With many patients, it’s fair to say that the female of the species suffers the worst end of the deal.
In bitches, womb infections, ovarian cancers and mammary tumours, associated with female reproduction, carry a significantly poorer prognosis than pathologies associated with the male genital tract.
A bull’s contribution to farming production is brief, uncomplicated and, presumably, enjoyable. The cow is subject to a nine-month gestation whilst suckling her previous offspring, before trying to push out a 40kg-70kg calf or being subjected to a caesarean. She then has two months when she’s only responsible for one newborn before the whole process begins again.
All of the hens we see have been bred from stock with the sole purpose of laying as many eggs as possible. Laying up to 300 eggs a year, opposed to a more natural clutch of six to seven, comes at a significant cost. Eventually, the hen’s reproductive system breaks down and she suffers the potentially fatal egg coelomitis, egg binding or cloacal prolapse.
In male reptiles, reproductive difficulties are, again, less problematic. A male tortoise that prolapses his penis can have it amputated without any implications to his health. Male lizards and snakes have two penises and the removal of one doesn’t even render them infertile.
We see many female reptiles at this time with reproductive problems. Lizards can detect that it is spring/early summer, despite living in a vivarium. The ovaries become active and eggs are produced, but frequently, through an environment with wrong temperature, light or humidity, lack of exposure to a male, poor diet or lack of a nest box, the process breaks down, the eggs get stuck, and careful removal of up to 50 eggs via a caesarean is necessary.
The same arises in female tortoises and snakes. Surgery presents their own difficulties — the tortoise hiding her uterus within a hard shell and the snake spreading hers over a third of the length of her body, requiring a very long surgical incision.
Whilst it seems that everything is weighted against the ladies, do please consider the poor male praying mantis, who enjoys a sexual encounter with the much larger female only for her to turn around immediately and eat her partner.
By Sam Prescott, Director and Vet