Yesterday, we quizzed your knowledge of spaying and neutering benefits.

Here are a few more points to consider:

5. Spaying or neutering affects personality.
False: Spaying or neutering won’t change a pet’s core personality traits like friendliness, playfulness or curiosity. However, it could reduce some unwanted behaviors, like frequent urination in females (to attract males) spraying in male cats (to mark territory).

6. You should spay or neuter your pet earlier rather than later.
True: You should talk to your veterinarian about the best age to spay or neuter your pet, but there are advantages to having it done while your pet is young. Younger pets may be less likely to experience complications from surgery. Shelters often spay or neuter pets as young as 6 weeks to 8 weeks old to help ensure that they don’t contribute to pet homelessness.

7. Pets who get “fixed” get fat.
False: Spaying or neutering does not necessarily mean your pet will pack on the pounds. The major culprits of obesity are inactivity and poor diet. Spayed, neutered or neither, your pet should eat a well-balanced pet food, go easy on the treats and get enough exercise to stay fit and trim. Ask your veterinarian for specific diet and exercise recommendations for your pet.

Want to know more about spaying or neutering? Check out this article in our Pet Health Library or read the Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet at the ASPCA’s website.

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Spaying and Neutering Benefits That May Surprise You

As a pet parent, you’ve probably heard about the importance of spaying or neutering your pets to avoid unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of dogs and cats without good homes. The ASPCA® estimates around 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide each year, and about  3 million to 4 million are euthanized. Spaying or neutering also offers health and behavioral benefits for your pet that may surprise you.

Check your spaying and neutering smarts with this true or false quiz. Ask your veterinarian for advice about your pet.

1. Spaying or neutering is risky and painful.
False: Like any surgery, spaying or neutering can have complications, but it’s a routine procedure and the risks are relatively low for healthy pets. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, so there shouldn’t be any pain during the operation. Your veterinarian can tell you more about the procedure and give you specific instructions for post-surgery care.

2. It can help prevent cancer.
True: Spaying a female pet prevents ovarian and uterine cancer and reduces the risk of breast cancer. Neutering will keep a male from getting testicular cancer and decrease his risks of developing prostate cancer. Spaying or neutering can also help your pet’s health in other ways by reducing the urge to roam and fight with animals that could pass on contagious diseases.

3. Spaying or neutering is expensive.
False: Spaying or neutering doesn’t have to be costly, and the significant health and behavior benefits can outweigh the expense. Plus, it’s an important step in reducing pet overpopulation and homelessness. Both Level 3 and Level 4 cover spay or neuter surgery. The ASPCA has a searchable database that can help you locate a low-cost spay/neuter program in your community.

Stay tuned for more spaying and neutering truths and myths over the next few days!

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Pet parents should keep an eye out for ticks, especially if they or their dogs have been walking through high grass.

As spring gets under way, lingering cool temperatures in parts of the US provide no refuge against one of summer’s worst scourges—ticks.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and bug specialist Dr. Kirby Stafford is advising pet parents to be vigilant.

“Oh yeah, the ticks are coming in,” said Dr. Stafford, chief scientist at the Department of Entomology at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, according to “They are out. Once temperatures hit even 40 degrees, the adult ticks will start moving.”

Every year, ticks sicken thousands of dogs, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The blood-sucking arachnids are vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, and their bites can cause painful wounds.

Diseases caused by ticks can be fatal if they are not treated, according to experts at the ASPCA ®. Other complications can include

• Blood loss
• Anemia
• Tick paralysis
• Skin irritation and infection

Ticks, like this adult female western blacklegged tick, can cause serious illness, including Lyme disease in dogs and humans.

Keeping an eye out for ticks
It’s important to thoroughly check pets for ticks after a romp in the woods.

Though tiny, ticks are visible to the naked eye. They typically live in tall brush and grass, attaching themselves to passing hosts, including dogs and humans. The parasites prefer to feed on the head, neck, ears and feet, but they can hitch a ride on any part of the body.
If you spot a tick on yourself or your dog, the CDC recommends that you remove it as quickly as possible. Here are some tips:

• Do not touch the tick with your bare hands. Instead, protect yourself with a tissue or gloves.

• Using tweezers, pull the tick upward with steady, even pressure. To avoid leaving parts of the tick within the skin, do not twist or jerk the tick. You may have to remove the tick’s mouth parts from the skin.

• After removing the tick, clean and disinfect the wound and your hands.

• Check with your veterinarian if you have questions.

To find out more about ticks and the diseases they cause, visit the CDC’s website. Learn more about Lyme disease and dogs from the ASPCA.



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ASPCA Happenings

Making Outside Walks a Walk in the Park

With spring upon us, you and your dog can bond over a stroll through the park.

With the warmer weather, you and your dog are probably eager to get outside. Depending on where you walk, you may encounter other people and animals, along with wildlife.

For your dog’s safety, our friends at the ASPCA® offer the following tips to help you better enjoy your time in the great outdoors:

•  Don’t let your dog leave home without being up-to-date on vaccinations. You never know what critters you might meet on the trail.

•  Retractable leashes are great on some walks, but keep an eye out for potential hazards. The leashes can get tangled on trees and bushes, and they’re hard for someone moving quickly—like a jogger or bicyclist—to see.

•  Carry water and drinking containers for both you and your dog. Dogs love streams and creeks, but so do microscopic beasties that can cause illness. Water from home is best for your pooch.

•  Teach your dog to leave passersby alone. To avoid potential conflicts, train your dog to come to you for treats when other walkers or nature lovers approach.

•  Clean up after yourself and your dog. As the old saying goes, “Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.” And paw prints, of course!

No matter where you walk, you’ll want to protect your best friend by making sure your current contact information can be located, either on an ID or through information on a microchip. Should your dog slip through the leash, you’ll increase your chances of being reunited with your best friend.

Also, before you hit the road, make sure your dog knows, at minimum, four commands: sit/stay, heel, leave it and come. These commands can help you avoid an encounter with wildlife or substances that could make your dog sick.

With vigilance and good training, a romp in the woods can be walk in the park for you and your dog!

For more information on dog walking etiquette, visit the ASPCA’s guide to urban dog walking, as well as its guide to hikes.

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In Case of Emergency: Tips for National Poison Prevention Week

It’s National Poison Prevention Week, so it’s a great time to take steps to protect your pet in case of an emergency. 

In the event that your pet ingests a hazardous substance, you may notice symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, lethargy, trouble breathing, or seizures.

Here are some pointers to follow if your pet is ill:

•  Stay calm, and don’t try to induce vomiting on your own. It may not be necessary, and you could risk injuring yourself or your pet.

•  Get help by calling your veterinarian or the ASPCA®’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 1-888-426-4435. The APCC may charge a $65 consultation fee, 80% of which is covered by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.

•  Have information ready, like your pet’s age, breed, what they were exposed to, when it happened, and any container or packaging information.

Also, a pet first-aid kit can come in handy for following treatment instructions from your veterinarian or the APCC.1

It should include hydrogen peroxide with 3% USP to induce vomiting, a large syringe to administer it, saline eye solution and artificial tear gel to lubricate eyes after flushing, and a mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid to wash contaminated fur.

But remember never to treat your pets without consulting a veterinarian first.

To get more tips and information on pet poison prevention, visit the APCC online. 

1 This blog entry is not intended to provide advice on individual pet health or behavioral matters or to substitute for consultation with a veterinary doctor.

Pet Blog - Pet Safety Advice for National Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week, which is March 20 to 26 this year, was established by Congress in 1961 to promote poison prevention in homes across America. This includes our pets as well.

In fact, the ASPCA®’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) fielded 167,000 phone calls about pets exposed to poisonous substances in 2010. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help keep your pets safe.

Common Poison Dangers
You may be aware of some poison dangers around your house, but some might come as a surprise. For instance, did you know that dryer sheets can harm your pets? They can contain detergents that cause gastrointestinal irritation, especially in cats.

Here are five other pet poison problems that could be lurking in your home. You should also ask your veterinarian for more advice about your particular pets.

1. People Pills
Prescription medications and over-the-counter painkillers, cold medications, and dietary supplements can be harmful to pets. Keep them out of paw’s reach in cabinets or high up on shelves. Pets can grab them off low nightstands or counters. Also, pick up dropped pills before your pets can gobble them up. And never give your pets any kind of medication without speaking to your veterinarian first.

2. Dangerous Dining
There are certain foods you should be wary of when it comes to your furry friends. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, and gum or candy containing xylitol can all be dangerous to pets. Why is chocolate so dangerous? It contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which can cause problems from vomiting to seizures. Other problematic foods include coffee, macadamia nuts, onions, salt, yeast dough, and garlic.

3. Perilous Plants
Plants that can harm your pets include lilies, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Lilies are very poisonous to cats, and can result in kidney failure even from a small nibble. Poinsettias can also be problematic, but they’re not as dangerous as you might think. They typically cause mild to severe tummy upset if eaten. Check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants to see if your plants are safe, and find some good green choices for your home.

4. Cleaning Supplies
Household cleaners like bleach, detergents, and disinfectants can be irritating and even toxic to pets. They can cause tummy troubles, eye or skin irritation, or difficulty breathing if inhaled or ingested by your dogs or cats. Take precautions when using these products. For instance, put your pets in another room while you mop, dust, and scrub. And, of course, keep cleaning supplies in a safe place.

5. Bad Chemistry
Pet poisoning incidents involving chemicals, like those found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinners, drain cleaners, and pool or spa treatments are on the rise. These substances can cause stomach upset, depression, breathing problems, and chemical burns. Don’t let your pets near chemicals when you’re using them, and store them securely. Also, clean spills right away so your pets can’t lap them up.

Animal Poison Control Center
If you think one of your pets has been exposed to poison, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) can help. The APCC is staffed with specially trained veterinary toxicologists available around the clock. They have experience with more than 1 million cases and access to an extensive database to diagnose problems quickly and offer treatment advice.

Keep the APCC hotline—1-888-426-4435—in a prominent location. A $65 consulting fee may apply, but 80% of this charge is covered by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. If you have any questions about your coverage, you can view your plan at the Member Center or call us at 1-866-204-6764.

Here is some great news for individuals looking to adopt: Our friends at the ASPCA® recently expanded their online adoption database nationwide! Now would-be pet parents across the country can easily find adoptable shelter dogs and cats through the ASPCA, which will also continue to feature adoptable dogs and cats in the its New York City shelter.

To begin a search, animal lovers simply enter their zip code into the database to receive a list of dogs and cats that are ready for a forever home in their area.

This new offering is made possible though the ASPCA’s partnership with DogTime’s “Save a Dog” and “Save a Cat” pet-finder applications.

Do you live in New York City? Don’t forget to check out the dogs available at the ASPCA Adoption Center! 

Visit the ASPCA online adoption center to learn more about their expanded database.

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ASPCA Happenings

Human medications rank No. 1 among pet toxins as the most common cause for calls to the ASPCA®’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) for the third consecutive year, according to a list published by the ASPCA.

The APCC received more than 167,000 calls in 2010 concerning pets exposed to potentially hazardous substances. About 25% of those calls were for pets who accidentally consumed human medications. The biggest culprits in this category include ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, antidepressants and ADHD medications. Often, mishaps like this occur when pets grab an interesting looking bottle off a counter or eat pills dropped on the floor.

Insecticides, rodenticides, people food that’s unsafe for pets and veterinary medications were also top causes for calls to the APCC last year. For the complete list of top pet toxins, visit the ASPCA website.

Remember, if your pet ingests something hazardous, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center can help at 1-888-426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may apply, 80% of which is covered by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. If you have any questions about your coverage, you can view your plan at the Member Center or call 1-866-204-6764.

Later this month, we’ll share tips to keep your pets safe in honor of National Poison Prevention Week, March 20 to 26.

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Pet Blog - Pet's Teeth Tips

Our friends at the ASPCA® recommend you brush your pet’s teeth ideally once a day or at least several times a week. These pointers can help you get started.

1. Introduce your pet to the idea slowly. Start by simply massaging the gums gently with your finger or a cotton swab.

2. After a few massages, let your pet taste the toothpaste by dabbing it on the lips. Use toothpaste made for cats or dogs, since people paste can be harmful to pets.

3. Next, get your pet used to the toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush designed for pets, or buy one you can wear on your finger, if you prefer.

4. Finally, put some of the paste on the toothbrush, and brush using a circular motion at a 45 degree angle to the gum line.
5. Your pet may not be the best patient at first, but he or she will probably get used to the idea over time, and maybe even enjoy it! Try to make teeth cleaning a fun activity with lots of praise, attention, and affection.

Visit the ASPCA’s website to read more about dog dental care or cat dental care.

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Pet Blog - Brush Up on Dental Care for National Pet Dental Month

February is National Pet Dental Month, which makes it a great time to check up on your pet’s teeth, especially if it’s been awhile or you haven’t done it in the past. Problems in your dog or cat’s mouth can lead to serious health problems in the future. Fortunately, these can be prevented with some good old-fashioned dental care, like regular dental exams and tooth brushing.

The Ins and Outs of Dental Health
Food and plaque can build up on your pet’s teeth, much like your own. If it lingers there, it can cause bad breath, gingivitis, receding gums, loss of teeth, damage to the tongue and palate, and oral infections. Some of these problems can make it hard for your pet to chew and eat, and they can cause more complications down the road.

To help avoid these issues, bring your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year for a dental exam. The veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth inside and out, and perform a professional cleaning. This can include anesthesia, X-rays, and ultrasonic teeth scaling. The cost of the exam can vary depending on the health of your pet’s teeth and gums. Our Level 4 coverage includes a yearly dental exam and cleaning.

5 Tips to Keep Your Pet Smiling
Here are some at-home suggestions for monitoring your pet’s dental health in between veterinary visits from our friends at the ASPCA. ®

1. The sniff test. Take a whiff of your cat’s or dog’s breath. It probably won’t smell fresh and lovely, but it shouldn’t smell foul or offensive, either. If you cringe at the scent, you should visit your veterinarian to make sure your pet isn’t suffering from digestive issues or gum disease.

2. Get a good look. Your pet may hide pain and discomfort, so it’s important to check his or her mouth regularly. Face your pet towards you, and gently lift his or her lips. Look around for inflammation, discoloration, ulcers, or loose teeth. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact your veterinarian.

3. Brush regularly. Brushing your pet’s teeth on an ongoing basis may sound like a daunting task, but it’s an inexpensive way to avoid potentially serious health problems in the future.

4. Check your pet’s diet. The food your pet eats can impact dental health. Crunchy pet food or a combination of dry and wet food can keep your dog or cat’s mouth cleaner than soft food, which tends to stick more. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pet food that’s good for teeth.

5. Offer chew toys. Pet toys made for chewing can perform double duty by satisfying your pet’s natural urge to chomp and by promoting dental health. Chewing massages the gums and can remove soft tartar. But be careful not to let your pet gnaw on hard toys that can injure his or her mouth or fracture teeth.

Later this month, we’ll share tips on how to brush your pet’s teeth!

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As we’re dedicated to making a difference for pets, we want to keep you informed about pet health topics and your ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Our blog will provide you with fresh, interesting and informative topics—from pet health tips and customer stories, to the latest industry news and a Pet Parent Q&A column. Most of all, we encourage you to share comments and join the discussion!

Meet the Author

Julia H.

Social Media Coordinator

Pet Parent to:

Lucy, an 8-year-old rescued Golden Retriever/Chow Chow mix

Blog Guidelines

While we’ll strive to present all viewpoints on this blog, comments will be reviewed before posting. Offensive or inappropriate language, off-topic remarks and comments containing personal policy information will not be featured.

Also, conditions discussed in this blog aren’t necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. For full coverage terms, conditions and exclusions, please refer to your plan.

As always, if you have a question about your plan, call us at 1-866-204-6764.

*Note: While these testimonials may include examples of recent claims payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.