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Myths about Spaying & Neutering
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Myths about Spaying & Neutering

Spaying, Neutering and Should I Breed My Dog?

The only way to guarantee your dog will never reproduce is to prevent it through spaying or neutering (a.k.a. altering, desexing). However, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions (no pun intended) regarding altering your dog and breeding. Some of these myths include the following:

  • Myth: Altering will stop undesired behaviors.
  • Reality: Altering may have little to no affect at all on your dog's behaviors depending on the underlying cause. Not all behaviors are hormonally based. Some are inherited, many are learned through what the owner does or fails to do with the dog. Altering may help temper behaviors that are worsened by hormonal activity but the degree will vary dog to dog and the work an owner does plays a big role in canine behavior. Altering is often recommended to help with behavioral issues and dogs with behavioral issues that can be inherited (heightened fear for example) should be incorporated with a good training program as well.

  • Myth: A female cannot have a litter her first cycle.
  • Reality: A female can breed her first cycle.

  • Myth: A female needs to have a litter before being spayed.
  • Reality: She does not. Having a litter poses medical risks, financial strain and many other issues the owner must be aware of. A female does not need to experience motherhood to be fulfilled or to be "whole." Having a litter could bring about undesired behaviors and stick you with a litter of pups no one wants not to mention cause a lot of heartache should there be complications.

  • Myth: There is a perfect age to alter.
  • Reality: This is coming under scrutiny. You need to look at various factors and discuss this with your vet. You also need to look at your contract. However, spaying a female before her first cycle has been shown to reduce the risks of certain cancers and prevents the possibility or uterine infection and an unwanted litter.

  • Myth: My male cannot father a litter if he is under a year.
  • Reality: A puppy can sire a litter.

  • Myth: My male has to experience "intimacy" or he will not develop properly.
  • Reality: A male does not have to be bred to develop properly mentally or physically. Intact males are more likely to develop behaviors pet owners are not able to deal with. Statistically, intact males have a significantly higher bite rate than altered males. (Hormones affect aggression levels to varying degrees and the urge to get to a female in heat can cause a dog to do things he may not normally do).

  • Myth: Altering my pet will cause obesity and laziness.
  • Reality: Humans are likely the cause of this. Altering may diminish a dog's desire to roam (and females will roam), obesity comes from lack of exercise, too much/the wrong kinds of food and is most often "owner induced."

  • Myth: My dog is AKC registered and that means breeding quality.
  • Reality: Think of the AKC as your department of motor vehicles. As long as certain criteria are met, the DMV will register any car regardless of the quality or source. All the AKC does is register dogs, works with the parent club to set standards and has a set of titles dogs can compete for to ideally show quality and brains. Just as the well planned and researched litters from the best breeders in the country can be registered, so can the most unhealthy puppies from the lowest puppy mill. If certain criteria are met, the pups can be registered. Breeding quality means a dog is a solid representative of the breed, ideally has proven it and has passed whatever health screenings should be done for the breed. Then the dog being bred to needs to be of the same quality. It should also be noted that the AKC does limited registration which means that should your dog have this type of registration and be bred, all offspring will be ineligible for registration.

  • Myth: My dog just had a vet exam, is healthy and I can breed him/her.
  • Reality: Teterinary exams cannot check for many of the hereditary diseases that can affect all breeds and crossbreeds of dog. A general vet exam cannot tell if your dog is dysplastic, has or carries for von Willebrand's, has an eye issue (not all are visible with a general office exam), if your dog has Brucellosis, has or carries the MDR-1 gene, etc. A general veterinary exam is not enough should you be thinking about breeding your dog. The only way to slow and hopefully halt the spread of many inherited issues is if all breeding dogs are tested and only the healthiest bred.

  • Myth: Dogs have been having puppies for thousands of years; it is perfectly safe.
  • Reality: There are no statistics available on mortality rates in the wild. There are no statistics regarding uterine infections, absorbed litters, still born puppies, etc. Domestic dogs are not wild dogs. Good breeders understand the risks of breeding. They work to understand genetics, health issues and are willing to accept the financial costs of litters. Though many litters go off fine, there is never a guarantee your dog's will be fine. There are many complications that can arise from loss of litter, transmission of disease such as Brucellosis, loss of the dam, etc.

  • Myth: The dam will do all the work; puppies are easy.
  • Reality: The dam will not do all the work. Socializing of pups starts literally the moment they are born. Puppies can be a great time and financial strain for the owner. Are you willing to pay for vaccines and any medical care the pups will need? Are you willing to pay for emergency care? Are you willing to take time off work to hand raise pups if needed? Are you willing to keep a litter of pups until at least eight weeks of age before placing? Are you able to find suitable homes for puppies and keep indefinitely those who you cannot? What will happen to the pups if years down the road the owner cannot keep the dog? Will you take the dog back regardless of the reason?

  • Myth: My kids want to see a litter of pups born; one litter will be fine.
  • Reality: Before you decide to include your children on the birth of a litter of puppies, you will want to consider the possibility of something happening that was unexpected. With a live birth you lose the ability to stop your children from witnessing something that may be traumatic and leave a lasting memory.
    Some of  those events might include: Fading or still-born (dead) puppies, a dam that accidentally smothers her pup, bites an umbilical cord too close and injures the pup, or their dog become aggressive if she feels that her pups are in danger if the child(ren) want to get near the pups.
    Perhaps it would be better for you to preview a YouTube video that has been edited and more appropriate to the child's age rather than risking the change of something you thought was beautiful, turning tragic.
    And of course, no responsible parent or pet owner would ever choose to have an unwanted litter of pups for the purpose of witnessing a live birth. With the overwhelming number of unwanted pets at pound, adding to those numbers would be tragic as well, and not only to the child(ren).

Reality: In a healthy dog, spays and neuters are safe. These are some of the most commonly performed surgeries with lower risk factors. Maintaining an intact dog can be a real pain. A couple times a year, you will be responsible for making sure that your female is never out of your sight. A successful breeding can occur in moments. The scent of an intact female carries for miles and you can wind up with a slew of males hanging about. Dogs have been known to breed through chain link fences. Males will go through great lengths to get to a female, and vice-versa. Good breeders and rescues will require altering of all pets. In the end, if you do your job as an owner, your pet will live a longer and healthier life and altering should be part of that job.

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