What’s the deal with dentals?

February is considered National Pet Dental Health month!

dbb1

Everyone loves doggy kisses and kitty nuzzles, but not when they have bad breath. Not all bad breath is a sign of dental disease, however when you find stinky breath, that is the first place the veterinarians will look. Having a yearly exam with your veterinarian is recommended not only for vaccinations and testing, but a thorough physical exam can help detect issues with your pet that can be treated before they cause major health problems.

One of my first things I do on a physical exam is do an oral exam. Dental disease can be treated early before causing gingivitis, gingival recession, and eventual tooth root infections that cause your animal a tremendous amount of pain and can lead to other health issues.

cat_dog_bad_breath

Dental disease has been linked to heart and kidney diseases in small pets. There are a number of home remedies to help prevent dental disease such as drinking water additives that help keep pet breath breath (google it, there TONS of them like Emmy’s Best Premium Pet Water Additive, Zymox Oratene Drinking Water Additives), denti sticks and greenies, rawhide chews and oral health toys.

While these can certainly help keep tartar from forming on the teeth, the only 100% way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and clean, is by having regular dentals. Some animals need dentals more frequently than others, but your veterinarian will be able to create a plan that works best for you and your pet. 

Spay Neuter Charlotte is invested in dental health and we believe that regular dental cleanings are part of keeping your pet healthy. Please call us to schedule a dental visit today! You will meet one of our experienced staff veterinarians who will examine your pet thoroughly and devise the best course of action for their overall health, including their dental health.

-Dr. Welch, SNC Medical Director

Why you should fix your female cat

Spay Neuter Charlotte opened in 2011 with the express purpose of ending the needless euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals in the Charlotte area. We believe that providing affordable spay neuter services over the last five and a half years has had a significant impact on this issue.  Since opening we have spayed over 15,000 female cats. But according to the recent statistics there are still significant numbers of cats being euthanized annually at the local shelter.  Why?   Because there are too many unwanted litters and not enough adoption.

Think about this.  On average, a female cat goes into heat by 4-6 months of age. From that point on, if she is left unfixed, she can have a litter every 3 months from spring until autumn producing 3 – 5 kittens in each litter.  This season is commonly referred to in the rescue world as “kitten season” because of the number of cat litters born during this time.  Using a conservative estimate that means that one unfixed female cat can produce 2,097,152 kittens in 10 years.  Yes, you read that right: one unfixed female cat can lead to over 2 million cats.  No small wonder that so many cats end up being euthanized at the shelter – it just isn’t possible to keep up with the numbers being produced.  

Infographics-111011
Spaying your cat can help reduce the pet overpopulation problem that America and Charlotte experience.

If knowing that by fixing your female cat you can prevent the needless suffering of homeless cats isn’t enough of a reason – spaying your cat also has significant health and behavioral benefits as well. Fixing your female cat reduces her risk of mammary and uterine cancers and life threatening infections called pyometras. If you’ve ever lived with a cat in heat – you know it isn’t fun. Cats in heat will yowl and roam at all hours of the night – with no regard for your sleep schedule – and sometimes will take up “marking.” Marking refers to when a cat will spray urine on objects to leave their smell behind for a potential mate. The reason they do this is because their urine contains pheromones and hormones which can alert other cats that they are in heat.  

The spay procedure is a relatively quick procedure performed in our facilityBefore the spay we shave your cat’s belly to provide a clearer view of the surgical site, and remove all hair and debris that can cause an infection.  This is called a sterile surgical prep. On average it takes one of our experienced spay neuter veterinarians 5-7 minutes to fix a female cat. At Spay Neuter Charlotte we spay cats when they are in heat because we joke if we didn’t, it would be hard to fix any cats at all! We give the cats a mix of drugs called Kitty Magic, to make them sleepy as well as anesthetize and provide long acting pain relief throughout the surgery and post operatively.  The surgery is pretty straightforward: we remove all of the cat’s reproductive organs including the two ovaries, the uterine horns and the uterine body. At the incision site we insert a pain blocker that numbs the surgical site and eliminates most of the post-operative pain immediately following surgery, up to 6 hours. To provide further comfort we also give our feline patients oral post operative pain medication to go home.

After the spay has been completed we put a small green tattoo on the cat’s belly near their surgical site. The fur will grow back making this tiny green tattoo virtually invisible to your eye

minimal-invasive-surgery2
All animals we fix at SNC receive a small, green tattoo as easy, visible proof they’ve been fixed.

Why a tattoo?  It is one of the best ways to prevent an unnecessary surgery. Without the tattoo if your cat gets lost one of the first steps an animal shelter or a responsible pet owner will do is take is to schedule a spay procedure. The green tattoo is a quick way for a veterinarian to tell that the cat is already fixed and does not need to undergo a spay procedure. We have seen a number of cats at Spay Neuter Charlotte that were scheduled for a spay procedure, only for our veterinary surgeons to find that they had a tattoo or a faint spay scar.  Unfortunately, cat spayed at an early age may not have a visible scar, which means on occasion, we have opened up a cat only to discover that the uterus and ovaries was not there.  A tattoo in these cases would have been beneficial and saved the cat from undergoing a needless procedure. 

 

abdomen-tattoos

We recommend that cats that have been fixed spend the night in our clinic to allow the anesthesia to wear off and keep them calm and stress free. By allowing them to stay overnight they get the chance to recover safely supervised by a trained medical staff member which can administer the pain medication, which comes in a syringe, with as little stress as possible. 

When pet owners pick up their female cat the morning after the surgery we will send them home with two more doses of pain medicine  They will have already received a dose the previous night and a dose prior to discharge, administered by our medical staff. By that time your kitty should be walking and acting normally. In case they aren’t, we provide you with an email address – doctor@spayneutercharlotte.org – which puts you in touch with one of our experienced doctors who can answer your questions and provide follow up care. 

It takes 7-10 days for female cats to recover fully. One of the best ways to make sure that her recovery goes smoothly is by putting an e-collar on your cat.

cat-e-collar
Your cat won’t love her e-collar but it helps keep her heal after the spay and prevents most post-operative problems!

 

We know that she hates it. We don’t blame her. But it prevents post-op licking which is the leading causes of post-op problems. Just like in humans, when the incision site begins to heal and the skin knits back together, it can itch. The best way that cats know how to deal with this itch, is by licking. While an e-collar isn’t fun, it does make sure that your cat doesn’t have to deal with even worse problems, like an open and infected incision.

Spaying your cat is an easy way to improve the health of your pet, make her easier to live with in your home and reduce cat overpopulation problem.

If you have a friend who isn’t sure whether or not they should get their kitty fixed – share this blog with them!

-Dr. Welch, Medical Director

Why choice matters when training your dog

What comes to your mind when you think of “dog training?” Perhaps a dog responding to commands, doing as he’s told, obeying you and staying quiet and complacent when you are busy or otherwise occupied? Perhaps you’ve learned to believe that the way to have a “good dog” is to control him, be the alpha, and be sure not to let your dog “dominate” you. This notion has been demonstrated and emphasized in a popular and widely watched TV show, The Dog Whisperer, and perpetuated by many misinformed trainers all over the country: the message is that dogs shouldn’t be given choices or they will think they are the boss.

319924_267598799931980_4311774_n
Jill Beitel runs Courteous Canine, a dog training company, out of Charlotte.

Happily, I share with you that much progress has been made in recent years in animal behavior; canine cognition and emotions, and humane, effective training methods. Training is evolving from dominance and dictatorship, to effective communication and patient teaching. Treating dogs like the intelligent, responsive beings that they are – and even giving them (gasp) choices from time to time – doesn’t create a pushy, difficult, or “dominant” dog as we’ve been led to believe. Interestingly, it has just the opposite effect.

Just as we understand that in raising confident, well-adjusted children we need to teach some independence and allow for some free thought and personality development, it is time we realize that this line of thinking would greatly benefit our dogs, as well.

15977146_1530279493663898_7382168496279073527_n
Courteous Canine offers Out on the Town classes where training skills are practiced in real-life situations, like Piper Glen Shopping Center.

In my 25+ years of teaching and training dogs and puppies, staying on top of current research and advances in behavior modification and training practices has been a priority. I’ve learned to be okay about changing certain exercises and recommendations I use with clients in light of new info – that’s what education and research is for! For example, I used to teach brisk, purposeful walks using a short leash with little opportunity to sniff because I thought dogs needed the physical exertion above other needs, and that the sniffing was just “goofing off.” But since learning the myriad of benefits of sniffing and exploration, and the resulting mental stimulation, I now strongly encourage these “enrichment walks” as an important part of a dog’s daily routine. Interestingly, sometimes dogs will choose to sniff/forage/explore, and sometimes choose to briskly walk or run with their person, perhaps fulfilling their current needs as only they know them. Perhaps the end result – a calm, happy pup at home – is more likely achieved when we let our dogs choose between acceptable options of enrichment.

Think about a normal day-in-the-life of a family dog: they have, sometimes by necessity, very few, if any, choices. Where and on what they sleep, where and when they eliminate, when and whether they go on walks, where they spend time when we are at work, what they get to eat and when they are fed, who they are allowed to meet and spend time with, whether or not they are given access to playmates and play sessions, whether they get to keep their reproductive organs, etc etc. Even if they feel nearly desperate for a walk or play session after days of being cooped up, they must wait until we make the choice to fulfill this need. When very hungry and more than ready for a meal, they must wait for us to provide this basic resource. In essence, we control nearly every aspect of our dogs’ lives. If the tables were turned, this lack of control would cause the average person a great deal of stress. Though dogs are admittedly not human, is it really that far fetched to presume that they aren’t stressed by this abject lack of choices in their lives? It is no surprise that today’s family dogs are displaying more stress symptoms, including extreme anxiety and destructive compulsive behaviors, in recent years than ever before; research suggests that giving them a few more choices in their day-to-day living will enhance their lives and improve the relationship we enjoy with them.

The freedom to make choices increases confidence, reduces stress, and deepens the trust our dogs have in us. If we are consistent about rewarding “good” choices – such as chewing on their marrow bone rather than on the rug or shoe, for example – our dogs begin to choose bones over household items on their own because it is reinforcing on several levels, not just because if someone sees them chewing on shoes they’ll be punished. This approach means less stress for dog as he learns and makes choices, and also means dogs will, in the long run, make these appropriate choices on their own, even when no one is watching or guiding them.

Encouraging free will and choices does not mean being shamelessly indulgent or permissive with our dogs. Take Twig for example… this one-year-old puppy flew in through the doggie door one day, seemingly quite excited and proud of himself, with half of a bright red cardinal in his mouth. Summoning calm and self-control, I resisted the urge to shriek or lunge at my dog, and instead smiled and asked him to drop his treasure. I had been practicing and proofing “drop” for months, but this – a novel creature just found and clearly coveted by this adolescent pup – was by far the toughest “drop” challenge he’d ever faced. He paused, as if to ask “really? THIS?”, and then…released it from his mouth at my feet.

The way I taught Twig to drop items from his mouth was all choice-based. As a pup, once he learned what the word meant by pairing the action with the word, I asked for multiple drops every day – his chews, his toys, a pine cone, even a sock now and then – and joyfully celebrated and rewarded his choice to release the item, and then gave it back to him. Those times he chose to keep it, I typically let him, teaching him he really did often have a say in the matter, which I truly believe has strengthened this behavior immeasurably. Why hang onto it, run away with it, growl about it, when I can just hand it over, get a big party and play session, and then usually get it back??

So, is this “training?” Sure! But it is teaching/training with respect and choice. I believe we should all be using teaching methods that are based on fun games and choices that can earn rewards, and move steadily away from the “do it or ELSE” approach that is causing disconnect between dog and owner, and undeniable stress in our pet dogs. My experience in teaching in this way has proven that it works. Not only does it work, but unlike forceful, intimidation-based methods, there is no fallout, and no risk to the relationship you yearn for with your dog. In fact, training methods that emphasize your dog’s needs and choices are by far the ones that your dog will enjoy the most. It is time for us to recognize that we can achieve happy, harmonious lives with our dogs without subjecting them to unfair teaching methods and without stripping them of the feeling that they have some say in their lives – a right that every living creature should enjoy. When given the choice between a method that your dog hates and one that your dog loves, which will you choose?

-Jill Beitel, Owner & Lead Trainer at Courteous Canine

1424306001
Jill Beitel is the owner of Courteous Canine.

Spay Neuter Charlotte Annual Update

It has been another hugely successful year for Spay Neuter Charlotte. In 2016 we accomplished 11,752 surgeries, a new clinic record and are edging closer every day to a grant total of 50,000. We touched over 14,000 patients with our weekly wellness services, provided 300 dogs and cats with free pet food and did over 500 free surgeries for Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control. Our success is in large part due to the incredible administrative and medical teams in our NoDa and Pineville offices. These are the folks who represent our commitment to exemplary customer and patient care every day. As you might well imagine these aren’t the most glamorous jobs but there isn’t a more qualified and dedicated group in the region. Please note, that I said “the region” and I would go so far as to say, “anywhere.” They are a remarkable collective who I am so proud to call friends and colleagues.

2017 is shaping up to be a transformational year for Spay Neuter Charlotte. We are two weeks away from opening our third clinic in Lake Norman (325 Rolling Hill Road) and I don’t know who is more tickled pink about this expansion – us or the pet owners in the area. We can’t wait to open the door and become trusted friends and partners with the community.

As we prepare to open the Lake Norman Clinic, the renovations are well underway on 32nd Street, which will be the new home of our NoDa clinic. The interior of the building has been gutted and just this week they are beginning the reconstruction process. Our plan is to transform 9,700 square feet into a larger space for spay neuter and for a non-profit veterinary practice to better meet the needs of pet owners in the community.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to our remarkable clients and patients. You are the reason that we do this incredibly gratifying work. We have had 260 individuals make a donation to the “brick by brick” campaign for a total of more than $4,000. You will make it possible for us to purchase a new piece of equipment from our wish list. Thank you!! Stay tuned as we finalize the plans for the permanent wall of paws!!!

-Cary Bernstein, Founder & Executive Director

Here are a few of our favorite photos from the year!

13709933_1173849262656898_6182766999834249949_n
Rockstar vet assistant Warren posing with a patient!
13892148_1193112090730615_8011480135674945550_n
We celebrated our 5th birthday in August! 
14469695_1240016912706799_90072334548389172_n
Greer Walker employees volunteered their time at the clinic. One thing they helped us with was inserting pins on a map of the Charlotte region so we know where our clients come from.
14925615_1286617211380102_2130453829657628686_n
Spay Neuter Charlotte founder and executive director poses with a puppy who came in to the clinic to get fixed. Don’t they kind of look like twins? 
15095615_1307427035965786_4175520842441744166_n
Here is a rendering of what our new NoDa Clinic located on 32nd Street will look like!

6 things you must do if a new pet is on your child’s wish list

*Originally featured on MomsCharlotte on Dec 6.

Dr. Elizabeth Welch, Medical Director for Spay Neuter Charlotte, knows that when taken care of properly, a new pet can be great addition to the family during the holidays. But to make the transition easy on parents, children and the pets themselves, she has a few suggestions for anyone with a new puppy, kitten, dog or cat on their list.

1. Have the animal examined by a veterinarian on before giving the children the animal. This ensures the animal is healthy from infectious diseases and free of parasites (intestinal and external) that can be passed on to children.

2. Be sure your new pet is beginning his vaccinations and is on heartworm and flea prevention. New pets should begin their vaccinations as soon as six to eight weeks of age. They should get their regular vaccines at 14-16 weeks of age.

3. If you adopt a dog, set up for obedience training to help them with their behavior.

4. You want them on a well-balanced diet. Your veterinarian can make suggestions as to which food to buy.

5. Always have plenty of toys for your new pet to play with so they leave the socks and shoes of kids alone. These things can become objects that dogs eat and then they get stuck and have to have surgically removed. In addition, during the holiday season be sure to keep up all poinsettias, chocolate, turkey and chicken bones away from dogs and cats, as these are toxic and can cause major illnesses.

6. Have your pet spay or neutered as soon as it’s time. This is best not only to prevent unwanted litters of animals but it’s also beneficial for the long-term health of your pet. Spay Neuter Charlotte recommends pets have their spay/neuter surgery at three pounds or three months. Dr. Welch highly recommends your pet be fixed before six months of age. The earlier the better for the lifetime health of your pet.

Spay Neuter Charlotte has two locations, with the new NoDa clinic opening at the end of December. Their third location, in Lake Norman, is scheduled to open in January 2017. They are currently running a holiday special: $65 for dogs and $35 for cats.

For more information, visit www.spayneutercharlotte.org or call 704.970.2711.

-Dr. Welch, Medical Director