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.