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Why You Should Consider Spay/Neuter
|Posted on August 19, 2013 at 12:46 AM|
Sometimes people ask us why we are so adamant about the importance of spaying and neutering our pets. There are a lot of people out there who just plain don't want to do it, and cost is not always the deciding factor. Some people who are opposed to spaying and neutering think it's unnatural. Some people are afraid it will cause their pet to gain too much weight. Some people (sorry, and not to generalize, but it's usually men) are worried that a male dog with no testicles will look funny or will suffer self-esteem problems. Some people think it will stunt their pet's growth. Some people delay the procedure because they believe the myth that animals must have at least one estrus cycle (heat) in order to develop properly, or have at least one litter in order to develop properly. Some people just love puppies and kittens and want some around all the time.
I had never seen testicular cancer or mammary tumors in dogs and cats before I started volunteering at a veterinary clinic. I had no idea how common cancerous tumors are in unaltered animals. I had never seen a male dog with testicular tumors so large that the dog could no longer poop because its prostate gland was so swollen that it flattened out the intestine. I had never seen a female dog in pain with multiple cancerous mammary tumors. I had never seen an owner crying because he or she had never been told that failure to spay or neuter could result in their pet getting cancer. I hope I never see any more of any of this, but I know that's not likely, because mammary and testicular cancers are relatively common in unaltered animals, especially as they age.
We have a little dog with a mammary tumor. Luckily, it seems to be progressing slowly and it has not yet affected her health. She's too old now to have it removed. The risk of surgery is higher than the risk of letting the tumor remain. She came to us after her owners decided to euthanize her. She gave them nineteen puppies over a period of eight years, which they sold at a good profit. Despite being warned that multiple pregnancies were damaging her, that her uterus was so thin and fragile that she risked bleeding to death with each litter, and that all the puppies were at risk, these people continued to breed her. When her last litter of five puppies was delivered, with several of them dead (they all eventually died), and with pregnancy-related diabetes symptoms, her value to them was gone. Our veterinarian told them that her health problems were curable, and that if they agreed to surrender her, our vet would find her a home. That was fine with them. They didn't care much what happened to her one way or the other. When she was spayed, the vet discovered gangrene in her uterus. Once she recovered, she was still diabetic, but that is such a manageable condition. She has been one of the best dogs we've ever had. Her story is not unusual. We tell people about her because she's a prime example of why females shouldn't be bred over and over again, and why spaying would have prevented not only her health problems, but the suffering of the last litters of puppies.
Weight gain is manageable with exercise and calorie intake, just as it is with people. Male dogs with no testicles have no idea that they're gone. They don't care. They still pee like boys, they still know they're boys. You want people to look with awe on your male dog's scrotum? Invent square testicle replacements. You'll draw crowds.
We generally spay and neuter our rescues fairly early. Many vets like to wait until the pet is five or six months old, but we have to pick our poison. Do we place an unaltered animal in someone's home on the promise that they'll bring it back at six months and have it fixed? They may mean well, but what if they get busy and at seven months, a female goes into heat and gets pregnant? What if a male gets loose and impregnates a neighbor's dog or cat? We have no way to monitor where the offspring go. People always say they will only place in good homes, but they don't usually have the resources to monitor that, and truth be told, they're usually ready to place them pretty early because a litter of puppies and kittens can make for a huge workload. We don't know where the puppies or kittens will be placed. We don't know how many of them will never be altered and will go on to contribute to the huge unwanted and abandoned animal problem. So, while we know that about six months is optimum, we alter before placement to ensure that we're not contributing to an enormous and very sad situation.
The KHS is not opposed to selective breeding by knowledgeable, conscientious, educated breeders who know what they're doing and take their job seriously. We are opposed to the backyard breeders (and there are many of them in Ketchikan) whose primary motivation is cash, and who continually turn out weak, inbred, and even mixed-breed puppies which are passed off as pure-bred to unsuspecting buyers, and whose breeding facilities are substandard and unhealthy. We're opposed to it because we're the people who see on a weekly basis the pain and suffering these animals endure. We are the ones who rescue them, get them veterinary attention, socialize them, and try to find them homes. The fact is, there are never enough homes. Some of us have as many as five dogs and cats, which is all the Borough will allow without an animal establishment permit, and rightly so. We have them because we love them, but also because nobody else will take them. There will always be more unwanted animals needing homes than there are loving homes to take them in.
Please spay and neuter your pets.