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Points on Pets:

Question: If we have our German shepherd mix spayed while she is a puppy, will she be less likely to develop breast cancer when she becomes older? Are some breeds of dogs more likely to develop breast cancer when they become mature?

Answer: The only reason to not have a pet spayed is because you want her to have offspring. Therefore, the first question you must answer is whether or not you want your dog to have puppies. Having puppies just for fun can become a real nightmare when it comes time to find appropriate homes for them. Children can learn about the miracle of birth without bringing unwanted puppies into your home. Unless you really want a litter of puppies and know what you are going to do with them once they are weaned, you should have your dog spayed as soon as your veterinarian will do the surgery.

Mammary gland tumors are common in intact female dogs, particularly in bitches greater than six years of age. It has been well documented that spaying dogs prior to their first heat periods dramatically reduces the risk of mammary gland tumors later in life. It has been estimated that having a bitch spayed after going through one heat period reduces the risk of mammary gland cancer by 12 times. Female dogs spayed after reaching maturity, or at two to three years of age, have the same risk of developing mammary gland cancer as intact females. Although mammary gland tumors can develop in any breed of dog, they are most often reported in cocker spaniels, dachshunds, German shorthaired pointers, German shepherds, poodles, beagles, Labradors and Pekingese. Regardless of the breed, any bitch from which puppies are not desired should be spayed. Your veterinarian can give you additional advice regarding your particular dog.

Question: Is there an easy, inexpensive way for us to determine if our cat is pregnant?

Answer: You should take your cat to your veterinarian for a pregnancy examination. Most veterinarians and experienced cat breeders can determine if a cat is pregnant by about 28 days following the last breeding. Pregnancy determination is accomplished by carefully feeling the abdomen. Prior to 28 days, the kittens and their encasing membranes are too small to detect by feeling through the abdominal wall. Checking a cat for pregnancy by feeling her abdomen must be done gently, so that crushing and abortion do not occur later. At about 28 days of pregnancy, the kittens are about walnut size or around one-inch in diameter. Kittens actually become more difficult to feel as the pregnancy progresses. This is due to the increasing amount of fluids in the uterus. Therefore, if the walnut-sized lumps can’t be located, there is still a possibility the cat is pregnant.

Because you probably do not know when your cat might have been bred, your veterinarian will probably recommend taking an X-ray to detect the kittens’ ossifying skeletal bones. He or she might want to do an ultrasound examination as well. After the pregnancy evaluation, he or she can complete a physical examination and prescribe a wellness program.

It is an understatement that many kittens are born because of well-intentioned owners just not having time to get their animals spayed to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Spaying is a routine low-risk procedure that should be done early in the lives of every cat and dog from which offspring is not desired.

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