One of the problems that communities are grappling with today is the numerous animals that are left without shelter or a place to call home. Yes, there are many dogs that have loving and kind families that care for them. But there are equally many cute and cuddly ones that end up in animal shelters. Many of these animals have been abandoned by their owners who are not able to care for them anymore. Many others end up living and dying on the streets, in alleys, or in the wild.
The real problem however, is not even the fact that they are abandoned and uncared for; the real problem is that there are just too many dogs. There is an overpopulation of animals that gives reasons to spay or neuter them for greater control.
Spay vs neuter
Dogs and other animals have always had that capacity to breed and reproduce in litters and their population spirals out of control. Dog owners are always looking for takers to care for the additional puppies that are born; but there is always not enough. Each year the animal population gets larger and many are put out on the streets, some are lucky to end up in shelters.
When shelters become overpopulated and they are not able to find homes with loving and caring families to place them in, then millions of animals have to be euthanized each year. But spaying or neutering has been seen as a better approach to controlling the animal population.
Spaying is the removal of the sexual organs or those responsible for reproduction in the female animal. When this surgical operation is carried out, the female dog is no longer able to produce puppies. Neutering is the general term used for both male and female but is also specific to the removal of the reproductive abilities of the male.
Neutering in the male is sometimes referred to “castration”, “fixing”, “desexing’, or “sterilization”. The veterinarian will use the more technical terms of “orchiectomy” or “gonadectomy”, a surgical procedure carried out to remove the reproductive organs especially the testes. Locally, spaying is also referred to “sterilization”, but the experts may also use ovariohysterectomy.
Acceptance of neutering
There are many who do not advocate for the neutering of dogs or other animals and are not as accepting of the facts that are given to supporting the action. Of such, there are certain unfavorable beliefs that surround the whole process. The following explains some myths regarding spaying and neutering:
Spaying before reproducing — There is the thinking that a dog should be allowed to have at least one litter before spaying. Some owners love the personality of their dog and would like to see that reproduced in the puppies.
However, the fact is that a litter of puppies will be born some of which may not be willingly taken by caring families. They will only add to the burden of suitably caring for the animals which can be expensive. Additionally, there is scientific evidence that shows that dogs live healthier when they are spayed before their first heat. Spaying is done even as young as eight weeks.
Altering of a dog’s personality – Some owners believe that neutering will alter a dog’s personality. They feel that the dog’s natural instinct of being an aggressive and protective animal will be reduced. Individuals are used to seeing a dog roaming and getting excited especially when they are in heat or when they spot another dog in their environment.
Neutering will only stop the hormones that give the dog the drive to become overexcited and therefore your dog will experience a calmer mood and personality. The experts will tell you that dogs’ instinctive nature is not designed by sex hormones, but rather by environment and genetic makeup.
Need to experience the miracle of birth – Dog owners with children would rather that they experience the miracle of birth in their dogs. There is nothing to small children than to tell the good news that their pet is having puppies.
However, owners are reminded of the countless number of dogs that are euthanized in shelters each year, that overshadows the whole act of the miracle of birth. Advocates require more of owners to teach kids greater responsibility in not having animals that they are not able to care for. It is felt that parents can effectively use videos to show their kids the birthing process.
Considerations for purebreds – There are those who question why purebreds are lumped with dogs who should not be allowed to breed. However, it is felt that there can be no leeway given to any breed since 25% of dogs that end up in shelters are purebreds. Some owners of purebreds and mixed breeds abandon their dogs for the same reasons – dogs are an inconvenience, they don’t have enough time to care for them, and they are too much of a responsibility.
Fear that animals will become fat and lazy – Usually dogs that have been neutered increase their weight much to the concern of their owners. Neutering results in calmer dogs that do not roam so much in their effort to find a partner. Calmer dogs will be seen as less active and considered lazy. However, it is advised that the dogs’ diet is controlled and they are given more exercise which will burn calories and reduce weight.
Fear that the surgical procedure is painful and dangerous – The very consideration that the animals are being operated on induces fear in many people that it is a dangerous procedure. However, people are made to understand that the operation is done under anesthesia and dogs are unlikely to feel any pain in the process. Furthermore, animals recuperate at home with the need for very little hospital care, and in a few days are back to their normal activities.
Concern that spay/neuter is expensive – Owners believe that the process is expensive to do. With so many low-cost clinics that are around, owners will get a good deal for the neutering their animals. As a matter of fact, animal shelters carry out spaying and neutering at minimal cost while owners are able to find low-cost clinics in their general environments.
Neutered vs spayed animals
Neutered male dogs
- Eliminating health issues — Dogs that are neutered or spayed tend to benefit from the procedure in some way or another. There are the medical advantages that many are happy for. For one, male dogs that are intact, or which do not have neutering procedures done to them tend to develop cancer of the testicles. Tumors in the testicles can be benign or malignant but incidents are reduced especially if done before six months.
Similarly, prostate diseases are found to be common in unneutered dogs due to the heavy weathering on the organ by testosterone. Foster (2015) advises that up to 80% of unneutered male dogs suffer some form of prostate disease such as benign enlargements, cysts and infection.
Another health problem that is seen to be reduced in neutered dogs is hernias. A hernia occurs when an organ or part of it protrudes through the wall of the cavity that it is in. Dogs are often diagnosed with perianal hernias that develop when the colon, bladder, prostrate or fat pushes through to the muscular wall to lie just under the skin of the anus. It is believed that the testosterone hormone acts to weaken the muscles around the anus and as the dog strains to urinate and defecate, fat or other organ pushes into the anal cavity.
Dog owners will notice the problem more readily in older and unneutered dogs with shorter hair. If the problem is not treated the anal muscles may not be able to function and a dog may experience constipation or unable to contain its urine. It also can be pretty expensive to treat (Foster, 2015). Perianal tumors are also associated with the action of testosterone in dogs. These benign or malignant tumors appear close to the anal cavity and tend to show up at an average of 7 years in those dogs that are not neutered.
One of the best outcomes of neutering is the potential to eliminate genetically carried diseases that are found especially in some breeds. To be able to stop the progress of hip dysplasia and epilepsy is to prevent the conditions from being brought into the future.
- Eliminating behavioral problems — The intact male will do anything to get to a female when in heat. They’ll jump over high walls or dig under fences to get to their female target. Neutering reduces the production of less of the sex hormones that causes dogs to be excitable and send them roaming for a female. For the dog that leaves the confines of the home there is the possibility of him being hit by motor vehicle or getting into fights with other dogs.
The behavior of unneutered male dogs can disgust you. They display aggression due to the male hormone that is produced in them. The display of aggression tends to be towards other animals and persons who are not in the household.
Neutering helps to calm the animal and the focus of its attention is placed more on the family. The neutered dog is more homely and you now have a greater opportunity to give it better care. In addition, because of milder temperament, male dogs are more trainable and are able to focus on what he is being taught even with the distraction of females around.
Spaying female dogs
- Eliminating health issues – Like neutering in the male, spaying of the female does have advantages. Many of the advantages of spaying lie in the improved health that can be derived. When spaying is done the entire reproductive tract in the female dog is removed – ovaries, uterus, and oviduct. The removal of these does also remove estrogen and progesterone, hormones that cause the female dog to experience two heat cycles for the year.
They play their distinct role in pregnancy but also affect the dog’s body in other ways and this can be harmful. Females tend to develop cancers of the uterus and of the ovaries and a condition of the uterus called pyometra, caused by an infection and which is life threatening. The condition usually affects the uterus after the heat cycle and a normal uterus can increase to three times its size in some situations. Breast cancer also is the most common type of cancer that affects about 50% of dogs (ASPCA, 2015).
- Eliminating behavioral problems — In the first place it disallows the dog from having litters of puppies to increase the population of animals that cannot be cared for. Secondly, due to the removal of hormones that are responsible for making them excitable, the animal is calmer and does not present the chaos that usually accompanies the heat cycle. Dogs can present you with unhygienic conditions when they are going through this period.
They will leave spots of blood on the floor; they will continue to lick their vaginal areas; and seek to mount other dogs including other females in their effort to find a mate. Furthermore, females will stop at nothing to get to the company of male partners so you will be confronted with scratching, digging, pacing and making bids to escape. The possibility also exists for your unneutered dog to be attended by several males that may litter your place with droppings and that spray urine on walls, trees and plants marking their territory.
Disadvantages of neutering and spaying
Likelihood of obesity — As in anything else, neutering or spaying has its disadvantages. The risk of obesity is well known, but that is what it is – a risk. The risk is apparent because neutering removes some hormones that would usually help in the metabolism (burning of calories) of the dog. If the dog maintains the amount of food that he normally eats before neutering, he is bound to put on weight and develops into what owners fear, being fat and lazy.
Dog owners therefore should gradually reduce the amounts given, and also seek more foods that contain less calories for their pets. Additionally, maintain a good exercise regimen to keep his weight down.
Risk of hemangiosarcoma — Neutered dogs are 1.6 times more likely to develop a cancer called hemangiosarcoma, a deadly disease that attacks the heart and the spleen. According to this trend it seems that the removed hormones play some role in protecting the animals against this type of cancer (Welton, 2014). Male neutered dogs are also affected by hypothyroidism.
The removal of the male hormone seems to interfere with the endocrine system producing low levels of the thyroid hormone. The result is obesity, lethargy and hair loss. This, however is easily fixed with thyroid medication.
Impaired cognition in older dogs – Older dogs have been observed to develop a semblance of human dementia. They become disoriented in the home and do not interact with the family normally. It is believed that the absence of male hormones in the neutered dog reduces the cognitive abilities of the brain which is different in unneutered dogs.
Risk of surgical complications – Only remember that the surgery to remove reproductive organs will be done under anesthetics and this has its own risks of complications. About 20% of neutered dogs that have undergone surgery for spaying have developed one form of complication or another. Internal bleeding, infection, abscesses, and thread in sutures coming free have been reported. Not to fear, but they are generally minor problems that are taken care of by the veterinarian; only 1% of these matters have turned fatal (Welton).
Benefits of neutering to the community
Owners of animals also benefit from spaying and neutering. Dogs are less temperamental and are more welcoming to family members and friends. They can now be the pet you wanted. Furthermore, dogs without heat will not attract males from around the community that if given the chances, will invade your yard space. You will avoid the problem of them leaving their urine and other secretions for you to clean. Lastly, you will have less expense in taking care of several puppies to feed or finding homes for them, which is a challenge.
Benefits are extended to the community on a whole. Unwanted dogs become strays in the community and sometimes attack and bite people. Just imagine also that stray dogs get into garbage bins and litter the place. Their untrained self also cause them to defecate in public places.
This can be most unhygienic and annoying. Dogs sometimes kill birds and other wildlife in search for food. Unwanted dogs breed more unwanted animals that become the burden of the community. To prevent bites and attacks millions of dollars are spent to control them, much of which is paid for by taxes.
Neutering and spaying have been seen as the cure for unwanted animals. Animal shelters will assist dog owners with the cost. It is neutering or the euthanizing of the animals.