PG 58 BODY AND SOUL

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents -

Why ster­il­i­sa­tion is more im­por­tant than you think.

De­spite vets ex­tolling the virtues of neutering or spay­ing a pet, many paw-rents think it’s an act of cru­elty (it’s not). Still ap­pre­hen­sive about ster­il­is­ing your furkid? We help bust the most com­mon myths.

BY GIL­LIAN LIM

would you re­move your pet’s re­pro­duc­tive or­gans? Paw-rents who choose not to claim that this pro­ce­dure is not only risky and un­nec­es­sary, it will also al­ter their furkid’s per­son­al­ity and bring about a plethora of health is­sues. How­ever, pawrents who do ster­ilise their furkids ar­gue that this rou­tine surgery length­ens the life of their pet and min­imises the risk of can­cers as­so­ci­ated with the re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem.

De­spite the over­whelm­ing sup­port for ster­il­i­sa­tion from vets and gov­ern­ments alike—like Laval, a Cana­dian city, that rolled out a leg­is­la­tion this year re­quir­ing all dogs and cats above six months to be ster­ilised un­less they’re ex­empted by the vet—paw-rents still hes­i­tate to get their furkids spayed or neutered be­cause of mis­con­cep­tions about the pro­ce­dure.

We speak to lo­cal vet­eri­nar­i­ans to get the story straight. Here are the most pop­u­lar myths and facts about ster­il­i­sa­tion—can you tell which are true and which are false?

ABOUT THE SURGERY

The surgery will be painful for my pet. Myth. Your furkid will be put un­der gen­eral anaes­the­sia for the surgery, so it will be un­able to move and won’t feel pain or dis­com­fort. “Modern ve­teri­nary anaes­the­sia is con­sid­ered safe,” shares vet­eri­nar­ian Dr Daphne Low from Mount Pleas­ant An­i­mal Med­i­cal Cen­tre (Far­rer). “Anaes­the­sia works by us­ing chem­i­cals that act on the brain to in­duce a tem­po­rary state of en­forced un­con­scious­ness. Plus, your pet will be ad­min­is­tered with pain re­lief med­i­ca­tion be­fore and af­ter surgery.”

It’s dan­ger­ous to put my pet un­der anaes­the­sia.

It de­pends on whether your furkid has

any ex­ist­ing health con­di­tions that might make the surgery riskier. How­ever, anaes­the­sia risks are min­i­mal for healthy pets. A study con­ducted in 2008 by Bri­tish vet­eri­nar­i­ans, led by Pro­fes­sor David Brod­belt, tracked 98,036 dogs and 79,178 cats that un­der­went anaes­the­sia. Re­sults showed that the mor­tal­ity rate was only 0.05 per­cent for healthy dogs and 0.11 per­cent for healthy cats.

“Gen­eral anaes­thetic risk is rel­a­tively small these days, as anaes­thetic drugs are quite quickly metabolised, which makes them a lot safer to use,” shares Dr Philippa Spell­man, the lead­ing ve­teri­nary sur­geon of Am­ber Vet. “This is cou­pled with thor­ough anaes­the­sia mon­i­tor­ing by trained ve­teri­nary staff, along with mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment to mea­sure vi­tal signs.”

Sur­gi­cal com­pli­ca­tions might hap­pen.

Fact. As with any surgery, it is possible for a va­ri­ety of com­pli­ca­tions to oc­cur.

“If some ovar­ian tis­sue is left in, there’s a pos­si­bil­ity of ‘stump py­ome­tra’, which means the stump of the left­over uter­ine tis­sue be­comes infected with pus due to the con­tin­ual pro­duc­tion of fe­male hor­mones,” says Dr Low. “How­ever, sur­gi­cal com­pli­ca­tions are usu­ally min­i­mal,” adds vet­eri­nar­ian Dr June Tan from Frankel Ve­teri­nary Cen­tre. A few ex­am­ples in­clude seroma, which is the swelling of the in­ci­sion site due to an ad­verse su­ture re­ac­tion, and hem­or­rhag­ing due to the su­ture slip­ping.

My pet is too old to be ster­ilised.

Myth. While the anaes­thetic risk does in­crease with age, ster­il­i­sa­tion can still be per­formed for older an­i­mals, es­pe­cially if they are healthy. “It is not so much the age, but rather the health sta­tus of the pet,” says Dr Low. “As with any sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure, a thor­ough phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion, med­i­cal his­tory and blood tests will be done to en­sure the an­i­mal is fit to un­dergo anaes­the­sia.” Dr Tan agrees: “As long as the pet’s vi­tals are nor­mal and mon­i­tored closely dur­ing surgery, ster­il­i­sa­tion can still be per­formed on older pa­tients, es­pe­cially so if they’re suf­fer­ing from dis­eases like pro­statis or prostate en­large­ment in male dogs and py­ome­tra in fe­male dogs or cats.” Tra­di­tion­ally, vets rec­om­mend pets to be ster­ilised when they’re at least six months old—that’s when most of them reach pu­berty. If you’re un­sure whether your pooch is healthy enough to un­dergo anaes­the­sia, speak with your vet­eri­nar­ian and re­quest for blood work.

Ster­il­i­sa­tion is too ex­pen­sive.

Myth. The cost of spay­ing or neutering is based on a few fac­tors: gen­der, size, your vet­eri­nar­ian’s fees, and other vari­ables, such as whether your fe­male pet is in heat or if your male furkid has un­de­scended testicles. While lo­cal clin­ics charge any­where be­tween $50 and $500 for the surgery, it is a rel­a­tively small fee if you con­sider that it’s a one-time surgery that brings about many health ben­e­fits through­out your dog’s life­time, such as the re­duced risk of re­pro­duc­tive can­cers.

HEALTH IS­SUES

It doesn’t do any­thing for my pet’s health. Myth. By neutering or spay­ing your pet, you’re elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing dis­eases re­lated to its re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem, such as py­ome­tra (uterus cancer), mam­mary or ovar­ian cancer, and greatly re­duc­ing the chances of breast cancer, as well as other gen­i­tal and hor­mone-re­lated dis­eases.

My pet will gain weight be­cause of it. Myth. While it is true that your pet’s

meta­bolic rate might de­crease af­ter ster­il­i­sa­tion, surgery alone will not cause it to gain weight. “This will only hap­pen if the owner is un­aware that his pet has a lower meta­bolic rate post-ster­il­i­sa­tion and con­tin­ues to feed it the same amount of calo­ries,” says Dr Tan. “Any weight gain can be re­versed by con­trol­ling your pet’s diet and reg­u­lar ex­er­cise.”

It’s bet­ter for my dog to have one lit­ter be­fore I spay her.

Myth. “Spay­ing your fe­male pup be­fore her first or sec­ond heat—be­fore she turns a year old—of­fers the best pro­tec­tion from dis­eases such as ovar­ian cysts, uter­ine tu­mours, mam­mary tu­mours and py­ome­tra,” says Dr Low.

I have only one pet, so if I leave it un­ster­ilised, the health risks will be lesser. Myth. Your pet will still face the same risk of de­vel­op­ing dis­eases re­lated to its re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem. If you’re wor­ried about un­wanted pup­pies or kit­tens, that pos­si­bil­ity will al­ways be there un­less you ster­ilise your pet. “Even if your an­i­mal is the only pet in the house­hold, there may be oc­ca­sions where it may need to in­ter­act with other un­ster­ilised an­i­mals,” shares Dr Low. “That leads to a chance of un­planned mat­ing or other un­de­sir­able so­cial be­hav­iour to­wards other an­i­mals or hu­mans.”

BE­HAVIOURAL IS­SUES

My pet’s per­son­al­ity will change.

Myth. Re­mov­ing its re­pro­duc­tive or­gans will re­duce its en­ergy re­quire­ments, and the re­moval of testos­terone in male dogs will cause it to be tamer, but that doesn’t mean that its per­son­al­ity will change. “Many peo­ple believe that ster­il­is­ing their pet will help it calm down and be bet­ter-be­haved,” says Dr Spell­man. “Un­for­tu­nately, be­hav­iour is more a re­sult of how the pet is trained, and what and how it’s been ex­posed to its en­vi­ron­ment in the first few months of its life.”

My pet will miss his/her re­pro­duc­tive parts. Myth. Your pet prob­a­bly won’t even realise that his or her re­pro­duc­tive or­gans have been re­moved. “This is just an­other com­mon ex­am­ple of hu­man emo­tions be­ing in­cor­rectly at­trib­uted to our pets,” says Dr Tan. “They don’t feel de­pressed about it, not like hu­mans. An­i­mals tend to go about their doggy busi­ness just the same as al­ways, even post-ster­il­i­sa­tion.”

BREED­ING

Show dogs can’t be ster­ilised.

Fact. But only for con­for­ma­tion events. “The orig­i­nal pur­pose of dog shows was to ex­hibit and eval­u­ate dogs that would be used for breed­ing pur­poses and gain cham­pi­onship ti­tles,” shares Dr Low. How­ever, the Amer­i­can Ken­nel Club stip­u­lates that ster­ilised pets can still par­tic­i­pate in events such as obe­di­ence, rally, ju­nior han­dling and herd­ing.

My pet is so spe­cial. I want to breed him/her so I’ll have a puppy just like him/her!

Myth. Your furkid’s lit­ter will have a very slim chance of be­ing an ex­act copy of it. Even pro­fes­sional breed­ers can­not guar­an­tee that a lit­ter will in­herit a par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter­is­tic.

My dog has such good genes. I want to pass it on.

Myth. Be­ing de­scended from a show pet lin­eage does not guar­an­tee the health and qual­ity of your pet. In fact, pedi­gree and show dogs can still de­velop un­de­sir­able con­gen­i­tal traits. “Ge­netic dis­or­ders can still sur­face in fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, es­pe­cially if both par­ents have re­ces­sive genes,” says Dr Low.

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