This one’s for the girls. Recent discussions on my friend Dr. Khuly’s blog, Dolittler, have compelled me to beg, plead, and grovel for you to please have your female cat or dog spayed. A recent discussion about a pregnancy gone awry topped with an article released from USA today about attitudes toward sterilization of pets have burdened my heart with the age old problem of pet overpopulation and unnecessary suffering. Despite advocacy to have pets spayed or neutered in a push to curb pet overpopulation, a staggering number of animals acquired last year have NOT gone under the knife! Granted, some animals were too young for surgery at the time of the survey but 24% of respondents who hadn’t altered their pets stated they “hadn’t gotten around to it” while another 14% stated they “didn’t feel it was necessary.” Irksome at best, but potentially a red flag for a bigger problem: Lack of proper communication and education between the veterinary profession and pet owners.
Top Five Reason to Spay
1. Pet overpopulation
An estimated 4 to 6 million unwanted and stray animals are euthanized in shelters every year. The world, quite honestly, doesn’t need anymore dogs and cats to add to the mix. There will always be pet overpopulation (I’m not so naive to believe the problem will ever go away) but every person can do his/her part by making sure the cycle ends with their pets. This is NOT to say responsible breeding should be outlawed or discouraged. I guesstimate responsible breeders (AKA not puppy mills, not backyard breeders, not accidental breeders) minimally affect the overall pet population.
An all too common affliction of older dogs is a condition known as pyometra, or an infected uterus. This is a life threatening condition that can lead to sepsis and death if untreated. A uterus filled with infection can rupture in the abdomen leading to peritonitis. This condition is 100% preventable with a spay. Spaying your pet as a youngster is significantly less expensive than emergency surgery years down the road, so you’ve got no room to complain about cost.
3. Mammary Cancer
Mammary cancer develops commonly in unspayed females later in life. About 45% of mammary tumors are malignant in dogs, whereas around 90% are malignant in cats, and dogs have a much higher number of complex and mixed tumors than do cats. Spaying dramatically reduces the risk of mammary cancer in both dogs and cats. In dogs the risk has been reported as 0.5% when spayed before the first heat, 8% if spayed before the second heat, and 26% if spayed after the second heat. For a listing of scientific findings check out SkeptVet.com’s summary of research regarding companion animal mammary tumors.
4. Unwanted/Unplanned/Poorly Planned Pregnancy
I’ve heard the “I just want her to have one litter” line too many times. She doesn’t need to have a litter. Period. In addition, accidental breeding can result in a size mismatch and a possible dystocia (read: stuck puppies) during labor. Raising a litter of puppies or kittens is expensive when you consider all the time, effort, or finance that goes into caring for them for 8 weeks. The bitch or queen should be examined following labor. The puppies or kittens will need to be examined, dewormed, and vaccinated prior to being sold or adopted. Lack of planning or foresight can set the unsuspecting owner back a pretty penny.
Dolittler describes a case of at best, egregious ignorance in pet owners who “married” two dogs, missed all the signs of pregnancy and labor, and allowed their poor Maltese to have a dead puppy in her uterus for 24 hours – a move that may have ultimately lead to the dog’s death. “Back yard breeders” must be discouraged. Back yard breeders are folks who decide they want to breed their dog, know little about doing it properly, and typically do it with dreams of profit. It seems as though those breeders always seem to find the sickliest, poorest-doing dog with multiple congenital and genetic problems and breed her. And don’t even dream of those dogs having been vaccinated. I actually had one couple ask if a puppy would come out of their Chihuahua’s “who who”. That’s biology 101 folks. If you don’t know where babies come from perhaps you should avoiding breeding. That applies to both dogs and people.
Proper breeders will have their dogs or cats tested for contagious diseases, examined for general health, radiographed to see the approximate number of puppies/kittens, and are prepared for whelping/queening. They will follow-up with a veterinarian and have all puppies/kittens examined, dewormed, and vaccinated prior to placing them in appropriate homes.
5. Stop that Heat Cycle
Blood, howling, nervousness, lingering males. Need I say more.