Victoria Eisermann, co-founder of K-9 Angels, writes for Vegan Life about the importance of spaying and neutering
Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy starts with: “To be or not to be? That is the question.” Even most who have never read Shakespeare would be able to recite this quotation. What Hamlet is really contemplating is whether it is better to live or better to die.
Perhaps if the famous playwright William Shakespeare had been a veterinarian as well as a playwright then perhaps the famous opening line would have been: “To spay or not to spay? Is that even a question?” My meaning being that perhaps it is better not to have been born at all than have been born in to a potentially short life of misery and suffering.
Imagine, just for a minute, you are a dog confined to a life behind bars in the worst shelter imaginable where only the very lucky make it out alive. You would most likely be sleeping on a cold wet floor and thrown scraps of food and the resident vet would be named ‘the butcher’. Now imagine for a moment that gruesome scenes like this don’t even have to happen in the first place. In reality they don’t.
Myself and my team of K-9 Angels have seen first-hand the gruesome Romanian shelters described above on so many occasions. Over the past five years we have had to choose which five dogs we should rescue out of those hell holes on our visits — we only have enough funds to help save a few dogs at a time.
I suppose the saddest part of it all though, is the fact that this terrible situation could easily be avoided in the first place if people merely spayed and neutered their companions.
Here in the UK we are also in desperate need of increased capacity and better facilities to spay and neuter. According to Dog’s Trust almost 50,000 dogs are being dumped by owners in Britain every year and healthy animals are being exterminated every two hours by agencies who are struggling to cope. To add to that, the number of companions in UK last year was estimated at eight
and a half million dogs and eight million cats by the RSPCA.
The best thing you can do to reduce the number of animals in shelters is spay and neuter. Spaying prevents female dogs from getting pregnant by removing both the ovaries and the uterus. It’s not as simple as the neuter surgery for males, but the effects only last a few days, maybe a week. Afterward, she’ll enjoy many health benefits and neither of you will have to deal with her being in heat and, more importantly, unwanted pregnancies.
The benefits to your dog are considerable. Firstly, spaying reduces risk of certain illnesses, such as Pyometra (a common, life-threatening infection of the uterus) or mammary gland cancer. Further, unspayed female dogs go into heat about once every eight months and it lasts for as long as three weeks each time. Dogs don’t go into menopause and therefore they will regularly go into heat for their entire lives — unless they’re spayed.
So when should you spay your companion dog? Females can be spayed any time after eight weeks of age, and preferably before her first heat for the best health benefits. The first heat cycle occurs somewhere around six months of age, depending on the breed. It’s not just the over population of dogs which is an issue though.
There are also huge benefits to spaying and neutering cats. According to the Cats Protection League, there are between one and two million stray cats but no one really knows the true figure. On top of that over 150,000 stray and abandoned cats enter shelter care in the UK every year. What do you think happens to all of these unwanted cats? It’s unthinkable. Have your female cat spayed at four months to protect her from getting pregnant, this is without doubt the best thing you can do for your cat’s health.
Health benefits of spaying or neutering your companion cat are wide ranging and can eliminate or reduce a variety of health problems that can be very difficult and expensive to treat. Females no longer have to go through heat cycles and the health — and behaviour — related problems that accompany them.
Male cats should be neutered too to protect them from diseases such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and getting nasty injuries from fighting. Neutering can also help to stop male cats from spraying indoors — which can be smelly. He’s also more likely to stay close to home as a neutered male cat is less likely to stray. But most importantly, spaying and neutering eliminates or reduces many types of cancer, tumours and other serious health complications. The simple fact is that spayed and neutered companions generally live longer, healthier lives.
K-9 Angels motto is ‘every life counts’. Going forward our motto is to spay and neuter your dog and potentially prevent 67,000 lives from suffering. The numbers speak for themselves. If one female dog is left unspayed within six years her family tree can expand to up to 67,0000 dogs. Yes, you heard that right. This number alone should be enough for every responsible person to spay or neuter their companion as soon as possible. In the last three and a half years since our spay and neuter campaign began in Romania we have raised enough money to sterilise 3,000 dogs and some cats too. So, in theory, we have prevented millions of unwanted pregnancies and suffering on the streets of Romania. We are heading in the right direction — towards a world where animals don’t need to live in shelters and suffer — but there is still a long way to go.
For more information about spay and neuter or to support our campaign please visit k-9angels.org