SPAYING & NEUTERING YOUR PET, PART 1
Should You Spay Or Neuter Your Pet?
This is the companion article to our Pet Talk Podcast episode about this issue. You can listen to that podcast episode by clicking here.
We sat with Dr. Matthew Wheaton, the owner and medical director of Alicia Pet Care Center to talk about spaying and neutering your pet and the importance of that. The origin of this article is the podcast episode that the text was extracted from. As you may have noticed by the episode title, this is going to be two parts and it is going to cover a lot of information. We were going to just do this as a single episode, but once we started getting into the meat and potatoes of it, we realized it was too much information and we didn't want to skimp out on it just to make a shorter episode. So we broke it down into two even somewhat longer episodes for our listeners to digest all of this information and all of these different sides of the importance of spaying and neutering your pet. Whether you have a cat or a dog, we discuss what it means, and what that process is here, in surgery with the doctors.
This is, honestly, a huge issue. It's a big decision that everybody has to make that owns dogs and/or cats and that's where our discussion is basically going to be limited to, species-wise. Everybody has to make that decision: am I going to spay or neuter my dog or cat? When am I going to do it? Who am I going to do it with? How am I going to do it? You know, all those things are decisions that have to be made and these are important decisions that are going to affect the home life for that pet and for the family. They are important decisions that honestly can have an impact on the world because dogs and cats, if they were left to reproduce as they would like to, multiply in numbers that are just mind boggling.
If you take a male and female cat and you allow them to breed, and you allow for all of their offspring to breed: by the end of 7 years you will have 420,000 cats, from those two cats that started off. Same time period for dogs, will yield 78,000 dogs. That is quite a wake-up call for why this is actually a really important decision. It is why, for instance, when Dr. Wheaton traveled throughout Guatemala during Med school, he was walking through town on the very day that they were warning all of their residents that they were putting out bait that night. They would put out baits for the local stray dog population and the dogs eat the bait (a tantalizing mix with ground beef, etc.), get poisoned and die. That's how they deal with their pet overpopulation issue. Dr. Wheaton, of course, is an animal lover…but you need to look at the situation from a public health perspective. They don't have a system in place for people to actually go and spay their animals. So, if they allow their animals to walk around the neighborhood, they're going to reproduce.
So, it's a public health issue because if they have all these dogs and they don't do anything about it what are they supposed to do? Yes, they should have shelters and they should adopt them out. But to be honest with you, the pets are multiplying way faster than they can have homes.
They live a good long life if they are housed and taken care of. But you just can't have enough homes for all those animals. So, there has to be a way to make it so that they don't have to end up in shelters, be euthanized, killed one way or the other by some government entity or somebody else because they're just too numerous. So, it is a global issue. It's also an environmental issue and it's an ethical one. We need to make our choices and be a good example for the rest of humanity.
On that point, they are looking into actively ways to do this more easily and more cost effectively. It's very inconvenient to have a surgical procedure act as the means of sterilization of dogs and cats. Then you have to have a whole team, specialized training, equipment, anesthesia, etc. There's risk associated with that and there's a pretty significant cost and you need special facilities. That's part of the stumbling block here in this the solution to this problem. Which is why Dr. Gary Michelson has put a $25 million dollar award out there for whoever can figure out as a scientist the means to sterilize dogs and cats safely with something other than surgical procedure. There is an active search for that and it will happen I would imagine during my career so eventually, it’s highly possible that I will end up not really doing spays and neuters.
While we await that breakthrough, it remains a big decision for people because, in the instance of a kitten or puppy, you get this dog or cat in your house and you bond really tightly to it. Typically, it's a young individual when it's being spayed or neutered and it's scary for a lot of people. There is a financial hit because of the costs associated with it and there is planning involved. Furthermore, there are some consequences of doing it or problems that they might have to deal with that might make it so people are less likely to make the same decision the next time.
At Alicia Pet Care Center we're trying to make this a situation that is extremely safe, is extremely routine; not a worrisome day for an owner, a very affordable thing for a pet owner to embark upon and a pleasant experience. Also, as we like to say frequently here and practice regularly: this is an experience that we want to set everyone up for success… definitely, including the patient.
We’ve got some fairly groundbreaking information to share that a lot of people have probably never heard. So, this is not just a spayed or neutered dog talk… we believe it's a lot more than that.
Let’s start with: what happens if you don't neuter your male dog or cat? And we will start with dogs.
We have this image of the stereotypical male dog as this ripped pit bull that's intact, that's mean and wears a spiked collar and throws his weight around. Not all male dogs are necessarily going to turn into bullies. But, honestly, some of the most aggressive dogs that we encounter are intact, less than ten pound Chihuahuas. A little male Chihuahua that is three years of age or older that has not been neutered still is more than likely going to be an aggressive dog. So, if you have testosterone in your system it's going to push you to be a little bit tougher and it's going to push you to throw your weight around a little bit. That toughness is going to come in multiple different forms or ways of the personality changing. The dogs are going to be more likely to be aggressive, more likely to be dominant towards the owner or potentially the owner’s children, the family members at home and certainly much more likely to be aggressive towards other dogs. On a walk, it's not unusual to have an intact male dog cause trouble for you because it's going to share that energy with other dogs and it's just an unpleasant experience for a lot of people. So, aggression is one of those things that intact dogs will exhibit.
The next thing I think about is urine marking, which is kind of inevitable for a male dog. This is just based on how they are as animals out in the wild. These are evolutionary traits that have been there for a long time and have a real purpose: to protect and mark the boundaries of their territory. So, when you have an intact male dog you probably are going to have the intermittent lifting of the leg indoors or in an inappropriate area. It could be at your neighbor's house, or in the backyard when you're there for a barbecue. Dogs have a proclivity to urine mark everything that is vertical: the post of the easy-up that you're sitting under, having a nice barbecue. The dog walks up and lifts its leg and marks that post. Or you take your dog down to the local coffee shop and you're trying to have a chill moment with your friend and your dog is trying to mark people's chairs. The extreme of this, which is not at all uncommon or absurd is: how many times have I had my leg peed on? That has most definitely happened. That is extremely embarrassing when it happens and it's kind of inevitable that every male dog eventually is going to do that. They don't usually do that right away. Some dogs will kind of start around seven or eight months, when they start to go through puberty. So, urine marking is another visible and unwanted behavior issue.
They obviously are being pushed by testosterone in other ways as well, including sexually. So they're more likely to be a little inappropriate with some behaviors at home. Some dogs are going to choose a pillow or a stuffed animal or something like that to kind of have as their little “friend”; their little “hump buddy”. By the way, if your dog has recently started to do this, you should immediately take that hump buddy away. I've seen dogs that have had these really extremely gross hump buddies for, believe it or not, eight to ten years. The dog carries it around the house and then it just kind of gets accepted like it’s the dog’s security blanket. But, this is much more (and much worse) than a security blanket. So, just go ahead and get rid of that. That’s really a side note. What we really wanted to inform you of is the more scary stuff…the roaming nature that is going to happen. This may not happen as much here in South Orange County, but it certainly happens worldwide: a male intact dog is basically always in heat. When there is a female dog that’s in heat, they're going to release a ton of smell, pheromones, and odors and such. That stuff is going to waft through the air and you’ll probably have a half-mile radius on where that odor is going to go. So, without the humans being aware, your male dog wants to get to that female dog. So, breaking through your fences, getting through the hole in the fence, jumping over the fence…escaping one way or another to go find that local Lolita, who is happening to be in her special time. Hank is going to break out of the backyard and go find his Lolita, however he has to accomplish this. Now you have that potential hit by car or lost dog kind of story, so that's another largely undesirable issue.
There's a lot of medical things as well with an intact male dog that will eventually happen to some. One thing that's really scientific, normal and easily grasped is that testosterone, which can be coming from the intact male dog through the testicles -- those are organs that are secreting a hormone. So, testosterone is going to be constantly released, the prostate gland is going to be constantly stimulated and that leads to growth of this prostate. Think of it as a muscle in a way. If you constantly stimulate a muscle, it's going to get bigger. By the time you have an eight to ten year old male dog, it's very possible that prostate is so big that it's actually pinching on the urethra and not allowing urine to pass. Then you have a urinary obstruction that ends up down at the hospital for an expensive procedure to get unblocked which also includes the need for an emergency neuter. That's a pretty common problem. It's not a life-threatening condition if it's treated, but it can definitely be an emotional thing to deal with later on in life. An intact male dog will be more prone to develop tumors around the anus that are typically very intimately associated with the anus itself. They're more difficult surgeries and these tumors can be recurrent as well. Most obvious of all, if the testicles are there, there’s a real risk of testicular cancer. It goes without saying, if the dog is neutered and the testicles are gone, there's no risk of the testicles having cancer. Those are the big issues on the medical side of things for male dogs.
Male intact cats have a little less of a negative story… but in a way, it's kind of a bigger deal for the owner of that cat than for the actual cat.
Let’s start with a blanket statement on this: if you have an intact male cat it is a very bad thing for the local cat population to be out there fighting and impregnating other cats and potentially spreading disease through multiple fight incidents, etc.
So, male cats become basically more territorial. They can be a bit more aggressive; sometimes that aggression will play out towards the family members… again, kind of throwing their weight around and being a little pushy. I would say this pushy attitude is more likely to go towards someone on the periphery because they are not in that cat’s family.
I think one of the biggest issues is urine. So, just like the male dog, the male cat is going to want to mark their territory and they typically do it in response to other perceived threats. So, if you have an indoor only cat, an intact male cat is much more likely to mark territory in response to a roaming cat outside. So, if there's an outside cat, some neighbor lets their cat out temporarily and it goes by a window (not even an open window) and the intact male cat inside the house sees that: he’s going to see it and perceive it as a threat. He's extremely likely to urine mark around that area to have the scent of his urine push that other cat away, push it back from his perceived territory line. The cat outside is not going to be able to smell this through the window but, to be honest with you, the potency of that urine is so high that it's possible they might smell it. It's really smelly. And this could go into category of understatements of the year.
A male cat develops a really strong, pungent urine. Occasionally we'll get a two year old cat that comes in and I will ask our clients, straight up: “How can you even endure the smell of this cat's urine?” because even if it's in the litter box, it's going to smell up the entire house… it's so strong. So, that's something that we can avoid. If we do neuter a male cat that has that really pungent urine, within about two weeks it's back to kind of a normal smell. It's kind of interesting to get back to the kind of normal stinky cat pee.
Those are the big things for a cat. I think the consequences of not neutering the male cat are big, but maybe not as numerous as with a dog. The male cats don't really have too much of a medical problem from being intact. The fact remains, however, that they're just constantly wanting to be outside. They're really pushed by testosterone to be what they are supposed to be. I would say in the wild they should be an amazing hunter and a very tough individual that also hopes to spread their seed far and wide. It makes sense for them… but you don't really want that in your house.
This is a great time for us to remind you of our podcast episode all about cats. There are numerous bits of information in that episode that will really open your eyes to the nature of the feline. If you are a cat owner, you should check out that episode after these on spaying and neutering. You can listen to our podcast episode about cats by clicking right here.
The female dog is a bit more dramatic on the medical side. There are some pretty significant potential consequences to a female dog not being spayed. A female dog -- and a male dog to some extent -- up until about six or seven months, is pretty much going to be just a neutral individual. They're not driven by their hormones, because there are no hormones yet. So, they don't have these individual characteristics that are notorious like we talked about with the stereotypical intact male dog. We have a different stereotype on the intact female dog which is maybe just as tough or maybe tougher. That is the term “bitch”. It’s the proper term for an intact female dog. This started as an animal term and then got co-opted towards the human side of things. A female dog is a very grumpy, pushy individual especially when they are near the time of being bred. So, they're just about to go into heat, but not quite there, and then they can be extremely protective over their young so that's why that term got taken over by humans to have a similar but different meaning. An intact female dog obviously can be a problem child of maybe being a little bit bossy and pushy; she doesn't want to be told what to do and is aggressive and, honestly, she can be a downright scary individual, being mean and lashing out at people or other animals that are in the area. Additionally, they go into heat usually right around nine months of age. There's a little variation there, but it's typically somewhere between eight and ten months that they go through their first heat cycle and if you've not dealt with this, I think you should thank your lucky stars. Because the heat cycle is not that fun.
A female dog that goes into heat will basically cycle through a process of having eggs that are ready to be fertilized through mating. Then there's sloughing of different things going on through the uterus and the dogs bleed… actively and that comes out of their vagina. It cannot really be easily stopped and almost everybody has to do a diaper situation on their dogs, which is also not fun. Diapers have to be changed, the dog has to be cleaned. This is a very annoying process and it's kind of a logistical mess and frustrating for almost everybody that goes through it. And that happens every six months. So, every six months they go through this whole cycle all over again and do their thing. For an owner who is not necessarily going through this for a reason (i.e.: dog breeding), this is a tremendously painstaking process. But that process does a lot of things hormonally and if a female dog goes through one heat cycle (again, typically around nine months of age or so), they increase their breast cancer risk from zero to eight percent.
So, if you spay a female dog prior to her first heat cycle, prior to her going through puberty, you virtually lock in place that neutral gender. You are basically neutralizing the gender and turning it into not a male and not a female, but kind of this in between, non-gender gender. If you look at breast cancer: what happens after the second heat cycle is that the odds increase even more. After the third heat cycle, around 21 months of age: that's now a 25% risk factor for breast cancer development. That's pretty intense. Honestly, you can contribute to a 25% chance of cancer by making the choice to not spay your dog. I think that is a heavy thing. I mean, there has to be a reason for that. If you're going to do that and create that risk, you better be getting something incredible out of it.
Breast cancer breaks down into roughly 50% are malignant and 50% are benign. So, benign doesn't mean: no problem. Benign cancer can grow and grow and grow and can ulcerate and bleed and cause all kinds of problems. The only thing the benign tumor does is make it so that you don't lose your dog to cancer; you still have to go through the process of dealing with the cancer. Which means you have to do a surgery. Which puts the dog at risk and costs money, to name a couple of tie-ins. So, that's really, really, important. And we're not done with this conversation yet. Let's say that you decide: “I'm just done. I'm tired of this and I’m not going to do this anymore. It's a pain, it's messy, and it's gross. I'm going to finally spay my female dog.” If you spay your dog after the third heat cycle, say at three years of age, she still has a 25% chance of breast cancer. You didn't minimize it by spaying her after the fact. So, that's a big bummer. Malignancies obviously take dogs down. That's a cancer that spreads. They typically spread via lymph nodes, so you get these super huge lymph nodes in the back of a dog's abdomen… you just can't win the battle and those dogs end up being euthanized. It is very sad. I would say that's probably the most black-and-white story that we have on why you want to spay your female dog.
Yet another big thing, which I had one of these recently as a patient at Alicia Pet Care Center. Every time a female dog goes through a heat cycle, there's a hormonal surge of all kinds of things. It is just like getting ready to be pregnant. There's lots of stuff that happens, it's very complicated and sometimes things don't go right. A way that things don't go right in this situation, in a really negative way, could be the development of something called a pyometra. A pyometra basically means pus in the uterus. It is a very fast development of an abscessed uterus. The uterus of a dog or a cat, when this happens, literally fills up with pus. The size of the uterus is not very big…an easy way to visualize it would be to think of a garden worm kind of thing on both sides. When a dog that goes into heat, it's more like a small sausage. It's much bigger than a worm, but it's not huge. The pyometra takes that bigger size and literally fills these tubes up with pus. The patient that I saw recently was about a thirty-pound dog. When we took the x-ray, it looked like it had probably two to three Polska Kielbasa sausages in its abdomen; these huge sacks of pus. The dog came over with a fever, wasn't feeling good, had its heat cycle four to six weeks earlier.
Let’s talk about the pyometra procedure: there are two different ways of doing the pyometra. You can have an open pyometra, which is a lot easier for everyone to diagnose. The “open” part refers to the cervix. So if you have an open pyometra, you have these pus bags basically up in the abdomen, that is the pus filled uterus and it is draining out the vulva. So, an owner will see things that make it pretty easy to tell there's something not right. Pus coming out is usually a sign that you should go see your veterinarian, by the way. Sometimes the dogs will be licking excessively. So sometimes they kind of hide the evidence… but that's an open pyometra. Those open pyometra dogs usually are a little less sick, a little less dangerous because the pus has somewhere to go. Then, there's a closed pyometra. That means the cervix is closed, meaning that the pus doesn't have anywhere to go so it just keeps building and building and so the dogs generally end up getting septic. This means there's bacteria in the bloodstream, so they develop a fever, they start to get really sick and that often coincides with pus leaking out of the top of the uterus right near the ovaries. Pus will actually leak out when it's really high pressure in the uterus, the pus will leak into the abdomen and then you have a peritonitis situation on your hands as well. Those dogs don't do well at all. They often die.
There's a saying that we were taught and in vet school at UC Davis: “Don't ever let the sun set on a pyometra”. That is because a pyometra is very urgent and waiting overnight is a dangerous thing. That generally leads to an emergency surgery. As a dog or cat owner, if you find yourself in this situation, you will be compelled to now do the spay that you were putting off doing. Unfortunately, you have a very sick pet that is going to need a lot of extra care. You have a surgery that was extremely straightforward and routine (the spay) and now you've turned it into an extremely difficult surgery with tissues that want to break down and rip which is not a good scenario. Also, you end up paying financially somewhere between even four to six or seven times the cost of a typical spay when you're doing a pyometra. So, it's a big financial hit for a lot of people that potentially might have been putting off a spay because they couldn't afford or they didn't think they could afford to do the spay. Now they have this pet that's dying in front of them that they have to make really tough decisions. So, we don't want to go there.
Those are the biggest things I think associated with being intact on the negative side of things and personality changes and those two big medical conditions of cancer and a potential pyometra. There are some other things as well, but those would be the big takeaways I would say on the female dog.
The female cat is pretty much the same story with the female dog. Not so much on the personality side… I don't think I hear too many people complaining about the female cat. They're usually pretty sweet. Interestingly, you can kind of tell the difference of what the human population thinks of the female dog compared to the female cat. They're called “queens”…which reflects the nice nature of the female cat that is intact. They're really not mean or grumpy like their dog counterpart.
The female cat and dog similarities are more about pyometras. You have massive risks on the cat getting pregnant, of course. They love to get pregnant and they get pregnant very quickly. They're very different from a male dog. This is part of the reason why our aforementioned statistic about the preproduction leading to 67,000 vs. 420,000 is different for female dogs and cats. That's because cats are unique in that they are induced ovulators. It's a very unique kind of ovulation pattern or reproductive status. A female cat will not cycle automatically and they don't go into heat every six months. They go into heat if they perceive a male cat to potentially be nearby. And they're not very good at determining male versus female cats, by the way. So if a female cat is around another female cat, they're probably going to ovulate. Remember, they are induced ovulators. So, what that means is if they have a litter of kittens and they are pretty much getting to the end of the period where they’re high demand -- so usually five to six weeks… sometimes even four weeks -- the kittens are pretty precocious, they're wanting to get out and explore. They're really not that dependent on mom anymore and they're already weaning themselves off of milk. Out in the wild, at this point, they're usually out there already trying to eat bugs and doing some hunting activities, supplementing their diet with things that they can catch, turning into their little carnivorous selves. In the home, they're going to be offered food and they're going to be gobbling it up at five to six weeks.
So, at that point, there's a lot less energy being taken by the mom. So, mom’s reproductive system goes back into a stage of: “Well… am I ready to go again? I sure am!”, and then they get bred again by this male cat that's around. Mom is also open to all. She'll go with whoever and she'll get pregnant while she still has a litter of kittens on her. So it just never stops and can really be a never-ending cycle. So, if you have a female cat that gets pregnant, and then you have this litter of kittens that you're trying to rehome or whatever you're trying to do: you need to get that cat spayed. Keep it inside and get it spayed right away as the kittens are weaning off because that cat can get pregnant right away.
So, with female cats, you have some of the same issues as with dogs: the possibility of a pyometra, pregnancies being extremely more rampant and breast cancer. The breast cancer story is different in the cat and nobody's really done a big study like what was done for dogs, so we don't really have the best numbers on this. But if your cat goes through heat cycles, with her ovaries producing a bunch of hormones, it's going to stimulate the mammary glands to get bigger. That stimulation leads to an increased chance of cancer. In the cat, unfortunately, something like 98% of mammary tumors are malignant. Almost every cat that develops a mammary tumor is going to have a high chance of dying from that disease. These tumors love to spread to the lungs, so by the time you diagnosed your cat's relatively smallish bump, it could potentially have already spread and then you lose that cat.
This issue of “to spay or not to spay” is a big decision with huge ramifications that should be well thought through; risks and costs associated with doing the work, time, money, effort, etc. This all should be weighed out against what's potentially going to happen if you don't do it. I think that sums up most of what’s negative on keeping your pet intact. I'll go through the small number of positives as well.
On the pet side I think it is unrealistic to say, for instance, that the pet is going to get some kind of emotional boost or some kind of improved quality of life out of having a litter of cats or dogs. That is something that I have heard: “My dog, I think it wants to have a litter.” I don't think that's legitimate. I have also heard “My dog's not going to be as much of a man”. Yes, of course. You're absolutely right. If you take testosterone out of the male system of any individual, they're going to have less testosterone which is what defines most people's definition of a man. So, that's a logical statement and I would agree with it… to some extent. But I don't think that that necessarily correlates to a negative quality of life in any way. They are not going to be depressed (in the way that we think or feel) about their loss of testicles. A dog does not and cannot intellectualize something in that way.
I think some people, though, will take that to the next thing and say “I neutered my dog and he just has never been the same since. He's just so blah…and he got fat.” The personality of the pet is not defined by neutering them and the blah nature is most likely the dog adapting to the owner's home life. I would say that the vast majority of dogs, unless they have an upper airway obstruction (i.e.: bulldogs), would be able to go somewhere between 10 and 20 miles every single day. If they were supported in that: enough water, enough shade, enough rest periods… they could do it. So, I disagree with that statement of this being an effect of a neuter. What is true is that when you spay or neuter a dog -- and more than likely the cat is probably very similar to this -- you will reduce the metabolism of that individual by about 30%. That doesn't happen overnight but it happens relatively quickly. So, it's kind of like an instant menopause. Although, I think in saying that, that brings a negative connotation based on our own human struggle through menopause. But it does decrease the metabolism really fast and that metabolism decrease is only how many calories that individual can burn per day, per pound per day. It's not energy level, personality, and/or drive. The hunting dog people may say “My intact male dog is much better at hunting than my female dog” and I'd say that that's probably true and it makes sense. If you have a dog for a specific reason like that, you may have to make compromises on things just to be able to do what you're trying to do. But that that doesn't mean that it doesn't come with a medical or behavioral consequence of those actions… or the lack of action. So, this is painted as a slow, lethargic, overweight individual. That's not true. What it does, honestly, if you look at it as a positive thing -- and certainly positive financially -- is it means that you have to pay less money for food. You're going to be immediately able to drop your pet's food by 30%. And we at Alicia Pet Care Center get it: pet food is not an inexpensive thing. The cost of food adds up a lot. So that cost decrease, I think, is a blessing in a way. And, take note, you need to do that reduction in food or your dog will get overweight and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, in those individuals that allow their pet to kind of not have a lot of exercise and feed them an excessive amount of calories: that dog will get overweight and it will be a conversation of: “I spayed my dog and they became 15 to 20 pounds overweight in the next two years”. Yes. That's going to happen if you don't set things in place that are going to not facilitate that.
This is where we decided to split the conversation in half, so the podcast episode could be more manageable in length. We felt it was extremely important to not skimp out on all of the good info, just to keep an episode shorter. So, make sure you go to the second half of this episode’s conversation on the podcast as well as on the blog!
Again, you can listen to this podcast episode directly on an Apple device by clicking here.
You can also access this episode by visiting the Pet Talk Podcast website by clicking here.
If you would like to see more of how the spay and neuter process works at Alicia Pet Care Center, we have multiple videos on our Youtube channel of our Annual Ford Petersen Spay Days that we hold to honor a former employee.
Click on any of these links below:
About the Author
A part of the APCC team since September of 2013 as the Office Manager and Media Manager. His career previously had been steeped in the Title Insurance Industry for over a decade. He has managed staffs in multiple industries, locally and overseas. His marketing and Social Media skills were learned as he manages his own photography business & podcast called "Daddy Unscripted" about being a dad.
There is no coincidence in the shared last name. Tim is Dr. Wheaton's younger brother and has been around APCC and the staff since its inception. Life has come full-circle in that way, as Tim and his brother used to spend nearly every day during summers in their youth at their Dad's veterinary practice in Corona Del Mar. Dr. Wheaton was always the son destined to follow in their father's footsteps, while Tim was always the more creative-minded one of the two.
Tim and his wife have two kids of their own and two furry children (Rusty & Audrey), sibling cats adopted from The Pet Rescue Center in 2011.
Tim will be keeping you up to date with APCC happenings via social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram – with pictures, pet health tips, travel tips and ways to keep your babies happy and healthy.