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    Pets & Their People / Perspective

    Not Merely Birth Control: The Other Side of Spay & Neuter

    by C. Miriam Yarden, B.Sc., MS
    Contributing Editor,

    (July 18, 2008, includes your replies below) -- While there is no argument about the fact that the primary purpose of spaying and neutering companion animals is birth control -- to keep down the horrendous numbers of animals destroyed as a result of existing overpopulation -- there is another side of this relatively simple procedure that must be considered for the well-being of our companions.

    Consider the psychological aspect, which has its origin in the basic, biological sex drive. A female dog while "in heat" emits an odor (pheromones) that attracts dogs from amazing distances. It is a rare area in which this sexual stimulus is not repeatedly present for the male whether he is allowed to roam or is confined to a house or yard.

    As a result, the dog is being constantly stimulated with virtually no outlet for this very strong biological drive (no, it has nothing to do with love or fun). It is not uncommon for such dogs to become irritable, and develop undesirable habits such as breaking housetraining, escaping, mounting the children, furniture, guests, drapes or anything within reach at their repeated attempts to find relief. The male dog is actually in constant state of nervous agitation.

    This leads up to the biological aspect of the problem. As a result of the constant stimulation without relief, male dogs very frequently develop infections of the prepuce, prostatic hypertrophy or other, chronic lower genito-urinary problems.

    These often lead to more serious kidney disease which in male dogs five years or older, is probably the most common disease seen in veterinary practices. Neutering a male dog will also eliminate prostate cancer, testicular cancer and reduce the chances of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in large breeds.

    Not bad odds for your companion, are they? Would you not give him all the chances for good health, calm and happy life and even lengthen his life by a few years?

    At the risk of being accused of being a sexist who calls only for the altering of male dogs, let us consider the advantages of spaying females. In their case it is also a question of their health, quality of life and longevity.

    Many people (even some veterinarians, believe it or not!) are under the impression that allowing a female to have one cycle is good because it "calms her down."

    The fact is that the heat cycle does NOT calm her down, it makes her edgy, stressed, and seeking mates. Allowing your female to have one litter will make her more mature -- that is also an opinion often heard.

    Both are myths! By allowing her to have even one cycle, her chances of developing mammary tumors in a few years are dramatically increased. There are NO medical indications for either one cycle or one pregnancy.

    By not spaying a female, there are serious risks involved, among them uterine cancer, cervical cancer, pyrometra, repeated false pregnancies and 95 percent chance of mammary tumors (usually around five to six years of age). Mammary tumors in dogs are almost always malignant, spread fast and remember -- she has six breasts.

    Spaying between the ages of five and a half and six months will protect her from these, keep her young, healthy and will lengthen her life also.

    As for "having fun" and love -- it is missing from this equation. For animals it is a drive to propagate and pass on their genes. Love has nothing to do with their mating.

    Only you can provide the fun, play and love which they so strongly crave. Show your love to them in this additional way to make your relationship satisfying and rewarding for both of you.

    And you will not be guilty of adding to the slaughter of innocent animals whose only crime is that you allowed them to be born into a world which at this time, has no place for them.

    Think about it! and Ms. Yarden welcome your comments. Email them to us by clicking here...and let us know the general part of town you're in. Replies below.

    Your replies

    What a wonderful and imformative article. Ms. Yarden has proven she will be an asset to LBReport! Thanks!

    Kathy Marino
    LB (Los Altos area)

    I love you! We look for homes for little unwanted dogs every Sunday [11 a.m.-1 p.m.] at Petco on PCH by Wild Oates and Mimi's Cafe.

    You can see our little orphans at under the Long Beach Adoption program. You are already doing your part with all of your pets, but, your article was so well written and so on the money, that I just wanted to let you know that it was appreciated!...

    Lynda Montgomery

    Regarding's previously published data for owner redemption of cats in 2007:

    As you can see, the vast majority of cats that are impounded either do not have owners or are never claimed by the owners.

    This is a terribly sad state of affairs and cements the argument for mandatory licensing/microchipping of all pets.

    Further, the public must be educated and take responsibility for their part in the vast numbers of animals that end up being euthanized.

    Diana Lejins
    Long Beach

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