Monday, November 7, 2011

The Pain of Breeding

I am often asking clients why they are not spaying or neutering their pets? I have to admit that over the years this is a discussion I have to have less and less. Thankfully it is much more "Vogue" these days to have a spayed or neutered pet. And the public perception of adopting from a shelter has made the back-yard breeders more of a "novelty" than the "norm." Most pets are spayed and neutered at 6 months old as a matter of course. All of our puppy and kitten protocols are set up to have the spay and neuter "naturally" occur at 6 months old. I think that about 95% of our clients pets are spayed and neutered by their first year. It is a very rare (Thank-goodness) event anymore that we get the "I don't know how she got pregnant?" dog come in our doors. But I still have a few clients who get a puppy, fall sooo deeply in love with them that they "think they want to breed her/him." It is a hard, somewhat frustrating discussion to have.

On one hand I never want to discourage or downplay the importance of an owner thinking that their dog (I say dog, because this doesn't happen any, if at all, in the cat world. Well, maybe once, but that was a crazy scenario, so we will dismiss it) is the most incredible dog on the planet. I believe these owners are just so enamored with their own dog that they think the rest of the world will benefit from "more dogs like theirs." Now I fully understand how it is to "firmly believe that your dog is the epitome of what that breed, or what a canine, should look like, act like, and be." I say this because I too am positive that my little Jekyll is the picture of adorable, quitessential Beagle perfection. I mean really? If you have met him then you also surely understand? But alas, there is my perception, and then there is reality.

The picture of Beagle perfection; Jekyll

The cold hard reality is what I see everyday. There are FEW AMAZING owners in this world. And the puppies that you bring into this world are, in my opinion, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! Please don't think that everyone takes great care of their dogs. Most people don't. Many people still view dogs (and pets) as property. In fact the law views them as property too. This is a highly contentious point with Vets and lawyers and the subject of many an unhappy owner should you find yourself in court over a pet issue. Take a stroll through any shelter on any day of the week, and see how many of those dogs look like purebred dogs. You will see that MANY and in some places MOST of those unwanted, disposed of dogs, are purebreds. Many of those are dogs that owners paid money for, and got papers for. And then threw away. Then think about how little "paper value" a mutt brings. Just because your dog has an incredibly charming, endearing personality does not mean that their offspring will? And how do you sell a personality to a stranger when they are looking at a puppy?

I just think that breeding is done by many people for selfish reasons that cost pets their lives in the long run. A breeder must have a few things to be considered "successful and reputable."
These qualities are;
  1. Have an "excellent reputation." You don't get a reputation overnight, (well certainly not a good one). It takes years and years to build.
  2. A long list of puppies that have achieved awards, ribbons, accolades, points, etc.
  3. A breeder needs to have a balance between emotional attachment and breed advancement. For me, this means that a "successful breeder" has some ability to detach themselves from the emotional roller-coaster that dealing with very fragile tiny newborn beings entails. I have seen dogs die while giving birth, I have seen puppies die while being born, I have also seen whole litters die for unknown causes over weeks. How emotionally devastating is that to watch? How ready are you (if you choose to breed) to spend thousands of dollars doing all of the pre- breeding tests recommended, and then the possibility of needing surgical intervention if the delivery doesn't go smoothly? I know many breeders who have had to have an emergency ceasarian section at the emergency clinic and spent thousands.
Or how will you deal with what happened to me today, when my friend, and breeder came in with another 7 week old baby dying? She lost one this morning, and was devastated. She had been treating, mothering, and praying for her litter to get better. It has been 7 weeks of constant time, attention, nursing, treating, watching, not sleeping and she is still loosing babies. She is emotionally and (almost) financially bankrupt, and she is still loosing babies. I think this is her last trip in the breeding department. I really hope so for her sake. It is too much stress for all of us.

Are you ready for this? Have you really thought about it? Are you doing it for any of the right reasons? From my perspective, and for as much as I love my little Jekyll, we, in the USA are still euthanazing MILLIONS of pets every year, so there is no right reason. There is just your selfish reason. When we have homes for every pet in America, and when people stop coming in my door because "they are moving," or "having children," or just "don't want to take care of a pet anymore," and when I don't have to euthanize another pet because I know there isn't a home for them, then we can all discuss another choice.

More of the cutest dog ever, (don't tell my other two, because it isn't right to have a favorite).


  1. Jekyll does have the cutest speckled belly. Roy would lose his mind if I posted a pic of him on the internet.....Joe is a good sport.

  2. I know this is an old blog post, but I've seen a fair bit of research come out lately on adverse long-term health effects of spaying / neutering dogs (heightened risk of cancer, hip dysplasia, etc). Would you consider doing a follow-up post that discusses long term medical risks of spay/neuter surgeries and how to manage your pet if you decide not to do the surgery?