I want you to think of a number: Six hundred million. It's a very big number and can be hard to imagine, so I asked one of my pack members to put this number in perspective for you, and here's what he came up with:
• It's more than the population of every country except China and India
• In dollars, it would be enough to buy everyone in Japan a grande at Starbucks
• You could buy everyone in Canada a ticket to the latest hit movie in 3D
• You could buy everyone in the Netherlands dinner at a nice restaurant four times
• A stack of six hundred million pennies would be 578 miles high
• A stack of six hundred million pancakes would stretch from Seattle to Miami
Six hundred million is a huge number, and there's a reason I want you to understand the magnitude of it, because this is the number of abandoned, homeless, and abused dogs in the world. That's nearly two dogs per every person living in the United States; nearly 10 for every citizen of the UK.
Unfortunately, a huge number of these dogs will be destroyed in shelters or killed in the streets. I have seen places where dogs are routinely abused, tortured, hanged, or shot. These dogs will never know what it means to be part of a human pack and will never have a loving home -- but there is a way to reduce the problem and, I hope one day, to eliminate it.
Today, February 26, is World Spay Day, a part of Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, and having your dogs fixed is a low-cost way to help reduce the problem of canine overpopulation worldwide. In theory, a single unfixed female and her descendants can produce up to 67,000 dogs in just six years. I don't even want to think about half of those six hundred million dogs turning out that many offspring in such a short time.
Surprisingly, I still find people resistant to having their dogs fixed. But, unless you're a licensed and responsible breeder, there is no good reason at all to not spay and neuter your pets. I don't need numbers for this part of the conversation (I'll bet we're both happy about that!) but I do have some facts to dispel the myths and misinformation about sterilization.
The biggest myths come about because we try to humanize our dogs, assigning our emotions to them. However, a neutered male will not grieve for his loss and a fixed female will not lament never giving birth. Dogs live in the moment. They don't plan for a future with puppies and grand-puppies; male dogs are only involved at the very beginning and female dogs push their pups out into the pack once they are weaned and taught the basic rules.
People also think that sterilizing a dog is bad for it, assuming that male dogs in particular will get fat. However, having a dog fixed does not cause weight gain. That only happens because of genetics, or because a dog eats too much and is not active enough.
Coincidentally, dogs are often fixed just at the point when their higher energy needs for juvenile growth are ending while their diets don't change. Anyone who has ever been a freshman in college has probably experienced the same weight gain phenomenon, probably without having been neutered first.
Spaying or neutering your dog can also contribute to it having a longer, healthier life. Spaying reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections in females, and lowers the chances of mammary tumors later in life by up to 86 percent.
Likewise, it eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer in male dogs, and greatly reduces problems with marking, dog aggression, and the likelihood of a dog escaping to breed only to be killed by a car or put in a shelter. While 78 percent of pet dogs are fixed, only 10 percent of those received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.
Lastly, spaying and neutering is not expensive, and in honor of Spay/Neuter month, many vets and clinics will be offering low-cost sterilization during February. If your dogs are fixed, then congratulations. If they're not, you have no reason not to get it done now. Your dog will enjoy a longer, less stressful life, and you'll be doing your part to reduce that six hundred million.
Read more and learn how to do your part at www.CesarsWay.com and at www.MillanFoundation.org.
Don't forget to tune-in to a new episode of "Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack" and take the journey with me to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome dogs around the world on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM E/P on Nat Geo WILD.