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Saturday, 21 February 2015 22:23

To Neuter/Spay Or Not To?

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Reknowned pet nutritionist Rodney Habib raises important concerns in his blog on neutering and spaying. It is a controversial topic, since on one hand, it is needed to control over population and the problem of having too many stray dogs; on the other, does the public really know the other side of the coin? Or perhaps there is a safer alternative? Let's take a look.



(Warning: This is an extremely controversial topic that is heavily debated and more studies are on the way. This is simply the other side that is being presented. By no means is anyone advocating for irresponsible pet ownership or non-sterilization. Please read the entire blog, and follow the links, to get the full details and to really understand what the article is about.)

Yet another study confirming the link between spaying/neutering and the increase of cancer rates in pets!

Last June, we posted a study conducted on the increased rates of cancer in desexed Vizslas and methods of sterilization that help decrease the rates. The post almost broke the internet with comments. (

What we the pet owners, and the veterinarians of the medical profession, have been taught about spaying and neutering our pets early (6 months) to prevent mammary and testicular cancer seems to be all wrong, according to all the new research that is being spit out!

“… maybe what I learned in vet school about early spay/neuter was not so straightforward after all!” - Dr Sue Cancer Vet, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

“Sterilization increases the risk of joint disease and cancer in both golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers.” - Veterinary Practice News

“The removal of hormone-producing organs during the first year of a dog’s life leaves the animal vulnerable to the delayed closure of long-bone growth plates,” said Dr. Benjamin Hart of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

This was in reference to the latest study conducted on spaying and neutering by the researchers at the University of California, Davis (published in the journal PLOS ONE). (

The UC Davis researchers further confirmed what previous studies have shown - intact dogs of both breeds have lower rates of joint disorders and cancer than desexed dogs.

A study conducted at the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation found: “Taking away ovaries during the first four years of life completely erased the female survival advantage. We found that female rottweilers that kept their ovaries for at least six years were four times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure." (


So what other methods are there instead of desexing our pets? Research is now pointing to another direction: the possibility of sterilization.

“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,” explains Doctor Karen Becker.

Dr. Becker continues: “Whenever possible, I prefer to leave dogs intact. However, this approach requires a highly responsible pet guardian. […] My second choice is to sterilize without desexing.” (

By spaying and neutering our pets, we are ripping out their parts, including their hormones, (complete removal of the ovaries and uterus in female dogs, and the testes in males) to prevent over population and behavioral problems from developing. By desexing our pets, some argue that they are no longer male nor female, as we have altered their sex. However, research is showing that our pets drastically need these hormones in order to prevent the most aggressive cancers (osteosarcoma, bladder transitional cell carcinoma, prostate cancer, lymphoma, and mast cell tumors) and other diseases from developing.

Story Confused Look 12 28 13

The problem is that most veterinarians do not have the proper training to conduct this not-so-new technique of sterilization and often opt for the desexing methods as demanded by pet owners. So, if this option is not available to you, what else can you do?

Quoting the world’s top veterinarian Cancer Doctor, Dr. Damian Dressler ( “Most dogs reach sexual maturity at about 24 months approximately at the fourth heat in females at this point in their development dogs have received the protective benefit of adult sexual hormones and are at a decreased risk for cancers mentioned above.

If you choose to spay or neuter your dog my general recommendation is to spay females sometime between the third and fourth heats which will have the added benefit of reducing the risk of mammary cancer and neuter males sometime between the ages of 18 and 24 months.” (

"I write this blog for one reason and one reason only. I do not want to promote irresponsible pet ownership and overpopulation. I do, however, want to encourage you, the pet owner, to make the right decision for you and your pet. In order to do so, you need to know all the facts! Today, the cancer rate is 1 in 2 dogs and 1 in 3 cats. It’s time we better ourselves." - Rodney


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) or Assisted Canine Therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Advocates state that animals can be useful for educational and motivational effectiveness for participants.

A therapist who brings along a pet may be viewed as being less threatening, increasing the rapport between patient and therapist.

Animals used in therapy include domesticated pets, farm animals and marine mammals (such as dolphins). While the research literature presents the relationship between humans and companion animals as generally favorable, methodological concerns about the poor quality of the data have led to calls for improved experimental studies.

Wilson’s (1984) biophilia hypothesis is based on the premise that our attachment to and interest in animals stems from the strong possibility that human survival was partly dependent on signals from animals in the environment indicating safety or threat. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that now, if we see animals at rest or in a peaceful state, this may signal to us safety, security and feelings of well-being which in turn may trigger a state where personal change and healing are possible.

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In order to become Animal-Assisted Therapy certified, a pet owner must go through Pet Partners, formerly Delta Society, a nonprofit organization that emphasizes the use of animals in therapy to help people live healthier and happier lifestyles.

There is a simple four step process that Pet Partners offers to become a registered Pet Partners Team. The first step is on online or in classroom course where the pet handler, or owner, is trained to guide the animal in therapy sessions. They are also trained on what signs to look for in the patients to make sure they are comfortable and at ease.

The next step is a screening of the health of the animal for any diseases or issues that may inhibit the animal from being useful in therapy. The animal needs to be approved by a professional veterinarian before moving on to the next step.

The third step includes a test that checks the skills and ability of the animal and handler to react in therapy sessions. The last step is the submission of the Registration Application. Once approved, the animal and their owner are certified to assist in therapy in hospitals, retirement homes, and other places.

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Research reveals that children can receive positive benefits from Canine Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted therapy in the class setting. Frieson (2010) conducted a study with children and therapy dogs in a class room setting and found that the animals provide a social and emotional support system for the child, with assumptions that because the animal seems non-judgmental to the child, it is perceived as comforting, raises the child's self-esteem and makes it easier for the child to express themselves.<br><br>Therapists rely on techniques such as monitoring a child’s behavior with animal, their tone of voice, and indirect interviewing. These techniques are used, along with the child’s pet or other animal, in order to gain information.<br><br>Before pet therapy can be useful, the child and the animal must first develop a sense of comfort with each other, which is easier to achieve if the child’s own pet is used.<br><br>The applied technique that generates the most helpful information about the victim’s experience is telling the child that the animal wants to know how they are feeling or what happened. Applying pet therapy to victims of sexual assault can also reduce depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Pet therapy promotes social interaction and is increasingly more accessible to those who already have pets. Victims of sexual assault are less likely to be anxious and are comforted by the presence of a companion that is offered through pet therapy.<br><br>While there are other ways in which victims of sexual assault can receive therapy, the application of pet therapy does have a certain degree of success in these situations. For example, pet therapy helps the counselor and victim develop a positive alliance and a great sense of rapport more quickly.<br><br>As mentioned before, the presence of a pet or other animal helps victims of sexual assault feel more comfortable in a therapy setting. The application of pet therapy in sexual assault cases has also contributed positively to victims outside of counseling sessions.[<br><br>The positive feelings that pet therapy induces during therapy sessions with sexual assault victims will carry over with victims outside of therapy. The increased comfort that having a companion builds will also help victims remain more comfortable from day to day, which will lead to fast recovery.<br><br>Studies of the human-companion animal bond reveal many physiological and psychological benefits. “Petting a dog with which one is bonded to promotes relaxation, characterized by decreased blood pressure and increases in peripheral skin temperature”.<br><br>Other benefits include releasing stress, increasing morale, increased calmness, decrease preoperative anxiety, improve patient outlook, reduce the need for preoperative medication, reduce fear and anxiety in patients with a psychiatric condition. Velde, Cipriani &amp; Fisher (2005) also stated “Motivation is increased with animal interaction. For example, persons who had refused therapy came to the therapy sessions when they knew animals were going to be present.<br><br>Interaction with animals changes the morale of long-term care residents. Occupational therapy participants continue doing therapeutic activities for a longer duration when animals are present, thereby potentially increasing the benefits of this therapy.<p><br></p>

Canine Therapy or Animal assisted therapy draws on the bond between animals and humans in order to help improve and maintain an individual’s function and is being used to assist in the process of enhancing the individual’s quality of life in nursing homes.

Psychologists and therapists notice increasing unfavorable behaviors of elderly people that are transferred to nursing homes. Once the patients become settled into their new environment, they lose their sense of self-efficacy and independence. Simple, everyday tasks are taken away from them and the patients become lethargic, depressed, and anti-social if they do not have regular visitors.

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that incorporates animals in the treatment of a person; especially elderly people in nursing homes or long term care (LTC) facilities. The goal of using animals as a treatment option is to improve the person’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning and reduce passivity. When elderly people are transferred to nursing homes or LTC facilities, they often become passive, agitated, withdrawn, depressed, and inactive because of the lack of regular visitors or the loss of loved ones.

Supporters of AAT say that animals can be helpful in motivating the patients to be active mentally and physically, keeping their minds sharp and bodies healthy.

Therapists or visitors who bring animals into their sessions at the nursing home are often viewed as less threatening, which increases the relationship between the therapist/visitor and patient.

There are numerous techniques used in AAT, depending on the needs and condition of the patient. For elderly dementia patients, hands on interactions with the animal are the most important aspect. Animal assisted therapy provides these patients with opportunities to have close physical contact with the animals warm bodies, feeling heartbeats, caress soft skins and coats, notice breathing, and giving hugs.

Animal assisted therapy counselors also plan activities for patients that need physical movement. These planned tasks include petting the animal, walking the animal, and grooming the animal. These experiences seem so common and simple, but elderly dementia patients do not typically have these interactions with people because their loved ones have passed or no one comes to visit them. Their mind needs to be stimulated in the ways it once was. Animals provide a sense of meaning and belonging to these patients and offer something to look forward to during their long days.

The AAT program encourages expressions of emotions and cognitive stimulation through discussions and reminiscing of memories while the patient bonds with the animal. Many of the troubling symptoms in elderly dementia patients include decreased physical functioning, apathy, depression, loneliness, and disturbing behaviors and are all positively affected by AAT interventions. Animal assisted therapy is very useful in helping these negative behaviors decrease by focusing their attention on something positive (the animal) rather than their physical illness, motivating them to be physically active and encouraging communication skills for those with memory loss.

Numerous researchers found that communication with animals have a positive effect on older adults by increasing their social behavior and verbal interaction, while also decreasing tense behavior and loneliness.

Monday, 16 February 2015 17:52

Fostering: The Alternative To Buying And Adopting

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By Krista Clark

I adopted a dog a few years back.  He's been an only child for quite a long time.  But, I've been playing with the idea of adopting a second dog for a while.  Obviously this it's a huge jump to go from one dog to two.  There are so many things to consider.  There's the expense, training, temperament of the dog and how it will jive with your current one.  I didn't want to commit to adopting a dog and then have to put Roscoe on doggy Prozac to ease his depression over having a sibling.  Another factor is that it simply isn't fair to make a commitment to adopt a dog and then be forced to rehome him or her because you weren't up to the task. 

I had never though of fostering before.  Not because I was against it, it's just the possibility never crossed my mind.  I thought it was black and white, either you adopt or you don't.  I happened to come across an animal rescue based out of Red Hook, Brooklyn called Red Hook Animal Rescue.  I started corresponding with the founder when she told me about a young Pitt mix who was in desperate need of a home.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, that dog was Billy Jean.  Since we all know how the story panned out, I thought I would share my experience thus far with the fostering process.

There's many pros to becoming a foster.  One of which is that it essentially is a temporary situation.  So, if the dog doesn't fit in with your lifestyle or causes issues between your other pets you can find him or her a more permanent solution.  At least you opened up a spot for another dog in need.  Not to sound cheap but, typically the rescue will help out with some of the expenses.  Such as training, vet bills etc.  This takes a lot of the burden off the person fostering since the cost of owning a dog can be a major deterrent for some.  I personally am debating whether or not I'm going to officially adopt the little trouble maker known as Billy Jean.  She only recently healed from her being spayed so I feel as if I'm only now starting to see her real personality.  To my surprise Roscoe has adjusted rather well.  He hasn't shown me any cause for concern.  The two are still trying to establish their roles in our little pack and often have wrestling matches to try and figure it out.  Someone who isn't familiar with doggy language would easily be alarmed but being the experienced dog fanatic that I am,  I know it's perfectly natural behavior. 

Fostering is an appealing option in my opinion.  Especially for all those out there who are considering getting a dog but aren't sure if they can handle the responsibility.  If you are one of those people I strongly suggest looking into the fostering process further.  Not only will it show you if you are ready for a dog, it will help the dog you bring into your home and another animal in need. 

Monday, 16 February 2015 17:51

Adopting Vs Buying

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By Krista Clark

When it comes time for a person to get a dog there's a common theme that they'd rather buy a "new dog" all their own instead of adopting from a shelter. This is so upsetting because the number of amazing dogs locked in cages is simple staggering.  There's a misconception that a dog from a shelter is going to have all sorts of behavior and medical problems.  "They must have been brought to the shelter for a reason, right?"  WRONG.  If anything, adopting a dog from a shelter almost guarantees that you'll be getting a dog who will be more loyal and loving to it's owner then one could even imagine.  They're grateful for being saved and it shows.  The other reality, one that few are aware of is that these new, pure-bred puppies are from puppy mills.  You go in to these flashy shops and see the bouncing pups lined up in a row and it doesn't once cross your mind that this dog has possibly come from a worst situation then the mixed breed sitting at the shelter.  Dogs from puppy mills are prone to a number of behavioral and physical problems.  That's because the way they're forced to live is absolutely disgusting.  Puppies are forced to live in rusty old cages which are often shared by several other dogs.  They're rarely let out, fed minimally if at all and treated like nothing more than a product to be sold.  The older dogs are simply bred out until they can't have puppies anymore, either a result of old age or medical issues.  These poor seniors are left to die, if not just taken out and killed.  This blog is meant to illustrate the different options one has when considering getting a dog.  You might be surprised what options sounds best to you. 

Monday, 16 February 2015 17:50

Why Two Pet Stores Made the Change to Rescue Dogs

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Michael Gill of We Love Pets in Media and Springfield, with employee Gina Zwucky, calls the switch from commercially bred dogs to rescue animals "a bumpy ride," but "much more rewarding." (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)

On Christmas, while his 3-year-old daughter opened her presents, pet-shop owner Michael Gill was in his bathroom cradling an English bulldog mix puppy suffering from a lethal canine virus.

The dog had contracted parvo, a deadly and highly contagious intestinal disease. Six puppies in his store that died, along with seven that became sick, were delivered by a Missouri-based dog distributor, he said.

"It was the single worst experience I've had with animals in 20 years," said Gill, owner of We Love Pets in Media.

In February, Gill decided to stop buying dogs from commercial breeders and opted for rescue dogs from shelters, a trend the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said was catching on.

The Missouri distributor says industry critics are uninformed.

Commercial pet stores often buy puppies from dog brokers or distributors, the middlemen between breeders and the retailers. Animal advocates say some of those breeders are puppy mills that raise the dogs in poor conditions.

The ASPCA estimates that there are about 10,000 puppy mills in the country. Of those, 20 percent to 30 percent are U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed breeders licensed to sell to stores.

Missouri is a national leader in puppy mills, along with Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. More than two million dogs from puppy mills are sold each year, according to the humane society.

"It's been a bumpy ride," said Gill of the change in his business model, which also has required renovations at his Media and Springfield stores to accommodate the more mature and larger rescue dogs. "It's much more rewarding. We don't feel comfortable selling [brokered] puppies."

Gill's two locations are not the only area pet stores to make the change.

The owners of the 10 area PetsPlus stores, Mark Arcadia and Bruce Smith, made a similar decision. Two of their locations - in Jenkintown and on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia - are adopting rescue dogs. The other eight expect to convert by the end of the year.

"It is definitely a trend," said Kathleen Summers, the humane society's director of outreach and research.

Saving animals
Two factors driving the change are consumer concerns over puppy mills and complaints about sick dogs purchased from pet stores, Summers said.

New local regulations are also pushing the conversion.

Citing concerns about puppy mills, governments in more than 50 places across the county have passed ordinances that ban the sale of commercially raised puppies in pet stores, Summers said.

The list includes Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Chicago; El Paso, Texas; Toledo, Ohio; San Diego; Los Angeles; and the state of Florida. In New Jersey, Brick, Manasquan, Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach, and North Brunswick have banned sale of commercially raised puppies.

Michael Stokley, director of corporate sales for Hunte Corp. in Goodman, Mo., one of the largest distributors of commercial puppies in North America, said lawmakers were uninformed on the issue. He said allegations against commercial distribution of puppies were driven by activists with an agenda.

"We have a totally regulated industry top to bottom," he said. "Yet arbitrarily, people are shutting down taxpaying, regulated businesses within their community."

We Love Pets and PetsPlus alleged that they purchased sick puppies from Hunte.

Stokley said that he was familiar with Gill's complaints, but that the store's "records did not support his allegations." The company meets all federal, state, and local regulations, he said.

The USDA inspection reports from 2011 to January 2014 showed Hunte to be in compliance.

Smith said PetsPlus did business with Hunte for 10 years but dropped it a year ago. He said Hunte had delivered puppies with colds and pneumonia.

Smith said the two PetsPlus stores now draw puppies from a shelter in Bowling Green, Ky., and were contacting with local shelters for adoptions.

"We like saving lives," he said.

PetsPlus still is listed in Hunte's database, although Stokley said he did not know when Hunte had last shipped puppies to the stores.

"If that is the decision they made, that is a business decision," he said.

Gill now works with one of the activists who picketed his store almost every weekend for 21/2 years.

Patricia Biswanger, now board president of the Chester County SPCA, said she did not hesitate when Gill offered the SPCA space for shelter dogs and other animals.

"It is all about saving animals," she said. "I'm delighted to be working with him."

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Monday, 16 February 2015 17:47

Adopting from an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group

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Animal shelters and rescue groups are your best source for a new pet

Did you know that shelters and rescues—large and small—always have a great selection of animals looking for new homes. You can find cats and dogs, birds and small animals and even horses and livestock.

In fact, any type of animal available for sale at your local pet store or at a breeder is probably waiting for adoption in a nearby shelter or rescue. You only have to take a look. Thanks to the Shelter Pet Project, it's become easier than ever to find shelters and rescue groups.

Why choose a shelter or rescue group?

  • 6–8 million pets end up in shelters each year; half of those will probably not be adopted.
  • 25 percent of pets in shelters are purebreds. Breed-specific rescue groups always have purebred dogs and puppies looking for new homes.
  • Most pets end up homeless through no fault of their own—"moving" and "landlord issues" are the top reasons people give for relinquishing their pets, meaning shelters and rescue groups are full of wonderful, family-ready pets.
  • Pets adopted from shelters and rescue groups typically cost less than pets purchased or even acquired for free—once you add in the cost of vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, microchip, dewormer, and other "extras" included in your adoption fee, you'll probably be surprised what a bargain an adopted pet really is!
  • Most shelters and rescue groups conduct through behavioral analysis of each pet to ensure that they will be the right fit for your family, dramatically improving the chances your new pet will fit right in.
  • Shelters and rescue groups can provide advice on making your relationship with your pet the best it can be for the rest of his or her life, so you’ll never have to go it alone!

Do your homework

So now you’ve decided to add a new pet to your family. The first question to answer is what kind of pet will be the best fit for your household? Do you have enough time to devote to the daily needs of a dog? Is there someone in your household who is allergic to cats? Have you considered a non-traditional pet such as a rat or another small animal? Doing your homework in advance will make your search easier and increase the chances that your new pet will be a happy addition to the family.

Your local shelter or rescue are the best places to look for your new pet. Mark Makela/For The HSUS

Thanks to Mississauga Humane Society and Mississauga Mayor!

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