Where Class Meets Sass

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Doing it doggy style

Written by Sarah Hodgson, 9 months ago, 0 Comments
  • To meet Brittany, visit the SPCA of Westchester at 590 N. State Road in Briarcliff Manor.

    To meet Brittany, visit the SPCA of Westchester at 590 N. State Road in Briarcliff Manor.

Stop right there. Do not let your imagination run wild. This article contains nothing X-rated or kinky, however disappointed you may be. A quick check of the byline and you’ll see it’s me, the dog-training lady, here to report on the sexual cycles of your pet, and the growing controversy surrounding spaying and neutering as they are performed in the United States.

First the biology: A dog’s anatomy is similar in many respects to our own. The male dog, known as the “stud,” has a penis and two cylindrical testosterone-producing testicles.

The female dog, professionally referred to as the “bitch,” possess two ovaries and a double-horned uterus that links to the cervix. The cervix extends to the vagina, which opens into the vestibule. When dogs mate, the vestibule enlarges, as does the rest of the reproductive cavity, and voilà! Life is on the cusp of renewing itself.

You get the picture, though there are a few canine peculiarities that you may not know about:

• On average, dogs reach sexual maturity between 6 to 12 months of age.

• Male dogs are the only mammals that possess a bulbous gland at the base of their penises, which swell with blood upon penetration. This forcibly locks the pair until the mating is complete, which takes about 30 minutes.

• Female dogs have two reproductive cycles a year, lasting up to three weeks. During the first stage of a cycle, about nine days, there will be a notable swelling of the vaginal tissue and a clear discharge. During the final phase, a bloody fluid discharges, indicating that eggs have been released and it’s party time. During this seven-to-10-day period, she will welcome any stud’s advances.

• Female dogs may mate with several different partners. A litter may be the product of more than one stud. You go, girl!

• Pregnancy lasts 56 to 58 days, although female dogs can give the appearance of being pregnant when they’re not, which is known as pseudopregnancy. This hormone-induced condition can result in nesting behavior and even milk production.

• Dogs do not experience menopause, although an aging dog’s heat cycles can become more irregular.

Wow. That’s a lot of potty talk. My 5-year-old son would be proud. Now on to the controversy.

I’ve always pushed my clients to spay and neuter their dogs – as in always, always. I’ve been pro-animal rescue, lending my voice to the initiative for early surgical de-sexing.

That is until now. I am on the cusp of a re-evaluation, even as I write this article.

While I still support the shelters’ attempts to rein in pet overpopulation, I’ve spent the past months researching the adverse health effects that result in the traditional spay/neuter surgeries as performed in the United States and Canada. I’ve learned that there are other sterilizations procedures available and commonly performed that are equally reliable and far less invasive.

Our current practice of altering our pets surgically removes all reproductive organs and corresponding tissues. It has long been touted as reducing mammary and testicular cancers and behavioral frustrations with little adverse affects. However, there are few studies that support these claims.

The past decade has gradually presented a different picture. As Dr. Karen Becker, D.V.M. reports (drkarenbecker.com), there is now irrefutable evidence that this elective surgery shortens a dog’s life, increases cancer rates and cases of Cushing’s disease (which affects many organs) and inhibits bone growth and development.

So where does that leave you and me? As a trainer who routinely works with aggressive or behaviorally challenged dogs – many who mark, mount or destroy their homes – I still believe that sterilization can ease their frustrations.

But can you sterilize dogs without removing all of their reproductive organs?

Yes, you can. There are several procedures, which are common for people in this country, including a vasectomy, hysterectomy and ligation that would sterilize a pet without deforming him or her. These common procedures are performed on pets in Europe and are used in Third World countries as a public service to street dogs.

Why aren’t these procedures commonplace in North America? I wish I had the answer. The only one I’ve gotten is that it’s not taught in veterinarian schools.

That doesn’t sound like a good enough answer to me.

For more from Sarah, visit whendogstalk.com.

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