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.

No new puppies yet! 3/8/2020

We’re anxiously awaiting our new arrivals from Eden and Brighton. Fortunately, I work from home, so whenever the puppies decide to make their appearance, we will be ready for them.

Eden is a happy pregnant mommy-to-be!

Eden & Baron – due any moment

Eden is a beautiful black and white mom with a sweet, relaxed temperament. She is our largest Mi-Ki mom but produced a wide range of sizes in her previous litter. We repeated the breeding with Baron who is 5.5 pounds. They can have both long coat and smooth-face Mi-Kis, black and whites, sable and whites, and chocolate and whites.

Brighton & Sinbad – due 3/18/2020

Brighton is our cream and white 6.5-lb UKC Champion. She was paired with Sinbad, a very cobby solid black male who weighs a compact 8 pounds. This is the first time they’ve been paired.

We weren’t sure the pregnancy was going to be carried to term because Brighton experienced light spotting for several weeks. We did hear fetal heart beats with the Doppler monitor and her waist is enlarging, so this is great news!

Brighton and Sinbad can only produce long-coat puppies. They can produce both solid and spotted offspring including black, cream, and sable colors.

About our deposits

We currently have five desposits in place for our upcoming litters. Most of our clients are looking for a female, but these moms only produced one girl between the two of them in their first-time litters last year. So if you’re looking for a male, you may have a better chance of getting a puppy from us! Please see our previous post regarding the differences between male and female pets.

As a reference for how many puppies we might have this month, Eden had five puppies in her previous litter and Brighton had four.

Our deposits are fully refundable until a specific puppy is selected. Once a particular puppy is settled upon, that puppy is considered sold. Should there be a circumstance where that puppy cannot be purchased, the deposit then becomes trasferrable rather than refundable.

The selection process

Once all of the puppies are born, we have our clients with deposits wait a minimum of two weeks before deciding which puppies they might be interested in. Some puppies may be put on hold for show/breeder evaluation or may be put on hold if there are health concerns (i.e., very tiny or failure to thrive.)

By two weeks of age, we are beginning to get a feel for how the puppies are charting size wise but it’s not an exact science. We may also be running DNA tests on coat types and colors, which also takes time.

Unless the first deposits are quite certain about what they are looking for, it may take up to a month for people to make their selections – especially if there are breeder/show prospects. It is more important for us to have people happy with their new forever family member than to rush this important decision. We thank you for your patience!

What about future litters?

We’ve been holding off on doing any new breedings due to our oldest daughter getting married out of state in April. We have two upcoming candidates this month, however. Gestation is 63 days from ovulation and we have our puppies to stay with us until they are approximately 10 weeks or two pounds.

With this in mind, we could have two more litters in late May or early June with the puppies ready for their homes 2.5 months later.

We also have upcoming breeding hopefuls that could come into season in approximately June. Depending on their health screenings, we could be debuting Isabelle, Lucy, and Chai this summer. All three of these girls are on the small side, so we will be evaluating them carefully. If they are not deemed sturdy enough to be moms, we may be offering one or more of them to approved pet homes.

We skipped breeding both Truffle and Savannah in February. They deserved a bit of a pampered break. We may decide to breed our ever-popular chocolate moms in August, 2020, if they’re cleared by our vet.

Thank you for staying in touch with us!

Why Male Mi-Ki Dogs Make Wonderful Pets

This summer, we’ve been blessed with an unusually high number of male Mi-Ki puppies – eight out of nine are boys! Since 55% of our waiting list has indicated they are interested in a female, it won’t be surprising if our only girl is reserved soon. Mi-Ki pricing reflects the fact that females are more popular: Girls are priced $400 higher than males!

Not only are male Mi-Ki puppies a comparative bargain, (not that any well-bred Mi-Kis are inexpensive) but many of us would say that males actually make the best pets. Here’s why you might consider one of our “boys of summer.”

Females love you. Males are in love with you.

It’s been our experience and has also been expressed repeatedly on various social media pages that males are more likely to be cuddle bugs than females.

Even my very dignified Moses will always be the one to quietly follow me everywhere, whether it’s when I’m cooking in the kitchen or headed to the restroom to “powder my nose.” He’s very devoted. Sometimes he abandons his dignified ways and gives me a full-on face wash, which is always appreciated.

Male dogs are less moody

Males tend to be more happy-go-lucky. They love everyone. They are just so friendly!

Our girl Mi-Kis are also friendly, but they have to be in the mood. Let’s not forget, there is a reason female dogs are called b*tches.

We’ve had folks that have had both male and female Mi-Kis. Of course, they say they wouldn’t play favorites, but if circumstances only allowed for them to have one dog, most would choose their male.

Why people tend to want female dogs

Some people have always had females so that’s what they gravitate towards. There are other reasons people might shy away from male dogs including:

1. Concerns about marking

The main reason males are often overlooked is that people have concerns about males lifting their leg in the house. It’s true that an intact male will feel the need to mark their territory.

If you can find the sweet spot to neuter your male when they’ve attained most of their growth but not developed marking and humping behaviors (at approximately five months) you will likely prevent the marking behaviors from developing.

Keep in mind that both male and female dogs will mark their territories with urine. It’s just a way for dogs to communicate with each other, as weird as a “urine calling card” may sound to us humans.

Marking can be trained out of dogs and generally prevented with age-appropriate neutering.

Should you still be concerned about accidents, male wraps, also known as dog manner bands and belly bands are a great solution. There are disposable versions and washable styles that can be lined with a sanitary napkin to prevent leaks. This is a great idea, especially when visiting other places where your dog may feel the need to mark over other scents. This way, you and your dog will be sure to be invited back!

2. Concerns about wandering

Bred as companion animals, it’s highly uncommon even for intact males to go wandering. Again, many people opt to neuter their pets to prevent the desire for wandering and looking for a mate.

Many European countries will not ever spay or neuter their dogs because they feel it is cruel and unnatural. Yet, these countries are not overrun with unwanted litters.

People take their dogs with them everywhere, and they are not wandering unattended. European dogs seem to be well trained. I think this is a topic for a future article!

3. Fashion

It’s hard to believe, but many wonderful male puppies are passed over in the name of fashion! It’s true. With the humanization of our pets, many of us like to dress up our pets like little children. I know this because I work for BaxterBoo.com where the vast majority of our most popular products are actually dog clothes!

Thankfully, the dog clothing industry has listened and there are more and more fashionable dog clothes and fashion harness options for male dogs. In fact, I know one Mi-Ki breeder, Julie Lancaster, of Off the Cuff Stuff for Pets, who designs made-to-order dog clothing and has really fun designs for males.

Two of our recent chocolate Mi-Ki boys!

Our Mi-Ki boys will win you over!

Several of our best breed advocates and referrals come from people who have brought home one of our boys. I repeatedly hear that “this is the best dog we’ve ever had,” from both male and female owners. But more often than not, it’s the males that make the most zealous converts to our breed, and they’ve encouraged their friends to get a boy from us as well.

Should you be able to come and visit our home (which we encourage) resist the temptation to “check for parts.” Let our puppies’ personalities help you decide which one is right for your family!

Royal T Mi-kis 2018 Recap

A collage of some of our Mi-ki puppies of 2018. So much to be thankful for!

So many beautiful Mi-kis!

2018 started out really strong for us at Royal T Mi-kis. We had three litters in January and kept Eden and Denaya as breeding hopefuls who will be making their debut as moms in 2019. 

We also added two new members to our future chocolate Mi-ki breeding program. The first is Jubilee’s Champagne Truffle – a 4.5-pound solid chocolate female. Truffle earned her UKC Championship for us in July of 2018. 

Jubilee’s Champagne “Truffle!”

We also adopted a chocolate-carrying Mi-ki male with a gorgeous red and white coat.  Baron weighs 5.5 pounds and has a very sweet, loving, quiet personality. 

Brumby’s Run “Baron” von Royal T

New Champions!

2018 also gave Royal T Mi-kis two UKC Champions! First, our very own Royal T’s Brilliant Brighton, and later Jubilee’s Champagne Truffle. We are looking forward to showing our sires and other upcoming juveniles in 2019.

New Friends

We are so blessed to have such wonderful adopters who have also become friends. We love getting updates and following our former puppies on their social media accounts. 

Looking towards 2019

We’re excited for our expanded program in 2019 and anticipate producing our first chocolates and possibly our first smooth-face Mi-kis. We also anticipate moving our homestead to a more rural location to accommodate our breeding program. We will likely have more Mi-ki puppies available around March 2019. Stay tuned for updates!

The Mi-kis Love Cheese

It’s Labor Day, and we’re taking the opportunity to do some Mi-ki grooming. All that brushing and bathing can make both groomer and dogs hungry.

So it’s time for some cheese!

cheese-meme

I love the dog memes featuring cheese, and there’s nothing like cheese to make a person feel popular. Imagine how popular I feel with all these Mi-kis staring adorably at me and my cheese?

Introducing Our New Mi-ki Champions!

Mi-ki UKC Champion: Royal T’s Brilliant Brighton

We are very excited to announce that we have two new UKC champions! First, it was Royal T’s very own Brilliant Brighton, and she really did shine with her silky white coat and gleaming personality. The icing on the cake was that Brighton achieved her champion status on my birthday, and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift!

Royal-T-Mi-kis_Brilliant_Brighton_UKC_Champion_2018

As you may recall, our first foray into the show ring last November was very successful, except for the fact that yours truly managed to accidentally miss one of the group competitions. Being so rare, Mi-kis can usually only receive their UKC championship titles by competing with other breeds in the companion category. Along with at least 100 points, three competition wins are required to win a championship. Brighton had enough points but needed one last competition win.

So when Brighton beat her kennel mate Truffle on Friday, I realized, “I think she’s a champion!” And she was, and is, and always will be… ribbons or no ribbons. She’s our firstborn Royal T offspring, and it felt right to have her win on my special 45th birthday.

Mi-ki UKC Champion: Jubilee’s Champagne Truffle

With Brighton’s championship in the bag, next, we focused on our sweet little chocolate Truffle, bred by Barbara Briggs of Jubilee Mi-kis. Weighing just 4 pounds 5 ounces, Truffle is a little dot on the show ring floor. Her beautiful chocolate color has silvered to a gorgeous taupe, but I was worried that she’d blend into the concrete floor of the ring.

To become a champion, we needed Truffle to beat Brighton in the next four shows. Those would also count as competition wins. Beating Brighton would be a feat because Brighton’s outgoing personality and bright white coat are so vibrant.

How would tiny Truffle do against the other companion breeds in the group competitions? We learned that many of the other dogs were already AKC champions, so the competition was pretty stiff! Plus, with UKC shows, our tiny Mi-kis can be competing with athletic Dalmatians, glamorous Shih Tzus, popular French Bulldogs, and flashy miniature Poodles.

Truffle always gets lots of positive feedback at our Plum Creek Kennel Club conformation class. She naturally stacks beautifully (meaning she stands straight and evenly) and always gives the judge a warm expression with alert ears. Truffle moves so smoothly and has such lovely proportions, so I was hopeful that she was just a little nervous when she lost to Brighton but would do well after that practice run.

Sure enough, after a long weekend of four more shows, Truffle was able to beat Brighton each time to gain her required 100 points! Since Truffle beat Brighton, those also counted as her competition wins.

The pleasant surprise was that tiny Truffle was able to catch the notice of the judges. She placed 4th in the group competition three times! I’ve heard from more experienced showers that the rare breeds don’t usually get much recognition in the group rings, so the fact that Truffle placed at all was a significant win not only for her but also for the Mi-ki breed. We’re very proud of her!

Truffles-show-ribbons-2018-twin-peaks-dog-club-UKC

Special Thanks

Of course, these wins wouldn’t be possible without the support of our friends and family. Thanks to Bill Parker, the other half of the Royal T Team for helping me show, to my daughter Annaliese who also showed for the first time, and my aunt Marty Frick who came to support us and even took a little video for us!

Marty_Frick_UKC_dog_show_Royal-T_Mi-kis

Aunt Marty Frick came out to support us at the Twin Peaks dog show!

We are also grateful to our judges including Kathy Carter who awarded Brighton with her Championship, Alan Krenek who gives us wonderful advice and training, Heidi Scheff, the cheerful and thorough Sandy Shaw, and Rick Gann, who awarded Truffle with her Championship.

Championship photos credit: Randy and Kindra Solomon.

The Royal T Mi-kis Dog Breeding Program is Expanding

Breeding with a purpose

Mi-kis are amazing dogs that have been bred specifically for use as therapeutic companions. We hand select every dog in our program both as a treasured household member and as a contributor to the future of this fledgling breed. We choose friendly, calm, cheerful, intuitive dogs that are also simply adorable.

Breeding selections are made after health tests are done to select for the most desirable traits as well as for low inbreeding coefficiencies to promote the genetic health of Mi-kis.

Knowing that genetic diversity is the foundation for any sound breeding program, we’ve added new members to our pack for evaluation as future breeding hopefuls.

Brighton

Brighton-AMRA2

Royal T’s Brilliant Brighton is a 6.5-pound cream and white female who has done very well for us in the show ring.  She has a very friendly personality and is very sweet. So far she has passed her heart and patella exams and will get her eye screening soon as well as a DNA trait and health panel test.

Truffle

Truffle-cute-06032018

Jubilee’s Champagne Truffle is a small chocolate female (we’re calling her a white chocolate mocha color) that we’re very excited about. She has an outgoing personality to make sure she’s noticed despite her small size. Truffle will have her health tests done in June. She has had very positive feedback from our coaches in our conformation class.

Our Youngest Hopefuls:

Baron

Brumby’s Run Baron von Royal T is a handsome and sweet red sable parti-color who carries chocolate and smooth. He has been hand selected to ensure we have a future of beautiful chocolate Mi-kis in our program.

Eden

Eden is a beautiful black and white female with a charming, gentle personality. She has a beautiful coat and a lovely, smooth gait. She carries chocolate and the smooth-face demi-long-coat gene.

Denaya

 

Denaya is very graceful and athletic with beautiful proportions. Her solid black coat is lush and soft. She is very affectionate and fun! We look forward to her participating in showing in the future.

Why We’re Growing

Mi-kis have been a purebred dog breed for only about 30 years but they have won the hearts of many people. The rare Mi-ki dog breed has been accepted by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and is on its way to recognition with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Recognition and preservation of the Mi-ki dog breed

In order to get full recognition with the AKC, more generations (litters) must be recorded in the Mi-ki pedigree records as well as other qualifications that the Mi-ki clubs are working towards. Royal T Mi-kis registers with both the American Mi-ki Registry Association (AMRA) and the UKC.

Royal T Mi-kis is partnering with local branches of the UKC and AKC to help educate others about the Mi-ki dog breed and to help attain recognition by the AKC. We’ve begun showing our dogs with the UKC to get feedback on the desirable traits that healthy and sound dogs should exhibit for dogs in general as well as for the breed standard.

Royal T Mi-kis is making an effort to be part of the movement to secure a healthy and lasting future for the Mi-ki dog breed through several avenues. We’re making informed decisions for breeding through the use of health tests with both genetic and physical exams. We’re also taking canine genetics classes to understand the best breeding practices not only for a pleasing appearance but also for a sustainable future with a healthy and diverse gene pool.

Future goals

In order to fulfill our dream to provide others with healthy Mi-kis to enjoy and to secure a healthy future for the breed, we are looking to find a property with a bit more space and the appropriate zoning to accommodate a small in-home kennel. We will always remain small to ensure every puppy is socialized in a family home setting.