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Understanding Your Pets

In the "Ask It Early" series on "The Early Show", resident veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner Bell answered pet-related questions from viewers.

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Adopt the animals seen on "The Early Show"

Question from Kim in Portsmouth, Va.: What is the earliest age you can get a puppy or kitten spayed or neutered?

Bell's Answer: There's been a controversy swirling over pediatric neutering. You don't want to get the procedure done too early because your pet is essentially still a baby and spaying and neutering, although it's a common procedure, is still a surgical procedure. If you wait too long, on the other hand, there's a chance your pet will reproduce, or start to exhibit aggressive behavior. Your pet may even run away in search of a mating partner. Some pet care experts suggest waiting until a dog or cat reaches six months of age, while others suggest having the procedure done as early as six weeks of age.

The best piece of advice I can give is to talk with your veterinarian. The most appropriate time to spay or neuter your pet is often based upon on number of factors, such as its breed, age and physical condition. The American Veterinary Medical Association, however, recommends getting the procedure done on female cats and dogs before their reach their first heat cycle.

Question from David, of Mobile, Ala.: What is the best way to fight fleas, both on my dog and in my house?

Bell's Answer: For fleas, it's really important to remember that you not only have to treat the animal, you also have to treat the environment. A flea spends a majority of its life cycle in the environment -- not on the pet. So if you're spraying or spreading a powder, make sure you spread over the entire affected area. If flea collars don't do the trick, you're better off using a powder or spray. Consult your vet before you put any kind of product on your pet -- you don't want your pet to get sick or have an allergic reaction from the powder you're using. And there are a number of products for both inside and outside your home, as well as for your pet.

Question from Denise: I have a miniature dachshund and for the past few days she drags her back legs when she tries to climb stairs. I can't afford to take her to the vet right now because I am an unemployed mother of three. Do you know of anything i can do to help my dog that doesn't cost a lot of money?

Bell's Answer: We actually received a few questions about how to handle veterinary care in these tough economic times. The good news is, there are some resources available for people struggling to pay for their pet's healthcare.

The Humane Society has a list of national organizations on their Web site that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need.

Also, you might want to think about trying to negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you're a client in good standing, he/she may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don't have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front. Also, offer to perform a service for your vet like cleaning kennels, answering phones or other work in lieu of actual cash. If you want don't mind paying a consultation fee, you might consider getting a second opinion. Another vet may have other, less expensive ways to treat your pet. Also, use a vet in a less expensive area. Vets in smaller towns tend to charge lower fees. And you can check out local veterinary schools. Many run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. And if you visit a local shelter, you might find the rates for vet care are lower.

The animals seen on "The Early Show" may be adopted in the New York area through

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