Personal Care

Spaying and Neutering

Last year in America alone, over 8 million dogs and cats were euthanized due to a severe overpopulation problem. With very few exceptions, uvma strongly recommends spaying and neutering all dogs and cats kept as pets. In addition to humane concerns, spaying and neutering offer health benefits. Unspayed female dogs and cats are at high risk of developing a life-threatening uterine infection that usually requires emergency surgery to treat.

Also, each heat cycle a female dog or cat goes through puts her at higher risk of mammary cancer as she gets older. We strongly recommend spaying dogs and cats at four months of age. Spaying involves the surgical removal of the uterus and both ovaries. Spayed females no longer experience heat cycles.

Male dogs and cats also enjoy health benefits with neutering. Neutering involves the surgical removal of both testicles. This eliminates the chance of testicular disease, including testicular cancer, and greatly reduces the chances of prostate problems uvma strongly recommends neutering male dogs and cats at four months of age. Neutered males are generally better pets than unneutered males and are far less likely to develop objectionable behaviors such as urine marking, providing they are neutered before such behaviors begin and become habits. Once begun, these habits can be extremely difficult to break.


uvma does not recommend routine declawing of cats. Declawing is an elective procedure that provides no benefit at all for the cat. This procedure involves the surgical amputation of all of the toes of the front feet at the level of the first joint. Of all the surgeries performed at uvma, this is the one most commonly associated with post-surgical complications including pain, bleeding, infection, and nail regrowth.

uvma provides a two page hand-out that discusses this procedure in detail and requires that all cat owners read this handout prior to scheduling a declaw procedure. uvma does not declaw outdoor cats or older cats. Only in extreme circumstances will uvma declaw all four feet. uvma also will not declaw unspayed or unneutered cats. Please discuss your individual situation with a doctor before deciding on this elective non-beneficial high-complication-rate procedure.

Microchips for Identification

Losing a pet can be devastating for the entire family. Collars with tags can be lost. Tatoos can become faded with time or go unnoticed at shelters. Microchips are becoming a popular way to provide permanent identification of pets. A microchip about the size of a grain of rice is injected into the tissues beneath the skin on the back of the neck between the shoulder blades. This chip contains a number which can be read by a scanner.

Most veterinary hospitals, animal control bureaus, SPCA's and other organizations likely to receive stray animals routinely scan dogs and cats whose owners are unknown. Once a chip is found, a national database can be accessed by phone to determine the registered owner of the pet. This system only works if the owner has in fact registered the chip number. uvma offers chip implantation and provides the paperwork necessary for the owner to register that chip. Microchips are an inexpensive and effective means of permanent pet indentification. A microchip can be implanted at any age in both dogs and cats.

Heartworm Preventative

Heartworms are a type of parasite that migrate to the heart to live. Cats are not a natural host for heartworms, but can become infected. Cats become infected the same way as dogs, by being bitten by infected mosquitoes. Because cats are not a natural host, many heartworms never mature in cats. Some do, however, and when they do tend to find their way not only into the heart, but into the lungs as well. Cats rarely show the same signs as dogs when infected. Diagnosis in cats is difficult because the signs are not always definitive.

Infected cats can suffer from chronic vomiting, coughing, or asthma-like signs. Unfortunately, one of the more common signs in cats is sudden death. Even if heartworm infection is diagnosed in cats, there are no known treatments that will kill the worms without high risk of killing the cat as well. Therefore treatment consists of symptomatic relief of whatever symptoms occur. Heartworm prevention is available for cats. At present, uvma does not routinely recommend prevention due to the rarity and unpredictability of this disease in cats. But we do carry feline heartworm preventative medication for those owners who desire to protect their cats from this disease.

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