‘Small dog syndrome’ – why a label could be harming your dog.

Isn’t it time we stopped calling it ‘small dog syndrome’- it’s called ‘lack of socialisation’, ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and it’s no laughing matter. It is a label that inappropriately generalises and tarnishes an entire population, and like a lot of generalisations, misses the target source of the problem and hinders a possible resolution. It also isolates many of those within the community unfairly which can itself lead to other issues.

We’ve all heard the term used and you know what I’m referring to. You and your well trained rottie are quite happily walking along the path, enjoying a pleasant, late afternoon stroll and then out of nowhere comes a small, white, fluffy dog barking madly from across the street and runs over and starts nipping at your terrified dogs’ heels, his tail now firmly fixed between his legs. The white dog’s owner comes following behind laughing and smiling proudly at her dog’s boldness as she picks her up and without even an apology to you, turns on her heels and trots merrily back leaving you fuming and your dog looking for the shortest way home.  No one here laughing.

Now. perhaps unbeknownst to the small dog’s owner, your dog, who was previously the friendliest dog in the neighbourhood, is now too nervous to walk his normal route because of this altercation and is now extremely wary of any small statured canine. You now have to struggle to get him to walk down the beach without him skulking partway up the sand dunes to avoid any dog smaller than a beagle and now you are anxious everytime a white, fluffy comes within 10 metres. Why?

Well if anyone is familiar with dog behaviour, or human behaviour for that matter, you will know what can happen if someone is fearful and put in an uncomfortable situation. They can strike first, anticipating something bad is going to happen to them and they will try and protect themselves from any perceived threat. Their previous tolerance for inappropriateness has now fallen and in this case of maltese v rottie, guess who will come off second best in an altercation? Guess who will be blamed if there is any injuries and guess who will be sought out by the rangers for a please explain?

So let’s consider what may actually be the problem behind what we term ‘small dog syndrome’.

Lack of leadership –

Dogs depend on their human owners for appropriate leadership. If an owner is aware that their dog has a tendency to nip or bite other dogs when unprovoked, then it should be under adequate control at all times when in public, for its’ own safety and for the comfort of all those around it. A dog that is known to bite other dogs, whether large or small, should be considered for wearing a muzzle when out. Biting another dog, or people, should not be encouraged, this also includes laughing at the situation and brushing it off with a remark such as ‘oh they just have small dog syndrome’. If your dog has started to become aggressive and the behaviour is out of character for them, then a check-up at the vet is recommended to make sure it is not a response to pain.

Lack of socialisation –

Being a smaller breed dog, it is not uncommon for them to be mostly homebody dogs without as much contact with the outside world as their larger breed counterparts. They may have owners that are not able to actively walk them each day, or their smaller size has marked them as not needing stimulating outside activity. They may have another small breed mate at home and so their socialisation is mostly with each other, therefore not learning how to behave appropriately with different breeds and different temperaments of dogs.

Inappropriate behaviour –

So from lack of socialisation and lack of leadership, the dog finds itself reacting based on the experiences and guidance they have been given. They lack the foresight to know that if they bring their knife to a gun fight with a german shepherd, the consequences are serious for them if their opponent retaliates. They can’t know that if they run across the road and start nipping at the heels of a passing runner that they might run into the path of a car. Their inappropriate behaviour has consequences for them that they can’t foresee… but we can.

This makes it the owner’s responsibility to show leadership. In my opinion there should be no hiding behind ‘small dog syndrome’. Smaller breeds that bite and appear aggressive can often have a brave outer exterior that is really just hiding from anxiety and fearfulness, through no fault of their own. They are in unfamiliar situations and are reacting from a place of fear. They should be appropriately socialised and trained at a young age with all different breeds and all groups of people so that they are comfortable in all environments. If they have behavioural issues, then these should be addressed. Anxiety can be a debilitating disease, as anyone that has dealt with it can attest. Dogs are not immune to it.

Having a small dog that bites, or is just inadequately trained, is no better than a big dog that bites or has no manners. The wounds, although perhaps not obvious by visual inspection, can be just as damaging and felt longer term for everyone involved, but it is something that is totally preventable if we just recognise it for what it may be. Lack of leadership, lack of socialisation and simply, inappropriate behaviour. Call it for what it is and not simply label it as ‘small dog syndrome’ because no one is laughing.


Dr Naomi

The new parvo strain. Should you be worried?

sick puppy

As has recently been published in the media, researchers have identified a new strain of the potentially fatal parvovirus in Australia, the Type 2c strain. Now the word new, has understandably had dog owners a little panicked and concerned as to what this means for their dogs and whether they are protected with their current vaccinations. Here are the important things to know;

  • The Type 2c strain is new to Australia but has been around for many years in other parts of the world.
  • Due to our relative isolation, it is often the case that we will see diseases here a lot later than in other areas.
  • The vaccines that have proven to be effective for the Type 2c strain overseas, are the same vaccines that are already in use here for the prevention of other strains of parvo.
  • Testing for this ‘new’ Australian strain is the same as for any other, and research suggests is as accurate.
  • There is no evidence to show that the Type 2c strain is any more or less of a concern than the current parvovirus disease we see here in Australia.
  • Any unvaccinated dog is at risk of contracting parvovirus and even with supportive treatment, there is no survival guarantee.

Ok, but what should you do for your dog?

Vaccination has been, and still is, the number 1 way to ensure that your dog has the best protection against parvo. Any type of parvo. Keeping up to date with vaccinations as per your vets recommendations will ensure your pet is not put at unnecessary risk of contracting this deadly disease.

But I heard that the dogs’ found with this ‘new’ strain were already vaccinated??

Vaccinations are the best form of prevention for parvo however there are important things to consider.

  • Maternal antibodies passed on to pups from mum can interfere with a vaccines’ effectiveness which is why they require a course of vaccinations.
  • Puppies are not considered to be fully protected until 2 weeks after their final needle is given and so should be isolated appropriately until this time.
  • It is important to follow your vet’s recommended guidelines for follow up vaccinations to ensure continued protection.
  • Unfortunately, like most things in life, nothing is 100% guaranteed. Occasionally a dog may not respond to a vaccine. Thankfully though this doesn’t happen very often and is why it is important that all dogs that can be vaccinated, are.  This keeps the prevalence of the disease low, and any ‘non-responders’ are kept in a low risk area. This is what is referred to as ‘herd immunity’ and why it is just as important as in people.

What symptoms should I look out for with parvovirus???

The most common symptoms to watch for with parvo is vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, lethargy and inappetance. Don’t delay in contacting your vet if your dog is showing these signs, and because it is such a contagious disease, it is important that you isolate a dog with these symptoms.

What now????

So yes, there is evidence that another strain of parvovirus is in Australia, however there shouldn’t be cause for alarm provided that you follow the vaccination protocol as recommended by your vet. Unvaccinated dogs are at risk of contracting the disease, so please remember that prevention is key. And just because your dog may not ever leave your property, doesn’t mean the virus can never enter.


Dr Naomi.





As useless as t**s on a bull!

My first introduction to this well known Australian saying was from one of my mum’s best friends when I was quite young. It was often bandied about when they were talking over a hot cup of coffee and discussing the weeks’ events. Now I wasn’t always too sure as to who or what it was used to reference, but as I grew to find out, whoever or whatever it was, wasn’t very useful.

And it was this very saying that sprang to mind the other day when I saw whilst driving, something I wish I never saw, but see all too frequently. Two people walking their dogs along a main road, with the dogs off lead about 10 to 15 metres in front of them, and their dogs’ lead in their hands. I always shake my head at this and can never understand what the purpose of it is. The lead is only useful if it is attached to the dog. I must be missing something.


Now I realise that some of you may be reading this that say ‘my dog is always so well behaved and they always come when I call and we have never had an issue’. Well to you I say that this is what I commonly hear when treating a hit-by-car dog that has come off second best after being clipped on the road by a car weighing over a tonne. The number of times you got home safely before doesn’t help ease the pain from your dog lying on the treatment table. And the fact that it could have been easily prevented by clipping a piece of cord to their collar makes it even more painful, for them and for the vet.

I will admit though, just to be fair, that there has been a couple of occasions where I have treated a dog that was struck by a car whilst on a lead. The first time the lady was doing the right thing and walking the dog on lead…but through the car window whilst she was driving the car! The dog got caught under the front tyre, thankfully he wasn’t too badly injured. The second was through no fault of the owner, where both her and her dog were  struck by a drunk driver who had mounted the kerb. The rest of the many, many dogs in hospital from motor vehicle accidents were off lead at the time… through no fault of their own.

I know what it’s like to have a dog that is extremely obedient and who you would trust 99% of the time to do the right thing. My old boy Harry, was very obedient and won many awards and titles for his obedience, but he was never given the responsibility of having to understand the consequences should he step onto the road at the wrong time and I understood that no matter how clever he was or could be, I was the adult and he was the dog.


Crazy time

I couldn’t predict what he would do under every situation and on any particular day. Because at the end of the day, he had his own mind, and whether it be a dog, cat, child, or adult, sometimes they choose to do things because they want to and although they know they shouldn’t, they do it anyway. But for dogs at least, they don’t always understand the consequences, hence our responsibility as dog owners.

Now put aside my vet hat for a moment and consider the other reasons to keep your dog on a lead. Depending on the shire laws in your area, most say that dogs are to be on lead in public areas at all times and rangers can fine you if they are not. This is for the safety of them, other people, and as well as for other dogs. Not all people are comfortable around dogs, I know my mum would cross the street if she saw a dog coming the other way and it was off lead, even if it meant going way out of her way.


I know it is important for your dog to have some responsibility, some fun and run around with some freedom and there are designated places for that, but by a road, with disaster only ever a second away, is not the ideal place for it. If your dog doesn’t like walking on lead, take them to a designated exercise area, somewhere with a lot of space and not too  close to roads or where other dogs will be bothered, that it is safe to let them off. If you want to explore how obedient they are, spending some quality bonding time together and joining a dog obedience club is a fantastic way to do it.


Unfortunately, as life is so unpredictable and brings with it so many uncertainties, we are not always able to protect our dogs from harm and keep them safe, but for those times that we can, why wouldn’t we?

Dr Naomi

Is your stress making your pet sick?

Life can be quite stressful at times. As Forrest Gump quite aptly put it ‘ Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get’ and this can be a scary prospect. Whether it’s work, relationships, money matters or the mere fact that Christmas is only 43 days away (gasp from the audience!), life has its’ moments that try us all.

But what impact does stress have on our pets? Have you ever considered that stress that affects you, is also impacting on the other members of your family? Ever remember when you were a kid and you could hear your parents arguing in that familiar raised whisper, and your mum shushing your dad if the volume got too loud as she was worried that the kids would hear. Kids pick up on these things and it worries them too because they don’t know that it may just be a ‘for the fifteenth time don’t leave your socks on the bathroom floor kinda argument’ or something more serious.  And it can be this kind of unknown that can cause the kids to worry and hence take on some of the stress that we are feeling.

Our pets are the same. We all know that animals are good for our health and can help lower our blood pressure and reduce anxiety, but have you noticed how they react when you raise your voice, either at them or at someone else, or if you are having a bad day and burst into tears? I know my old boy used to go and hide if I started crying. He was a sensitive soul and didn’t like it when I was upset, but also a typical male and didn’t know what to do either, so would disappear behind the T.V. and only come out when he thought the coast was clear.


Animals are very intuitive and also very sensitive to our feelings so it makes sense that if they feel some disharmony within the household, or are faced with emotional stress from the people around them, they will pick up on it and some will transfer to them. They don’t understand the cause of the stress and whether it’s nothing to be concerned about, like your team is winning by 1 point in the final quarter and the ball has just been marked by the opposition in their 50 metre forward line and the siren has just gone. Or, is it something more important, like your partner has just been laid off and you don’t know how you’re going to afford next month’s rent.

Whatever the stress, it can impact on them and inadvertently cause stress. How many of us know that one person who, when their dog sneezes, immediately calls the vet or heads to (sigh) Dr Google for a list of possible causes and diagnoses and then freaks out when they look at the worst case scenario? Chances are, Rufus has just been out playing in the dirt and has got some up his nose that has irritated him. But I get it. I know how important our pets are to us, but we also have to be mindful that when we stress over every little thing they do, or don’t do, that it can cause them to take up that anxiety too because if they know you are stressed or anxious, automatically they feel they need to be on guard.


Stress and anxiety affects people more and more in our society now, and subsequently this has to have a roll-on affect to our pets. Behavioural issues and some health concerns can be caused by stress, as we know it does in people. Stress has a lot to answer for! But what can it do to our pets? Stress causes an increase of cortisol into the body and this can reduce inflammation, but can also affect many different body systems. Anyone that has a dog who is scared of thunderstorms or fireworks, may have noticed that distinct foul odour that emanates from their behind during these events and then may have a case of the squirts for the next day or so. Stress can also cause inflammation to the skin and hence a rash or itch develops which we may put down to the changing season or something they may have rolled in.


Persistent and chronic stress also lowers the immune system and therefore, can lead to normally harmless bacteria and other microscopic organisms, opportunistically taking over in the gut or the skin and causing disease. Cats, although most would tend to deny it, are not immune to stress either. Overgrooming can be an indication that your furry feline friend has some unresolved issues and vomiting too can be a result of anxiety. And need we be reminded of inappropriate toileting in the house that can be the ultimate cry for help.


Stress is a powerful entity. We know how it affects us outwardly, but do we really consider what damage it is doing to us inwardly? And to our pets? How many times have you gone on holidays only to get sick for the entire time? Our body has been running on empty for months but has been coping to keep you going, and finally lets down it’s guard when you relax but is so depleted at this point it has no reserves to fight, and you normally get the worse cold of the season, at the worst possible time. But it’s because we haven’t recognised the stress, or we haven’t let our bodies recharge to be able to deal with the next influx.

Our pets are pretty good at recharging their batteries and will sleep when they are not feeling the best or when they’ve had an energetic few days, or just when there is nothing much going on so that when it’s time to go, their battery is full. But persistent stress around them, from whatever source, can deplete them too and can lead to disease, so it’s important to acknowledge what impact our stress has on them and what other stressors they may have in their life.

Whether it be a change of food that doesn’t agree with them, the new neighbour’s cat, or our helicopter parenting over them that has them questioning if they really do have a sore throat and ‘oh my god, what if I can’t go to the park this afternoon coz I’m sick’!!! Stress affects us all and at some times more than others, but just as we should, where possible keep your pets’ stress to a minimum, so they can keep enjoying life and bringing that much needed joy to ours.

Dr Naomi





It’s ok, my dog is friendly… well mine has manners!

What would you do if a stranger came running towards you at pace and you didn’t know if they were going to mug you, attack you or give you a big hug and a box of chocolates? I’m thinking you would be scared, nervous or ready to reach into your pocket and open a big can of whoop-ass and see if your early morning boot camp sessions had finally paid off.

Well, this is no different to how a dog feels when they’re out enjoying the sun and taking a carefree stroll with their owner, and a four legged furry bounds through the idyllic scene to create confusion and chaos. Forty metres away you can see the rogue pooches’ owner waving and yelling ‘he’s friendly’ then returning to texting and sipping a latte. Meanwhile, depending on how your dog is processing this inappropriate behaviour and intrusion, you have to negotiate quickly the likely outcome and be able to control two dogs to avoid a stoush and pop the bubble on your quiet afternoon walk.

You see, what the other owner hasn’t considered when calling out ‘he’s friendly!’, is three very important things;

  1. What is the temperament of the dog I have allowed Rupert to ambush unannounced and am I putting Rupert at risk?
  2. Does the other dog have any physical ailments that would cause them to fear bite in anticipation of being hurt
  3. Dogs are required to be under the owner’s control when in public places. AT ALL TIMES! (and if your dog is running away from you and towards someone else with a full head of steam, it doesn’t count! )

But probably the most important point and would come before 1, not all dogs and people want to be bothered or socialise when out on their walk. For many, it is a bonding time when out on their daily stroll and prefer each other’s company, and not to have every Tom, Dick and Harry wander through interrupting without as much as a ‘How do you do?’. Where are their manners?


Who is a regular beach go-er with their dog and dreads summer?  Seeing the ‘only in hot weather’ owner who walks down at the entrance, takes off their dogs’ lead and then says ‘Seya in half hour Max’ because they see the beach as a free-for-all playground where the dog can burn off their excess energy and where no obedience is required.

It all comes down to basic manners, remembering you are in charge and responsible for your dog’s behaviour and how they act is a reflection on you. Social behaviour from dogs can be appropriate and inappropriate, regardless of temperament, just like in people. If your dog wants to play when they’re out, approach the other dog owner and ask if it’s ok. Choose dogs with similar energy levels and temperament. And if your dog does behave inappropriately, acknowledge it and consider what you need to do for it not to happen again.

And remember… some dogs are just more person-friendly and don’t enjoy other dogs’ company like yours might. Just like people somedays, when after a stressful day at work, all you want to do is sit in front of the t.v. and where your only companions are your dog and a big block of chocolate.


Dr Naomi 🐶


Sit, stay, pee; obedience 101.

Hands up who loves wandering around in the garden in the rain waiting for your dog to wee so you can go to bed. Nobody? Yep I didn’t think so. You would think that your dog would know that once they have done their business you can both go back inside to the warmth, yet still they keep wandering around and then look up at you like ‘is she crazy it’s raining, what are we doing out here?’.

I taught my gorgeous kelpie Harry to wee on command. This came in handy for many occasions,  not the least on rainy, wintry nights when I didn’t want to have to venture out of the back door. When he wanted to come in for the night, I opened up the door, said ‘go do wees’ and he would trot off to the lawn, do his thing, and run inside and tuck himself in to his bed. No middle of the night taps on the hand to let him out, we both had an uninterrupted, peaceful nights sleep.

Training your dog, or cat for that matter, is about putting words to actions and it’s about repetition and being consistent.  When we want them to sit, we tell them to sit and then reward them with praise or a treat when they do the appropriate action. Unless you put a verbal command or signal to something you want them to do, it’s  like putting Ikea furniture together with no instructions. Yes they will figure it out eventually, but life will be much simpler and less frustrating for them, and you, if it’s made clear from the start what they need to do.

So how do you start them on the path to success? Start early. And when I say early, I mean when you bring them home. So either as a puppy or kitten or as a newly adopted rescue. Dogs are never too old to learn and giving rescue dogs tasks to do will help them settle into their new home, make them feel like a part of the family, and help reduce some of their inevitable anxiety about being in a new environment.

In the case of weeing on command, know the times when they are likely to do what you want to reward. For example, just after they’ve eaten or just after they’ve had a long nap or have been on a long car ride. You may need to put them on lead and guide them around t h e yard the first few times to get them started. Tell them what you want and put a word or phrase to it and keep it consistent.  So for me it was ‘do wees’ and I would wander around with Harry and say the words and when he was getting ready to wee  I would say them again and when he did it I would praise him and we would go back inside.

It didn’t take long for him to associate the words with him toileting and once he figured it out he was much quicker at it because he knew once he’d done it he could come inside for the night, or carry on doing something more exciting without me following him around like a stalker. But you need to be clear about what you want and clear about marking the right behaviour and doing it consistently. Putting words or signals to actions and rewarding that behaviour when they get it right will lead them on the path to success. And don’t get discouraged or punish them if they make a mistake or take longer than you thought.

Mistakes will happen and some dogs will learn quicker than others. But also consider if you are not being clear enough or not consistent enough. Pet obedience is as much about teaching us as it is about teaching them. Is everybody in the household on the same page? Things can get confusing for our pets if they have several words for the same thing or they are being rewarded for one thing one time and something else the next. Make it as simple for them as possible. We want them to succeed.

We can teach our pets so many things and it’s in everyones’ interest. Dogs love learning, it keeps them stimulated and they love to please us. Start with the basics and it’s onwards and upwards from there. No more cold nights getting soaked in the rain whilst your dog walks the perimeter mumbling under his breath that he’s missing the end of NCIS for this. Let them know what you want so you can both get back inside.

Dr Naomi 🐶







Life as a vet; it’s probably not what you think

Whenever I tell someone what I do for a job,  generally the first reaction is ‘oh i always wanted to be a vet’ and that was also true for me.  For as long as I can remember, whenever any one would ask the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, without hesitation I would always say a vet.

Looking after sick animals always seemed like the ideal job for me, I loved animals and never wanted to see them suffering and I wanted to be able to make them better. How rewarding that seemed, imagine if your job was to make all the animals well again and not be in any pain.

However, as I found out, that’s not always the case, and being a vet isn’t all puppies and kittens. But what are some of the other things people may not know about being a vet.

  • Being a vet isn’t about the money

For anyone that is considering being a vet because you have aspirations of buying that two storey house on the beach, you may want to reconsider. It always made me laugh when I was at uni my partner would say ‘hurry up and finish your degree, I want to retire.’ I didn’t want to crush his dreams but having worked as a vet nurse for years prior to starting my degree, I knew vets were one of the lowest paid graduates and many of my colleagues had kept their other part time uni jobs just to help pay their bills whilst they got on their feet.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that medical equipment and services cost the clinics a lot to be able to provide, and much of the equipment used is the same as in human medicine and the expense comes with it. And in some cases the cost is more, because the equipment is specifically made for each species. The difference with human medicine and cost is we have the luxury of Medicare so a lot of the time we don’t see the bill or only see a small percentage of it.

A stay in a hospital bed for a couple of nights for us easily adds up into the tens of thousands, but either Medicare or our private health insurance cover it so we never see the entirety of the bill. We are very fortunate in this country that we have this provision as many countries don’t, and whether you get health treatment in those depends on whether you can afford health insurance. So it goes without saying then,  pet insurance is as important as food and bedding for a new pet owner.

  • You can’t save everyone

This is one of the toughest lessons to learn as a vet. Why did I want to become a vet? I wanted to make them better. Knowing that there are some animals that no matter how much you want to, you just can’t make them better is a tough pill to swallow. This is your job. This is what you dreamed of doing.  Why can’t you help everyone?

It’s a harsh reality to come to and on days when you lose a patient, it can be incredibly tough to deal with. We feel the pain along with the families of the beloved pet, because at some point we have lost our pets too and no matter what we did, we couldn’t save them either.  Sometimes the job just sucks, but we come back again the next day because we know there are other animals that need our help.

  • This isn’t a 9 to 5 job.

Yeah sure the sign may say the clinic closes at 6pm but I have never gotten home on time and nor do I ever plan that I will. Between writing up histories, insurance claims,  calling back owners to check how their pet is doing now they’re back at home, and the last consult for the night that often turns into an emergency and before you know it it’s 930pm and you have missed dinner with your family… again.

And once you are home the work doesn’t stop. There is research to do for cases, laying awake at night wondering if there is something else you could do to help the sick pup that isn’t getting better,  waking up at 2am because you’re worried about a surgery or think of another medicine that might ease the pain in an old geriatric patient. Being a vet is not something you can easily switch off from.

  • Taking animals home is a given

Three days into starting at my first clinic I called my partner and said ‘would you mind if i bring home a mum cat and her four kittens?’ Luckily he said he didn’t because they were coming anyway. They had been dumped at the clinic and their outlook was bleak unless someone could take them home and care for them until they were ready for adoption.

Instead of bringing home a new pair of jeans if you work in a clothes shop, or getting a discount on flights if you’re a travel agent,  working as a vet means bringing home litters of kittens to feed or fostering the healthy 7 yo dog that came in to be put to sleep because the owner was moving and didn’t have room for it anymore.  Ask vets where they get a lot of their own animals from and a good percentage will say from work.

Although at times our houses will be full, or hearts never are and we can’t bear to turn away an animal that needs our help. So instead of pulling an all nighter at the club, more likely our lack of sleep is from checking on the sick pup that came home with us or starting our next round of hourly feeds on the kittens that were found in the back of a shed down the road.

  • It is very emotionally draining

I find it funny when people say that they would love to be a vet because they would prefer working with animals than people.  The reality is that as a vet you spend a greater proportion of your time with people and trying to manage their emotions than you do with their pets.

Whether it’s counseling them on their options for treatment or listening to why their dog might be suffering from separation anxiety after they have been through a messy divorce, or that they can’t afford treatment because they have lost their job.

The sad fact of the vet industry is that within it is one of the highest rates of suicide. The emotional toll it takes with grieving families,  and the loss you yourself feel when an animal you have spent so much time caring for and looking after passes away. The emotional aspect is something you deal with day in and day out and it can become overwhelming.


So being a vet is not all you would expect.  It’s not a high paid job by any means, it’s long hours,  it’s dirty work, it’s stressful and at times can feel like all your work has been without reward. But on the other hand it’s satisfying,  it’s heartwarming,  it’s what makes getting out of bed at 3am for a call out worthwhile.  So ask me again what I want to be when I grow up and my answer would be, a vet.


Dr Naomi 🐱



Spring doesn’t mean just an abundance of flowers

Did you know there is a kitten season? Ever wondered why there aren’t dozens of kittens looking for homes in winter? It’s all due to the weather seasons and the amount of daylight.  During winter there is less daylight and so cats generally aren’t cycling and don’t come into heat.  But bring on the longer days and a cat can virtually fall pregnant by being looked up and down.  And it’s possible for them to be carrying two male cats’ babies at once!

Because of this, the importance of having your cat sterilised can’t be emphasized enough.  Kittens as young as four months old can become pregnant and therefore be mums by the time they are just six months. Still babies themselves 😢


Unlike dogs, cats can continually cycle during these longer days and so can have a number of litters before the end of summer. They can fall pregnant shortly after weaning a litter and even whilst nursing one.  It’s no wonder rescue groups and shelters are overflowing with kittens during the latter months, and no wonder the numbers are so high that sometimes there just aren’t enough resources to be able to keep them all.

Think having an indoor cat will solve the problem and save the need for sterilising? Unfortunately not. Indoor cats can cycle all year round due to the continuous pattern of light and render them kitten making machines.  So unless you’re a breeder, the only sensible thing to do is have your cat sterilised.


With the the winter solstice this year being the 20th of June, it’s not long now before the days start drawing out and the beginning of the cats’ mating season. So although spring seems a while away, now is the best time to plan ahead and book your kitty in to make sure no kittens arrive with the flowers and the allergies that is spring.


Dr Naomi 🐱

When is the right time to sterilise?

A lot of confusion seems to reign about this particular topic. I see much discussion about this on forums and around the place from everybody, and opinions from ‘it’s better for the bitch to go through a season first’ or ‘for larger breed dogs you should wait until maturity to ensure the growth plates don’t close prematurely’. And with anything related to medicine, there is always continuing research and studies conducted that seemingly tend to contradict the last.

In my opinion based on current evidence, there is no benefit to letting a bitch have a season first, and if you look at the fact that the risk of mammary tumours increase by 8% after their first heat and by 26% after their second, there is factual evidence to support the opposite and sterilise them before they have their first season. Not to mention the unwanted male dog attention that you get when there is a female on heat in the area. Male dogs will do whatever it takes to get the girl and superman feats are not out of the question.

Then as well you have the unwanted pregnancy issue to deal with if they have been successfully mated, another dilemma that has two opposing sides on when and if to sterilise if you suspect your dog has become pregnant, or to simply attempt to abort. These issues are often distressing for owners and the decision is difficult for them to make and easily prevented by spaying prior to the female coming into heat. And need I comment on the current issue of the numbers of unwanted animals being dumped and surrendered that could have been prevented with sterilisation.


Concerns about the orthopaedic impact of sterilising too early for large breed dogs are a valid issue for many, and some studies conducted show  that early age desexing (EAD) in some large breeds can predispose to cruciate disease and inadequate bone growth plate closures and also that it can cause urinary incontinence issues. It has also been reported in research of rottweilers that those with EAD had a higher incidence  of bone tumours. It is important to note though that early age desexing is generally referred to as being around 12 weeks, which is often a protocol for animal shelters, so this shouldn’t be confused with the average recommended age of 6 months.

 And with any of these studies, it’s important to consider varying factors that may skew results and although there is anecdotal evidence to show that incidences of these results can occur, it also pays to keep in mind that you may not be able to throw a blanket over all breeds/species and conclude that it relates to all or even to all individuals of a certain breed. In the study of the rottweilers with increased incidence of bone tumours for example, we know already that this breed is predisposed to them and so to say that early age desexing was attributable can be misleading to pet owners. For a lot of the studies conducted in large breed dogs, the evidence was purely anecdotal and didn’t prove to be of particular clinical significance whereas there is strong clinical evidence to support increased risk of mammary tumours and the consequences of these can, and often are, catastrophic.
For me, behavioural issues that can occur from late sterilisation is also of major concern. From inappropriate toileting and marking, to fighting and aggressive behaviours. I often find that owners believe that once they are sterilised that the behaviours will cease, but if they are more mature at the time of surgery, often these behaviours are now learned, and simply removing the hormonal influence will not alleviate the problem. It might be surprising to know that one of the more common reasons for surrendering or euthanasing an animal is due to behavioural issues. As a vet, one of the most difficult things to comprehend is euthanasing a healthy dog due to behaviour that could have been better managed if the dog or cat had been sterilised earlier.
This topic will remain one that is often debated, but in my opinion, based on what I have seen in clinical scenarios, there is no benefit, in general, to delaying sterilisation past the recommended six months. As with any medical issue however, it should always be managed on a case by case basis and with current advances and knowledge considered. I am always happy to discuss concerns with owners and believe I need to give them all the relevant information and recommendations, then based on that, they can make an informed decision on what they believe is right for their animals. As they say, knowledge is power!
Dr Naomi 🐶🐱