Sterilisation – Conquering the Overpopulation Crisis of Cats and Dogs

In a period of just six years, one female dog and her litter can reproduce up to 67 000 puppies! Similarly, in a period of 7 years, one female cat and her offspring can reproduce 370 000 kittens, and the numbers continue to increase exponentially from there! Unsterilised male dogs and cats are the prime contributors to this overpopulation crisis as they can impregnate a multitude of females within a short period of time, thereby producing countless unplanned litters.

To further aggravate the situation in South Africa, the following statistics were published by Statistics South Africa Census 2012, Eighty20 (SAARF Living Standard Measures 2012), South African Veterinary Council (SAVC 2012), World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA 2008), Animal Welfare and Private practices 2012, and South Africa Mass Animal Sterilisation Trust (SA.MAST) :

Over 40 million South Africans rely on animal welfare organisations to support their pets, however these establishments are under immense strain being only able to assist a segment of this population, thereby leaving innumerable animals without any access to basic veterinary care.

It’s been reported that South Africa has a grave scarcity of specialist surgeons, with only twelve practicing in the entire country. This problem is further exasperated by the fact that less than one surgical specialist is allocated per major city outside of Johannesburg and Pretoria. This amounts to approximately 870 000 homed dogs and cats for every surgeon. Older surgeons and veterinarians are also retiring from private and animal welfare practices, thereby causing a shortage of mentors to teach new graduates.

This explains why millions of innocent dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are euthanised every year, due to the shortage of both loving homes to take them in and people without access to animal welfare services. Sterilisation is the affordable, simple solution to saving millions of animals from a life of struggle with hunger, thirst, neglect, abuse or euthanisation in animal shelters because their forever family never arrives. As responsible pet parents, you can make the difference by sterilising (spaying or neutering) your pets to ensure no unplanned litters occur.

  • What is spaying and neutering of cats and dogs?
    Sterilisation (spaying or neutering) is when a qualified veterinarian performs a surgical procedure involving removal of a pet’s reproductive organs.

  • What are the Benefits of Sterilising my pet?

    Sterilisation in both male and female cats and dogs has many far-reaching benefits, namely:

    • Improved longevity and avoidance of unplanned litters.
    • Sterilised pets are less susceptible to contract some diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in cats or the Transmissible Venereal Tumour virus in dogs.
    • Having your female cat or dog sterilised at an early age can further protect them from the later onset of critical health issues such as urinary infections and mammary gland cancer, which are found to be malignant in approximately 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats.
    • Elimination of hormone-induced moodiness and uncomfortable, stressful symptoms associated with heat cycles.
    • Reduction of the frustrating behaviours of heat cycles, such as yowling and inappropriate urinating around the home.
    • Neutering male pets may reduce certain behaviourial problems related to the instinct of mating. This ensures they are far less likely to perform a Houdini-style escape from home to roam in search of a female mate, thereby reducing the chance of them being run over by a vehicle or getting into fights with other animals.
    • Altered males are less inclined to mark their territory around the home by spraying a strong-scent over all your household belongings. This should also eliminate the instinctive need to mount people, other dogs and nonliving objects.
    • Neutered males have a reduced chance of developing prostate and testicular cancer, thereby enhancing their quality and quantity of life.

Remember, whilst sterilising your male pet reduces their testosterone levels, there is no guarantee that their unfavourable behaviour will improve. This is because they may have become accustomed to certain learnt behaviours and there is the possibility that these habits will continue if left unchecked. At the end of the day, the outcomes of neutering are largely influenced by your pet’s unique character, biology and history.

  • Will altering my pet affect their weight?
    The process of spaying or neutering has been known to reduce the quantity of sex-related hormones which may lead to a decrease in a pet’s metabolic rate, but a lifestyle of regular exercise and a healthy diet will ensure your pet is kept slim, fit and shapely. A pet’s age, breed and level of activity are also factors when taking dietary concerns into account. Portion servings and exercise regimes will need to be adjusted accordingly as your pet gets on in years and depending on whether their breed is prone to weight gain.
  • How can you teach your children about “the miracle of birth”?
    There is a wealth of information available in the form of books, videos and online programmes to responsibly teach your children about reproduction. Allowing your pet to breed is not only teaching your child to be reckless, but it’s contributing to the current calamity of countless pets dying in shelters because there’s a deficit of loving homes for the rapidly growing population.
  • Is sterilization safe?
    Spaying or neutering of pets is the most commonly performed surgical procedure conducted by veterinarians. Your furry friend will receive a general anesthetic during the procedure and pain medication to manage any associated pain thereafter, thus experiencing moderate pain and discomfort. The occurrence of complications resulting from these procedures is very low.
  • What is the best age to spay or neuter my pet?
    It’s always best to consult your veterinarian about when the most appropriate age to sterilise your pet is as this could vary between breeds, ages and individual health statuses, however, most veterinary practices will only sterilise your pet after they are 6 months old.
  • What are the costs involved?
    If your pet produces offspring, you are then responsible for the wellbeing of the wee ones. Sterilising your pet is a far more cost-effective solution than having to care for a litter of pups or kittens. Many animal welfare organisations and shelters offer free sterilisations to make the procedure more accessible for pet parents to do the right thing.
  • Pre-Surgery Tips
    Your vet will give you the necessary information required regarding preparing your pet for surgery. They will probably insist that your pet fasts the night before undergoing anesthesia, but instructions may differ for younger pups and kittens, so ensure you are given accurate instructions pertaining to your pet’s individual set of circumstances.
  • Post-Surgery Recovery Tips
    • It is best to keep your pet indoors overnight, in a peaceful place away from noise or other pets until the anesthetic has fully worn off. Pets that have not fully recovered and are left to roam may not be as quick to react in a dangerous situation and may come to harm.
    • Ensure your pet doesn’t jump and run for approximately 10 days after the operation, or for as long as your physician suggests.
    • Ensure the incision remains free from infection by preventing your pet from licking it. This can be done by offering them treat distractions or using an Elizabethan collar.
    • Don’t bath your furry pal for at least 10 days after the operation.
    • Conduct daily inspections of the incision to ensure efficient healing.

Consult with your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • The incision is red, swollen, open or producing any discharge
  • If your pet is unusually lethargic, has a reduced appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea.

Cities and countries worldwide are aggressively addressing the animal overpopulation crisis and areas that are efficient in doing so have reported drastic reductions in the numbers of animals being taken in to animal shelters and euthanised. It all starts with you and your community, so spread the word about pet sterilisation. Together we can overcome this crisis and in so doing, contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of the precious animals with which we share this beautiful planet.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson


Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.