Who’s Afraid of Cats and Dogs?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Animal Phobia

Dr Danny Derby and the Cognetica Center Staff – The Israeli Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Alon, 38, suffered from Canine Phobia from an early age. When he was five, Alon went with his mother to visit relatives who had a dog, and when he approached the dog with the intention of petting him – as his relative suggested – the dog jumped at him. Alon was very scared and began to cry, and his mother also demonstrated her alarm. This event was the trigger that began Alon’s fear of dogs. At first Alon kept a distance from any dogs on the road, would respond by crying if a dog approached him and would demand that the dog be taken away. As an adult he continued to behave in the same manner, though he asked to have the dog removed in a less dramatic fashion. As the years went by, the fear became more widespread: Alon avoided walking down streets where private homes were situated for fear of meeting up with a dog let loose in a garden which might, perhaps, have an open gate, he would also cross over to the other side of the street or even completely changed his route, if he saw a dog who appeared to him to be threatening, even if the dog was tied up or on a leash.

Finally, in his early twenties, Alon reached the point where even the sight of a dog caused him anxiety, even if the dog was not close to him, and he avoided a wide range of places for fear of running into dogs. Unfamiliar places were also problematic, since he didn’t know if there would be dogs there or not. Sometimes he avoided new places and sometimes he made exhaustive enquiries, agreed to go only when accompanied, or drove to the entrance of the place and only got out of the car after carrying out a thorough inspection of the area.

What is feline or canine phobia?
A phobia is extreme or even paralyzing fear of a certain situation or object, with canine and feline phobia being amongst the most common. In most cases, these phobias appear initially during childhood or adolescence, and tend to be chronic conditions that continue throughout life. Those suffering from canine or feline phobia experience fear or deep disgust when they come in contact with these animals. The fear is not limited to the actual duration of contact, but can also extend to many other instances where there is a possibility or probability of coming in contact with the animal feared, causing actual damage to the person’s functioning level and quality of life. Should the phobia be left untreated, it may well grow more extensive and intrude upon the person’s everyday life, causing restrictions in everyday functioning.

As stated, the phobia can start as the result of an unpleasant encounter with a dog or cat or by observing from the side an unpleasant occurrence experienced by someone else, accompanied by a reaction of alarm. Learning also has an important role in the development of this phobia, and children of parents suffering from these phobias are susceptible to developing them themselves, since they see the fear and their parents’ avoidance of animals. For instance, a child who sees his mother crossing over to the other side of the road when she sees a dog, feels her holding his hand more firmly while glancing frequently at the dog, will learn that dogs are dangerous things and should be avoided.
Though this is a very common disorder, and despite the relatively short time needed for therapy that shows high percentages of improvement, only one quarter of those suffering from the phobia actually apply for therapy. The reasons for this are mainly the prevalence of the problem (since so many suffer from some phobia or other, the feeling is that one is talking about a normative situation and not one that can be treated) and fear of the therapy, which demands confrontation with the object of the fear itself. It is important to point out that the therapists themselves are aware of this difficulty, and the therapy program takes this into account and it is carried out in gradual stages, with the aim of reaching recovery without undergoing undue distress.

How is Canine or Feline Phobia treated?
The most effective treatment of phobias is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – therapy dealing with changing thought and behavior patterns for better coping with the threatening factor. The therapy, which focuses solely on the phobia and does not stray to other issues, thus allows for considerable improvement to be reached in a short time, usually within 12 – 24 sessions

The cognitive section instills knowledge of the animal feared, information about fear itself and learning about coping skills. In addition, superstitions and beliefs that the person has are examined and in the event that these assumptions or beliefs are extreme and unrealistic, work is done on creating more accurate perceptions and thoughts that are less threatening. For instance, many persons suffering from Canine Phobia believe that dogs can smell fear and will attack a person who feels afraid. This premise is examined during therapy and it will become clear that dogs do not have super-powers; they can only discern fear in a person according to that person’s behavior, which in itself gives a person more control over the situation and reduces the feeling of threat.

The behavioral section is the central part of the therapy. Some people don’t need to address the cognitive aspects, since they are already aware that their fear is irrational and exaggerated and consequently there are no thought patterns that need to be changed. Therefore, there are those who need only to take part in the Behavioral Section. In this section, the person begins to be exposed to the threatening factor in a gradual and controlled manner. The gradual pace is extremely important; many people suffering from phobias are afraid to go for treatment because they can summon pictures to mind, that just thinking about them causes them extreme anxiety (they are buried under a pile of cats, a dog jumps out at them and they freeze on the spot in terror, and so on).

In actual fact, these scenarios are far from true. Usually, at the beginning of therapy, each person is asked to look at photos of the animal, or if that is too difficult, even to read texts or look at drawings. This is carried out in the company of a therapist, who supports the person, helps him to overcome his difficulty and to see that when he perseveres and doesn’t run away despite his anxieties, the intensity of the anxiety subsides. After this, the person is asked to practice what he has done at the meeting when he gets home. Each time the person feels relatively at ease with something that previous to the therapy had been a threat, he goes up one more step, up till the tangible meetings with dogs or cats. Those meetings are also carried out very gradually; for instance, walking with the therapist on a street with dogs, being near a dog that is tied up, petting a small puppy that someone else is holding, and so on.

How does the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel fit into the picture?
At the final stages of the therapy in Canine or Feline Phobia, the therapist comes from the Cognetica Center to the Society with the patient, and there an actual encounter with an animal takes place. In the Society there are various types of animals of all ages, sizes and breeds. This variety, and the therapists’ close acquaintance with the animals, allows the matching of a specific dog to every stage in the process that the person has reached; be it a quiet dog who will not approach a person even if he is right beside him, a small puppy who is full of enthusiasm and curiosity who will jump up and want to play with him, or a big dog who is used to letting out a loud bass bark from time to time. In addition, the therapists can help the patient to approach an animal and teach him how to behave towards him, which allows him to feel that he is in control and to change the way in which he conducts himself with the dog or cat.

These meetings also have an added value: not only do they lessen anxiety, they can help create a different and positive experience. During the course of treatment, some of the patients discover a new and wonderful world and they fall in love with one of the dogs or cats with which they have worked.

Cognetica Center , under the directorship of Dr. Danny Derby, is a treatment center offering short-term, target-focused psychological therapy to those suffering from specific problems such as treatment of anxiety, depression, post-trauma or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and deeper treatments for changing life patterns and complex or unfocused difficulties.

Putting Your Dog on a Diet

Is your dog overweight? Dr. Able's controlled weight-loss program will improve your dog's health and quality of life

Dr.Vered Ables, veterinarian of the Mapet Company Ltd

Everyone knows people who are constantly dieting. Every now and then, the media advertises new diets that guarantee to finally resolve obesity that are always accompanied by Before and After pictures. Another familiar phenomenon is known as rebound – people who managed to lose weight only to gain it right back along with several additional pounds. This phenomenon is generally attributed to extreme dieting during which the body fails to adapt to the daily caloric intake it receives and maintain its new weight. Once the restrictions are lifted, the body returns to its former weight.
People, however, are not the only ones suffering from overweight. Our best friends, dogs, also suffer from being overweight, a phenomenon that has been worsening in recent years.

What is obesity?

Dogs are defined as obese if its weight exceeds 20-25% of its ideal weight. In obese dogs, fat is evident around the waist, pelvic area or around the rib cage.
It is important to understand that obesity is not just an esthetic problem but one that might damage the dog’s health and even endanger its life. An understanding of the causes of obesity and the failure of diets in dogs is the key to successful dieting.

What causes obesity?

1. Poor diet. Overeating (irregularly scheduled meals, excessive amounts of food), homemade food (leftovers) and excessive snacking as well as excessive intake of calorie-, fat- and sugar-laden food.
2. Inactivity or insufficient amount of exercise.
3. Aging. Because older dogs tend to be less active, they require fewer calories.
4. Neutered or spayed dogs are less active and when resting, require less energy. In addition, the absence of a sex hormone causes the metabolism to slow down.
5. Genetic predisposition towards obesity. Certain breeds, such as the Labrador, are prone to being overweight in comparison with, for example, hunting dogs.
6. Hormone disorders. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)

Why is it difficult for dogs to lose weight?

1. Many owners do not supply food for meals, relying on the dog to decide when and how much it will eat. Eating the same amount, divided into meals ‘wastes’ calories consumed by the digestive system during a meal.
2. ‘Compensation’ by giving the dog excessive amounts of leftovers or snacks.
3. ‘Spoiling’. Dogs prefer fat- and energy-rich foods over more balanced foods. Advanced food technologies facilitate the production of quality, flavorful food.
4. A weight loss program requires commitment and investment by the owners (adhering to feeding times and amounts of food). This is a genuine difficulty and is a major cause of diet failure among human beings as well.
5. A weight loss program requires patience. Proper weight loss that is not accompanied by rebound weight gain is gradual and can take several months.
6. Overweight dogs are less active and are more prone to weight gain (vicious cycle). Some dogs behave as if they are constantly hungry although their physical needs have been satisfied.
7. Owner difficulty in changing the amount and type of food in the transition from puppy to adult dog.
8. Difficulty in regulating the amounts of food. In homes in which more than one person feeds the dog and feeding is done by filling a bowl, owners have a difficult time in monitoring the exact amount their dog eats.

Why is obesity dangerous?

1. Creates stress on the joints and back, as manifested in difficulties in getting up, walking and climbing stairs, in addition to possible ligament tears.
2. Creates stress on the heart and lungs, as manifested in breathing difficulties and rapid fatigue.
3. Digestive problems and increased cholesterol and fats in the blood. Fat-rich meals might damage, for example, pancreatic function.
4. Increased incidence in disease such as diabetes.
5. Certain types of cancer are more common among overweight dogs.
6. Esthetics. In an era in which thinness worshipped by society, and plastic surgery in dogs is becoming routine, obesity has become an esthetic flaw.

How is a weight loss program carried out?

Weight loss requires a desire, commitment and patience of every member of the household. Successful weight loss that is not accompanied by rebounding to the original weight, takes several months. Adherence to the program rules will facilitate success, lead to gradual weight loss and improve the dog’s health as well as quality of life. The good news is that our control of the dogs and what goes into their moths neutralizes one of the most difficult obstacles in human weight loss. Veterinarians should be consulted should difficulties arise in carrying out the program.
1. Blood tests should be carried out before starting the program in order to rule out any medical causes of obesity, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid activity) or hyperactive adrenal gland.
2. The dog should be weighed before starting the program and on a monthly basis, even after reaching the target weight. A home scale can be used to weigh oneself with the dog and then without the dog. The difference obtained is the dog’s weight.
3. Preventing obesity is easier than losing the weight. If a dog shows a tendency to obesity, his diet should be changed to include quality commercial food designed to maintain the dog’s weight or to facilitate weight loss, such as Techni-Cal’s Weight Control or Reduced Fat – a reduced fat food for dogs manufactured by Bil Jac. These foods are low in calories and fat but rich in fiber to improve metabolic activity. It is also enriched with ingredients that facilitate weight reduction. The packages include a table that lists the recommended daily allowance.
4. When transitioning between foods, the new food should be combined with the previous food over the course of a week.
5. When the dog is obese, a veterinarian should be involved to calculate the ideal target weight. Calculation of the recommended daily allowance will be based on this weight.
The daily recommended allowance for the target weight should be checked on the table that appears on the diet food package (in the column designated for weight loss), and this should be divided into several meals per day. In cases of extreme obesity, the veterinarian will recommend medical weight loss food.
6. The greater the number of meals, the more effective the weight loss will be. This method makes monitoring and weight loss easier, is more suitable to the nature of the dog and alleviates the ‘psychological hunger’ between meals.
7. Sufficient amounts of fresh water should be provided.
8. Avoid giving snacks that might hinder weight loss. If you want to make your pet happy, give low-calorie and low-fat snacks (e.g. Veterinary Select snacks. Or give your dog a carrot, rice cakes or a limited amount of peas).
9. It is highly recommended that the dog’s activity level be increased. 20 minutes of walking a day, swimming, running on soft surfaces and games will increase enjoyment, reinforce the bond with the dog and facilitate weight loss.
10. Once the ideal target weight has been reached, low-calorie foods in measured amounts should be continued for the rest of the dog’s life.

Household leftovers

Feeding table scraps to pets can be dangerous to their health

Dr.Vered Ables, veterinarian of the Mapet Company Ltd

The question of nutrition for dogs and cats has more than once given their owners a well known dilemma – whether or not to give the beloved pet human food and how to refuse their pleas. Many dogs and cats are fed in the best circumstances with commercial food and with additional table leftovers, and in the worst of circumstances their nutrition is based only on the scraps. The owners are not always aware of the quantities of leftovers given to the animals, and when they are questioned about this, the answers range from “only some pastrami now and then” to “I can’t stand up to the looks he gives me…”.
The coming holiday season aggravates the problem even more so. The many holiday meals supply a wealth of leftovers that are too good to throw out, and feeding them to the pets seems like an efficient solution.
It is important to know that the damage done by giving leftovers to dogs and cats is great; sometimes it amounts to temporary troubles that come and go, and in other cases the damage is accumulative.

What is the damage?

Digestive problems: The digestive systems of dogs and cats are not accustomed to people food. Giving them scraps, especially spiced foods, can cause digestive disturbances such as gas, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.
For example, chicken skin in Israel contains a high concentration of salt due to the koshering process. The high salt content causes water to be drawn into the digestive system, causing diarrhea.
One of the most common and most difficult problems is the giving of bones. Looking through children’s literature, even the most up to date, “teaches” that the food for dogs is bones. Wild dogs feast on the flesh and innards of their prey but not on the bones, and therefore everything that is not crushed by the dog’s teeth passes through the digestive system as is. This is the reason for the many cases of rips in the digestive system, bleeding due to puncturing of the mucous membrane and intestinal blockages, which require life threatening surgery.
An additional mistake that is common to the public is that the food of the cat is milk. The stomachs of cats are used to a different kind of milk altogether, and feeding them our milk products can be very costly for them.

Weight gain: Household scraps are not nutritionally balanced and in many cases they are full of fats. Dogs and cats that receive large quantities of scraps tend to get fat, even though in most case they do not get the essential nutritional components necessary for their development or their sustenance. Weight reduction for these dogs and cats is extremely difficult, since they will refuse to eat the commercial pet foods made for weight reduction.

Stress on internal organs: High salt levels, high fat levels and high protein levels found in human foods present a significant risk for dogs and cats (for that matter, also for heart patients a low sodium diet is recommended). Since excessive salts and proteins put stress on and make it difficult for internal organs to function properly, animals are likely to suffer from malfunction of the heart, liver and kidneys.

Food allergies: Most of the food allergies are due to an animal protein source. Dogs and cats that are fed scraps are exposed from an early age to a variety of protein sources from animals, and the likelihood of their developing food allergies is very high. Furthermore, it will be very difficult to suit hypoallergenic food to them that is based on a protein that they have not been exposed to previously.

Education: Every veterinarian and animal trainer knows that the one of the fundamental rules of training puppies and adults is to define the dog’s position in the family hierarchy. The dog must not be given the feeling that it is an equal in its standing with the family members, and it must be given clear boundaries. Giving table scraps at family meal times is one of the prevalent mistakes, which cause many of the common behavioral problems with puppies and adults. A dog that is used to eating in this manner will demand food from anyone who opens the refrigerator or sits down to eat, a phenomenon that is amusing at the beginning but soon becomes a serious nuisance.

Poisoning: Some household foods are likely to cause accumulated poisoning in dogs and cats, even to anemia of blood platelets. Garlic, onions and chocolate are only a few of the examples of ingredients that can cause this poisoning.

Then what is there to do?
Education towards feeding only commercial pet food to the animals starts the moment the puppy or kitten enters the house. The pet should be conditioned to eat commercial food from a bowl set aside for that purpose at set times – times that do not coincide with meal times of family members. A dog or cat that is conditioned to this from an early age will not be aware that there are other possibilities.
If you want to pamper your pet, you can give them an addition of a pet treat or an occasional snack, but not regularly.
Maintaining these rules will prevent heartache and will bring you much more pleasure from raising your pets.

An End to Fleas

Your dog does not stop scratching? Try a preventative flea treatment

The summer has arrived and with it the worsening of the flea problem that many dogs suffer. Fleas are not only an esthetic bother. It is important to remember that they are also blood suckers, they endanger your dogs and pass along many diseases, some of which are contagious to humans. A regular treatment schedule for all house pets and treatment of the yard is the only way to get rid of them permanently.

The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel recommends preventative flea treatment with ampoules. You drip the contents of the ampoule on the back of the neck of the dog or between his shoulder blades (a place where he cannot lick) after you make sure that the skin is dry (before the application). The material, which enters the bloodstream through the skin, gives protection against fleas for a month. Do not bathe the dog after the treatment. If the dog however is bathed, you need to re-treat it 3-4 days after the bath. It is recommended to give this preventative treatment once a month in all the seasons of the year, and it is important to pay attention to the age and weight of the dog to prevent poisoning.

How much evil can be bought?

Before we buy a purebred dog, especially if it is imported from abroad, it is a good idea to know the difficult implications. Attorney Idan Abuhav writes about this painful phenomenon

The gates of immigration to Israel are open to all those who want to import dogs and cats, most of them purebreds, which are sold for thousands of dollars and are used as business in every way, exactly that!. Only here we are not talking about a product, but about thousands of animals, mainly dogs, who will eventually be abandoned and, the best solution of all, arrive at the various voluntary agencies and societies for helping animals. Anyone who buys a purebred dog, should know what happens to the dog from the time it is separated from its mother (too early sometimes) until it arrives in your home. Maybe it is worthwhile to think twice about paying a fortune for a purebred dog that is shipped by airplane to Israel, or instead adopt one of the many abandoned dogs who are crying out for an adoptive home, waiting in our Society.

A simple glance at the “second-hand”-websites reveals that many puppies of purebreds are for sale. Is any test being done about the quality of the adoption and the ability to deal with the care of the dog? As it seems, the only thing that is important to the owners of the puppies is the readiness for you to come up with the money and, also, when you have a number of small puppies in your house, at some stage you simply want to part with them, even at a price lower than “market price”.

At the websites of many importers it is possible to purchase puppies exactly the same way as you purchase any other product on the internet, by credit card. This leads to the fact that the buyer does not know what he is buying – both in the aspect of the personality of the dog and in the aspect of its health – not to mention that the whole process of checking vaccinations is problematic.

In contrast to people for whom dogs are no more than a business, the important parameter that is checked out in every responsible society, in every organization for animal welfare that has self respect, is the character, the personality, of the prospective buyer of the animal. Even if the seller of the animal is a righteous and trustworthy person, does he make an effort to receive some more details from or about the would-be purchaser? Perhaps we are speaking of a person buying a dog who does not relate to dogs; maybe he is buying a dog that is not appropriate for him or his family. The non-compatibility will lead most of the time to the abandonment of the dog or its abuse.

Another common method of purchasing a dog is to request of someone who is going abroad to also buy you a dog. Just like that! The result is that most likely the puppy is bought by someone who has no full understanding if the dog may be appropriate to their future owners. This same willing-to-please-you person could buy you a dog which is very young (“so cute”) or who does not take a certain dog because of its external appearance, which sometimes is misleading. The puppy comes to its new owners, and from this time on the road to troubles and problems is often short.

According to testimony of many buyers, often dogs are taken from their mothers before they reach the age of adoption. According to Dr. Ayah Peri of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, taking a puppy from its mother before it reaches the age of 8 weeks can cause trauma. In addition to this, the puppies that are taken from their mothers go through many hands, and since they are not vaccinated they are very sensitive to various diseases and dangers such as Parvo and Rabies. In the absence of veterinary supervision this can cause their death. And here a situation is created where the buyer, through no fault of his own, is abetting terrible suffering, or worse, to puppies by putting money into this economic (business) sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture determined a number of parameters for importing dogs that are based on regulation for importing animals. What happens to the dogs that do not stand up to the standards of the Ministry? Unfortunately these dogs are sentenced to death in Israel or are sent back to the countries from where they came, even when it is not certain if there is someone waiting to accept them back. An example of this are the Afghan puppies last year that stayed at the airport in Israel for a number of days in difficult conditions and afterwards those who were still alive were supposed to return to the airport in Bangkok.

Cooperating with cruel dog sellers
The essence of this kind of purchasing is cooperating with the sellers, whose actions and motives are not those that are for the good of the dog. Often a puppy is sold when it is ill, due to lack of proper care in the hands of the seller. The result is that the seller receives his money and uses it to order additional puppies and import them, while the desperate buyer many times has to invest thousands of shekels in veterinary care for the dog, in the best case scenario, or is in pain due to the loss upon the death of the puppy, in the worst case.

Abuse does not start in Israel. In Eastern Europe and in the Far East there is no real supervision of the breeding of dogs. The dogs come consistently from countries where people have trouble supporting themselves and it is reasonable to assume that the puppies are brought up in disgraceful conditions. Any injection of money to this industry will constitute a continuation of the situation.

These breeding-conditions, in the end, create problem dogs that are growing up with an injured personality, and it is very hard to train them.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, Tel Aviv-Yafo, receives on a constant base many dogs whose owners do not want them after they have discovered that they are not suitable for apartment houses, or they cannot be trained. For dogs of this type, in spite of their beauty, it is very hard to find a new warm home.

The situation is illogical. On one hand the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel works shoulder to shoulder with the Agriculture Ministry in the halls of the Knesset in order to promote the amendment to the Law for [the Prevention of] Cruelty to Animals that would guarantee a subsidy from the state for the neutering and castration of dogs and cats. On the other hand, the same Ministry, which is fighting for the budgeting of the law, enables this industry to worsen the situation of dogs in Israel, which as is known suffers from a great surplus number of dogs as opposed to those being adopted – both by bringing in more dogs into the country and also by not castrating or neutering these dogs (because they are a business-commodity). Thus a situation is created that the descendents of the imported dogs and cats end up as residents of the shelters of the societies and provide an additional financial burden on the philanthropic organizations that are already collapsing under the expenses they have to make for saving animals.

The solution should be permission to import animals only to someone who will conform to strict regulations, and a simple solution will be the obligation to neuter or castrate every dog or cat that comes into the country. This will decrease the suffering that these animals endure and the future suffering of the females whose new owners intend to use to recap their investment in their purchase.

Neutering and castration at a young age

Neutering and castrating are the first operations that humans performed on domestic animals

Dr. Deganit Ben Dov 

Neutering and castrating are the first operations that humans performed on domestic animals. Already in ancient sources such as in hieroglyphic Egyptian writings and in the Bible we can find items relating to the castration of animals. In the past, operations of neutering and castration of domestic animals were carried out for these primary reasons:
A. Work animals, such as oxen and horses, who were castrated, were calmer and easier to work with.
B. Animals who were raised for food and who were forced fed, grew more quickly after they were castrated.

In our times it is acceptable to neuter and castrate pet animals – primarily dogs and cats. Why? The principal problem with which all who are involved with the welfare of animals are struggling is the over population of pet animals. One female dog or cat reproducing without control, can give birth twice a year. Within a number of years, she and her descendents will give birth to tens of thousands of puppies or kittens.

The consciousness of the many advantages of raising pets has risen from year to year. In spite of this, the number of homes and families who are willing to adopt a dog or cat does not approach the number of animals needing adoption. Without control on the reproduction of pets, the organizations for the welfare of animals in the world will be forced to continue to kill millions of cats and dogs each year. The neutering and castration of these animals is the most efficient way to reduce the number of animals that die from lack of a home and care.

Today almost everyone is conscious of the importance of neutering and castration. Besides the reduction of overpopulation, these operations improve the health of pets and lengthen their lives, and of course makes life easier for the owners who don’t have to deal with the problems of heat and finding or not being able to find home for the puppies or kittens.

Most of the societies for the welfare of animals insist on the neutering of animals that are given for adoption. There are societies where these operations are done on the premises and there are those that refer the adopters to neutering facilities in various veterinary clinics. In the United States, in societies that give out animals for adoption and have the adopters sign a statement of obligation to have the animals neutered, there is a follow up that discovered that a third of the owners do not return to have the operation performed. One female dog or cat, that has not been neutered, can give birth within a number of years to enough young to fill up the pounds.

More and more charities are changing over to a policy of neutering and castration of each animal before it is given to new families. Only those societies for animal welfare who maintain a policy of neutering and castration of every animal before it is given for adoption can be certain that the animal will not contribute to the over-population of pets.

When should it be done? There are those who think that it is preferable for the female dog or cat to give birth once before it is neutered. This was the acceptable opinion until a few decades ago. Later it was found that neutering before puberty contributes to the health of animals who are operated upon and extends their lives, and the age that is recommended for the operation was near to the age of puberty, or between 6 to 8 months. In many cases puberty is earlier, especially in kittens who can become pregnant a the age of 4 months. This problem brought about the fact that in the nineteen eighties, operations of neutering and castration were carried out already at the age of 6 to 8 weeks.

Various veterinarians brought up the fear of the long term influence of neutering at a young age. This fear lead to the many research projects that examined tens of thousands of dogs and cats that were operated on at a young age. These researches reinforced the information about the contribution of neutering and castration before puberty to the health of the animals and showed that there were no differences between neutering at 6 to 8 months and neutering at the age of 6 to 8 weeks. An additional finding related to the operation itself. Neutering of the younger ones is easier for the surgeon, and more important than that, for the young one itself—the operation is shorter and the recuperation is very much quicker. About an hour after the end of the operation on a female kitten of 8 weeks, it is already eating and playing.

Who? The results of these research projects brought about that in 1991 societies for the welfare of animals and various veterinary organizations were recommending neutering and castration at a young age. In places where they instituted neutering at a young age, the number of dogs and cats put to death was lower. Neutering at a young age, before puberty, gives the organizations for the welfare of animals a significant advantage in the possibility of neutering before giving the animal for adoption and reduces the need for dealing with over-population of pets. The reduction in reproduction saves lives and resources. There are those who suggest including neutering in the treatment of the puppy or kitten with the inoculations before puberty. This procedure would prevent unwanted pregnancies and would reduce the possibility of cancer of the mammary glands or prostate diseases in the future.

To date, many societies have adopted the technique of early neutering and castration, with all its advantages: The American Veterinary Association, the Canadian Veterinary Association, the American Humane Society, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel, etc. The principal objectors to this technique are those who have not tried it. Veterinarians and organizations who experimented with carrying out neutering and castration operations on dogs and cats at an early age prefer to continue with this policy in the merit of the many advantages to the individuals operated upon and to the whole pet population.

This article appeared in the magazine of S.E.P. Pets in July 2001.