified spay removes the uterus while preserving the hormone-producing ovaries.

The cases in which I opt for a full spay or neuter usually involve an older dog who has developed a condition that is best resolved by the surgery, for example, pyometra (a uterine disease in female dogs), or moderate to severe benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate in male dogs) that is impeding urination and/or causing the animal discomfort. Generally speaking, mature intact dogs have had the benefit of a lifetime of sex hormone production, so the endocrine imbalances we see with spayed or neutered puppies don’t occur when dogs are desexed in their later years.”

New Products Coming Soon!

We’ve just returned for the Global Pet Expo, and we’ve got lots of great new products to share with our customers!

Over the next several months, be on the lookout for “New Product Spotlight” – highlighting a great new item for your four-legged pal.

Here are just a few of the awesome products to look for over the next month at our store:

Kanberra – Airborne Tea Tree Oil, an all natural air purifier. Perfect for homes with cats and general odor neutralization. Check out their video here.

Cycle Dog Toys – Made from a blend of High Durability rubber and post-consumer recycled rubber from bicycle inner tubes. Cycle Dog Ecolast toys are the first molded pet toys made from post-consumer recycled materials.

Alzoo – Natural flea repellent for dogs made from almond oil. An easy way to protect your dog over a long period against external parasites. No insecticides are used.

Stop in an visit us today and check out these new items – there’s something for every pet owner!

Barkery Bath Bundle Cards!

By popular demand, we’re selling pre-pay bath cards! Pre-pay for 10 baths (for whatever weight your dog is) and you’ll get a card good for 11 baths!

The only way a dog bath could be any better is if it’s FREE. Well, we’ve taken care of that for you! Ask a Barkery associate about it on your next visit.