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All pet owners have a decision to make. Generally, this happens early in their pet’s life and that decision is, “Should I have my pet altered?” Whether you own a male or female, this is a decision that needs to be made.
Some people have all their pets spayed or neutered. They always have, and always will. There is no discussion or debate. Others always keep their pets intact (not altered). They never have and never will spay/neuter a pet. If on the other hand you are a new pet owner or would like more information to make that choice, there are some facts that might help.
This column will be devoted to female dogs. There are not a lot of temperament advantages to spaying a female. Only a small number may become more protective or aggressive during a heat cycle. Spaying does not make a dog mellow. Age, lack of exercise, obesity, breed tendencies, etc. can create a laid-back pet. Perhaps of greater importance, are the following: spaying eliminates the possibility of producing more puppies into an already crowed dog world, and there are definite health benefits to spaying.
First, regarding overpopulation. Unless you have a definite breeding program, where you are studying pedigrees and doing specific breedings in an effort to improve the quality of a given breed, breeding should be left to the true and dedicated breeders. If you are trying to get a pup just like the one you have, breeding your female is not likely to produce those results. Best to get a full sibling from a repeat breeding of the same father and mother of your dog.
It is a myth that a female dog needs to have a litter. She does not. There are no physical or emotional benefits to a dog having a litter. Today there are many healthy puppies euthanized daily due to lack of homes. Think hard before you contribute to this problem.
Regarding health matters, there are some significant benefits. The first, although not necessarily a health issue, is having to deal with the inconvenience of a dog “in season” for three weeks every four to six months. It is during this time that she can become pregnant and the male dogs WILL find her!
There have been studies done that clearly demonstrate that there are benefits to spaying a dog before her second heat cycle. Dogs, like people, can develop breast cancer. These generally develop later in life, somewhere after 5 to 6 years of age. These tumors often are malignant, metastasizing to lungs and other organs, and can be life-threatening. If a dog is spayed before her first heat cycle and she does develop mammary tumors later in life, the chance that they will be benign (not spreading) is 99% and if she is spayed before her second heat, 97%. If she is spayed after her second heat cycle, there is no change and the cancer will most likely be malignant. This is because the cells that are involved in the cancer are preset by estrogen, during her heat cycles, to be malignant.
Other health issues are ovarian tumors and pyometra. Ovarian tumors are not common in dogs, but do occur. Pyometra, which is an uterine infection, is fairly common in middle -aged dogs and can be life threatening. Typically, it would occur four to six weeks after a heat cycle. The treatment involves surgery. Similar to a spay but more complicated and extensive and thus more expensive. Unlike a routine spay, now she is a sick dog undergoing emergency surgery. Best to have done this procedure when she was a young and healthy pup.
A spayed dog makes a better pet, is healthier in the long run and does not contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation. f you decide to breed your dog, take the time to study and learn.
As for the male dogs, they will be discussed in an upcoming column, until then enjoy your pets and take a bit of your day to do something together. Enjoy the journey.
If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to email@example.com.