February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and February 23 is World Spay Day (and is commemorated every year on the last Tuesday of February). World Spay Day is presented by The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
Many breeds of dog are able to begin breeding as young as 4 months old, and while puppies are cute, allowing your dog to remain unaltered is detrimental to her individually and to the fate of many other dogs.
World Spay Day estimates 2.4 million healthy or treatable cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year. That’s one every 13 seconds! And this figure doesn’t account for the many pets that live as strays at large – estimated at over 40 million, who may meet unfortunate ends in traffic or due to government actions to reduce the stray population through culls. The majority of these rogue pets are the result of surplus, unwanted litters conceived by accident and unable to find homes. Spaying and neutering your household pet literally saves their lives.
What to expect when you spay or neuter:
- Female dogs are ‘spayed’ – their reproductive organs (uterus and ovaries) are removed entirely. Specific benefits for females who are spayed: drastically reduced rates of breast tumors, urinary tract infections, and other illnesses including cancer of the reproductive organs; no going into ‘heat’ with its bleeding, howling and urinating in excess; a longer happier life.
- Male dogs are ‘neutered’ – their testicles are removed. Specific benefits for males: reduced rates of prostate problems and testicular cancer; reduced flight risk from the reduced drive to seek out fertile females; may improve behavior overall in dealing with other dogs or animals; less likely to ‘mark’ inappropriate locations with urine; a longer, happier life.
The stitches at the incision site take a week or two to heal (longer for females due to the more invasive procedure), and it is important to use the 'Elizabethan' collar provided by your vet to prevent your dog from licking, biting and irritating the site during healing. After the discomfort wears off and the stitches dissolve, I can personally vouch for the improved quality of life your dog will have.
We rescued one of our dogs from a farm where she had 'accidentally' gotten pregnant at a young age. When the puppies were born, she didn't know what to do with them, and refused to feed them. The farm owners were therefore seeking to sell the puppies for some hundreds of dollars (because of the money they spent feeding them manually), and were giving her away for free on Craigslist and taking her to the pound if unsuccessful. This egregious injustice would not stand, and my father and I drove two hours over the mountains to retrieve this dog, who we'd seen in a tiny thumbnail size picture and heard about on the phone.
We brought her home, took her to the vet, and fixed her various worms and anaemia. We arranged to bring her back to be spayed when her next heat concluded. After she recovered, the transformation began. No doubt it was an effect of the better food, comfortable life and lack of worms as well, but the happiness we'd seen in the intervening weeks was definitely more carefree and puppy-like now. It was almost as if she knew she'd never have to suffer through having puppies while still a puppy herself again - that she could really truly enjoy this new sweet life, no strings attached. Maybe I imagined it, but she certainly enjoys herself now.
Many people report positive experiences with spaying & neutering, such as improved temperament in rambunctious young males, and reduced escape attempts (and the subsequent pregnancies!) by females in heat. Most pets adopted through a rescue service like Rural Dog Rescue are already altered, but pets you rescue off-transport, from a local shelter, or private owners are often in need of this essential service. You can always have your family veterinarian spay/neuter any new pet you adopt.
Affordable Spay/Neuter Clinic finder: http://www.petsmartcharities.org/adopt-a-pet/find-a-spayneuter-clinic