DEAR DR. FOX: After losing my 15 1/2-year-old wheaten terrier last November, I got another one who is 4 1/2 months old now.
I am unsure as to when to neuter him. I've always done it at 6 months with my other dogs, but my breeder said it's better to wait a year. I asked my vet, and he said there is some controversy. I have also heard that it would be more beneficial to his health to wait as long as possible.
Since I would need to make an appointment soon if I decide on 6 months, I would very much appreciate your view on this. -- C.M., Middletown, New Jersey
DEAR C.M.: I would wait until your young dog is around 12 months of age, since early neutering may have developmental consequences affecting growth and metabolism. It may also contribute to the high incidence of Cushing's disease later in life. The jury is still out on deciding the best age to neuter male dogs -- if at all.
The emphasis on spaying and neutering all dogs to help control overpopulation, a critical issue in most communities in the past, is now over with more responsible ownership and people not letting their dogs roam the neighborhood and breed freely, as in decades past. But not all people can be trusted -- look at those communities where people let their unsterilized cats roam free. I was shocked to see on TV a tabby cat (with collar) being let outside from 10 Downing St., the residence of Britain's prime minister! Such a laissez faire attitude, or unquestioned cultural tradition, is highly irresponsible. Most shelters still insist that all adopted dogs and cats be sterilized.
Neutering or spaying German shepherds before they reach the age of 1 is associated with a threefold higher risk of joint disorders, researchers report in Veterinary Medicine and Science. The study examined records from 1,170 dogs, finding 21 percent of males neutered before 1 year of age had joint disorders, compared with 7 percent of intact males. Sixteen percent of females spayed early later developed joint disease, compared with 5 percent of intact females. "Simply delaying the spay/neuter until the dog is a year old can markedly reduce the chance of a joint disorder," said University of California at Davis veterinarian and lead author Benjamin Hart.
DEAR DR. FOX: The attacks you are experiencing from feral cat advocates leads me to ask if it is they, rather than the cats, that need the distemper shots!
My wife owns a house in Ocean Township, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The town has a convoluted animal control policy, where you must call the police, who then call the Long Branch animal control officer, who then may or may not turn the cat over to the local Humane Society, with whom the county has a contract. It is benign neglect, which I'm sure saves the township money.
This results in a couple of my neighbors leaving food out for several feral cats who are neither part of a supervised colony, nor have any shelter. The raccoons and possums feed on their porches in broad daylight. My yard is always rife with cat feces, dead birds and mice.
Cape May and Seaside Heights, New Jersey, are the scenes of a continuing battle between the beach feral cat advocates and the piping plover protectors. How well- meaning people cannot see the cruelty to both the cats and to wildlife that a feral program presents is upsetting to me.
Again, thank you for being a voice of reason in this highly emotional argument. -- M.D., Bradley Beach and Ocean Township, New Jersey
DEAR M.D: I appreciate your support on the feral cat issue where compassion and reason do not sufficiently prevail, allowing misguided altruism to spread in a vacuum of rescue-syndrome, pro-life sentimentality.
I have great respect and concern for feral cats and an abiding affection for those whom my wife, Deanna, and I have trapped and socialized.
Without strict enforcement of municipal ordinances, prohibiting the roaming of owned cats and the neutering of same, this problem is never going to be resolved.
GENETICS AND OBESITY
Overweight or obese Labrador and flat-coated retrievers might be that way because of a defective or deleted pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene, which plays a role in appetite regulation and helps the body sense stored fat levels, according to scientists at Cambridge University, England. Initial research suggest that some people might have a similar genetic deficiency.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)