Wednesday, May 23, 2007 11:23 PM
Since the CA Healthy Pets Act is still in need of our support, I thought it would be beneficial to share some facts and figures about pet overpopulation as well as health benefits to the individual animals who are spayed and neutered. (I actually put this together some time back for a receptionist training session at the veterinary hospital I used to work at.) This info may come in handy when trying to convince your friends, family, neighbors, etc. to spay/neuter their companion animals.
Why Spay and Neuter?
Facts & Figures on Pet Overpopulation:
■ Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year: 6-8 million (HSUS estimate)
■ Number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters each year: 3-4 million (HSUS estimate)
■ Number of cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year: 3-4 million (HSUS estimate)
■ Number of cats and dogs reclaimed by owners from shelters each year: Between 600,000 and 750,000 -- 30% of dogs and 2-5% of cats entering shelters (HSUS estimate)
■ Number of animal shelters in the United States: Between 4,000 and 6,000 (HSUS estimate)
■ Percentage of dogs in shelters who are purebred: 25% (HSUS estimate)
■ Average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year: 3
■ Average number of kittens in a feline litter: 4-6
■ In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.
■ Average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year: 2
■ Average number of puppies in a canine litter: 6-10
■ In six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs.
Effects of castration on problem behavior of males:
■ castration has no effect on nonsexual behaviors; it will not change the animal?s personality
■ in most cases, mating behaviors decrease following castration
■ if sexual behaviors persist after castration, it is not due to residual amounts of testosterone
■ in male cats, castration markedly reduces or eliminates fighting, roaming, and urine spraying in an estimated 80-90% of cases
■ castration is not as effective in dogs as it is in cats in reducing problematic male behaviors
■ in the majority of cases, urine marking, mounting, and roaming behaviors decrease significantly in castrated male dogs, but may not be eliminated entirely
■ various types of aggressive behavior may improve with castration but not as consistently as urine marking, mounting, and roaming behaviors
Medical problems which may occur in the unspayed female:
■ Mammary cancer: Mammary tumors are the most common tumors affecting female dogs. Due to the effects of the hormone estrogen, unspayed females are at a much higher risk of getting mammary cancer than a female dog spayed as a young puppy. The best time to spay her is before her first heat for maximum protection against mammary cancer. If spayed after her third heat cycle, the protective effect of spaying is almost the same as if she were not spayed at all. About 50% of mammary tumors in dogs are malignant (50% are benign). In the cat, about 90% of mammary tumors are malignant.
■ Pyometra: This is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. Any intact female dog who has general signs of weakness, inappetance, fever, etc. is a suspect for pyometra. Due to the need for stabilization prior to surgery and the higher risk of complications perioperatively, it is much better to prevent it when the animal is healthy rather than wait until she is sick to spay her. It is also much more cost effective. ($300 vs. ~$1200).
■ Eclampsia: This is a condition in which the blood calcium level becomes too low as a result of over-nursing by the puppies. It can affect mother dogs 1-4 weeks after giving birth to a litter of puppies. It is especially common in toy breeds such as chihuahuas and can cause restlessness, muscle tremors, incoordination, and convulsions.
■ False Pregnancy: This is a display of maternal behavior and physical signs of pregnancy by a nonpregnant female dog. Affected dogs may show behavior changes (nesting, mothering activity, restlessness and self-nursing) as well as physical changes (abdominal distention and mammary gland enlargement, vomiting, depression, and anorexia). Rarely, they may even show signs of labor.
■ Dystocia: Difficulty giving birth is a common problem especially in breeds such as pugs who have wide shoulders compared to their overall body size. A C-section and spay is quite an ordeal to put the mother dog through when her body is already stressed, and bottle-feeding several puppies can prove a daunting task for clients.
Medical problems which may occur in the uncastrated male:
■ Testicular cancer: Castration eliminates the risk of all types of testicular cancer. Cryptorchid testes are at a much higher risk for developing cancer than normal, descended testicles. Having cryptorchid testes is a genetic trait, so intact males can pass this trait on to future generations.
■ Injuries and infections: Uncastrated dogs and cats are more likely to roam and fight with other animals, increasing the risk for trauma, injury, and infection from bite wounds and being hit by a car.
■ Prostatic enlargement, prostatitis, and prostatic abscessses all occur with increased frequency in intact male dogs. Diseases of the prostate can lead to urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal problems.
■ Perianal gland tumors occur much more commonly in intact male dogs compared to those who are castrated. Affected dogs are usually greater than 8 years of age.