Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. As we look forward to a new year (and new decade), I wanted to discuss an extremely important topic. Even though this topic is talked about by veterinary practices, animal welfare organizations, and popular T.V. shows, I wanted to discuss it here, too. Let me tell you why…
A couple weeks ago, I decided to watch an HBO documentary regarding people’s relationships with dogs. I thought it would be an interesting story on how dogs have become much more part of the family and how much we, as pet parents, will do to protect them. I could not have been more wrong.
The documentary was broken into 3 parts. The first segment discussed how some owners/pet parents will do anything to make sure their dog is kept in the home even if it is truly aggressive (which is another blog for another day), and then it went into a story of the overpopulation in animal shelters in the Midwest. My heart was broken, and to be honest, I could not stop sobbing at what happened next. The documentary took us to a shelter where they euthanized dogs by placing them in a big container and gassing them until they die. These dogs, who were already scared of being in kennels, now became terrified as they were placed in a container with the lid closed. You could hear their cries as the container was being pumped full of a gas. Once the first round of dogs were euthanized, they placed more dogs on top of the bodies and proceeded to gas them. After they were all dead, a garbage truck picked up the container and dumped their lifeless bodies in the back of the truck…like trash.
I can’t even remember what the third segment was because this portion took all of my attention.
Yes, the visual was devastating, and yes, you may be overcome with emotion as well, but that is the point. This story didn’t have to happen, and these dogs did not have to die this way. If everyone did their part in caring for their pets, we could have avoided this situation.
Now, let’s look forward into the new decade. We CAN reduce the number of euthanasias in the United States by simply spaying and neutering our pets. A simple procedure… Not only can spaying and neutering our pets have an impact on the overpopulation in America’s shelters, it also has health and behavior benefits, which is what we will talk about today.
What Happens When Pets are Not “Fixed”
According to VCA, female dogs can have 1 – 2 heat cycles a year starting when they are between 6 -24 months old, where they can get pregnant. Some smaller breeds can have up to 3 cycles. These pregnancies can produce 1 – 13 puppies dependent on the size/breed of dog. If a female dog is not spayed, and she has 2 litters a year for 5 years (conservative number), she may give birth to up to 130 puppies. If her puppies are not fixed, the cycle repeats.
Female cats, on the other hand, start the heat cycles between 4-10 months old and will go into heat up to 5 times a year. Each pregnancy can result in birthing an average of 1-5 kittens; however, there have been many females who birth up to 10 babies. If a female cat gets pregnant in 3 of the heat cycles a year, and bears 5 kittens in each cycle, she will have up to 15 kittens a year. Even conservatively, a cat can birth up to 150 babies or more in 10 years. Can you imagine the cat population if her female kittens are not spayed?
These numbers can be staggering. What are the chances these puppies and kittens will find their forever homes? Some will, however, for unplanned pregnancies, many get put out on the street where they begin to reproduce or they end up at the local animal shelter.
To avoid the number of homeless pets, it is important to get our furbabies spayed or neutered as soon as possible. Not only will it have an impact on the population, it also has health benefits for our pets.
For females, the ASPCA recommends spaying your pet before the first heat cycle, as it will reduce the risk of uterine infections and breast tumors which can be malignant or cancerous in approximately 50% of dogs and 90% of cats.
A male can be neutered as early as 8 weeks, as long as he is healthy, but the average age of neutering is approximately 6 – 9 months old. Neutering will reduce the risk of testicular cancer and other prostate issues.
The health benefits outweigh the cost as it allows our pets to live longer, healthier lives!
(If cost is prohibitive, there are many communities that have low-cost or fee-assistance programs for lower income households. Contact your local Humane Society for more information.)
Spaying and neutering also reaps some behavior benefits…
- You won’t have to deal with yowling and more frequent urinating from female cats.
- Your male dog won’t need to find a mate, so he is less likely to devise a plan of escape from home!
- Some aggression issues and marking may be thwarted with an early neuter
- You will keep your sanity and money in your pocket since you will not need to care for your pet’s litters.
We have discussed some health and behavior benefits, but how does this simple procedure affect the economy…our communities?
The first benefit is the reduction of the animal overpopulation in the United States. If we can spay and neuter our pets, we can reduce the number of animals on the streets and in the shelters, which reduces the number of euthanasias in the animal shelters.
According to petfinder.com (using ASPCA estimates)…
- Approximately 8 – 12 million pets enter animal shelters each year.
- Every year approximately 5-9 million shelter animals are euthanized.
- 50% of dogs and 70% of cats in shelters are euthanized due to lack of adopters.
- Every 6 seconds in the United States alone an animal is euthanized.
The second benefit is improvement within our community. Stray animals in our neighborhoods can cause health and safety concerns such as unclean play areas for children (think sand boxes!) car accidents, disease, and even the possible killing of livestock or other pets. Reducing the number of unwanted pets on the streets can increase health and safety and can potentially reduce financial strain from having to pay for any damages.
Spaying and neutering our pets will benefit our pets, our families, and our communities. We will have pets that lead longer, healthier lives. We will reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs on the streets or in the shelters, and we will reduce the number of needless euthanasias.
Please take this information to heart. If your pet is not intended to breed, and if you are not a qualified breeder, please be responsible and spay and neuter your furbaby. They will thank you for it and the community will thank you for it.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on this topic. I would love to hear what you have to say, so leave a note below.