Healthy, wealthy & wise
Making the case for Spay & Neuter
Spay and Neuter is perhaps the most hotly-debated topic among pet parents. It does not help that widespread misinformation, often spread by the people we place our trust in, adds fuel to the fire. In this post, we’ll look at what sterilisation entails, learn about its benefits, and go over some myths and facts.
Sterilisation & The Issue of Anthropomorphism:
Sterilising your dog involves inhibiting your dog’s ability to reproduce. The procedure for female dogs is called Spaying, and for male dogs, it is called Neutering. Both male and female dogs undergo surgery and subsequent recovery to be sterilised. Luckily, this surgery is a common procedure, and most vets worth their salt will be able to do it flawlessly. On that note, if your vet recommends that your dog be mated at least once, turn around, leave and never go back to them.
Sterilisation is recommended at least 6 months to 1 year after puberty, unless absolutely necessary earlier. This allows the dog’s reproductive organs to mature with the rest of the body and prevents medical issues later in life.
Female dogs are said to ‘come in heat’ or experience ‘Estrus’ from when they reach sexual maturity at about 6 months (this may vary based on the dog breed) through the rest of their lives. This is the 2–4 week-long phase of a female dog’s reproductive cycle when she is receptive to mating. Male dogs do not experience this and can mate throughout the year once they become fertile (also around 6 months of age), as long as a female dog in heat is around. Sterilising your dog involves removing reproductive organs and stops this process. In female dogs, it also stops menstruation.
It is essential to understand that, unlike humans, dogs do not mate for pleasure. We tend to anthropomorphise our dogs, leading to baseless concepts of the desire for parenthood and pleasure in dogs. Simply put, it does not exist. Dogs mate out of instinct that allows them to survive as a species in the wild. However, this instinct is of no use (other than exploitative monetisation by humans) in a domestic setting.
The Spay / Neuter Process:
Whether you have a male dog or a female dog, the process is mostly the same, except for the main surgical procedure. Once your dog is old enough to undergo spay/ neuter surgery, consult your vet and figure out the best possible time to get it done. Remember that your dog will have a post-op recovery as well, so pick a time accordingly (weather is comfortable, you aren’t travelling, fewer chances of infection, etc.).
Like any other surgery, your dog’s blood will be tested, and a general health check will be done to rule out conditions that may hinder surgery. This will be done anywhere from a week to 3 days before the surgery, on a 12-hour fast. You will be required to fast your dog for 10–12 hours before the surgery as well. You should reach the clinic about one hour before the surgery for a pre-surgery consultation, filling paperwork and signing consent forms.
If all is okay, your dog will be shaved down around the surgical site, will be administered anaesthesia (most probably, you will not be allowed with your dog for and beyond this), and then be taken into surgery.
Surgery for male dogs is a simple procedure. An incision is made in front of the dog’s scrotum, and the testicles are removed through that incision. For female dogs, the surgery is more invasive and takes longer. An incision is made in the abdomen, and the dog’s uterus and ovaries are removed through this incision. Some vets offer a laparoscopic option as well.
After the surgery, the vet will monitor your dog until the anaesthesia begins wearing off and the dog at least begins stirring and responding to their name. If your dog seems alright, s/he may be allowed to go home the same day. Otherwise, s/he may be boarded overnight at the vet for monitoring. Your dog will be prescribed pain medication to help with the discomfort and antibiotics to prevent any infection at the surgical site. The vet may also require your dog to wear an e-collar so that s/he cannot lick the stitches, allowing them to heal better. You will be required to take your dog in for follow-up visits so that the vet can see how the stitches are healing, and remove them when they heal completely (some vets offer self-dissolving options). This may be 10–14 days after the surgery or longer if your dog manages to mess with the stitches.
During recovery, you can expect some redness, swelling and a little oozing around the surgical site, which will need to be cleaned and dressed as per the vet’s instructions. As the stitches heal, the skin will begin looking less inflamed. The oozing should dry up within a couple of days, after which the stitches should be dry. In male dogs, the scrotum may appear full for 24–48 hours after surgery, then shrink down through the recovery period. If you notice any unusual oozing, blood, bruising or odour around the stitches, consult your vet immediately.
Your dog will eat very little after surgery and may prefer to sleep and rest. Some dogs throw up a bit of bile because of the stress and the long period without food. Some begin having water around 12 hours after the surgery and slowly start eating a few hours later. How a dog behaves early in the recovery depends on the dog.
When Bailey was spayed, she was allowed to come home the day of the surgery (we had scheduled in the morning). She slept for most of the day, was a bit unsteady for some time and only had water in the evening. Her appetite began coming back the morning after. She was pretty enthusiastic about going out, so I gave her small, light meals and took her on short walks at our regular time. She is trained to pee in the balcony, so frequent walks were not required. Luckily, we made it through her recovery without needing an e-collar.
Your dog may not be interested in going for walks, and you may notice her/him peeing inside the house due to the effect of anaesthesia. Allow your dog to rest and recover and if your dog is up for it, increase activity very slowly to not strain the stitches. You can offer your dog bone broth and soft, cooked foods early in the recovery and slowly transition to your dog’s regular diet. Some pet parents also include homoeopathic medications in the post-op plan to aid the recovery.
Once the stitches have been removed, your dog may still be sensitive in the area. Please ensure you keep that area dry and clean for some more time.
Myths and Facts:
Thanks to anthropomorphism and widespread misinformation encouraged by those who seek to make a quick buck off of mating dogs, there are many misconceptions about sterilising dogs. Let’s look at a few of them here:
Benefits of Spay & Neuter:
Spay & Neuter reduces the chances of accidental pregnancies and litters, reduces health risks and the possibility of roaming, and helps mitigate particular behavioural issues.
Accidental pregnancies or even planned litters in dogs require a lot of money, time and care, along with extensive knowledge of the breeding dogs’ genetics. As a result of irresponsible breeding, puppies carry genetic issues and diseases that are often invisible or undetected until they have matured and had a litter of their own. Many such dogs and their offspring are abused and abandoned and end in shelters. Allowing your dog to have even one litter for whatever reason supports a highly manipulative and greedy breeding industry. As discussed above, there is no reason, not even one, for your dog to have a litter.
Intact female dogs have a higher risk of developing mammary tumours than spayed females. They also have a very high chance of developing Pyometra, a painful and life-threatening uterine infection. I have lost a dog to complications arising out of Pyometra. Please take it from me — get your dog spayed while she is young; you’ll add years to your time together.
Intact male dogs have a higher risk of Prostate issues and testicular cancer than neutered males. They are more likely to roam when intact and may even display aggression when restrained. This is often flagged as aggression when it is only the outcome of an intact male’s instinct. The instinct of a dog is not something that can be tied or trained away. When a male dog has a female dog in heat around him, he will try to run away from home to mate with her. Your dog can get injured or lost, or be stolen if he runs out of the house. Male dogs howl and cry when restrained during this time.
Furthermore, the actual mating process is tremendously painful for the dogs involved. Mating dogs lock together and often cry or howl out of pain and discomfort; separating them can seriously injure them. There are no parallels between the human and dog experience of sexual acts. Dogs do not understand familial or societal structures that have been made by humans; they only understand the instinct. Sometimes this instinct leads to your dog getting lost, getting into a fight with other dogs over a prospective mate, or getting seriously injured. At other times, it results in accidental pregnancies, litters with genetic issues, or even a new mother that eats her puppies or sits on them because she does not know what to do with them.
Bearing all of this and more in mind, I can confidently say that spaying/neutering your dog is the best thing you can do for her/ him as a parent. Sure, it is difficult to see your dog undergo surgery but that improves the dog’s quality of life significantly and is the responsible thing to do. I hope that when your dog is of age, you will choose the right option.