Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Spay/Neuter: Quarantine edition

by | General Pet Care |

Listening to health professionals and the Government of Canada, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society made the decision in mid-March to close our animal centres and spay/neuter clinics to the public until further notice slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.

As our clients wait for clinics to reopen, we have received many questions about care for their pets. In collaboration with our veterinary team at the Ontario SPCA, we’ve put together a list of commonly asked questions to assist you during this time.

5 commonly asked questions as your pets wait for spay/neuter

1. What do I do with females when they bleed?

The answer as to what to do with your female dog when they are currently in heat and bleeding depends on a variety of factors.

If your dog is a larger dog or has significant bleeding and you wish to prevent blood on furniture and floors, then you may wish to consider having your dog wear some type of panty or diaper. There are a number of these products that are available through any pet stores or online.

These products can range from actual disposable diapers that are designed for dogs (they have a hole that the tail can fit through) to fabric type panties in which you can place special liners, or alternatively, human pads. Some people will modify children’s diapers (you need to have the correct size). Men’s underwear (briefs) can also be used; turn them so the tail comes out the front hole and use a panty liner or pad.

If your dog is not bleeding a lot, then you may choose not to use any of the previously mentioned options and just cover the dog’s bed with a cover to prevent staining as well as any furniture that the dog may lie on.

You may need to spot clean your dog’s back end (vaginal area) if she has a lot of thick or heavy fur as there may be blood staining, hair matting and smell. You may also wish to carefully trim some of the hair away from this area to make it easier for your dog to keep herself clean.

The good news is this part of the heat cycle (where they are actively bleeding) generally only lasts an average of 10 days, although individual dogs can have a shorter or longer bleeding time. As well, the amount of blood can vary from each individual dog. If your dog has had a heat before then this heat will be very similar in length and amount of blood.

2. Any suggestions for dealing with my cat’s behaviour while she’s in heat?

We have a few helpful tips for dealing with your cat’s behaviour and energy levels while in a heat cycle. One is to play with her often to burn off her extra energy. Interactive toys are great, like fishing pole toys or wands. Motorized toys also work, as long as the cat is actually playing with them.

You can also be more affectionate with your cat. If your cat enjoys it, increase lap time where you can pet her, or groom her using a soft brush or comb.

Catnip affects cats differently. If she is a cat that relaxes when offered catnip, this can be done more often while in heat to help calm her. If catnip causes excitement in her, it would not be a good idea to offer her at this time.

It can also be helpful to provide her with a quiet, dimly lit, room with a comfy bed for some alone time if she chooses. It may also help to provide a heated bed – just be sure the heat source is something safe, like a rice bag, is not too hot, and is never placed directly against the pet, but wrapped in a towel or blanket.

Feliway is always a great choice to help calm cats as well, as it releases natural pheromones that elicit a calming response in the cat.

3. How do I keep them from procreating if they get out?

Our best advice is to be aware of just how determined intact cats and dogs can be to meet up with their “dates.” In some cases, this may become their primary goal of the day. Recognize that your pet may find ways they have never tried before to get access to the outside.

Think about if there are any extra barriers or doors that can be closed to add an extra layer of security to prevent your animal from getting out. While female cats and dogs may only try this behaviour while they are going through their heat cycles, males will try this behaviour almost constantly. Also, be aware that pets may try to get away while out on walks or playing in the yard. Check any fencing around the yard to make sure there are no gaps that your pet can go through, around or under.

If they do get out and you see it, try any recall, lure or treat to immediately get them back in the house. If you don’t discover that they have escaped until later, try to find them and bring them back home as soon as you can.

If you have a female pet and you do witness them breeding, get them back in the house as soon as possible after. Call your veterinarian for advice on what signs to watch for if you see any breeding activity or you suspect that this may have happened, and medical advice regarding options if breeding has occurred.

Some additional tips about living with intact pets can be found here.

4. What do I do with my dog’s extra (sexual) energy while I wait for surgery?

It helps to find both physical and mental exercises for your dog, and these can sometimes be combined. Teaching your dog a new activity or skill focuses their mind on the task at hand.

Agility courses

You can set up a simple agility course even in a small backyard. Try using orange traffic cones, vegetable poles or even lawn chairs to copy what a dog would learn going through weave poles. You usually start with the dog on a leash and lure them around the objects with a small treat in your hand that the dog would want to follow.

You can progress to letting the dog off the leash and standing further and further away from the dog as you call them towards you. The dog gets the treat reward when they follow the path you have taught them around the cones or poles.

If the dog makes a mistake, don’t say anything negative to the dog, just bring them back to start and try again. If the dog starts to struggle learning a new step, try going back to a previous step that they got correct. Remember to try this activity for short periods of time – 10 or 15 minutes – so the dog doesn’t lose interest or become bored. Switch up this training with a simple game of fetch. Having the dog practice a new type of skill, like weave poles, can tire out both their body and their mind.

Try substituting another modified agility course activity by teaching the dog to go through a child’s tunnel. If you don’t have one, make something similar using poles or chairs with a tarp or sheet laid over top. Have one person bring the dog to one end. Start with a short, straight tunnel where you call the dog to you from the other end. Gradually make the tunnel longer and include bends and curves in it. Also try making it a two-way tunnel where the dog would go through in one direction and then reverse their course by going back. Again, try teaching this new skill for 10 to 15 minutes with breaks built in.

For any of these activities, the treat reward you use can be as small as the size of your baby fingernail. It isn’t the size of the reward that is important to the dog, it’s getting the reward. Make sure to include a lot of verbal praise as you practice these new skills and don’t reprimand the dog if they make a mistake. Simply try again or go back to a simpler step.

Tracking games

You can also set up simple tracking games by placing plastic cups upside down around the yard with treats hidden under some of them. Start by showing the dog a few of the cups and reveal the treat underneath. Gradually lead the dog to show them the other cups and then let the dog choose what order to flip the cups over. Try only putting treats under 1/3 or ½ of the cups, but encourage the dog to turn them all over. If they turn over cups without a treat underneath, encourage the dog to go on to the next cup.

With two people you can do a variation of this by setting up two or three upside down cups. Start by showing the dog which cup you place the treat under. Have the other person hold the dog and encourage them to watch while the treat is placed, then release the dog and say, “Find it.”

You can make it more challenging by having the cups turned over with a treat already placed under one cup and simply pointing at the correct cup. The dog will learn to go first to the cup you are pointing to in order to retrieve the treat.

A variation of this uses treats placed in an open egg carton bottom, with tennis balls already placed on top of each opening. Encourage the dog to search under each tennis ball to find all the treats.

With any games like these try them for short periods of time to keep the dog’s interest. Also include more free play games like fetch. You can also add in some more structured activities like teaching loose leash walking, sit, stay (directly in front of you and at a distance) and shake a paw or high five. Keep it fun, make sure there is lots of variety and take breaks if the dog is losing interest.

Undesirable behaviour

There will also be incidents of undesirable behaviour like jumping up or mounting your leg. Try diverting their undesirable behaviour with a distraction like having the dog fetch a toy or putting them in a down stay. You can also distract them by walking them away from this activity. It is important to correct the dog immediately when they first start to show this undesirable behaviour and make sure everyone interacting with the dog corrects them the same way. If the dog learns that you aren’t serious, that you think this is funny or that they can occasionally get away with it, the dog won’t follow your corrections or take them seriously.

More tips and tricks for training your dog can be found at ShelteHealthPro.com under Training and Behaviour Modification.

5. How can I deal with loud vocalizing and the smell from my cat’s spraying?

Things which specifically help with spraying (urine marking) would be to use proper enzymatic cleaners on the spot(s) to prevent your cat from going back to this spot(s) again. There are a number of very good enzymatic urine cleaners which can be found in any pet store or online.

Enzymatic cleaners contain enzymes that break down the urine molecules and eliminate the smell. Do not clean areas where your cat has urinated with an ammonia-based cleaner because to your cat it smells like another cat has urinated there and encourages your cat to do this again.

You can also make the spot(s) unpleasant so your cat will choose not to urinate in this area again. This can be done by putting a plastic carpet runner or tin foil on the area. This will discourage them from returning to those favourite spots in your home.

Feliway spray and Feliway diffusers are very helpful as these work by using pheromones. If you spray an area where your cat has urinated with Feliway then the pheromone will signal to your cat that this area is not one where they should urinate.

There are several different litter types and you may wish to use a more absorbent litter to help with the urine smell in the litter box. Also, at this time you should try to keep the litter box extra clean to encourage your cat to use it. Cats do not generally like heavy fragrance in their litter so be careful about adding anything scented to the litter.

The health, safety and well-being of our visitors, staff, volunteers and animals remains our first priority. Our spay/neuter services will be in touch with anyone who had an appointment booked to make them aware that appointment times will have to change due to the precautionary measure to close our clinics. We will do our best to resume appointments as soon as possible and appreciate your patience during this challenging time.

I stand behind SPCA with my monthly gift

I stand behind SPCA with my monthly gift. I am so happy there are folks like you to care for those who can’t help themselves.  My family and I have had animals all our lives and know what a comfort they are.  Thank you SPCA.

-Dorothy