This coming week I’ll be spaying three dogs whose owner has historically been reluctant to submit her pets to the “barbarity of unnecessary abdominal surgery.” It seems that after searching in vain for the ideal baby-daddy for her three poorly bred bitches she’d finally grown sick of the blood on the fine carpets and high-priced linens.

This is what I’m up against…

It’s like a bad Cinderella remake with the dogs sharing the lead and the evil stepmother playing herself.

So why are people still so clueless when it comes to canine motherhood? Don’t all the sad pictures of the pets at the pound do a good enough job? If not, don’t you think the caged animals up for adoption at your local big box pet retailer would make the point just as well?

Although “spay and neuter your pets” has become the mantra of modern suburban petkeeping, the sentiment hasn’t exactly made its way across the US uniformly. Pockets of ignorance, greed and confusion mar the landscape for those of us engaged in the Sisyphean task of curbing pet overpopulation.

Of course, you don’t have to spay and neuter your pets to be responsible pet owners. Avoidance of reproductive situations, tubal ligation and vasectomy are all acceptable (though the latter two seldom undertaken).

And if you do venture forth into the brave world of pet reproduction , you MUST do so responsibly (i.e., perfect physical specimens, ideal health status, proven competitors and knowledgeable owners with financial and professional resources). By my definition, that means only a tiny fraction of pet owners get a pass on the breeding of their pets.

As we all know, this ideal is far from the reality of pet breeding as we know it. So we spend hours every day either explaining these things to our clients, spaying and neutering pets at a reduced cost, performing last minute C-sections, or writing about it…

To this last point, today’s Miami Herald offers a Mother’s Day special pet column (by yours truly). Here’s it is. I can only hope it helps avert more misery.

Mother’s Day goes to the dogs…

It’s Mother’s Day and aside from the fact that I relish the attention—as any woman who has borne a child might—I believe it’s an excellent opportunity to discuss the maternity of our pets.

Both dogs and cats are often pressed into maternal service by their owners either by neglect of their alteration (spaying) or as a result the express intent to see these pets procreate.

Most of you will be familiar with the arguments we vets present against your failing to spay and neuter your pets (for the sake of severe overpopulation among our domesticated canine and feline companions), but what of the breeding of the full-blooded, pedigreed purebreds in our midst?

In my experience, even the most well-educated, otherwise responsible owners will often elect to take on the task of breeding their pets for a variety of reasons. Among these, the following sentiments prevail:

1-My pet is a perfect example of her type. I hope for others to enjoy the same—and to create another just like her.

2-I hope to see my children experience the miracle of life.

3-Pets deserve the healthy opportunity to procreate.

4-I hope to sell the offspring.

And yet, mothering in pets is fraught with at least as much peril as it is in humans. Medical conditions must be considered carefully. Cesarean section births are both costly and chancy for the pet in question (and required in certain breeds).

Maternal instincts are, moreover, not assured. Many pets find nothing objectionable in eating their young, for example. Raising a litter of surviving pups in the wake of such common disasters is no mean feat.

It’s my experience that most pet owners venturing a foray into pet breeding are poorly equipped to take on the responsibility. It’s a commitment that requires education and professional attention not often made readily available to most pet owners. (When was the last time you heard of pre-natal counseling for expectant moms of the canine or feline persuasion?)

And yet, most pet owners assume that animal maternity is a sure thing, nature being a compassionate mother, herself.

But sadly, it’s not always so. Tragedy lurks, especially when adequate preparation is hindered by our busy lives. That’s why, as in most things complex and delicate, pet procreation is best left to the experts, those with the dedication and resources to see complications resolved professionally.

While, personally, I can’t say enough for motherhood, it’s clear to me that very few pets and owners are up to the task. Consider not only the risk to your pet’s health, but your own limitations as well. Pet breeding is not for the faint of heart.