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Pet Health and Medical Questions

Health & Medical
What does "brachycephalic" mean? This is a term used to describe pet breeds that have a "smooshed" face. It includes both dog and cat breeds; see the list below for those typically described as brachycephalic. These breeds are prone to upper respiratory problems making it difficult for the pet to get enough air.

Why does it matter? It matters because it creates an increased risk of anesthesia complications. For brachy pets receiving surgery at our clinic, we will administer Cerenia, a medication that helps reduce that risk. It is not included in the regular costs for spay/neuter procedures, so if you have a brachy pet you will see an additional charge on your bill.

Common Brachycephalic Breeds
  • Affenpincher 

  • American Bulldog 

  • Boston Terrier 

  • Boxers 

  • Brussels Griffon 

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

  • English Bulldog 

  • French Bulldog 

  • Japanese Chin 

  • Lhasa Apso 

  • Pekingese 

  • Pug 

  • Shih Tzu 

  • British Shorthair 

  • Himalayan  

  • Persian 

Why does my pet have to wear a cone after surgery? We direct pet owners to have the pet wear a cone, which we provide, for 10-14 days after surgery. This keeps the pet from licking the incision, introducing bacteria, reopening the site, and needing further surgery or antibiotics. It is the very best way to help your pet heal without complications.
Can my female dog or cat be spayed when she's in heat or pregnant? Short answer: yes. However, there is a higher risk of complications in both instances. If she's in heat there is a higher risk of bleeding and she must be kept away from male dogs for two weeks post-surgery. We strongly recommend that owners wait until the heat cycle is over. If that's not possible, we will perform the surgery and the owner will be required to sign a high-risk waiver, indicating that one is aware of the increased possibility of complications.

Pregnant females can be spayed, but again, there are higher risks of complications. The earlier in the pregnancy that we can get her in, the better. If we can see fetal skeletons on x-ray it is our policy for owned pets to advise the owner to wait until after she had delivered and weaned the litter. For owners in this situation we can assist with placing the new puppies or kittens through our Adoption Center. The spay surgery terminates the pregnancy and removes her reproductive organs. Again, owners will be required to sign a high-risk waiver acknowledging risk of complications.
I have puppies/kittens for sale; can I get their vaccines at your clinic? It depends. We strongly believe that the best route to reducing animal suffering in Alaska is through population control. We are not fans of casual breeding; there are too many puppies and kittens in shelters and adult homeless pets that end up euthanized. If you are selling puppies or kittens, you will not be able to get them vaccinated through our Vaccine Clinic. We are not going to subsidize your profits. If you want to schedule an exam for the entire litter, meaning that the vet is going to do a wellness exam for each of the little ones, you can have vaccinations done during the exam. For more information call the clinic at 907-562-2999 and ask about Litter Exams. 

Professional breeders work closely with their private vet to ensure that each litter is in some way improving the breed. So if you're a professional breeder, we want you to take those little ones to your regular vet for examinations and vaccines; it's all part of being a responsible breeder.

Adopting A New Pet

How do I introduce my new pet to other family pets?  It depends (sorry, I know that's not what you're looking for). First, understand the Rule of Three: It's going to take your new pet about three days to decompress/get used to the new environment; three weeks to learn the household routine; and three months before they are well and truly settled.  Here are some basic guidelines that will help that process along:
1.  Understand that not everyone is going to welcome the newbie happily.  We may ask you to bring a resident pet in to meet the prospective adoptee, but understand that it's a very different environment at home than at the shelter our out in public. Everyone--partners, kids, friends, and other pets--will need to be willing to make some adjustments as you're sorting out the new dynamic.
2.  Provide supervised opportunities to become familiar with one another. For cats, one of the best ways is to have a separate room for the new cat, complete with food, water, and litter box. Let the resident cat(s) and/or dog(s) become familiar with the scent and sounds of your new feline friend. It's okay if they sniff on each side of the door. You'll go in to spend time with your new friend--often, we hope--and let the other pets smell you when you come out of the room. After a day or two, you may try placing a sturdy pet gate across the doorway so that the newbie and resident pet(s) see and smell one another more, but the newbie still has a safe place if s/he is feeling stressed.  When those on both sides of the gate seem comfortable, allow supervised interactions. Initially, those should be brief so that everyone understand where they fit in the pecking order and that you are in charge.

The approach with dogs will be a little different. Try to have the first meeting between the new pup and resident pup(s) on neutral territory: a park, out in the front yard, or some place where the resident dog(s) has not claimed as his or her territory. Have a friend or partner control the resident dog on one leash while you have secure control of the new dog with a different leash.  Let them sniff (butt sniffing is dog for shaking hands), and then take them on a short walk together. Immediately correct any mounting or aggression and separate the dogs.  In the house, keep the new dog on a trailing leash at least for the first few days. This gives you an opportunity for control should something unexpected happen. If you have any concerns about possible fights have trailing leashes on the resident dogs, too. Lastly, supervise, supervise, supervise. If you turn them loose in the backyard without being there yourself something may go south, and you don't want that. In the best cases, the new dog is welcomed as a new pack member immediately, however, understand that it's a process.

3. Manage your expectations. The initial week may be rocky, but that doesn't mean the adoption was a bad decision. New beginnings are stressful for pets and people; offer a bit of grace to all involved. There may be potty accidents from both the resident pets and the newbies. Resident pets may not be thrilled initially to have to share you, space, and toys. With consistency on your part, all can learn to live together peacefully, just understand that it's a process.
How long does it take to adopt a pet with the Alaska SPCA? It's possible to adopt a pet on the same day that you meet him or her. However, if your pet has not been altered (spayed or neutered) yet or has unresolved medical conditions you may be placed in a "foster to adopt" status until treatment has been completed.

About the Alaska SPCA

The Alaska SPCA is a non-profit organization that has been promoting animal welfare since 1955. Our fundraising efforts are mainly focused on the local community and are more grassroots in nature. However, we are committed to providing the best possible care for animals in need. We work tirelessly to rescue, treat, and rehome animals, ensuring that they receive the love and attention they deserve. We take pride in being part of the community and are grateful to all our donors who support our mission.

Please note that we are not affiliated with the ASPCA.
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