April is Active Dog Month
The month of April is Active Dog Month. This month-long…
The month of February is recognized nationally as Spay and Neuter Awareness Month and aims to help bring awareness to the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
According to The Coalition for Pets & Public Safety, for every human born, 15 puppies and 45 kittens are born, so there will never be enough of us to care for all of them6! Add to that the fact that limiting your pet’s ability to reproduce could actually keep him or her safer and healthier, it is important that, as a pet parent, you have the conversation with your veterinarian as to whether surgery is the best move, and the correct timing to spay or neuter your pet.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) claims that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters every year, and sadly, more than half of them are euthanized7. Implementation of spay/neuter programs has been pivotal in reducing overcrowding in shelters, and over the last decade, great strides have been made in getting pet parents to understand, and then act upon, the importance of having their pets spayed or neutered.
While working on messaging and increasing the numbers of pets getting spayed or neutered this decade, for the most part, the process continues with surgical sterilization.
For females, the typical spay consists of an ovariohysterectomy, where the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed, therefore preventing reproduction and eliminating heat cycles and related breeding behavior. Variations to the surgery (hysterectomy) include removing the uterus and part of the fallopian tubes to prevent reproduction, but leaving the ovaries, allowing for the production of hormones, and therefore, behaviors associated with breeding. Health benefits from these surgeries can include lowering risks of mammary cancer, ovarian tumors and pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus.
Male dogs and cats typically go through an orchiectomy, or neuter, where the testes are removed making the pet unable to reproduce and eliminating breeding behaviors. Health benefits include no benign prostatic enlargement, no testicular tumors, and no perineal hernias. An alternative procedure is a vasectomy when only the vas deferens, which carries sperm from the testes, are removed, making the animal unable to reproduce, but testes remain and will produce hormones, so behaviors associated with breeding likely remain.
In spite of the success of these types of gonadectomies, more remote communities lack veterinary surgeons, supplies and recovery space for the animals. In other areas, some pet owners oppose surgical practices due to cultural or religious beliefs. While in other locations funding simply just does not exist.
Irrespective of the reasons, a great need still exists for faster, less-expensive means of limiting pet overpopulation in many regions. Since surgical spays and neuters are well accepted in the United States, there is not a lot of pressure to find alternatives, particularly in our companion dog population, but as mentioned above, some areas could benefit from options.
Most research is targeted at those populations not easily accessible for surgery, wild horses, deer, and feral dog and cat colonies. For this reason, Michelson Found Animals continues to offer veterinary scientists and great thinkers of all types a $75 million challenge to find a non-surgical sterilization method for dogs and cats8. The Alliance for Contraception in Dogs & Cats analyzes the products available and makes that information available9.
As we move into the next decade and wonder what we can expect to see in the forms of non-surgical alternatives to spay-neuter, chemical contraception, hormonal birth control and immunocontraception (where the pet’s own immune system, likely via a vaccine, will be used against his reproductive systems) will likely be riding the research wave.
Several of these applications have been developed and tested with promising results, but unacceptable side effects, so like so many things…time will tell. In the interim, surgical spay/neuter does vastly reduce euthanasia due to overcrowded shelters and is safe when pet parents discuss options and timing with their veterinarian.
Dogs and cats are part of the family, so be your pet’s healthcare advocate.
Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 can help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget.
Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.
1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.
2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.
7The Humane Society of the United States: Pets by the numbers