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Pets: Cat must see ophthalmologist

Q: Our elderly cat has had an eye infection for over a year. Our veterinarian prescribed Neo Poly Dex ointment and prednisone (steroid) drops, but neither has helped. Her eye is always red and swollen. Can you help?

– B.P.D., Henderson, Nev.

A: “A year is too long for this to be going on,” says Dr. Gregory Hammer, of Dover, Del., a past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “I’m concerned that there’s something else going on.”

Dr. Natalie Marks, a Chicago veterinarian, agrees and says that possibilities include the feline herpes virus (which would worsen with steroids), corneal abrasions, glaucoma and entropion (a condition in which a portion of the eyelid is inverted or folded inward against the eyeball, resulting in irritation and scratches to the cornea, sometimes leading to corneal ulceration or corneal perforation).

“The problem can likely be rectified, but it needs to first be identified,” says Hammer. “At this point, I suggest a visit with a veterinary ophthalmologist.”

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Q: When I purchased an Abyssinian kitten about 18 years ago, the breeder said I should have the cat neutered at 6 to 7 months old. Recently, I had the cat put to sleep due to old age. In searching for another kitten, I learned that now most breeders have kittens neutered before selling them. Does such early spay/neuter affect their growth and general attitude later in life?

– B.M., Hudson, Fla.

A: I’m sorry for your loss. And, yes, times have changed.

“Early spay/neuter is now routine in cats and dogs,” says Los Angeles-based veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber. “From a shelter perspective, it makes perfect sense, since overpopulation contributes to the reason why so many animals are found in shelters.”

The answer is somewhat different for dogs, since recent studies show some types of cancer may be more prevalent in dogs spayed or neutered at under a year old, particularly some larger breeds, Werber says. There doesn’t appear to be a similar issue in cats.

Also, in some individual small dogs, deciduous (baby) teeth that haven’t fallen out may have to be removed surgically.

“It’s an added expense and a second time of undergoing anesthesia around 12 weeks later if the dog is spay/neutered very early, so I suggest that some puppies may be better doing it all at once,” Werber adds.

When cats are spayed/neutered early, hormonal changes may contribute to weight gain. This is important since obese and overweight cats contribute significantly to the current epidemic of diabetes, as well as other problems related to excess weight. (There’s a helpful diet specifically for spay/neutered cats available from Royal Canin.)

“In dogs and cats, we’re still unsure of the hormonal impact of early spay/neuter,” Werber says. “No question, it’s a safe surgery; that’s not the issue. Medically, it’s also better to spay a dog or cat before the first heat.” Werber is not questioning the importance of spay/neuter. For one thing, spaying greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors. People who wait to spay their pets until after the second heat significantly increase the risk of such tumors.

“Ultimately, I believe when to spay/neuter is a personal decision that should be discussed between the veterinarian and the client,” Werber says.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to petworld@stevedale.tv. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.”