Too Much Information

Honey had her 4 month check up and final vaccinations today. The doctor confirmed it: Honey’s 19.4 pounds of pure love and cuteness.

Look, mom, I'm over the bar. Does that mean I can ride the roller coaster?

But now that the basics are in place it’s time to make some decisions. I try to avoid major, medical interventions unless absolutely necessary. With my dogs, I’ve found that good nutrition and exercise are great preventatives. And natural methods of treatment often beat pharmaceuticals.

But we’ve pulled three ticks off Honey in one weekend. And the homeopathic vet who treated my previous dogs told me that her dog had recently contracted a serious tick-borne illness. I’ve never used flea preventives before but I came back from the vet with a pack of Advantix to stave off ticks.

Now I’m thinking about a leptospirosis vaccination. As my vet explained, dogs were routinely vaccinated against this infectious disease years ago. Recently vet medicine seems to be cautioning against vaccinating for lepto if not necessary.

We live near a lake and spend every nice day in the summer outdoors–hiking, kayaking, swimming. So that puts Honey at a higher risk for this potentially deadly disease. Do I add another vaccination to her regimen?

Now for the big one–Honey’s breeders have asked us to wait to spay Honey until after her first heat cycle. Some golden retriever enthusiasts are claiming that early spaying increases a dog’s growth and may raise the potential for future joint problems as a result. But I don’t have the background to properly understand all the claims and the research behind it.

My vet recently attended a lecture by a Cornell University epidemiologist on the topic. The presenter talked about the various studies on the topic and pointed out that some were well researched while others had serious flaws. I’ve read literature review by vets on the subject which take the test results at face value and don’t address whether the studies were properly designed and carried out.

Maybe I don’t have to understand all this. Honey’s breeders feel pretty strongly about it. And I have to take their opinion seriously–especially given the excellent results I’ve seen so far from their breeding.

By waiting one season to spay Honey, her risk of mammary cancer rises a small amount. But there doesn’t seem to be too many other long lasting effects in any of the research. Mostly, there are inconveniences:

  • we’ll have to manage Honey’s interactions carefully for 3 weeks when she goes into season
  • we may have male dogs beating a path to our door
  • and spaying an adult dog will cost more than a puppy.

Ultimately, the custom of spaying or neutering a puppy at 6 months or earlier probably has more to do with preventing unplanned litters than any medical reason. And that’s something we’d never let happen.

So I guess I’ll just muddle through and make the best decisions I can and save the worrying for the really important thing–my little pup is growing up?!!!

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