In This Chapter
- Finding low-cost ways to spay or neuter your dog
- Understanding how spaying or neutering your pet can help the pet population
- Assessing the health risks of not spaying or neutering your dog
When you start thinking about spaying or neutering your dog, the first questions you should ask yourself are: Why did you get your mixed-breed dog? Because you wanted a companion, or because you specifically wanted to breed other animals? If you wanted a companion (the reason most people get dogs), you should sterilize your dog to improve the quality of your life and your dog’s.
Dog breeding is not for everyone. Done correctly it is costly, time-consuming, and often heart-wrenching. Though many people deal with the aftermath of breeding accidents, or breed their dogs without thinking about the dogs’ or puppies’ welfare, you can be certain that a large percentage of pregnant female dogs and their puppies wind up either at animal shelters or suffer dreadful consequences.
Whether you have a designer dog that costs thousands, or a Heinz 57 you adopted, there is no reason for breeding your dog and many reasons not to. In this chapter, I give you ten of the many reasons why you should spay or neuter your pet.
It Doesn’t Cost Much — and It May Be Free!
If you adopted your mixed-breed dog from a shelter, humane society, or rescue organization, you’ll likely be able to get a huge discount when it’s time to sterilize your dog. Just ask the people you got your dog from. The discounts can be anywhere from 10 to 60 percent!
Some veterinarians do spay and neutering clinics — often free to humane and rescue organizations. If you’ve adopted from those organizations, you may be able to get the service without charge. Information on free or low-charge spaying/neutering is often posted on bulletin boards at the volunteer veterinarians’ hospitals; animal shelters are also aware of the locations and dates of the clinics, so check with them if you’re unsure.
Many rescue groups already have sterilized their dogs before allowing them to be adopted, while humane societies require you to do it before they’ll allow the dog to go home with you.
Some low-cost spay-and-neuter clinics are able to offer this service because they minimize the use of anesthetic monitoring, the use of intravenous fluids, and post-operative pain control. If you can afford this procedure through your normal vet, go that route instead — you’ll decrease the risks and pain associated with surgery.
If you’re choosing between getting your dog spayed/neutered at a low-cost clinic, and not spaying/neutering at all, always opt for spaying/neutering.
Breeding Is Time-Consuming and Expensive
If you’re the owner of a female dog who got loose at the wrong time and came home pregnant, you’ve got a lot of expense ahead of you. Besides the time-consuming puppy and mommy care, you’ll have to take the pups to the vet for worming and the first set of vaccinations when they’re 5 weeks old, and again at 7 weeks. The costs of these vaccinations can range anywhere from $25 to $50 per puppy per visit. Did your dog have seven puppies? Do the math.
What if your dog becomes ill and can’t feed her puppies? You’ll have to hand-feed each one (more cost for formula and bottles for seven puppies for four weeks — ka-ching!) every two to four hours, 24 hours a day. That’s more than a full-time job!
When the puppies reach 3 weeks of age, the mommy dog begins to wean them. She won’t want to stick around and feed or clean them. Now it’s up to you to make sure she does her time with them when she’d really rather not. You’ll have to force her to do her job.
When the pups reach 4 weeks of age, it’s completely up to you as the puppies are weaned. You’ll have to feed them three times a day (more money for food), and clean up after them. Generally, a puppy pen needs cleaning three times a day, or the puppies are covered in a smelly mess.
Then there’s the noise level. When they’re hungry, puppies cry. When they play, they bark at each other. And they’re not on your sleeping schedule — you’re on their schedule, which means sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning, it’s playtime!
Having puppies isn’t all fun and games. Sure they’re cute, and puppy breath can’t be beat, but they’re loads of work and cost a lot! Spaying your female dog will save you a lot of time and money.
You Reduce Your Dog’s Risk of Cancer
The older your dog becomes, the higher the risk that she’ll develop any number of cancers.
Male dogs are prone to testicular and prostate infection and cancer, while female dogs can get mammarian, ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancer. Not caught in time, these diseases are fatal. Even if caught in the early stages, cancer is extremely expensive to treat. You’ll need to weigh the difference between the cost of sterilization ($75 to $150) and the cost of treating cancer (upwards of $2,000 for surgery, chemo, and/or radiation treatments). Plus, cancer causes all kinds of physical and psychological stress for you and your dog.
Cancer isn’t the only health risk for an unsterilized pet. Unsterilized dogs are more prone to developing kidney and bladder infections. Female dogs are prone to uterine and pelvic infections, as well as frequent vaginitis.
Overall, the cost is too high — both materially and psychologically — not to spay or neuter your dog.
You Help Control the Number of Unwanted Dogs in the World
In the United States, a dog is euthanized every 4 seconds of every day. That’s millions of dogs killed each year because people weren’t responsible pet owners.
The average family of four would have to own eight dogs each in order for every dog in the United States to have a home. Are you willing to have eight dogs? Is your neighbor? How would that work in a high-rise apartment building in the city?
The rampant spread of disease is another reason that dogs are being euthanized at an alarming rate. The more feral dogs there are, without the benefit of vaccinations, the faster they will spread diseases such as rabies, parvovirus, distemper, and other highly contagious diseases, some of which are transferable to humans.
Also, homeless dogs can be dangerous to local wildlife and cats, as well as causing vehicular accidents. Some may even harm children. There are many known cases of wandering dog packs actually killing children and the elderly.
Your dog needs you to be a responsible guardian.
Your Dog Won’t Be as Likely to Stray from Home
Female dogs in season seek male dogs. It’s a hard-wired instinct. You open your front door, and out she goes — and she won’t return for days, if at all. If she returns home, you’ll have a pregnant dog to deal with.
Unneutered male dogs can smell a female dog in season from more than a mile away. They perform feats of spectacular escapism to reach that female. Plus, they become assertive and temperamental if they aren’t allowed to reach the source of the scent. Do you want to lose your dog with the high probability of never seeing him again? Or knowing that he can become injured by fighting with other dogs over a female in season, or being hit by a car and dying on the side of the road because he had to get to that female dog across the busy highway? Is it really that important to keep your dog intact when the risks of permanently losing him are that high?
Your Dog Will Be on Her Best Behavior
Neutering or spaying does not change who your dog is, but it will enhance her behavior in a more positive way, making your relationship with her more harmonious. When your female dog is in heat or your male dog smells a female in heat, your mixed breed won’t be the baby or best friend you’ve known.
Your Dog Will Be Easier to Housetrain
Neutered male dogs are less likely to spray the furniture in your home or otherwise mark territory indoors. They’re more accepting of the fact that inside the home is your territory. When an intact male dog detects a female dog in heat, he’ll likely break all the housetraining rules and behave as though he’d never learned them. The mess and stench will be tremendous. You’ll be tempted to make your dog live outdoors instead of with you — and that means he’ll no longer be a family member.
A neutered/spayed dog will be more likely to acquiesce to housetraining due to not having the desire to be in charge or behave in an instinctual manner. Your dog can’t control her mood swings and needs.
Another important reason is the mess involved with a female dog in heat. She will be leaking blood for ten days during the first trimester of her heat. It’s messy, smelly, and can stain your flooring, furniture, and bedding. Who wants to deal with that?
Reproduction Can Be Risky
Many things can go wrong with whelping puppies. There can be health and delivery risks for the mother. If she has a dead puppy in her womb, she can become seriously ill as the puppy decomposes or spreads any disease that might have killed the pup to the other puppies and to the mother. If one of the puppies doesn’t exit the womb properly, causing the mother dog physical distress, she’ll have to undergo a cesarean section to deliver the puppies. This will be very costly to you and physically stressful to her.
Some mother dogs don’t want to be mothers. They won’t clean up after their pups or feed them. Guess who will have to take over? Yep, that’s right: you! Will you be willing to do this when she won’t?
Your Dog Will Be a Better Watchdog
A neutered dog will want to protect his home territory instead of wanting to increase the size of his territory. Intact male dogs tend to mark every object they can when going for walks through the neighborhood. They want to increase the size of their territory and do so by leaving this “calling card.” A neutered dog will be less likely to want to stop at every tree, fence post, and mailbox to leave his mark. He won’t care about increasing his territory. He’s quite happy with the one he has at home.
A dog who loves his home will tend to protect it better. You’ll be alerted to the presence of strangers who enter the area instead of wondering why you never heard your dog bark when someone arrived because the dog was down the block investigating the source of an interesting smell.
So if you spend a lot of time home alone, keeping your dog home, too, will be very beneficial. He will want to stay home if he’s not driven to roam by raging hormones.
Your Dog Isn’t You
You love your mixed breed very much. You may even “identify” with her as a part of yourself — an extension or appendage. You think that you would hate to be unable to reproduce. It’s the driving force of nature, of all living things.
You have to be realistic. Your dog is a dog, not a person, and not you in particular. You can prove your love and devotion to your dog by neutering or spaying, because you’ll be improving your dog’s quality of life as well as your dog’s longevity.
by Miriam Fields-Babineau