Reproductive health is a very complicated facet of the veterinary profession. A significant amount of a veterinarian's professional career is dedicated to preventing animal reproduction. Responsible pet ownership dictates that pets should not be allowed to reproduce unless offspring are desired and will be well cared for. To that end, veterinarians in our practice spend a significant amount of time counseling pet parents about the pros and cons of spaying and neutering their pets. We also provide information on the best time to have these procedures performed. These decisions are made on an individual basis for all patients depending on their lifestyle, age, breed and size.
What is responsible pet breeding?
Before any pet parent considers having a litter of kittens or puppies, there are several things they should consider.
1. Am I willing to undertake additional financial investments to ensure the health and well being of the mother and babies in the litter?
- Before being bred, the mother and father should be examined by a veterinarian to make sure that they are healthy enough to undergo breeding, pregnancy and birthing. They should be up to date on all vaccinations, be heartworm negative, be current on heartworm preventative, and be free of all external and internal parasites. Cats should also be free of Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
- Before being bred, all potential mothers and fathers should be evaluated and determined to be free of any congenital or genetic disorders that they could pass on to their offspring. This includes but is not limited to things like hip dysplasia, cryptorchid testicles, hernias, and eyelid disorders.
- Before birthing, it is recommended that pregnant animals be examined either radiographically or ultrasonographically to determine how many fetuses are present and if they will fit through the birth canal easily. If there are complications, do I have the financial resources to pay for a cesarean section ( surgical delivery of fetuses ) and extended hospitalization?
- Do I have the financial resources to take the newborns to a veterinarian to be examined and have their first set of vaccinations administered around the age of 6 weeks? Am I willing to continue taking them in for checkups and vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until I find homes for them all?
2. Do I have the time and facility to care for a mother and her new litter for at least 6 weeks conveniently?
- Keep in mind, it may take much longer than this to find homes for all of the litter.
3. Will I be able to find loving, responsible homes for up to 10 newborns? If you are planning to give these animals away in a department store parking lot, advertise them for free in the paper, or take them to the humane society, you should not be having this litter!
If you do not believe that you are equipped to undertake pet breeding responsibly, there are still ways to enjoy a newborn litter. Many rescue organizations and humane societies are looking for Foster Homes for animals that are pregnant. This may be an excellent choice for you and your family!
What are some concerns if I want to be a responsible pet owner but do not wish to spay or neuter my pet?
1. Are you willing to deal with the symptoms of heat in your female pet?
- Female dogs cycle in heat twice a year. Heat generally lasts about 21 days. During part of this time, they actively bleed from the vulva. Their behavior changes as they actively search for a mate.
- Do you have a place to keep your female pet confined, where males will not be able to get access to her. This means, she cannot ever be outside unsupervised. Dogs that are reproductively active will tear through fences and open pet carriers.
- A female dog that is not bred can develop a pseudopregnancy where she believes she is pregnant. In some dogs this goes so far that they will nest and begin producing milk.
- Female cats begin going into heat early in the year around February. They will continuously cycle in heat every 3 weeks until October, unless they become pregnant. During heat, they become very loud and annoying, and very difficult to keep in the house.
- All female animals that are not spayed are at risk of developing a severe infection in their uterus called pyometra. The only way to cure this infection is an emergency spay, which is very dangerous and can be very costly.
2. Are you willing to deal with the behavior of an intact male pet?
- Male dogs can become aggressive, especially if they are around female dogs that are in heat. Even if there are no female dogs in heat, they can be territorial, especially with other male dogs.
- Male dogs will mark their territory. Once this behavior is learned, neutering them later in life will not always stop it.
- Male dogs that are not neutered are much more likely to develop prostatic disease. Once this develops, the only treatment is to have them neutered when they are older and anesthesia is a much greater risk.
- Male cats that are intact have very strong smelling urine. They tend to roam excessively and fight. This make it much more likely that they will contract either Feline Leukemia Virus or Feline Infectious Immunodeficiency Virus.
- Male cats that are intact also tend to mark their territory by spraying urine. This behavior is usually not eliminated if they are neutered after they become sexually mature.
If you don't believe that you can responsibly keep an intact male or female pet and keep them from reproducing, having them spayed or neutered is the best option so they will be happy and healthy!