Thursday, October 19, 2017

Risk Analysis: You're Doing It Wrong

Dear Terrierman:

I have been looking for places to live and fell in love with Sudan after reading about the dashing exploits of Chinese Gordon.  It turns out that land in Sudan is cheap, and the pictures I found in a 1960 copy of National Geographic are quite lovely!

So the stone is cast and my lovely 16-year old blond daughter and I are going to Sudan for the next 7 years. We are fundamentalist Christians who wear giant Jesus crosses around our neck all the time, and we do not believe in antibiotics, but I do not see how that could be a problem.

I have looked into the health risks of contraception for 16-year old girls and have noticed that estrogen birth control increases the chance of cancer after age 50, IUDs may cause increased menstrual bleeding or even result in infection, and condoms break routinely, so we will not be taking any form of contraception with us at all in order to minimize the health dangers. My daughter is a Good Girl, so I am sure everything will be fine because I trust in the Lord.

Here's my question:  do they use insecticides on vegetables in the Sudan? Because if they do, I will have to eat only American-made canned food in order to stay healthy.
Please advise.

If this letter sounds daft to you, please be advised that this is exactly how most pet dog owners sound to me.

Wanting a dog for nothing but companionship, they select it out of an all-breed book that features a colorful story and leaves off any real information about temperament and health.

Then, having acquired the dog, they expect the dog to adapt to their concerns rather than adapt their life to the concerns and needs of the dog. If the dog has "an attitude" about that, it will be entirely the dog's fault! The dog may have to be put down. 

People who never took a chemistry or biology course in high school or college, and who have math skills so weak they cannot figure out a 15% tip at the Waffle House, deem themselves capable of making good decisions based on a short article they read in Redbook magazine or a study they skimmed that someone linked to in a Facebook post.

Antibiotics are over-used you say? Well then, let's use less of them or none of them!

Contraception is not 100-perfect or entirely risk-free? Then let's jettison that too!

And if something is not labeled natural, holistic, or homeopathic then we really must clang the alarm bells and go ape-shit hysterical!  Please God, don't tell me you are vaccinating your children too?!  Do you know how dangerous that is?

This kind of thinking comes to a head in the arena of canine spay-neuter, where people rush out to buy cancer-bomb breeds with famous track records for hip dysplasia, and then -- presto change-o -- these same people are now instant experts evincing deep concern that early spay or neutering might increase health risks.

It's hysterical. 

It's like a fat girl eating fried chicken and smoking a cigarette while she explains the dangers of coffee consumption. 

It's like a guy with a facial tattoo explaining how to dress for success. 

It's like bringing your blond daughter to the Sudan without antibiotics or birth control and then worrying about DDT on the iceberg lettuce.

If you are doing any of this, you might have missed the plot!

Ditto, if you have bought a Kennel Club dog and are worried about early spay-neuter. 

I am sorry, but you proved your ignorance about dogs the day you bought a lap dog puppy which had an 85 percent chance of having heart disease and a 30 percent chance of having a brain disorder.

When it comes to canine health, now and into the future, please drink a big hot cup of shut-the-fuck up unless you are warning people away from Kennel club dogs.

And yes, this same point goes for the person who buys a purebred pet puppy that has a 55% chance of dying of cancer and a 30% chance of getting hip dysplasia. 

It goes for the people that buy English bulldogs, Dogues, Deerhounds, Golden Retrievers, Scotties, and... well, just about any Kennel Club breed. 

Listen up people; the evidence is in:  Kennel Club dogs are not as healthy as the dogs to be found down at the pound.  If you do not know this by now, then I have a Yugo sports car to sell you.  Very rare!

Back to spay-neuter.

The plot with spay-neuter is pretty simple: every month that goes by after the age of 6 months without a spay-neuter being done increases the lifetime chance that it will never be done.  It also increases the chance of accidental pregnancy or insemination and another litter of "whoops-how-did-that-happen" puppies tossed into the world without planning, and without a ready market looking to care for them after they are no longer cute puppies.  The results are millions of dead dogs every year down at the pound.

Of course, every pet owner claims they will watch their dog like a hawk and it will never get out of the yard or be off-leash anywhere at any time. 


Statistics prove that routine promise to be a routine failure, at least in the U.S.

And how many dogs get mated straight through the kennel wire?  The number is not zero!

Yes,  I know you want to think of yourself as a wonderful and infallible owner 100% of the time, same as every parent who thinks they will always be 100% attentive to their 16-year daughter who would never have sex before marriage at age 28 to a young man, age 30, of whom they have previously voiced approval after perusing his mental, dental, and banking records.

And, NO, of course alcohol, hormones and rape do not exist.  You will watch her like a hawk! Good thinking there!  Hope that works out for you... in the Sudan!

No doubt you can see the stupid when it comes to a 16-year old girl.

But now think of this:  the known, predictable and quantifiable result of delayed spay-neuter for dogs is the same known, predictable and quantifiable result of not making contraception choices available to very young teenage girls:  unintended pregnancies.

Biology is biology and people are people. 

You may intend to spay your bitch just before her first cycle at 6 months, but then she "cycled early," so you had to wait until that was over.... and then there was no rush until the next heat, and then you lost your job and did not have the money, and then ... whoops ... puppies to sell!  All quiet accidental, and all as common as a road-side hawk.

Today, young girls tend to get abortions, but puppies tend to get born and they also tend to end up either dead in pounds or living miserable lives chained in yards, hammered into crates all day long while their owners are at work, or else living anxious lives with people unprepared for the responsibilities and obligations that come from dog ownership.


Of course, you will never see mention of this on the silly and poorly documented studies about very early spay-neuter that are tossed around on the Internet.

Dead puppies at the pound? No mention of them at all!

Yes, that's right; they have used the one number they (and everyone else) knows is wrong.

They have left off the most OBVIOUS outcome of delayed spay-neuter.

What else?

Well they have also left out the fact that cancer and dysplasia are very breed-specific problems.

Anyone who wants to avoid these problems might start by staying away from Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and about two dozen other breeds.

Any mention at all about that in these papers?  Nope.  Dead silence.

Also, no mention of the many breeds that rarely get cancer or dysplasia.  You want a healthy dog? 

What else?

Well, did you notice how low the counts are in these studies and did you notice that there is no mention of how many kennels were actually used when assembling the breed pool?

This is not a small thing, as dog researchers often gather breed data seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are skewing their data wildly by having multiple dogs from the same litter, the same kennel, and the same line. When canine researchers gather data, they tend to get it from volunteer owners or vets who volunteer all their dogs going back a generation or two. But since so many of those dogs share a common gene pool, the result is a very strong genetic bias that makes false causality a norm rather than the exception.

The bottom line:  do whatever the hell you want.  If you want to play Russian Roulette with your daughter, go right ahead. If you want to buy a Kennel Club dog, go right ahead.  If you want so spay-neuter or not, that choice is yours.

That said, for those who who are not idiots, might I suggest a few rules of thumb:

  • Do not take tax advice from a bankrupt
  • Do not take take relationship advice from someone on their fourth marriage
  • Do not take human health advice from a fat, alcoholic, smoker.
  • Do not take canine health advice from anyone who owns a Kennel Club dog.

As for "studies," before you start saluting them, be sure to look for the missing data and the obvious bias.

And if I might be so bold to note that you are likely to have a long life in an increasingly complex world, might I suggest reading a very basic book on statistics so that you understand the difference between rates and ratios, correlation and causality, and true multi-variant analysis versus its look-alike, GiGo (garbage in - garbage out)?  A day's worth of study may give you a lifetime of insight.  That's a pretty great return on investment!


PBurns said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

Oh. My. God.

He said " a fat girl eating fried chicken and smoking a cigarette.."

Aaaagghh he used the word FAT. It's not their fault! It's totally a genetic thing. Totally.

Aaaagghh he used the words "fried chicken" as if FAT is all about what you EAT. it's not. Let me tell you... besides fried chicken is racist.

Aaaagghh he used the word "smoking" and that's a libertarian liberty choice.

And he used them ALL TOGETHER, and we ALL know THERE ARE NO SUCH PEOPLE. That's a stereotype and there are no people who fit that pattern, which is why it is called a stereotype.

So, "aaaagghh" because this is all (somehow) so deeply offensive to womyn who are not ALL fat and not ALL fat people eat friend chicken and REALLY what does smoking or weight or diet have to do with health?

And why no mention of men, because AAAAAaaagghh I stopped reading.


Mike Reed said...

I agree with your comments about Golden Retrievers, but unfortunately I'm as addicted to the breed as you are to your Jack Russell Terriers, as they are perfectly suited to my requirements. The solution? I get my puppies from a working breeder of field trials champions in Australia whose dogs usually drop dead around 13 years of age while retrieving a large water bird in a 3ft swell. My current pair (13 and only semi-retired, 2 and still learning) would be laughed out of any conformation show for looking like the athletes they are.

I stumbled over your May 2010 Ivermectin article last month, BTW, for which my local shelter thanks you. I bought them 2 years supply and their "official vet" is now spitting blood.

Daniel Gauss said...

Nah, I don't care about any of that.. but I'm a little disturbed that the 16 year old daughter appears to be a "tranny"...

PBurns said...

Daniel, I have to say I am disturbed that you looked. :). Think it's a girl, but wrote this post and found pic on iPhone, so you never know. Which is also true with a good tranny, I am told.

geonni banner said...

Re the girl's "trannyness." I don't think so. Click on the "source" link and take a gander at the larger version of the pic. What appears to be her, uh, trannyness, is really just the print on her underpants, or whatever else that bottom garment is.
Had me going at first too. ;)

Anonymous said...

One other important consideration is how the study was conducted. Most aren't studies at all, but as you pointed out are merely surveys of owners and breeders. The largest I'm aware of, with Rottweilers (are you laughing yet?) showed a pretty significant difference in the average age of death between spayed and intact bitches. This is quite remarkable until you think about it for about five seconds. If you're a breeder and your bitch is sickly or aggressive, what's one of the first things you do? Spay her, of course! Suddenly the number gap doesn't look quite so impressive. Show me a similar study with randomly assigned intact and spayed bitches that shows similar results, and I might start to show some interest.

I want my dogs to live for a long time, which means that I get 30-lb mixed breeds who are kept lean.

Noel said...

The choir is particularly impressed with today's sermon, Parson Burns. Shame the congregation listens so poorly.