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Did you know that dogs spayed before their first heat cycle almost never get breast cancer? Likewise, did you know that spaying your kitty before she's one year old reduces the risk of mammary cancer by a whopping 90 percent? Protect the boobies! Regardless of your age, gender, or political affiliation, it's a manifesto we all can support. Let's bust a move to endorse preservation of these most important anatomical features, thus indisputably safeguarding the well-being of our pets.

For women, as well as cats and dogs, the dangers of breast cancer can prove devastating. Aggressive cancer cells invading mammary glands may transform into malignant tumors, which, in turn, can insidiously spread to other mammary glands and even metastasize to brew disastrous perils elsewhere. If your pet falls among the unfortunate ones and contracts mammary cancer, initial treatment ordinarily involves surgical removal, which can be expensive. I've removed many mammary tumors, and along the way, I've discovered it's not one of my favorite surgeries. The procedure can be challenging, tedious, and time-consuming. Post-operatively, the arteriole spray that paints my surgical gown often resembles a spatter pattern that only Gil Grissom, my wife's favorite CSI character could appreciate.

Beyond surgery, additional therapies for mammary cancer include chemotherapy and radiation. However, if you decide to pursue further therapy, proceed with caution, since only limited information is available regarding success rates.

Not convinced? Don't forget that spaying, the preeminent chastity belt, prevents unwanted litters, controls the pet population, reduces unnecessary euthanasias, and lowers animal shelter costs. Amazingly, a single cat and her first-year offspring can yield upwards of 150 kittens within a three-year period. Cats and dogs are designed to be efficient procreators, and their frenzied rate of reproduction can quickly evolve into shockingly astronomical numbers. I'd imagine that even a supercomputer engineered for mastermind spy James Bond would probably sooner or later detonate in its furious attempt to calculate the multiplication statistics. We're all aware of the plight of overcrowded and woefully underfunded animal shelters across the country. Despite the heroic efforts of animal organizations and pet advocates, trying to find good homes for all stray cats and dogs remains a difficult hurdle. Consequently, many adoptable pets remain homeless, or are unfortunately put to sleep.

Spaying also eliminates the risk for pyometra, a nasty and quite dangerous problem. The condition is more commonly seen in older dogs and cats that have not yet been spayed. Literally defined as pus in the uterus, pyometra proposes a villainous health threat from a festering infection smoldering within the reproductive tract, and immediate surgery is often the only recourse. To put things in perspective, a normal uterus may resemble the diameter of a pencil, and weigh less than a pound. On the other hand, for past pyometra patients, I've removed many diseased uteruses filled with wickedly disgusting amounts of purulent quagmire that often resemble ten pounds of kielbasa. Appalling and ghastly, to say the least.

Lastly, but not least important, spaying prevents habitually insufferable heat cycles. Female dogs tend to have a heat cycle every six to seven months. While in heat, your dog will likely be the most popular pooch on the block, since males have an uncanny ability to detect willing and ready females from afar. Lusting Casanovas of the two-legged variety only wish they had similar magical powers. If your female stays outside, brace yourself for a literal potpourri of tail-waggin' visitors vying to be the lucky one to saddle up. Just like the county fair, you'll be amazed at who materializes from the back forty, feverishly panting on your front stoop and looking for love. For those gals that stay inside, diapers will become a necessity. A dog in diapers? Indeed. Females in heat often have a bloody vaginal discharge for up to three weeks, and unless protected with a pull-up, may trickle a trail around the house that would make Hansel and Gretel proud.

Female cats tend to come in heat almost once monthly, and the heat cycle usually lasts for seven to ten days. During her "on-call" period, she may become excessively flirtatious, obsessively rubbing on you or any other nearby object. She may incessantly roll and flop on the floor. She may repeatedly assume the mating position, known as lordosis, with head down, forelimbs bent, tail in the upright and locked position, rear quarters raised, and her privates exposed for all to see. (Good luck explaining that to your pre-pubescent and inquisitive youngster.) Desperate to find a mate, indoor cats in heat will seek every opportunity to escape outside, and will spend hours in stealth mode waiting by the door to clandestinely dash through even the slightest opening.

Finally, beware that cats in heat may vocalize and meow uninterruptedly around the clock. The chattiness is often noisy, sometimes piercing, and downright irritating during the wee hours of the morning. You think your loquacious mother-in-law can't stop talking? Well, wait until your cat goes into heat.

Benefits of neutering male cats and dogs also abound. Obviously, castration completely eliminates the risk for testicular cancer. Furthermore, neutering can greatly lower the risk of prostate disease later in life. Dogs with prostatic disease often have a history of straining to urinate and defecate, which would certainly put anyone in a bad mood. What's more, neutering can eliminate the urge to mate, thus reducing the perils of roaming, getting lost, running away, and falling victim to numerous outside dangers. Some reports indicate as many as 80 percent of dogs hit by cars are unaltered. Neutered male canines also have a lowered risk for development of perianal adenomas, or tumors around the anus. These growths are usually benign, but given their precarious location, can often interfere with pooping and present hygiene issues after becoming soiled with feces. Who on this planet wants to give ole' Spot a good wipe several times daily?

Neutering male cats can decrease the oft overpowering odor of their urine, and decrease the risk for urine marking. Intact tomcats have a nightmarish tendency to mark their territories. The smell is truly foul, and their territory is often your drapes, carpet, and furniture. The odoriferousness of your home may not improve until you convert your carpet to hardwoods. No longer testosterone-laden, neutered males are often less aggressive and more docile to people, as well as other pets. I've read that 90 percent of neutered cats engage in combat markedly less often than their unaltered and usually more cantankerous counterparts. Cats tend to be highly territorial, and violation of this "honor code of property rights," will almost always invoke a cloud-of-dust brawl amongst tomcats. Keep in mind, less fighting also lowers the risk of disease transmission. Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are two potentially devastating illnesses spread through bite wounds and salivary transmission in the heat of battle. Fighting cats also have a high probability for developing abscesses, localized and painful pus-filled wounds, thus necessitating a trip to your veterinarian.

I'm not related to Bob Barker, former host of The Price Is Right, but he admirably campaigned his listening audience to have their pets spayed and neutered. In short, spaying and neutering helps dogs and cats live longer, happier, and healthier lives. You'll also save money in the long-term-a rare win-win situation, no debate needed. Comedian Steven Wright once joked he had his coat hangers spayed since they appeared to multiply overnight. Please consider the same for your pet.

Used with persmission of DivineCaroline.com.  Divine Caroline is a website where pet-lovers like you can read and contribute stories, reviews, and forums.  Please visit their bustling community soon.  

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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