Many people choose to enrich their lives with pets and will usually stop at nothing to give them a safe, happy, healthy life. Yet one of the most fundamental processes for doing that – spaying and neutering – is still too often overlooked by pet owners. It is a topic that seems to get frequent and glaring attention. But until we are able to alleviate the tragedy of unwanted animals, it’s worth revisiting again and again. Here are some important facts about spaying and neutering and to encourage all pet owners to make the important choice to do so.
What is spaying and neutering?
A spay is the surgical removal of a female animal’s reproductive organs so she cannot become pregnant. A neuter is the surgical removal of a male animal’s testicles so that he cannot impregnate a female. The surgeries are performed by a veterinarian while animals are under general anesthesia.
Why Spay and Neuter?
By spaying or neutering your pet, you’ll help control the pet homelessness crisis, which results in millions of healthy dogs and cats being euthanized in the US each year simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. There are also medical and behavioral benefits to spaying (female pets) and neutering (male pets) your animals. Millions of healthy dogs and cats are being euthanized in shelters across the world each year because there are not enough homes to go around. And uncounted millions more suffer illness, starvation, and death on the streets despite the fact that – as some experts calculate – these numbers could be reduced by 65% – 70% if we simply prevented unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. Did you know that a single non-spayed female dog and her non-spayed offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only 6 years? Or that one non-spayed female cat and her non-spayed offspring can produce 370,000 kittens in only 7 years? Perhaps surprisingly, not all of them are born to homeless street animals. Many times they are the unwanted puppies and kittens of family pets. These numbers are staggering. The problem is dire. But we can all be a part of the solution if we will spay or neuter the pets we adopt into our homes.
Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases. Neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems. Your spayed female pet won’t go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house! Your male dog will be less likely to roam away from home. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including finding creative ways escape from the house. Once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other male animals. Your neutered male may be better behaved. Unneutered dogs and cats are more likely to mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Your dog might be less likely to mount other dogs, people, and inanimate objects after he’s neutered. Some aggression problems may be avoided by early neutering.
Remember that while a litter of puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable, there are many cute pets at a nearby animal shelter in need of loving forever homes. Whether their previous owners lacked the time or the funds to care for them, most animals brought into shelters are compassionate, kind, and no less deserving of a home. By spaying or neutering your pet, you will be acting in the best interest of the animal’s health, saving money in the long run, and potentially providing a deserving, homeless animal with a loving home.
The customary age for neutering or spaying dogs is 6- months of age, but the procedure is sometimes performed earlier (as early as 12-16 weeks in certain breeds). The customary age for neutering or spaying cats is 5-7 months of age, but the procedure is sometimes performed earlier (as early as 8-10 weeks in certain cases). Dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered as adults, too. If you’re adopting an adult animal, the enormous need to spay and neuter still applies! Of course, to determine the best age to spay/neuter your own pets, always consult your veterinarian.
The cost of a spay or neuter surgery depends on the weight, age, and sex of your pet, whether or not your pet requires vaccinations and a number of other variables. It is important to remember, however, that it is a small, one-time cost compared to the numerous benefits it provides, and the number of unwanted issues that it will help you and your pet avoid. When you factor in the long-term costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet, the savings afforded by spay/neuter are clear (especially given the plethora of low-cost spay/neuter clinics). Caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily run into the thousands of dollars—five to ten times as much as a routine spay surgery. Additionally, unaltered pets can be more destructive or high-strung around other dogs. Serious fighting is more common between unaltered pets of the same gender and can incur high veterinary costs.
If high costs are major a deterrent of spaying or neutering your pet, there are numerous low-cost services found in various regions of the United States, and even many assistance programs that help subsidize the cost of spaying/neutering at local clinics. However, it is important to remember that like many other “discount” programs, you might not always be receiving the best possible care and should thoroughly research them beforehand. By choosing to spay or neuter your pet, you can save a tremendous amount of money in the long-term when factoring in costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet.
Your veterinary clinic will provide pre-surgical advice that you should follow. In general, avoid giving your cat any food after midnight the night before surgery. A puppy or kitten, however, needs adequate nutrition, and your veterinarian may advise that food not be withheld.Your veterinarian can also provide post-operative instructions for you to follow. Although your pet may experience some discomfort after surgery, your veterinarian can take various measures to control pain. Depending on the procedure performed, medication for pain may be sent home with your pet. Provide your pet with a quiet place to recover indoors and away from other animals. Prevent your pet from running and jumping for up to two weeks following surgery, or as long as your veterinarian recommends. Prevent your pet from licking the incision site, which may cause infection, by distracting your pet with treats or by using an Elizabethan collar. Avoid bathing your pet for at least ten days after surgery. Check the incision site daily to confirm proper healing. If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your veterinarian. Also, call your veterinarian if your pet is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea or any other concerns following surgery.
One of the most important decisions that a pet owner must make is whether to spay and neuter their pets. Though many are deterred by cost or medical concerns, this procedure can provide many long-term benefits for your pet’s health and happiness, all while saving the lives of other homeless animals and reducing the widespread epidemic of animal overpopulation in our world today. Be a part of the Solution, our towns and communities spend staggering sums of money annually to round up, care for and sadly, to euthanize the millions of homeless animals that result from the lack of spaying and neutering. Safe and affordable spaying and neutering of all the pets we adopt into our homes can substantially impact this tragedy. Spay and neuter your pets as early as possible. Encourage your family and friends to do the same.