Dog Health Questions, Answered

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Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home answering questions today from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Tina and she asks, “Will neutering my male dog help with his marking issues? In the last six months he’s begun lifting his leg on various outdoor items and he never used to do this. Could it be jealousy over our toddler getting more attention or territorial? Will neutering help, and if not, what do you suggest I try?”

This is a tricky one. Absolutely, neutering may help because marking territories is often a testosterone-driven behavior. I think it would be important for you to be prepared for this to not go away completely. Behavioral modification might be helpful for you; maybe disciplining him when he marks things that he’s not supposed to or making it less desirable for him to approach those objects and mark on them.

Know that this is a frustrating behavior and consulting with a behaviorist might be helpful as well. In addition to potentially helping with his marking issue, neutering is going to be helpful in general for him, not only to prevent unwanted puppies but it will decrease his risk of certain types of testicular cancer.

The next question comes from Amy and she asks, “I have a 9-year-old Great Dane and he needs a dental cleaning. I’m wondering if it’s safe for a Dane his age to go under anesthesia.” This is a terrific question and I think it’s a really common concern for people with older pets. Great Danes have a shorter life span, so 9 is pretty old for a Great Dane. Obviously you’d want to have an exam by your veterinarian, but if he has no underlying heart issues and his blood work screens for any underlying disease, anesthesia should be just as safe for him as for a younger Great Dane.

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Oftentimes the amount of disease in the mouth is more harmful to the pet than the risks of anesthesia. If you have an exam with your veterinarian and you find underlying problems, such as maybe a heart murmur, or blood work shows that there’s some elevations in certain of the enzymes associated with organ dysfunction, you probably want to talk with your veterinarian in depth about whether the risks of undergoing anesthesia are worth cleaning up the amount of disease that’s in the mouth. It’s not always straightforward but your veterinarian should help you make that decision.

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