The festive season comes around, and parents will buy their children a puppy, but puppies don’t stay cute and cuddly forever. By the time Easter arrives, they have had enough of the furry terror and surrender their no-longer-cute-and-cuddly dog to one of many animal welfare organisations.
Thousands of dogs are turned over to animal shelters each year, and even those who are adopted may not end up with their forever family, often being returned.
The main reason why there are so many dogs at animal shelters is simple: There is an overpopulation of dogs. The reasons why people don’t want to have spay-neuter procedures performed on their dogs are numerous, but the results are the same—more dogs being bred without any homes to take them.
I see the numbers of dogs and cats on street corners increase daily as unwanted pets are thrown onto the streets to survive on their own.
If more dogs and cats are neutered, there will be fewer animals that need to be taken in by animal welfare organisations and clinics. Unaltered pets are a major cause of the explosion in the population of domestic dogs and cats in cities and towns.
It’s time to own up and give your pet the snip to help control pet populations and ensure your pet doesn’t become part of the problem.
Importance of Spaying or Neutering
Spaying or neutering dogs and cats is vital to ensure population concerns can be addressed without having to euthanise many animals at overfull shelters that can’t continue feeding and housing an inundation of unwanted pets. Last-chance shelters often have to take this sad route.
Once your dog hits the streets, and if they are unaltered and capable of breeding, they will continue having multiple litters or breeding litters, especially in the case of male dogs. Despite not having appropriate care, instinct continues adding to the gene pool.
Population growth, the spread of feline leukemia, and a serious threat to animal welfare are all caused by irresponsible people not having their pets spayed.
In addition to the dogs and cats that end up as shelter animals, having your own pets spayed or neutered can help ensure a better quality of life with increased health benefits, a reduction of unwanted behaviors, and reduced orthopedic concerns for them.
Not wanting to spay or neuter your dog or cat is unacceptable unless you are a registered breeder with a responsible breeding and homing plan in place. However most people only breed because they think they can make money from their dogs and that puppies are cute.
The usual excuses of not wanting to hurt an animal or change them or not having the money available to pay for expensive surgical sterilisation are simply no longer valid. Spay-neuter clinics offer the service at a reduced cost (and sometimes even for free) to provide subsidised spay-neuter access to the public.
Dog Overpopulation Problem
I’ve seen that stray dogs can produce multiple litters of puppies on the streets. Some female dogs (depending on their breeding) may produce as many as 16 or more puppies in one litter, which is why the stray dog population keeps increasing.
Animal welfare organisations may follow a trap neuter return program where they spay or neuter stray dogs and then return them to the same area if they suspect there is a litter hidden nearby. Usually, this approach is followed with community cats as cats help control rodents and pests (unless the cats breed and become a pest).
Animal wellness services try to monitor the general health of stray pets, which is where medical records are vital to track strays and ensure they enjoy a good basic quality of life.
The implementation of more surgical sterilisations can help reduce pet overpopulation. However, you need to assist in this regard.
According to the AKC, you must ensure your female dogs are spayed before their first heat cycle has occurred. Neuter male dogs before they reach sexual maturity, and keep two dogs of the opposite gender separated until they have been surgically sterilised.
Don’t believe that if you have no other dogs, your female dog will not have puppies, and, therefore, you don’t have to spay her.
Other males or intact dogs may frequent the area, and they will find a way to gain access to her (even if she is a house pet), and before you know it, you’re expecting several canine bundles of joy that will soon need homes.
Causes of Dog Overpopulation
The cause of dog overpopulation is simple: Dogs breed continually and have as many as three litters of puppies each year. With an average life expectancy of 10 years or more, a dog can have 30 litters of puppies in their lifetime.
Even if they only have six puppies per litter, that’s a shocking 180 puppies from one female dog in her lifetime (more than 101 Dalmatians).
Of course, these litters will have male and female puppies, which means the problem is exponential with the new females also breeding once they have reached sexual maturity.
Animal shelters follow a strict policy of spay and neuter for all their dogs and cats, but this does require funding to pay for surgical procedures. And the shelter intake of stray animals is high, compounding the problem.
Consequences of Dog Overpopulation
Someone recently asked me what the fuss with the overpopulation of dogs is and why dogs can’t breed “like nature intended.” It’s simple—dogs will continue breeding in the wild, creating packs of wild dogs that can become aggressive and cause animal attack incidents.
Dogs are considered “man’s first friend,” so it’s your responsibility to ensure all dogs (not just your own canine couch potato) are maintained in good health and not placed at risk of abuse.
Make sure to spay or neuter your dog to help reduce the number of homeless dogs ending up in shelters and becoming part of the staggering animal shelter statistics. These statistics reveal the number of dogs entering shelters, their adoption rates, and, sadly, the euthanasia rates for those who don’t find homes!
Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
There are many benefits to spaying and neutering dogs and cats, and some of these include having better-behaved and healthier pets. Unwanted behaviours like urine marking and aggression are easily reduced by surgically sterilising your pet dog or cat.
Reduce the Load on Animal Shelters
By spaying and neutering your own dogs, you can help reduce the number of dogs that end up in animal shelters. Preventive care can help reduce the dog overpopulation problem, and you can stop unnecessary breeding.
Supporting local fundraising initiatives can increase surgeries to help neuter and spay dogs and cats, which means fewer animals on the streets.
Important for Your Dog’s Health
Spaying or neutering your dog can have a dramatic impact on their health, improving their life expectancy by reducing their risk of contracting ovarian cancer or testicular cancer and minimising the impact of orthopaedic conditions that spreads because of poor backyard breeding.
Neutered dogs are less likely to develop unwanted behaviour as their hormones remain more even and balanced.
Spay-neuter procedures help reduce other health risks, such as kidney stones and weight challenges from excessive breeding.
Male dogs often only gain weight after being neutered, and continued and frequent breeding can create joint issues. Because neutered male cats and dogs are less likely to roam, they won’t be injured as easily since they stay home and will be less likely to fight with other dogs.
A spayed or neutered dog is also more likely to live longer. Female dogs can live up to 25% longer when spayed, which makes sense as having multiple litters takes a toll on their body.
Assists in Improving Behavioural Issues
Behavioural problems such as urine marking and aggression toward other dogs can be avoided if your dog is altered at an early age. An altered dog is also more likely to accept your authority as their leader, whereas intact dogs can challenge you more and may nip or bite.
Can Cut on Long-Term Health Costs
Unwanted behaviours that bring your dog in conflict with other large breed male dogs can end up costing you money if your dog requires surgery or medical treatment after fighting, so neutering them saves you money.
Because of the health benefits of spaying or neutering your dog, you won’t have to pay for more costly surgical procedures to treat cancers and remove growths.
Unaltered dogs are also more likely to become ill or contract a doggy STD, which will mean a bigger health bill for you as the owner.
Myths Associated with Spaying and Neutering
Sadly, I often find people believe myths regarding the spaying and neutering of dogs. These myths continue to add to the problem of dog overpopulation.
Myths aren’t fact, and to believe these are to be ignorant of the truth, and the dogs are the suffering party in the end. Some myths include:
- Believing that sterilising your pet leads to health issues isn’t true.
- Thinking your purebred pet needs to be bred to preserve their bloodline. Again, not true.
- Believing your indoor pet doesn’t have to be spayed since they are safe from other dogs—uhm, nature will find a way if you think like that.
- Thinking your pet is still only a baby and can’t possibly go through such a “terrible” procedure yet. Dogs can become pregnant when they are as young as four months old, so discuss their maturation with your vet.
- Believing you will find good homes for your pet’s offspring (and puppies are cute). Most reputable breeders will only sell a puppy under contract to neuter or spay them. Are you prepared to do the home checks, sign contracts, and follow up for each pup your dog produces?
As pet owners, we all have a responsibility to ensure our dog is healthy and not placed at risk, which means we should spay or neuter them. The ideal age to neuter male dogs is between 6 and 12 months, while for owned female dogs, it is between 6 and 9 months of age.
Remember to support shelters for animals, have your pets sterilised, and help spread quality and accurate information about spay-neuter programs to prevent the overpopulation of dogs and cats.