Pet Q & A – May/June 2012

0002Q My family is ready to add a dog to our household. We have two young children. What’s the best breed?

A Congratulations on extending your family! There are many breeds that can be great family dogs. Instead of looking for a specific breed, I would encourage you to look for a dog whose temperament and activity level best match your situation. Don’t forget to include mixed breeds in your search. These dogs are often healthier than purebreds and make excellent family pets. I have two mutts of my own and couldn’t imagine better companions!

    With young children in the household, I would strongly advise against getting a toy or small-breed dog, as the risk of accidental injury is too high. Instead, look for sturdy medium to large breeds who will not be injured if a young child accidentally trips over them and who are too big to be carried around like a stuffed toy.

    Consider adopting an adult dog who is known to be good with small children. Many nice adult dogs are available from rescue organizations who utilize foster homes, where the dogs are kept in a family home until adoption. You can search to find available dogs. Reputable breeders also sometimes have retired show dogs available. Talk to the local breed club for breeder referrals.

    Adult dogs are usually already potty trained—important for hygiene reasons in a home with young children—and often have some basic obedience training as well. They are also past the puppy teething and nipping stages, which can be difficult behaviors to manage around young children. Puppies are cute, but they are also a lot of work for the first two years. Adult dogs often bond to a new family more quickly and blend into their new home easily.
Q My neighbors said I should let my cat have one litter of kittens before I fix her. I’d like my children to experience the miracle of birth but don’t want to put my cat at risk. How safe is pregnancy for my cat?

A Honestly, with so many wonderful animals (many of whom are purebreds) dying in our community due to the problems of overpopulation and irresponsible pet ownership, I would highly advise against breeding your pet. Good breeders tend to lose money on their litters, and health testing (for hips, elbows, thyroid, heart, eyes, etc.) and veterinary visits are all substantial investments.

    Spaying and neutering pets prevents unwanted litters, reduces the risk of certain behavioral issues and may have important health benefits. These procedures are some of the most common surgical procedures offered by area veterinarians. Pet dogs, cats and rabbits should all be fixed.

    “Spaying eliminates the risk of an accidental pregnancy, prevents the development of malignant mammary tumors and prevents uterine infections that can occur after multiple heat cycles,” says Dr. Caroline Baihly of Third Avenue Pet Hospital. Neutering male animals “prevents prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement) and siring unwanted litters. It also reduces marking, hormone-related aggression and roaming.”

    Advances in veterinary medicine continue to make these procedures safer and easier. A new castration procedure involving the injection of a zinc solution into a male dog or cat’s testicles is set to be approved by the FDA in May. While this procedure requires more extensive testing, it may make surgical castration a thing of the past. A new spay procedure, in which only the ovaries (instead of both ovaries and uterus) are removed, has become common in Europe and may result in a smaller incision. The procedures may be worth asking your veterinarian about.

    Households that qualify for food assistance or other welfare programs may also qualify for low-cost spay or neuter services. More information on these services can be obtained by contacting the Rescued Animal Coalition of Southeast Minnesota:

Sara Reusche is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Certified Veterinary Technician. She owns Paws Abilities Dog Training in Rochester, lives with two dogs of her own and fosters for local rescue organizations. She can be reached at