Many parents will scrutinise any boyfriend their daughter may have to ensure they are ‘suitable’ and very rarely does a father find a suitable match for his daughter! It seems strange to me how many owners treat their pet like their children in many aspects of their lives but do not seem to have the same scrutiny when it comes to their pets welfare when it comes to breeding.
Humans are unique in the animal kingdom as they can plan for future events. Other animals live in the present with no ability to determine what the future will bring. Dogs and cats do not have the ability to think “I would like to have babies because…”. Breeding is an instinct brought about by hormonal changes from either the ovaries or testicles. It is such an instinct that the dog or cat will usually mate with what they perceive to be the most fertile partner around rather than what is the best genetic match for them. This will often mean dogs and cats will breed with their brothers/sisters or even mum/dad if given the chance. Neutering an animal will remove the organs producing the hormones that give the instinct to breed and so the animal will no longer “want” to have babies.
Humans have bred dogs and cats to fit in with their lifestyles and become the shapes and sizes that they see attractive. As a consequence of this, over the years there has become a large variation in dog and cat breeds, all with their own individual characteristics. None of this is ‘natural’. In fact, as a side effect of intensive in-breeding, there has been an accidental selection for genetic abnormalities within certain breeds (e.g. hip dysplasia in German Shepherd Dogs, heart failure in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels). Responsible breeders look very closely at the relatives of their dog before breeding and pick a suitable mate in an attempt get rid of these defects present within the breeds. Some individuals that have defects should not be bred in an attempt to remove the faulty genes that man has selected for from the gene pool.
Some of the shapes of dog that have been bred for tend to be very awkward to give birth to. Some breeds are more commonly born by caesarean section than give birth naturally. A caesarean section may be an emergency and occur out of normal office hours. In these cases an out of hours veterinary surgeon would need to carry out this as an emergency and this could cost between £1000 and £2000 with no guarantee that the mother and/or the puppies would survive. On top of this, the mother should be wormed from day 40 of pregnancy up until 2 days post whelping and the puppies need to be wormed from 2 weeks of age. Depending on the mothers milk supply and the number of puppies that are born, supplemental feeding may also be required. These are just a few of the hidden costs associated with breeding.
At St Clair Veterinary Care we recommend neutering pets at 6 months of age unless you are an experienced and responsible breeder with an intention to breed. If you intend to breed, we recommend doing so at a suitable age (i.e. not when they are too young or too old to do so safely). We recommend a maximum of 2-3 litters and neutering after the last litter to prevent further litters and also forthe health benefits described below.
A potentially fatal uterine infection that requires emergency surgery will occur in 25% of unneutered female dogs. Some studies have also found an increased incidence of mammary cancer in female dogs that have not been spayed and the incidence reduces the earlier a bitch is spayed. Neutering will also stop the unwanted bleeding and behaviour associated with seasons and will eliminate false pregnancies. Uterine and ovarian cancers are also prevented by spaying.
Unwanted pregnancies are common in both dogs and cats but more so in cats due to their persistent heats and ability to escape from the household to get pregnant. All cats should be vaccinated and neutered before they are allowed out of the house.
Testicular cancer will occur in approximately 10% of entire male dogs and 80% of male dogs over the age of 8 have got signs of prostate enlargement, which often causes chronic pain and suffering that owners put down to ‘getting older’. This can all be prevented by castration. If performed at a young age, unwanted sexual behaviours such as mounting and some aggressive behaviours particularly around females in heat can also be stopped. The behavioural advantages are especially significant in male cats due to the undesirable urine spraying behaviour often exhibited by entire male cats.
- Animals do not need to have babies to be happy
- Genetic problems are selected for by bad breeding, which is a major welfare issue to pet animals
- Breeding can be very expensive and there is no guarantee that the sale of the puppies will recover the costs incurred
- Some cancers are more common in animals that are not neutered
- There are some potentially fatal consequences of not neutering a female dog
- There are multiple health benefits associated with neutering