New Mexico's Pet Resource EDITORS' PICKS



By Cindy Exelby, D.V.M.

Because I'm in veterinary medicine, my exposure to the overpopulation of pets and needless euthanasia is a sensitive topic to me. During the summer months the shelters’ population of litters of kittens and puppies drastically increases; the Santa Fe Shelter alone will take in more than 700 animals during the summer. Unfortunately, with every puppy or kitten that is placed, an equally deserving adult dog or cat is not. This is heartbreaking for the people who see this happen day after day.

When you spay or castrate your pet, you are helping prevent the overpopulation of pets and the euthanasia of thousands of animals each year throughout the country. Here are some interesting figures to consider: a litter of 4 pups will begin producing their own litters at 1 year of age, and could produce 2 litters a year. Within the average reproductive cycle of 7 years, the total number of dogs could reach over 4,000. Cats reproduce even faster, and numbers can reach over 400,000! And males conceivably could produce even higher numbers, since they can have multiple mates!

Here are the medical reasons to neuter your pet. If females are spayed BEFORE their first heat, their chance for developing breast cancer drops to near zero. This is contrary to the old tale that it’s better to let them have a litter. YOU are in control of developing your pet’s personality, not whether or not the pet has had a litter! Other common conditions of unspayed females are ovarian cancer, uterine infections which are life threatening, and uterine cancer. In the male, castration prevents prostate cancer and infection, testicular cancer, testosterone-induced tumors in the anal area, and of course behavioral problems such as aggression and undesirable territorial marking. Again, these are all COMMON problems that can be prevented, and when prevented, will help extend the life of your pet. After all, we want our best friends to live a long, healthy life, don’t we?

Remember, guys, (this seems to be a “guy thing”)--castration sounds bad, but is s very simple and painless procedure-much less complicated than the female ovariohysterectomy. And his personality will only change for the better; he WON’T lose his protective nature if he had it before the surgery.

And if you are still undecided, visit the animal shelter this weekend, and try being apathetic to those kind, hoping eyes peering through cage doors.

Dr. Cindy Exelby is a veterinarian with her own practice in Santa Fe.

This article first appeared in the Winter 1997-98 issue.

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