Caring for the unwanted

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2006

If there has ever been a more pitiful sight, it's looking into the eyes of several caged, crying and unwanted kittens.

Dr. Alethea Gammage, D.V.M., owner of the Crenshaw Animal Clinic, knows all about dealing with unwanted kittens and puppies, especially during the summer months.

&#8220People need to be responsible pet owners,” Gammage said. &#8220During the summertime, we are overflowing with unwanted kittens and puppiesŠ.we have 18 stray kittens right now, as a matter of fact.”

Gammage said that pet owners should have their pets spayed or neutered in order to help control the overflow of unwanted animals.

Female dogs and cats are spayed by removing their reproductive organs, and male dogs and cats are neutered by removing their testicles. In both cases, Gammage said that the operation is performed in a sterile environment while the pet is under anesthesia.

&#8220A female spay is known as an‘ovario hysterectomy,'” she said. &#8220If you were to remove the uterus but leave the ovaries in, the animal would continue to go into the heat cycle process.”

As for male dogs or cats, Gammage said that if the testicles are not removed, the animal would continue to exhibit the male mating behavior, but, more importantly, it could show aggression. Male aggression is a trait that most pet owners wish to eliminate.

&#8220During surgery, we use medical equipment that continuously monitors the animal's blood oxygen levels and its heart rate,” she added.

Pain medication is used on the pet before and after the surgery. Gammage noted that the younger an animal is, the quicker the recovery time is after surgery.

&#8220The best time to spay or neuter your pet is when it is five or six months old,” she said.

After surgery, Gammage noted that the animal's activity should be limited for at least seven to ten days. This includes no baths or getting wet for at least ten days in order to allow the incision to heal properly.

One thing that Gammage is really proud of is the laser surgery she uses for the incisions.

&#8220There are three advantages to using laser surgery,” she said. &#8220The animal will have less bleeding, less swelling and less pain.”

&#8220Whenever I finish the surgery, I use three layers of stitches,” she added. &#8220If I have to put a layer of stitches on the outside, then the pet has to be brought back in ten days later for them to be removed. But, if I put them on the inside, the stitches will dissolve with time.”

Even though most pet owners will spay or neuter their pets to avoid unwanted kittens and puppies, many are concerned about other issues, such as the pet gaining too much weight after the surgery.

&#8220If you maintain your pet on good exercise and activity levels, a good diet, and you don't overfeed your pet, then it won't gain so much excess weight after the surgery,” Gammage said.

Not only does spaying and neutering help dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives, but it can also make them more affectionate companions, and less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away or get into fights.

Gammage made it clear that stray pets and homeless animals will get into trash containers and oftentimes frighten or anger people who have no understanding of their misery or their needs.

&#8220Plus, unvaccinated stray animals are prime targets for carrying and distributing rabies,” she said. &#8220They can give rabies and other communicable diseases not only to other domestic animals, but also to people. That is another main reason why it is so important for everyone to do their part and help by spaying and neutering their pets.”