Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Reason to Spay Your Dog: Maddie's Story

When you ask people why they choose to not spay or neuter their animals, you hear a multitude of answers, ranging from "It's too expensive" to "I don't want my animal to get fat". So many rumors abound about the dangers of spaying and neutering, and all too often, the reasons TO spay and neuter go unnoticed.

In our blog, we've talked to you about the sad reality of pet overpopulation, and for this reason alone, we've pleaded to you to please try to help control pet overpopulation by spaying and neutering your animals.

What we have haven't mentioned to you is that not only is spaying important to the countless kittens and puppies that don't need to be born, but it's also better for your female dog.

"How can an invasive surgery be better for my dog than just leaving her intact?", we hear asked, time and time again.

Maddie, one of our most recent rescues, is our new poster child for the benefits of spaying. Maddie came to us as an adult, unspayed dog. She was a little skinny, a little dirty, and a little worried about what was going on when we picked her up. Within a few days of being in foster care, Maddie was thriving. She LOVED the attention of her foster mom almost as much as she loved her new sweater :) When we took Maddie in for her physical exam prior to her spay, however, the veterinarian found a few masses in her mammary tissue. During her spay, the vet removed these, and sent them off to be biopsied. As back luck would have it, they came back as cancerous tumors, widespread enough that Maddie, who is just starting to figure out what life is all about, will probably have only 6 months left to live.

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with the fact that she was not spayed when we found her. The very harsh and sad reality is that a dog's chance of getting malignant mammary cancer during their life increases the longer they are left unspayed. Puppies spayed before their first heat have only 0.5% chance of getting malignant mammary cancer in their life. That's one puppy out of 200. If that puppy's owner allows her to go through one heat cycle (a common rumor is that dogs should be allowed to go through one heat cycle before being spayed), her chances go up to 8%. That's 8 puppies out of 100! If she goes through a second heat cycle, her chances rise to 26%, meaning in a litter with 4 female pups, at least one of those puppies will die of mammary cancer. And the odds keep going up with each additional heat cycle.

Although there is always the chance that Maddie could have fallen in the 0.5% of dogs that will get malignant mammary cancer despite spaying, chances are, if she had been spayed by her original owner as a puppy or even a young dog, she would not have developed these tumors.

For her, the damage has already been done. For Maddie, we are just trying to find her a hospice home for her last few months; someone to adore her and spoil her rotten while she's still healthy enough to enjoy it. For all the puppies going to homes today, however, we hope that Maddie's story will encourage owners to spay this generation of puppies, so that these dogs can live long and full lives!

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