Friday, March 16, 2007

Spaying and Neutering Your Swissy: Read On!

On my breeder's list and Swissy lists, a lot of emails have been exchanged about early spay and neuters. The gist of the exchanges I've forwarded to my web master to post as blogs. Julianne Wilson and Cathy Cooper and Brigitte Rhinehart, are 3 breeders that have been in this breed long enough to know the couple that brought Swissies to the US (as that was their foundation dogs in 1968). Breeders that have been around 20+ years are the "encyclopedias" that drive many of my, with all do respect, here's a couple more opinions on the topics of early spay/neuter. The Summons family originated this breed in the late 60's and that is who Julianne Wilson in KY is referring to in her post below.

Happy reading.



Subject: early spay and mammary cancer

So here are the 'facts' on spaying early in regards to mammary cancer.
Spaying before 1st heat cycle reduces mammary cancer by over 99%.
However, spaying after only 1 heat cycle reduces mammary cancer by about 70% (depending on what study you read). Spaying after 2 reduces incidency by 25 %, and spaying after 2 or 3 cycles has no effect on incidence of mammary cancer.
Having said that, overall incidence of mammary cancer is estimated at 0.2% in the whole population. It is the most common cancer in female dogs, but in dogs, 50% are benign. Average age for onset of mammary tumors is 10-12 years old (so keep this in mind when advising swissy owners).
Additionally, one recent study has shown that early spay increases the incidence of lymphoma (can't find the paper to say exactly how much though, sorry). So as long as they spay before 2nd heat cycle I think waiting is totally reasonable. They still get a major protective effect, and incidence only goes up to 0.3%. I have removed 3 mammary cancers in the last year, all of which were dogs under 40 pounds. 2 were benign, the other was not but good prognosis since it was removed early. I see females every week with 'juvenile vulva' syndrome...recurrent UTI's and major issues. If not spaying your dog early was a death sentence via mammary cancer, my bitch would have been spayed long before now. My bitch is only 3 and each month when I give her heartworm preventive I roll her over and examine her... its just part of our routine. As long as puppy people know there are 2 sides to it...there's no reason why they can't make this decision (with your help). Obviously I am not a
big fan of hard and fast "rules" on how to treat a dog, when there are many factors that go into any medical decision. Having a large breed dog means you have increased risk of bone cancer, bloat, splenic tumors, etc etc. But you don't get a small breed dog because they have increased incidence of dental issues, endocardiosis, diabetes, patella luxation, etc etc. Males get prostatic problems and perianal tumors. Females get mammary tumors and pyometra....In order to avoid all predisposing problems, get a CAT for goodness sakes (they have issues too, surprise surprise). You can go on and on about how the genetics of any dog will predispose them to one problem or another, but you CANNOT make a decision on any one factor! GRRR! If your dog gets a mammary tumor, you have it removed ASAP...just like if they got a mast cell tumor you'd remove that ASAP. If any vet on the planet could predict what will happen to a dog and what they'll die from and at what age...they'd be a

Sorry about that, just a rant from one vet who thinks that many other vets have let pet overpopulation problems give them tunnel vision. I obviously have strong opinions on the subject, feel free to forward this to any puppy people being given a hard time.
Rebecca Martin (the DVM with an intact bitch, despite having been ridiculed many times by other vets for it, and even nicknamed the 'dog pimp' by a radiologist in vet school)

Subject: Re: early spay and mammary cancer

So i am not a veterinarian but have enjoyed Swissys in our family since
1988. Having been advised by Gretel Summons early on NOT to spay before the bitch
was 15 months old., preferably 24 months---also NOT to neuter a male before
18 months, preferably 24 moths. All this for two good reasons :
the females will almost always be incontinent when spayed before their
hormones are balanced and the males will likely not have majestic heads if
neutered before their hormones are established.
If i have a dog that does not pass health clearances, it is spayed or
neutered but that is after the 24 month time period. Otherwise, i spay and neuter
at 6 or 7 yrs, both sexes. No incontinent girls in all these years , and no
incidences of mammary cancer.
When we do raise a litter we advise all families taking a Swissy home, to
abide by the same advice we got from Gretel. We have a wonderful relationship
with our vets--we discuss advice and opinions and experiences and the
conclusion is : if it isn't broken, don't need to fix it. So we keep on the path
that offers the smoothest healthiest ground for our Swissys.
We once purchased a lovely English Springer who had been spayed at 7
months: she had mammary cancer 8 times in the 13 years she lived. Don't want to
even think about the odds on that.


Too Early to Neuter Your Swissy?

This is a piece by Cathy Cooper, of Shadetree Swissys, one of the most respected women involved with the Swissy breed:

Spaying and Neutering

It is imperative that you do not spay your female GSMD before she is a minimum of 12 months old. GSMD that are spayed at any early age seem to have a great tendency towards incontinence. It is preferable to wait until she has gone through a heat cycle. I realize that there will be some inconvenience related to letting her go through a heat cycle, but GSMD that have gone through a heat cycle seem to be much less prone to incontinence than those who have not. Many “pet” vets will try to convince you that it is in your puppy’s best interest to spay earlier. It is true that dogs that go through a heat cycle have a slightly increased risk of mammary tumors (maybe 5%). It is also true that a Swissy spayed at a young age may be as much as 40% more likely to develop incontinence. It is up to you to weigh the risk. It is not your vet who will be living with a 100 lb dog that leaks urine. The truth be known, most vets want to spay at an early age because it is much easier surgery. You need to stand your ground on this issue.

Males are not affected with the incontinence issue, but you may want to wait until your male is 12 months or older as well. Males that are neutered earlier tend towards excessive long bone growth and tend to end up slightly “bitchy” looking. Swissys are very slow maturing and waiting until a year old does not have any ill effects.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Food Guarding

This is from an exchange I had with a puppy owner regarding Food Guarding...
Sounds like you worked through the food thing on your own. Maybe I can do a better job as a breeder in articulating to my puppy families to ALWAYS feed them from your hand, throughout their lives, so they don't feel they have to "guard" their food. I also implement the sit and wait to be released for ALL my dogs once they are out of the "litter" environment. I was taught the philosophy that nothing is free, everything they do they have to earn by doing a command/behavior. So, when I have scraps (and Luna loves vegetable, bananas, etc...) I make Luna do her sit, or down, or sit stay, or down stay. She thinks it's fun because she's getting food and all Swissies are food driven. In the process, she's learning basic commands. She's not 100% on the down by any stretch, but she's perfected her sit! I also spend the first entire year of their life feeding them meals every now and then entirely from my hand. I'll sit in the living room with their food bowl and make them eat every morsel of the kibble out of my hand, and we all take turns. By the time they are a year old, we are all gods and godesses to them because they regard their "human" pack as their source of food. I've NEVER witnessed and/or experienced a Swissy that was food aggressive or growls. If I did, I think quite honestly, I'd knock the shit out of them and they wouldn't know what hit them. I have witnessed them being growly towards each other when they eat all together and someone finishes early and comes to see if there is any extra in the bowl. I don't discourage dog to dog vocalzing, ever, as it always maintains who is who in the pack and pecking order. I've never had one have to reprimand the other to "go away when I'm eating" except to stop chewing and growl. Luna figured out damn quick not to bother Rixey, her mother, when Rixey is eating. As puppies they all try to eat her food while she's eating and she'll absolutely demolish them and pin them down until they scream bloody murder. There's never any bite wounds and never any blood drawn, and they only have to get nailed once or twice to realize....."don't try to get mom's food while she's eating." I've learned a lot of my dicipline boundaries from watching all my mothers discipline their own brood. It's amazing how firm they are, without injuring. They instill a sense of respect in their own puppies. Sorry to hear about Boone growling, but it's imperative that you do some of the hand feeding, often, to make sure that never escalates into the dog on the show. I haven't seen the episode, but Cab's owner taped it for me.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Spaying your Swissy girl and urinary incontinence

This is an issue of WHEN is the BEST time, not when is the right time. You can take your female in to spay her tomorrow if you'd like. This issue of spaying a Swiss Mountain Dog bitch PRIOR to their first heat cycle is an issue of the EXTREMLY HIGH INCIDENCE of urinary incontinece in THIS breed for all those owners and veterinarians across the country who elected to spay a Swissy female prior to their first heat cycle. No one has done any formal research on this, and someone should.....we're in the midst of data and documentation on our bigger issues......bloat, epilepsy, OCD, etc....Not only do the frequent episodes of vaginitis and UTI's in Swissy females reduce (and if not almost disappear after the onset of the first heat cycle), the incidence of incontinence throughout life also reduces. I don't want to come across as being rude, but I would just like you and your vet to also seek the opinions of the following doctors that have a lot of experience with THIS breed (Dr. Greg Svoboda, Dr. Jackson, and Drs. Beamer or Dr. Byrd) you run the risk of Aggie developing the urinary incontinence. If after consulting with these doctors they say, "what the hell, spay the dog now," then so much for the anecdotal evidence that nobody has mustered the energy or time to formalize in a documented research study yet (it will happen, it will be someone's thesis or graduate research one day).

I'm emotionally driven and feel so strongly about this after my own personal experiences with Julee and her progeny, that I only needed to be burned once to understand what others have always advised me for years, I didn't heed myself. Do what you may, I'll be here to support you regardless of the outcome, but I feel better knowing that I did the very best I could to convince you and ALL my female companion puppies I place (which is better than 90% of the pups I produce) to STRONGLY ENCOURAGE owners to push the "envelope" to the first heat cycle. Also, know that you have your own female who has developed a UTI, a full sibling that has developed a UTI (Gem), a full sibling that possibly is having some difficulty concentrating urine (Luna) and a half-sibling who is incontinent after a spay at 12 months and was completely continent for the 12 months prior to the spay........all as cards stacked against you genetically. My Julee, who developed her incontinence after 3 litters and being spay at 5 1/2 months, more than likely experienced what they call estrogen-responsive urinary incontinence (but this can happen to bitches spay at any age and is usually treated with either diethylstilbestrol, DES, or phenylpropanolamine, Proin, which act to improve the closure of sphincters in the urinary tract). Estrogen-responsive incontinence's exact pathogenisis is unknown, but most bitches clinically present for "leaking" urine when relaxed and owners notice it's onset when they find urine spotting wherever the dog typically sleeps. This type of incontinence is more typical in bigger dogs, weighing more than 44 pounds, and in dogs spay at an early age. Julee's grandaughter, Mulligan, was spay at 7 months when she had her OCD lesion surgery and she was incontinent from her recovery on (prior to her surgery there was no incontinence). Lola, half-aunt to your Aggie, developed incontinence at 6 1/2 years of age, after having three litters and was never incontinent prior to that. Lola's full sister, Gretchen, was spay at 7 months and was incontinent from that day forward, they just turned 7. All the other littermates have reported no incontinence. Lola has produced two daughters, Mattie Rose in her first litter, and Nelli in her third litter, that both have estrogen-responsive urinary incontinence. Lola produced 24 puppies total in her lifetime. There's nothing more I can really say on this issue except that I've done the best I can to be thorough and provide every ounce of information I have against spaying prior to a first heat cycle. I suppose I always have the option to revise my contract to reflect my opinions on this issue. Thank God for the males, RIGHT?!? Don't worry, they come with their own set of baggage.

Talk to other breeders, other Swissy owners, the vets I know that have the MOST experience in this 100 mile radius with THIS breed, and whoever else you can before she goes under anesthesia......I'm totally confident that whatever the result, you'll handle.