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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ask the Veterinarian:
Insight on Friendship Changes

by Dr. Julie Buzby
Scent May Change Your Pet's Playtime Dynamic
Hi, I have a female 10 month old Lhasa Apso puppy who has a best fur friend who is a 6 month old sheltie mix. These puppies have played together from day one of meeting each other. My puppy was spayed at 6 months. After recovery the two went on to have play dates and be the best of fur friends. Recently the sheltie puppy was spayed, so after her recovery we made a play date. To my surprise my puppy reacted very different towards her. It was like she didn't know the Sheltie. My puppy treated her as she would a strange dog. After being with her about 15 minutes she started to warm up to her again but still wasn't the same way with her. Does a dog's scent change after being spayed?


Dear Johnna, My first year in practice I received a call from a distressed client after I’d examined her Siamese cat and taken a routine blood sample.  The cat shared a home with 2 other felines, who wouldn’t come near my patient after she’d returned from her excursion to our hospital.  The housemates, displaying classic signs of fear aggression, hissed at the Siamese and treated her as if she was an alien teleported onto their turf.

There is debate whether unfamiliar odors, subtle visual cues, pheromones, or a combination of factors cause these reintroduction issues, but this problem is not uncommon in multicat households.  My hypothesis is that this cat carried home, on her coat, foreign scents from the veterinary hospital.  Rubbing alcohol had been applied to her fur in the process of collecting a blood sample, but I’ve also observed the phenomenon in cats who had not been exposed to alcohol.  The “clinical” potpourri of smells that envelopes animals in the hospital environment seems to be enough to cause problems in certain situations.

I have to confess, I’ve only seen this happen in cats, but a dog's sense of smell is many times more powerful than a cat’s.  To answer your question, yes, I do believe the Sheltie’s scent changed after being spayed, but I don’t think it was because of hormone/pheromone changes that your Lhasa acted strangely towards her.  I think the offending scent was a combination of the disinfectant used to prepare her belly for the spay, rubbing alcohol used to place the IV catheter, and other “medicinal” odors that could have been harbored by the Sheltie’s long-haired coat. 

I trust the relationship is back to normal by now, but for future reference, it’s best to go very slowly in reintroducing animals exhibiting this fear-based behavior.  Unfortunately, it can take days, weeks, or even months to resolve.

Dr. Julie Buzby is a homeschooling mom of seven, American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and International Veterinary Acupuncture Society certified holistic veterinarian, and passionate advocate for canine mobility.In her free time she serves on the Advisory Board for The Grey Muzzle Organization. She can be found at Twitter @DrBuzby and on You'll also find more of Dr. Julie's posts at our Ask the Vet Archives page.

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Dr. Julie's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian.

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Dawn said...

Interesting. I never encountered such a behavior before. It makes sense, though.

Dog Breeds said...

Beneficial content love to read that. Cheers with regard to sharing.

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