When should I spay or neuter my Mi-Ki?

Clients often ask me when they should spay or neuter their Mi-Ki. After all, they want to be a responsible puppy owner/guardian. In the U.S., traditionally, it’s recommended that dogs be spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, but that recommendation is beginning to change based on studies of the long-term health consequences of early neutering.

Some breeders are quite fussy about requiring a spay or neuter within a certain window of time. Some won’t even provide registration paperwork without proof of neutering. We understand that there have been people breeding irresponsibly and without authorization. We never want people to breed Mi-Kis casually without doing the proper health tests and inbreeding coefficients. We strive to promote a strong and healthy Mi-Ki breed for generations to come!

We’re hopeful that our screening process has eliminated unscrupulous buyers and would-be breeders with less-than-honorable intentions. We believe you want what is best for your Mi-Ki. After all, your Mi-Ki was an investment and you’ll want them to live a long and healthy life as a treasured family member.

This means taking another look at long-held beliefs about neutering (including spaying) because removing the gonads will forever alter their hormonal chemistry and can have significant implications for a dog’s health.

Our first advice would be not to go to social media to poll other Mi-Ki owners about the proper time for neutering your pet. You will get a million different answers and realize belatedly what a passionate group of people that dog owners are!

Science-based data

Fortunately, there have been some recent studies done on the spay/neuter conundrum so that dog owners can have meaningful conversations with their vets to determine the best course of action for their pet.

I recently attended a webinar on the topic given by the authors of a long-term-study at UC Davis. Their team combed the records of thousands of dogs from the last 15 years, sorting them by breed and gender. Then they categorized these patients as to whether they were intact (never neutered) or by the age when they were spayed or neutered: Early – 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12+ months, and 2-8 years.

They were looking for how this spay/neuter data corresponds with hip/joint disorders, metastatic cancers, urinary incontinence, and pyometra (uterine infections.) Sadly, no data was recorded regarding endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, etc. Other studies have suggested that neutering dogs has an impact on the endocrine system including metabolic function, thyroid function, etc.

Small Breed Findings

According to the UC Davis 2020 study, the big takeaways for Mi-Ki owners is that small breeds were not statistically impacted by neutering, including spays, at any age in regards to hip and joint disorders like so many of the larger breeds.

In small-dog breeds, the occurrence of cancers was low in both those kept intact and neutered. Two exceptions were the Boston Terrier and Shih Tzu where there was a significant increase in cancers with spaying and neutering.

There is a high percentage of Shih Tzu in the Mi-Ki breed profile

One of the tools we use in our kennel to better understand our breed is the Embark DNA breeder’s program. Embark results tell us the traits that our Mi-Kis have (such as coat type, hair color and patterns, and even muzzle length and size estimates.) They also test for hundreds of genetic diseases.

Recently, Embark has also given us access to their data on what breeds are in the ancestors of the Mi-Ki. Remember that all pure-bred dogs came from other breeds at one point!

Here are some screen shots of a few of our Mi-Kis in our program and their breed makeup:

This breed breakdown may be surprising to some of you who have heard that the Mi-Ki is made up of other breeds (especially the Japanese Chin) but the DNA doesn’t seem to bear this out much according to Embark and to the Mars Wisdom Panel.

The health director of the American Mi-Ki Club, Geri Wojeck, is of the opinion that the Bichon Frise that Embark identifies in the Mi-Ki background is probably actually the Coton de Tulear – a close cousin of the Bichon. But I digress… The point is that Shih Tzu genetics are notable in the Mi-Ki!

Shih Tzu spay/neuter recommendations, according to UC Davis

This is the quote regarding the Shih Tzu breed from the 2020 UC Davis Study. The brackets and bold emphasis points are mine.

“The study population was 104 intact males, 112 neutered males, 77 intact females, and 139 spayed females for a total sample of 432 cases. In this small-dog breed there were no occurrences of joint disorders in either intact or neutered males and females, revealing virtually no vulnerability in this regard. There was no occurrence of the cancers followed in intact males and females. In neutered males there was no occurrence of cancers. However, in females, the occurrence of cancers for those spayed at 6-11 mo. was 7 percent and at 1 year this measure reached a significant 18 percent (p <0.01). MC [metastatic cancers] occurred in 3 percent of intact females. PYO [pyometra] occurred in 5 percent of intact females. UI [urinary incontinence] was not reported in any females. Lacking a noticeable occurrence of increased joint disorders or cancers in neutered males, those wishing to neuter should decide on the appropriate age. The picture is very different for spaying females where the increased risk of cancers started with spaying at 6-11 mo., reaching 18 percent with spaying at year 1. The suggested guideline for females is to delay spaying until the female is 2 years of age. Another possibility is to spay a female a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.”

So for small-breed males, including Mi-Kis, it really is your choice with your vet for when the time is right to neuter your dog, at least according to what this particular study is suggesting. Neutering males is often performed around 6-9 months in hopes of minimizing marking and humping behaviors.

For female Mi-Kis, particularly if your pup has a high percentage of Shih Tzu in her background, it might be wise to delay her spay until after 24 months.

Since the Mi-Ki is much smaller than the average Shih Tzu, I would not recommend following their suggestion of spaying a female “a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.” Mi-Kis are simply too small and vulnerable at 4-5 months of age to undergo such a major procedure.

I’ve even had one client’s girl get so stressed (with a temporary increase in blood sugar level) just doing the pre-surgery bloodwork, that it was determined that she probably wasn’t a good candidate for the elective spaying procedure. Remember, spaying is a major surgery requiring general anesthesia and a two-week recovery period.

Alternatives to Spay and Neuter Procedures

Thankfully, there are more options today for people who prefer less invasive procedures for their dogs while ensuring there are no unplanned pregnancies. There are ovary-sparing spay procedures for females and vasectomies for males that allow dogs to keep their hormones intact.

For a nonsurgical option for males, you can use belly bands to keep them from marking inappropriately. The belly bands also serve as a barrier against breeding but are not foolproof! The use of crates, pens, or separate rooms is also recommended for keeping males and females apart during her cycle.

For females, there are cute small dog underpants to use during her heat cycle. These also provide a secondary barrier against breeding (again, not foolproof!)

Keep in mind that there really isn’t that much discharge with a toy-breed dog during her cycle. You can line both the boy’s and the girl’s undergarments with cut-up sanitary napkins to prevent leaks.

What about the Mi-Ki heat cycle?

Should you and your vet decide to delay your Mi-Ki’s spay, or even forgo the procedure entirely (i.e., for very small Mi-Kis, or those with underlying health issues) you should know that the average female Mi-Ki will cycle every 6-9 months starting at around 9 months of age. The heat cycle will last about three weeks, and one of those weeks, she will be especially fertile and flirty. She must be watched very carefully during her entire cycle to make sure she doesn’t get loose.

The heat cycle shouldn’t ruin your schedule, your camping trip, or anything important. I’ve even had Mi-Ki females in full heat compete in conformation dog shows without much fuss. In fact, Truffle gained her championship with the UKC during her cycle.

Keep your Mi-Ki intact for showing

Speaking of showing, only intact dogs (that are not spayed or neutered) have full options for being exhibited in conformation dog shows. While it is true that there are special classes for altered dogs, neutered dogs won’t be able to compete against unaltered dogs. If you have big plans for showing your dog, it’s best not to spay or neuter them!

It’s a personal decision between you and your vet

The Mi-Ki is its own breed. Although it shares some traits with the Shih Tzu, the Maltese, and other small breeds, your Mi-Ki is probably genetically different enough from the Shih Tzu that it is safe for you to get your female Mi-Ki spayed if that is what you and your vet decide is best for your family. But there may be benefits with neutering alternatives.

Toy breeds mature faster than large breeds, so having your Mi-Ki spayed or neutered in the 6-12 month range will likely not be as impactful health wise as it would be for a slow-growing large breed.

But toy breeds can also be some of the longest-lived dogs, so you’ll want to be sure to discuss this important aspect of your pet’s health with your vet to ensure that all of those years spent together are as vibrant as they possibly can be. Your dog’s hormonal function can be an important piece of the puzzle for your dog’s long-term health. Delaying the spay or neuter until your dog is fully mature allows your dog to develop as nature intended.

We are grateful for the recent studies to help inform our choices in being our pets’ guardians! Find a vet you feel comfortable with who stays current on the latest studies and procedures. Together, you’ll find the best health path for your Mi-Ki.

Our featured image includes our chocolate smooth-face Quigley who lives with Ms. Lisa, and our lovely Isabelle.

Why Mi-Ki Dogs are Ideal Stress Relievers

There is a lot of fear being pushed through the media. Whether you’re worried about the COVID-19 coronavirus, or the associated economic ramifications of widespread disease, or whatever the FEAR flavor-of-the-day it is, it can be very difficult to remain calm, even for those of us not normally prone to being fearful.

Have no fear… a Mi-Ki is near!

Caring for and petting a pet, especially dogs and cats, has been scientifically demonstrated to be therapeutic for people suffering from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and more. Imagine the benefits of having a dog specifically bred for companionship with an intuitive nature coming into your home to help you through life’s rough spots! That’s precisely what a Mi-Ki has been developed for!

Mi-Ki puppy power banishes all forces of evil!

Mi-Kis can help reduce anxiety, stress levels, lift depression, provide companionship, and act as a social lubricant for those of us who are nervous around others. Mi-Kis encourage us to exercise more, to have a playful spirit, and can even improve our cardiovascular health.

Mi-Kis are beneficial for people of all ages. Helping to care for a little dog can help children grow up to be more gentle, compassionate, secure, and encourages them to balance screen time with beneficial puppy playtime. The portable Mi-Ki also provides valuable companionship for older adults. It is truly hard to be sad or scared when a Mi-Ki is around offering joy and unconditional love to your life.

Pocket-sized Perfection and Protection

Mi-Kis are the perfect companions to coast through the coronavirus outbreak or even zip through a Zombie Apocalypse! Why? Well, should the world actually go to hell in a hand basket, the journey will be much sweeter with your loving, supportive Tiny Treasured Companion.

Mi-Kis don’t eat much, they don’t drink much, and they provide grab-n-go comfort on the run. And though Mi-Kis were bred not to be yappy, they will let you know when something isn’t right with their keen hearing.

Mi-Kis don’t require long walks and are content playing in your living room, which can be handy if it becomes necessary to stay at home.

Fur Therapy

Technically, long-coat Mi-Kis have hair rather than fur. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of petting a Mi-Ki, you’re in for a treat. There is something truly therapeutic and kinesthetically calming about running your fingers through the long silky coat of a Mi-Ki. It’s one of the reasons I encourage our clients with Mi-Kis that are headed into therapy work to maintain their long coats rather than shave them, if possible.

Even the act of brushing your Mi-Ki’s coat is soothing. The soft, rhythmic sounds might even induce an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) – the relaxing ‘brain tingles’ that may have benefits for both mental and physical health, according to new research. And spending time grooming your Mi-Ki is way more satisfying than watching those viral ASMR YouTube videos of a woman brushing her hair.

Stroking, brushing, touching, and talking to a responsive, loving Mi-Ki can rapidly calm and soothe you when you’re stressed or anxious. The companionship of a Mi-Ki can also ease loneliness in the comfort of your home. Additionally, getting out and getting some vitamin D from the sun while walking your dog can substantially boost your mood and ease depression.

But seriously…

Truly, we don’t want to make light of people’s suffering or minimize concerns about real world problems. A Mi-Ki is a luxury companion and some caring folks have wondered if we have a sustainable hobby during tough times.

We are staying the course to continue to raise healthy, well-socialized, wonderful companions and ensure that the Mi-Ki thrives for generations to come. We strive to continue to improve the breed, to see that the Mi-Ki gets greater recognition, and to bring joy into people’s lives. We hope that you’ll join us in enjoying the benefits of this wonderful breed, no matter what may come.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Preventing Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in Mi-Ki Puppies

Now that our latest batch of puppies are ready for their new families, we want to provide resources for our new and future Mi-ki adopters. We know you’ll want to provide your new puppy with the very best care.

The most important thing to be aware of is that your Mi-ki puppy may suffer from low blood sugar if not fed small meals throughout the day. Young puppies, especially toy breeds, can quickly burn through their energy reserves with even a heavy play session.

We wait until our puppies are about 2 pounds or are around 10 weeks old to make hypoglycemia less of a risk, but we still recommend letting your puppy free feed with access to their favorite kibble at all times.

If your puppy is particularly small, you may have been instructed to have a nutritional gel or liquid on hand to dose your puppy every morning, every night before bed, and after vigorous play sessions. We recommend Tomlyn Nutri-Cal high-calorie nutrition gel for puppies as well as Revival’s Forti Cal Gel. These supplements will give your puppy long-acting and short-acting nutrition to help them through periods of rest, play, or travel. Our puppies like the taste of it and will lick the gel right off of your finger.

Speaking of kibble, what is my Mi-ki eating again?

Our puppies are currently being sent home with the Royal Canin X-Small Puppy Dry Dog Food as well as a couple of trays of Puppy Mousse or other wet food to ensure your puppy eats well. Previously, we’ve used more exotic/expensive puppy kibble, but in an effort to help people with products that more readily available, we’ve switched to Royal Canin puppy products. The Royal Canin puppy foods are more highly rated than their adult products, so keep in mind that it may be a temporary food that you can start with before doing your own research. Brands we love include Stella & Chewy’s, Merrick, Honest Kitchen, and Victor brands. Grain-free diets are no longer recommended due to the FDA’s concerns with heart problems popping up with the exotic ingredients in grain-free foods.

Refer to the Dog Food Adviser when making your food selections. They also keep subscribers up to date with any pet food recalls.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in Mi-ki puppies

It can be tricky to spot the signs of puppy experiencing low blood sugar. Look for any one or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Glassy unfocused eyes
  • Sudden sleepiness
  • The puppy appears lost or disoriented
  • Your puppy walks unsteadily or wobbly
  • Shakiness or twitching
  • Head tilts to one side (not the cute, alert kind)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness without the ability to wake

Treatment of hypoglycemia in puppies

As mentioned earlier, the best treatment against low-blood sugar in puppies are regular small meals and/or snacks. But even an active play session or walk can deplete your puppy’s energy (sugar) quickly, so it is important to be vigilant and prepared.

Hypoglycemia is a serious condition and without acting quickly, your puppy could get into trouble fast and possibly even die. Fortunately,  you should be able to recognize the signs early in the process and the low blood sugar is easy to treat at home or on the go.

If your puppy is being transported home by plane, you or the puppy nanny will be given a two oral syringes. One will have Forti-Cal liquid as a pretrip nutritional booster as a hypoglycemia preventative. The other will contain Karo syrup in case your puppy starts looking a little spacey or lethargic despite the pre-trip nutritional supplement. Should your puppy look overly tired or weak, squeeze a little Karo syrup in their mouth or rub a little on your puppy’s gums to give them a quick sugar boost.

In almost all cases, your Mi-Ki puppy will respond very quickly to this treatment — usually within five or ten minutes. Repeat the treatment if necessary. However, if the Karo syrup doesn’t reverse the symptoms within ten minutes, take your puppy to the veterinarian immediately as something else could have caused the signs (such as ingesting something poisonous or contracting a disease.)

Keeping your puppy fed and hydrated on the go

If you’re taking your puppy out and about (hopefully in a sling or carrier until their shots are completed) always have puppy snacks and/or kibble on hand in case your errands take longer than anticipated. You should have received a collapsible dog bowl in your puppy starter pack to help keep your puppy hydrated.

Keeping your puppy safe when you’re gone

If you are leaving your puppy alone at home for more than a couple of hours, we recommend using a puppy playpen or a large crate with room enough for kibble, water, a potty pad with a grate to prevent shredding, and a small dog bed.

The traditional crate training method for housebreaking puppies is not advised for long stretches of time for tiny breeds due to the risk of hypoglycemia.

Of course, your veterinarian is your first resource for information about preventing and treating hypoglycemia, but we’re here to support you throughout the life of your Mi-Ki. Call or email us with any concerns:

Mary Parker: 303-246-3196, mary@royaltmikis.com

Why a Well-bred Mi-ki is Priceless

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How much is that doggy in the window?

A Mi-ki isn’t expensive… she’s priceless. People may be surprised that a small Mi-ki dog can sell for upwards of $3,000 or more. But any well-bred dog from a reputable breeder is going to be relatively expensive initially.

When less isn’t more

We’ve learned from experience that a low-cost dog can be very expensive in the long run. Several years ago, my husband bought Levi, a yellow Labrador, from a person he thought was a reputable breeder. Levi had pedigreed papers, but he was fairly inexpensive, as far as dogs go.

Little did he know that Levi was no bargain. Levi had a bad elbow that required surgery. He also had gastritis, which meant it wasn’t a question of if he would throw up — it was when. So Levi was put on a $90/month prescription, which was fine. He was a great dog and my husband adored him!

Levi saw the best specialists in Colorado and just had a great checkup just four months before he suddenly dropped dead of heart failure at the tender age of 7. It was years before my poor husband could even think about getting another dog, he was so devastated.

If you’re like us, you’d do anything for your dog, and my husband never begrudged the fact that Levi required so much care. But the gastritis meds alone cost $7,560 over his much-too-short lifetime. If he could have spent more to have a puppy that came from health screened parents to have more time with his precious dog, he would have.

Breeding with a purpose

Modern technology has given us an amazing window into canine genetics which can serve to guide us as we breed dogs. Thanks to DNA screening, we can test for coat types, coat color, and a multitude of health conditions.

The American Mi-Ki Registry Association (AMRA) requires that every one of our litters have DNA verification that they are purebred Mi-kis. They also guide breeders to promote gene pool diversity within this rare breed while maintaining the quality in health, temperament, and confirmation.

We have the privilege of being under the guidance of several fine Mi-ki breeders in the AMRA. Additionally, we will make DNA-informed decisions on breeding pairs.

Our Mi-kis are health screened and will have their OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certification for patellas. We will also register with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) to screen for inherited eye disorders. These certifications will be on file with the AMRA as we seek to be patrons of this wonderful breed and members of a community that’s dedicated to the health of the Mi-ki.

Health screenings, DNA tests and premium veterinary care for our breeding companions and puppies may cost more up front, but we know that it’s worth it. With Mi-kis being so rare and wonderful, we are dedicated to doing our part to contribute to the Mi-ki’s continued health and temperament for future generations.

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