By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record June 13, 2009
Even with the changes in the economy and the vast problem with pet overpopulation in our city, our state, and nationwide; many pet owners will say to me that they want to have just one litter of puppies or kittens with their dog or cat. In many cases the pet is not a purebred or has underlying medical issues that may be inherited and could be passed on to offspring. Often times the owner thinks they have prospective homes for the puppies or kittens, only to find themselves stuck with most of the litter. Our shelters are filled with dogs and cats, both mixes and purebreds that are euthanized in numbers too high to comprehend, simply because there are not enough homes for them.
Spaying your pet provides a huge number of benefits. If a dog is spayed before her first heat, she is completely protected from mammary/breast cancer. This protection declines the later in life that the surgery is performed. With any spay procedure, the female is protected from uterine and ovarian cancer. After surgery you don't have to deal with your pet going through a heat cycle. Unspayed dogs do experience menstruation/a period, and this happens about every 6 months. Cats go through episodes of moaning, wining, rubbing, etc. These episodes which last from one to a few weeks, and can happen repeatedly during each spring season. Some cats have repeated heat cycles that can go year round. And felines can have more than one litter of kittens in a season. Spaying also makes animals less aggressive, and less likely to fight with other animals. It makes them less likely to wonder from home to find a mate.
Neutering your male dog or cat also provides many benefits. It makes them less likely to urine mark. Male animals, especially dogs will spray their urine on walls, objects, toys, and sometimes people to mark these items as theirs. This can happen both at home and away from home, and typically begins at around 6-8 months of age. Neutering decreases urine marking when the surgery is performed prior to 6-8 months of age. Urine marking can become a learned process, and can be difficult to stop. Neutering may or may not stop this habit once urine marking has already begun. Intact dogs are also known to mount objects and people's legs. Neutered dogs and cats are less aggressive, and less likely to fight with other animals. They are also less likely to wonder from home to mate; making it less likely that they are hit by a car, or develop wounds and infections from fighting. Neutering also helps to prevent prostate problems.
There are also many misconceptions about having a litter of puppies or kittens. Many people think that this is easy to do. There is a lot of work involved in caring for and cleaning up after newborn animals, especially with puppies. There can be many unexpected costs, and this is not a money making process. Some dogs or cats will need surgery/c-sections, which can be quite expensive; to be able to deliver their offspring. If surgery is not performed, the mother and the offspring can all die. Some of the new arrivals from any litter may not survive past 48 hours because of health issues. The new offspring should receive dewormer at 2 weeks, 4 weeks and six weeks; on this last visit, they are old enough for vaccinations. The kittens or puppies shouldn't be placed in other homes until they are 8 weeks old. Many people feel this is good or healthy for the mother animal to experience, and also the best way for their human family to experience the "miracle of birth". The health concerns were previously discussed, and there are many wonderful books, videos and DVDs on this process.
Please seriously consider the health risks, the potential problems, and the potential costs before you consider breeding your dog or cat.