We dog people often say sterilization when we mean spaying and/or neutering. But, actually, sterilization encompasses an entire gamut of procedures—and a pretty broad gamut it is, from surgical to non-surgical, and from permanent to temporary.
A quick overview:
NON-SURGICAL STERILIZATION (or CONTRACEPTION)
Calcium chloride injected directly into the testes kills the tissue and causes sterility. If done properly, may be permanent—but it's impossible to know for sure.
Females receive a hormonal implant that regulates fertility. Risks are serious, though, and require careful monitoring. Few vets will recommend this.
ImmunocontraceptionFemales are injected with a vaccine that produces antibodies, which attach to her eggs (ovum, if you want to get all technical) and prevent sperm from fertilizing them. Effects are only temporary.
Fallopian tube ligation / Vasectomy
Very rare; only a few vets will (can?) perform it. Just like in humans, this procedure involves tying off the conduits of eggs (fine, ovum then) and sperm to avoid reproduction—but, because no organs are removed, it is, at least in theory, reversible. (And, in more than just theory, also pretty unreliable. Just like in humans.)
Spay / Neuter
The big guns. (The ones that get the job done.) In females, the removal of the ovaries (and sometimes the uterus); in males, the removal of the testes. Surgery is simple and fast, pain is minimal, speedy recovery. And sterilization is permanent. (What's not to like?)
Oh, I know. It's such a harsh word, isn’t it? Sterilization. Sterile. Makes one think of moonscapes, cold and barren. Of merciless sun on endless dunes. Desolation. Despair.
And yet, when it comes to dogs (and many animals), permanent sterilization is how we spell hope.
An estimated three-quarters of the world’s dogs are unwanted. Homeless, surrendered to shelters, abandoned, living in the streets. An overwhelming majority won’t get a happy ending; there simply aren’t enough homes.
And most of these dogs are fertile. They’re reproducing. Non-surgical options for population control aren't practical; they're either too expensive or not reliable enough. Which leaves us with—yes, spaying and neutering.
But why should you, a responsible owner, have to spay or neuter your dog? (I mean, puppies!) Plus, you would never abandon your dog. Your dog will never know a homeless life.
Think about this for a second. Can you really—absolutely, without any question at all—guarantee that your dog will never end up in the street? What if s/he gets lost? What if s/he’s stolen? Oh, and don’t forget Mother Nature. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires—they shatter more than just human lives. Katrina left over 250,000 animals homeless. That’s a quarter of a million. And I bet none of their owners were prepared for that. (If they had been, they would’ve chipped them. And they would have spayed or neutered them.)
And then there are the marvelous side benefits:
- A non-spayed female has seven times the risk of getting breast cancer than a spayed one. And, in spayed females, the risk of ovarian cancer is zero.
- A neutered male’s risk of testicular cancer is also zero, and his chances of developing prostatic cancer go significantly down.
- Intact (non-neutered) males often escape to follow a female in heat. Neutering your male dog keeps him safe from getting lost, fighting, getting hit by a car…
- Intact males will mark their territory (read piss all over your house) much more than neutered ones.
- In a multi-dog household, hormones are the original apple of discord. If all your dogs are spayed and/or neutered, conflicts defuse much faster.
Thanks for the visit!
P.S. — Happy Earth Day! Here's an excellent post on Sustainability and Soil, by superstar bio-wizard Ann Bennett of Science Ladybug, to start the day right. As for me, I'm taking three of the dogs for a celebratory walk in the Kabouterbos (literally, dwarf forest), a wooded area close to the house. (So I might be late with replies and visiting back... To make it up to you, I'll share the photos on tomorrow's post.) And you? Any special plans?