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When to spay; and taking care of ear mites

By Jessica Ayers


Dear Dr. Ayers, I have an 8-month-old female Pomeranian and she just started her first heat cycle a couple of days ago. It is very messy and seems  to last forever. I’m trying to keep her locked in the house, but she keeps wanting to go outside and wander off and I was really worried that she would get bred or be hit by a car. I was told to wait to have her fixed until after her first heat cycle but I am more than ready, is it too soon to schedule her surgery? — Ready for Surgery

Dear Ready for Surgery, Your question is a good one and I’m glad to hear you are planning to spay her. This is a very important procedure for her life-long health. It used to be thought that waiting until after a dog’s first heat cycle was healthier for her and allowed her to finish maturing before removing the hormones, but more recent studies show that it actually is healthier for females to be spayed before the first heat as this can greatly decrease the incidence of mammary cancer later in life and will have little effect on her growth or maturity. It is a myth that dogs become fat when altered at an early age. Obesity has more to do with feeding puppy foods for too long, feeding too much and decreased activity levels as puppies mature. For this reason, I promote early spaying and neutering for pets. Between 4 and 6 months old is an ideal time for this. In terms of your pet, since she is in the middle of her heat cycle, her uterine tissues and vessels are enlarged right now and there could be an increased risk of bleeding during surgery, so many veterinarians recommend waiting until the heat cycle is over. In a young, small breed dog such as yours, I would not be worried about scheduling her surgery right away — for your convenience and to remove the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. It would be best to talk to your veterinarian and get his or her recommendation, but you are on the right track in planning her surgery as soon as possible and I commend you.

Dear Dr. Ayers, How does one treat the common, ongoing problem of ear mites in cats? I am familiar with the solution that is squirted in the ear canals and rubbed around — but I’m concerned knowing that some of the substance  can be swallowed by the cat. Plus, it is so messy. Thanks for your help. — Crazy with Itch

Dear Crazy with Itch, Ear mites are very common in feral or outdoor cats because they are transmitted easily due to the shared grooming and sleeping of the feline group dynamic. In pet cats, we often see them when new kittens are brought into the house or when the cat gets outside and is exposed to an infected cat. Ear mites actually chew on the sloughing skin cells within the ear canal and can multiply to huge numbers very quickly, thus causing the severe itching and dark dry discharge that we see with infections. Ear mites can be treated in a number of ways, most are ear medications that kill the mites themselves. And you are correct, they can be messy and often either the cat will ingest the medication through grooming or another cat in the household will groom the ears and ingest the medication. Most over-the-counter products are insecticides, but aren’t usually very effective. Your veterinarian should examine your cat’s ears, make the diagnosis and then recommend an appropriate product. Topical products are nice because they also help break off the debris and discharge within the ear so that it can be removed, which is an important part of treatment. There is also a topical skin product for cats called Revolution, which treats fleas and heart worms as well as ear mites and is a nice alternative if you can not apply the topical medications. Revolution is a monthly product with residual activity, so it is a good option for outdoor cats that may come in contact with infected cats on a regular basis. Regardless of the type of treatment, it is important to clean your cat’s environment well and to prevent contact with other infected animals, otherwise your cat will continue to be infected.

Happy mite hunting.

Ask the Vet is a column written by Dr. Jessica Ayers for The News-Enterprise. Ayers is a veterinarian at Heartland Veterinary Hospital in Elizabethtown. To submit a question to be answered in this column, email askthevet@thenewsenterprise.com.