Friday, April 29, 2005

Why Spaying and Castration are your friends

If you have cats or dogs (especially dogs) and care abt keeping them alive for as long as they possibly can, please read this. PLEASE do. Yesterday I necropsied a Golden Cocker Spaniel bitch. I am truly, truly upset. In fact, I am so upset that I have been very carefully NOT thinking abt it but this fury, this hot, gut-wrenching fury has me now, and I will tell you exactly how bloody unnecessary her death was. We start off by doing a physical examination: body condition (e.g. fat amount, mucosas, joints). This dog was fairly normal but highly anaemic. She also had a huge tumour under her right armpit, the size of a tennis ball. It became fairly obvious what the problem was when we reached the teats.

Female dogs have 5 pairs of teats: two thoracic (1-2), two abdominal (3-4), one inguinal (5). On the right, pairs 3-4-5 were obviously cancerous, as were pairs 3-4 on the left. Imagine a line connecting the teats on every side, and now imagine that both the teat pairs and the space connecting them are so hard they actually form a ridge under the skin that stands upright on its own. A dog w mammary cancer doesn’t stand a very good chance unless it’s caught in the very beginning. Then, we’re taught, the entire chain on the affected side is removed (and maybe later the one on the other side as well) along w the inguinal lymph node. Spaying is also recommended (oh we’re getting warmer here). Some vets say that spaying the bitch will render the removal of the second chain unnecessary but hell do I disagree. More on this later. You can see the surgery here.

Upon opening the dog we found secondary tumours in the lungs and liver. This is a bit of an understatement, see, bcs it would be more accurate to say that it was a miracle and the dog’s personal damnation that she had been able to breathe for as long as she did. The tumours on the liver were disseminated but there was plenty of healthy liver left. The lungs had been ALMOST ENTIRELY replaced by cancer. That poor dog suffered for I don’t know how long, in pain and fighting for every breath. I have many, many problems with this. That dog SHOULD have been spared those last stages of suffering, euthanasia is never pleasant but it’s a matter of doing what is right for the animal, and not what is right for the misguided owner. And it could all have very well been completely avoided if the bitch had been spayed before her first heat.
MYTH: A female will act crazy if she’s spayed.
MYTH: A female needs to give birth at least once or she’ll act crazy
MYTH: A spayed female will be inevitably obese
MYTH: A spayed female will miss IT
MYTH: Spaying is not natural
MYTH: The female should at least be allowed to keep her ovaries

FACT: A female spayed bfr her first heat, be it cat (5-6 months) or dog (depends on breed but better early than late), will almost certainly not develop mammary tumours. A bitch spayed after her second heat will have a higher probability of developing mammary cancer but it will still be significantly reduced. A female spayed after her third heat stands the same chance of developing cancer as a non-spayed one - and this is why I feel it’s very dangerous not to remove the second mammary chain. As you can see, females are better off WITHOUT that first litter. Furthermore, unless it’s a pedigree dog, why would you want to increase the number of existing cats and dogs? If you’re not lucky enough to live in a country where there are shelters that ALWAYS accept animals, you’re adding to the problem.

FACT: It is still worth spaying females bcs that reduces the chances of pyometra - uterine infection which sometimes involves peritonitis and can often be fatal even w treatment, most certainly is without. An open pyometra may show itself bcs there is a vaginal discharge but a closed one will not, and then only lack of appetite, frequent urination and thirst, along w a very firm abdomen and pain to the touch will clue in the owners, with luck, that something is wrong. Sometimes when the bitch is valuable and used for breeding owners want to try medication only. It sometimes work but the risk is so high that the only truly effective treatment is a hysterectomy. The uterus is so full of pus it is hard to believe, once the uterine horns are pulled out, that the whole thing could have fitted inside the animal. Go here if you don’t believe me. Can you imagine the pain that animal was in? An early spaying would have prevented this witth an almost 100% certainty.

FACT: Spayed animals may show a tendency to gain weight. You, however, can control what and how much your pet eats, and know that overfeeding equals killing with love. You can also make sure your pet exercises more often. Dogs need to be walked anyway and playing Fetch allows you to remain sitting, if you’re the lazy type. A laser-point will also allow you to exercise your cats till kingdom come w you comfy on the sofa, and has the added benefit of ensuring hilarity. Foil crushed into a ball and corks will also keep them busy. I own 3 very spayed females and they are not fat. [J.I.P. is NOT fat!]

FACT: What is IT? Are you talking abt sex? Animals we are but we are emotionally invested in sex, we have neuroses, phobias, all sorts of emotional investments in it. Other animals don’t. What we feel is not what they feel. A spayed bitch will absolutely not miss IT.

FACT: No, it isn’t. neither are vaccines, pet food, antibiotics, surgery. Are you seriously trying to tell me that, should you fall ill, you will only rely on your natural defences and do nothing abt it? If you break a leg, you will not seek a doctor to X-ray and set it? “Natural” doesn’t always equate “good”. Cancer’s been around for thousands of years and the world is doing its utmost to fight it.

FACT: Bearing in mind that the objective is to protect her from cancer and pyometra, and that these are highly connected to the hormone levels, and that the ovaries play a major role in it, the spaying should be a ovariohisterectomy, not simply the removal of the uterus.

If you have a house-bound cat, he will start marking his territory sooner or later. Male cat pee is absolutely offensive and once the behaviour has been learned, there is no guarantee that castration will change it. Males should be castrated at around 6 months, sooner sometimes if they start marking. Free-roaming pet cats kill an astonishing amount of wildlife every year, especially songbirds. They do it bcs a) they are programmed to and b) bcs they are tame, they regress, and bring their owners their most loyal tidbits. SHe who never had a dead cockroach lovingly placed on his pillow during the night, called the landlord in hysterics, and out of the utmost gratitude almost snogged the old, smelly, Argentinian exterminator on the kitchen counter as he liberally sprayed highly toxic and carcinogenic products around, raise your hand. Quite.

Free-roaming cats are also often involved in fights w other males, and female cats will be bitten during courtship. This is how FeLV is transmitted (Feline Leukaemia Virus). It is ultimately fatal and not a pretty death at all. So your healthy cat can become infected, and then as a carrier he will infect other healthy cats. If I ever leave the city - and I bloody well will one day - I plan on having a tall wall around the house, so that my animals can frolic around in the grass and chase butterflies, and I can rest easy knowing the amount of wildlife damage they do is minimal, and that they are safe from diseases passed on by other animals. I know not everyone has this option. But at least know what the risks and consequences are.

Free-roaming dogs are also more at risk of disease and generally being run over. Go here and here for the behavioural and medical advantages of castration and ovariohysterectomies in cats and dogs.

I find it criminal that owners allow their dogs and cats to roam if they’re not castrated. They will mate w females for sure, and they will mate w strays who will get pregnant. Stray animals don’t live the blessed lives many think they do. Sometimes their lives are downright horrid. There is not enough to eat, you are kicked off places, they are the target of sick minds, there is no real safety anywhere. These females, especially cats, have an amazing reproductive turnover and the cat population numbers are alarming everywhere, but especially in poorer countries. Many litters do not survive bcs the babies are too weak or the mother is, worn out bcs of constant malnutrition, hunger, disease and stress. And those who survive go on to perpetuate the cycle. I find it highly unconscionable, I do.

If you let your male pet roam free, the least you can do is do a vasectomy. That way you ensure there will be no unwanted pregnancies but your animal will maintain all natural behaviours. AGAIN, bear in mind your pet is not human. He doesn’t worship on the Altar Of The Balls. He does not have a relationship with his penis. He doesn’t proudly fondle it and rearrange it. He has never measured it. Chances are he doesn’t even have a name for it. Do what is best for your animal and leave Freud where it belongs.

A castration is a very simple procedure, actually, especially on cats. I think I could perform one already - it’s the anaesthesia bit that’s the trickiest. It’s all performed on the outside bcs the testes are external. The animal doesn’t even need sutures, just a swab of betadine. The surgery itself lasts abt 20 min. A vasectomy is also perfomed on the outside, a little cut is made and then the vas deferens on each side is cut and closed, so that no sperm is present in the semen. The animal’s libido will not suffer any changes.

I am aware that, if I’m trying to be educational, I should be careful not to offend. But right now I don’t care whether I may hurt YOUR feelings and convictions. You get to have them, I get to see their results (Go here for statistics). I believe if you could see how cruel, how devastatingly painful they are to these animals, you would be less attached to their reproductive apparatus. We all deserve life, and the quality of it.


At 29/4/05 16:20, Blogger Diana said...

I've never had a pet that wasn't spayed but I never knew all the other benefits. I just didn't want to add to the pet over-population problem. I can attest that none of our 2 cats and 2 dogs that we've had were 1) obese, 2) particularly crazy (just normally nutty) 3) seemed to miss anything. Living in the country with hawks and coyotes and all sorts of feral cats, our next kitty will be an inside one, but the house has plenty of places to play and windows to watch out of with nice ledges. 8 acres of Wisconsin is too much to wall off.

At 29/4/05 16:21, Blogger Ana said...

Wow, am I glad my dog is a male! He isn't castrated but he also doesn't roam free, except in our front yard.

At 29/4/05 16:40, Blogger Matt said...

First of all let me say thank you and give you a big internet hug for taking such good care of my Little Sister and Dad while they were there with you. Thank you thank you thank you. I alsow would like to add that I never knew of all of the problems associated with animals and the spaying and castration areas, thank you for the knowledge. I am currently living with one male cat, one male dog (that thinks he is a cat), and one female dog. I believe the cat is fixed (it was not mine before I moved in), I don't think the female is fixed, but the dog that thinks he's a kitten is fixed for sure. They only roam free in the fenced off back yard that we have with the house. Other than that, they are always inside, or on a leash. Thank you again for the learning experience, and also thank you again for the knowledge you have bestowed upon me today.


P.S. I have a new blog, it is feel free to peruse it if you like.

Thanks again


At 29/4/05 20:26, Blogger Nuno Guerreiro said...

Hello Lioness,

Here in Los Angeles there was recently a public awareness campaign with great results. My kitty (Tully - short for Ratul Azul) became much happier after the castration...
Check out the LA campaign here: DeSex and the City.

At 29/4/05 21:59, Blogger Udge said...

Wow, we haven't seen you this worked up about anything in a loooooong while. I think it's a good sign.

At 29/4/05 23:28, Blogger Noorster said...

Thank you, great post. Remember what I told you about my dog? We've recently had him castrated. The lump in his testicle wasn't malignant, but we didn't want to take chances with a 13-year-old (otherwise healthy) dog. FYI, both my cats are spayed, one is incredibly fat (thanks for the laser-point tip), the other one is slender.
I'd like to join Udge in saying how happy I am that you actually got worked up on something. The cat & his penis bit was brilliant.
I (heart) the Lioness.

Also, DeSex and the City? Laughed out loud.

At 30/4/05 04:54, Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

Wait until you're a vet. You'll want to strangle people on a daily basis!

Nice to see you fired up again ;)

At 30/4/05 05:41, Blogger amyesq said...

Oh great to hear you so adamant! Question here about my female cat. We have, of course had her fixed, but why did my vet insist upon waiting until she was six months old? She had two heats before she was six months old. Is it just b/c of her size? Is she still more at risk to develop mammary cancer even if she never bred?

At 30/4/05 13:09, Blogger D said...

My Amstaff Raeva (guess what that means in Ivrit...) is short one teat. It is just one of her many idiosyncrasies. We planned to have a nest with her from my English Staff dog, but she turned out to be HD-pos, so we had her spayed. She's over 7 now, still fit,happy, healthy, and her character has not been affected one iota.

I would like your opinion on dog castration. Personally I think that for convenience it may be a good thing. Dogs tend to get more mellow, and certainly less horny. But it does affect their personality, sometimes a lot, and so I would not have my dogs castrated (which causes trouble with dog-agressive breeds, but is otherwise worth it). What sayeth you?

At 30/4/05 20:21, Anonymous Viscondessa said...

Would you believe that my father absolutely refused to have our many male cats "fixed" when I was growing up? And are you ready for WHY? Are you? You will love this. I forget whether it was him or my mother, but one of them told me.... that it was because he was Portuguese, and hence too macho to be willing to castrate the poor wild-oats-sowing cats. HA HA HA. Ultimately my mother won out (or maybe my dad's just mellowed over the years?) and now all cats in my family are fixed.

At 1/5/05 00:41, Anonymous Kimberly said...

Thanks for a great post. I hope many are educated and moved to act. My weakness is dogs, we live on a 40+ acre farm and have four - all spayed/neutered. My most recently added dog is Estella, 1 year old Labradoodle rescue. She came to me at 4 months old with a raging case of demodex (sp?) or puppy mange. Very ugly stuff. B/c of the mange, our vet wanted to wait until after her first heat to spay, suggesting surgery could bring the demodex back. Actually, her first heat brought the mange back, and this go 'round seemed worse than before. She is now spayed, mange gone, but I have worried about the increased cancer risk. I have had this dog almost 9 months now, and she is so sweet, so smart. She accompanies me everywhere. Animal abuse makes me sick. When I think of where this beloved pet came from...I just want to hug the ones we have (oldest is 16! Going Strong)and wish we could give loving homes to more. All of ours are shelter adoptees or rescues. Everyone should consider the great love of an older pet who needs a home. Anyway, thanks again for a great post.

At 1/5/05 14:42, Blogger Anne said...

Great Post. I have a great dog, male, spayed. And I have a question: is it possible to spay a male too early? We did it young, around 4 or 5 months I think, and he still at 7 years has a remarkable "puppy personality." He's adorable, but also very hyper & someone suggested I should have let him get a little more testoterone to settle him down, before spaying him. Is that a myth?

At 1/5/05 15:32, Blogger CarpeDM said...

This was very interesting. Took me a while to read it because of jet lag and not having the brain power to concentrate.

My family has always spayed and neutered our pets. Mainly to control the pet population but also, most of my cats have been male and you're right, male cat urine is horrible. I have experienced this close up - agreed to take care of my manager's cat who had been neutered but not until he was much older. Woke up one morning almost choking from the acrid smell and saw that he was marking his territory right next to my bed. Apparently he wanted to make sure everyone knew I was his human.

I miss you dreadfully.


D (oh, I'm back to being Dana or DM now. Deya is my Portugal alias)

At 1/5/05 18:13, Anonymous Nikki said...

I'm a big fan of getting the animals fixed. We have a vet friend that captures stray cats and fixes them, then re-releases them. We help catch them. No need for more unwanted kitties running about. However feral cats are a bit destructive - don't let them out of the trap in your bathroom - you won't have much of a bathroom left in a few minutes. :)

At 2/5/05 00:51, Blogger Kristin said...

EXACTLY...I wish more people realized the facts and did the responsible thing.

At 2/5/05 02:09, Blogger Nilbo said...

Wow ... I loved reading this and learning so much ... as the owner of a (tragically stoopid) dog, and being owned in turn by two (tragically contemptuous) cats, we've long had a family policy of spaying or neutering all animals in the house. Part of it was so that we didn't add to the population, of course ... but another big part was their overall health. Nice to have our actions vindicated so thoroughly ...

At 2/5/05 04:28, Blogger Susie said...

Aha! Now I know who the Pink Panther is! Thank you so much for visiting me, I'm glad you enjoyed. And FYI, I am a pet-lover as well, and my Very Bad Dog is neutered.

At 2/5/05 09:52, Blogger Nurse Mia said...

I cheer you on in your quest to have dogs and cats spayed or neutered. All of my pets have been fixed. It is so important for so many reasons. I had to laugh when I went to the link on neutering male cats, however. Those photos were so vivid - I hope no one tries that at home! ;-)

At 2/5/05 10:32, Blogger The Lioness said...

This will be the longest comment ever, I'll break it into bits, I think:

D., I saw a documentary a while ago abt cats (wish I remembered the name) (that's where I learned abt the wildlife problem) and this lady in Australia built a wire tunnel that leads from the house into the garden and above, which the cats can use to go for a stroll and take a look around and lie in the sun. It was the most briliant thing, you could see the cat looking very interestedly at a nest but look was all he could do. But I see how 8 acres of Wisconsin are a problem, yes.

A., since I seem to be on a zealous path, let me add to it and forever win your gratitude by suggesting you feel his balls on a regular basis to check for lumps. I can SO imagine you doing it.

M., happy to have bestowed, it's one of my fave subjects. It was a pleasure having them around. I'll go check out your blog, yes.

NUNO GUERREIRO?? Baruch haba! *Deep bow* Que bom vê-lo por cá, já deve ter percebido que o leio religiosamente (no pun intended). Ratul Azul - :DDDD E obrigada pelo link para o desex and the City, simply brilliant. Volte sempre!

U., couldn't be helped, we just stood and stared when the internal organs were revealed, we couldn't believe it. To be honest, it's been a long while, I'm glad as well (and a bit relieved it didn't all wash away)(no pun intended either)

At 2/5/05 10:45, Blogger The Lioness said...

V, shocker. A Portie, even a transplanted one, showing attitude. Never heard of that. Good for Mum!

At 2/5/05 10:54, Blogger The Lioness said...

K, welcome! All my pets are charity cases as well, and I know that I'll only ever have a pedigree one if it's dumped mangled on my lap. I also tend to go on and on abt why it's better to adopt adult animals but I've spared you all this, figured the post was too long as it is. If it makes you feel better, you can assign a monthly day to do a teat check, ask your vet to show you how. If caught early, it's treatable. Not good of course, but treatable.

Hi A., welcome as well. Depending on the breed, it may be too young and that's the reason many choose to wait a bit to allow for growth all around. So, not a myth at all. But the truth is, it's not easy to find that balance and FWIW, my dog is 3 years old now and everyone that sees her jumping around frantically thinks she's still a puppy. And she was spayed at 11 months. Some dogs are hyper and puppy-like and nothing will change that - sometimes not even old age.

DM, your poor things. I hope the world has righted itself again. I miss you two as well.

At 2/5/05 10:57, Blogger The Lioness said...

N, good to see you here. ;D Yay for your vet friend, I plan to do exactly the same (I did in Israel, the vet there only charged me for the material, it cost abt $20 US, 35 euros). I know of only one vet who does that here in Portugal. It makes me sad, I don't understand how all doctors and laywers can not do some pro bono once in a while. So I'll never be rich. Shocker.

At 2/5/05 11:03, Blogger The Lioness said...

K, thank you for the reinforcement, dahling.

N., welcome. This turned out to be a very gratifying post to write, bcs of all the comments that make me have a little bit more of hope. I am actually rather surprised so many feel it was educational, you don't know of my struggles w vet school but it was like a balm. So you commenters are the one doing the vindication, and I am very thankful for it.

S., if only you knew how funny your remark was! I AM the Pink Panther yes, in more ways than one. Your dog, a photocopier AND neutered - I'm impressed. That animal has balls.

Oh well.

M., trust a nurse to laugh at that. I feel at home now! It's not even funny when I think that in israel when I used to say i took cats in for spaying/castration many thought I did at home. In the kitchen. W scissors. Of course I did, why, I watch Tarantino.

At 2/5/05 19:54, Blogger brooksba said...


As everyone else has said, this was a very informative post. Our family has always had male pets (only recently has my mom taken cats into the home) and they have all been neutered early on. Each were neutered within 4 months of living at our home. The dogs have a fenced in back yard to run and play.

J.I.P. is not fat. She's no starving feline, but I would never call her fat. She has a healthy weight on her.

I miss you terribly. I am sorry it took so long to comment, these first few days back have been crazy. I love the new pictures on the blog. We had the one of you and Hum-Hum developed.

Everyone who saw the pictures last night really wanted to meet you. They are all hoping that you do get the chance to visit us in August.



At 2/5/05 23:15, Blogger Jen P said...

I too heart the Lioness.

What a brilliant post!! We did have wee problems with Ben at the end of his 4th month and into his 5th, had the snip and he's great. Much less aggressive, more attentive and NO pee!! (And he's neither lazy nor over-the-top crazy, just a bit nuts.)

I feel so bad for that poor bitch who had to suffer. Did her people make any statements as to WHY they didn't fix her? It seems so horribly cruel to let an animal continue her demise when it could have been so easily fixed with castration.

We looked into getting a 'gun dog' (will do when we have more land) and have no desire to breed him/her, however the owner we spoke to said that she wouldn't sell us the dog if we chose to castrate. At first I was angry with that, then thought maybe it would be ok, but after reading this, I couldn't ever, EVER, imagine not fixing my animal.

That poor, poor dog.

Thinking of you and hoping you're doing ok. Hope you get some extraordinarily exotic next time -- a hidden Kangaroo that turns up just for you?

At 2/5/05 23:34, Blogger The Lioness said...

J., we received the animal without the clinical history bcs a necropsy had not been requested, so we have no clue as to why. Also, I've missed the crocodile and the ostrich, so I don't think I'll have any luck in the remaining month. Formoldehyde coming up again. Blech. You didn't miss the badger post did you? It's called Badger of Copurage I think. Am trying to keep you and Sophie entertained. ;)

I'm doing ok, enjoying the respite (I'm sure it will go down again at some point). But for now I can breathe. Tnx dahling.

At 3/5/05 16:29, Blogger ThreeBees said...

I could not agree with you more! I heart Lioness! ;)

At 19/6/05 04:41, Blogger The Lioness said...

N., I heart the Noorster as well. And kudos on the castration, here you'd typically see the owners saying the dog's too old anyway so why bother.

LC, I ALREADY DO! It's like paedietrics, the patient doesn't speak and the beloved parents/owners always know better.

A., it is thought better to let some fair amount of growth happen bfr castrating/neutering. But you bring up a good point and I've actually been meaning to change the age I wrote bcs, even though it is a bit different w dogs (different breeds/mixes mature at diff speeds), it is always advisable to make sure the surgery happens bfr the first heat. I can understand her surprising you w her first heat. What I don't see is why your vet didn't rush the spaying, after the safety time had elapsed (w the heat blood vessels become engorged and there's a higher risk of bleeding). The breeding itself has no bearing in cancer incidence - well w dogs it sometimes does bcs they have sexualluy transmitted cancers. She should still be more protected than an un-neutered one.

D., you had me at Raeva actually! Trust you to call her that! :DDDD What most owners do is, they try - w the help of the vet, which should be well-kowkedged in the particular breed in this case - to find a balance btwn allowing enough growth time for some characteristics to become permanent but not let the dogs experience such a hormonal surge that they will be very difficult and aggressive. Amstaffs are great w people, for instance, and horrible w other dogs, in general.

My unbiased *furball* opinion is, castrate. Seriously, I can't imagine one of those "dangerous" breeds absolutely becoming mellow through castration. So I definitely would.


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