Why Should You Spay/Neuter Your Pets?

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What You Need to Know About Spaying & Neutering

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For me the decision to spay or neuter my pets has always been a non-issue. It’s a simple, automatic decision to have all of my pets spayed or neutered and I assumed that most people thought this was a no-brainer too. That was until a recent conversation with a client who was struggling with the decision because of conflicting information they received from friends and family as well as having a trusted veterinarian urging them not to do it. I was amazed, dumbfounded even, that a vet of all people, would say such a thing given all the positive benefits of doing so (look for a future post about how to tell when you need to find a new veterinarian). Therefore, I thought I should blog about the spay/neuter decision to help others who may be struggling with this issue. So let’s start out with what exactly spaying and neutering is, followed by some of the misinformation and outright lies, and then the actual benefits for you and your pet.

What is Spaying/Neutering?

Spaying is the surgical sterilization of a female animal by removing the ovaries, oviduct, and uterus. Neutering is the surgical sterilization of a male by removing the testicles and spermatic cord. Both procedures are perfectly safe and must be performed by a qualified veterinarian. You can have the procedure done as early as 8 weeks of age. The ideal age is 4 to 6 months, and before their first heat.

Amazingly, there are still a ton of myths and urban legends floating around that often confuse people when they’re trying to make this decision. Here are a few of the more popular myths:

Myth #1: It's simply wrong to neuter a male, OR, only females should be sterilized because they're the ones that have litters.

First, many people, particularly men, have a hard time sterilizing their pets, especially their male pets, thereby projecting upon their pets their own fears about losing the ability to reproduce. A dog or cat will not feel like less of a “woman” or like an inadequate “man” after being spayed/neutered. This is anthropomorphizing; projecting your human feelings onto something that’s not human. Your dog or cat absolutely will not suffer an ego crisis or lament the loss of its reproductive ability. Pets don’t think in this way. People do. Your pet will only have one less biological urge to fulfill. Secondly, it takes two to Tango. In fact, males can father far more young than a female could ever produce in a lifetime. And we know what happens if your unaltered male escapes the house or yard and mates with an intact female. This is one reason why we still have millions of unwanted animals euthanized each year in the U.S.

Myth #2: I want my children to see the miracle of birth.

Rather than subject an animal the stress of producing a litter, I would strongly suggest watching a program on the National Geographic channel rather than bringing more unwanted animals into a world where there just aren’t enough good homes to house them all. There are other much better and more humane ways of teaching children about birth that do not involve bringing unwanted animals into this world. A visit to a farm or a zoo can show them the same thing as can numerous videos and books on the subject. Also, assuming you are taking full responsibility for this decision, you would also have the expenses of proper veterinary care for an entire litter as well as the financial expense, and time and energy burden of finding homes for them all.

Myth #3: Don't worry, we'll find homes for the litter OR the animal shelter will take the litter.

That sounds good on paper, however, for every new animal that’s brought into this world, there are many others waiting to be adopted from humane societies and animal shelters. Shelters do their best to place animals in good homes, but they can’t perform miracles. We walk many, many dogs in Towson, Baltimore and surrounding communities and we see the reality each and every day: The number of homeless animals far exceeds the number of willing adopters. This leaves many loving and healthy animals in our communities that must be euthanized as the only humane solution to this heart wrenching problem. Only spaying and neutering can end the overpopulation problem. Did you know that there are still over 4 million pets euthanized in U.S. animal shelters each year because there simply aren’t enough good homes to adopt them?! Playing amateur breeder at home only contributes to an already overwhelming problem.

Myth #4: Females should be allowed to have one litter for their general health.

All I can say is….What!? There is no reason for a female to have a litter. She will mature properly without it and does not “need” to have a litter. It will not improve her health or permanently change her personality. In fact, spaying your pet before her first heat will significantly reduce her chances of developing various cancers later in life. See below.

Myth #5: Spaying or neutering my pet will make it fat.

Just flat out, absolutely wrong! The only things that will make your pet fat are the same things that make people fat: Eating too much, eating high calorie and fattening (people) foods like cheese and snacks, and a lack of exercise. I can’t help but wonder where these ideas come from. Probably from the same guy who sees Alligators in the sewers of NYC.

Myth #6: Spaying/Neutering is too expensive.

Well, if you didn’t know about the low cost spay/neuter information I’m about to give you, or your vet neglected to tell you about them, then you could spend a couple hundred dollars on the procedure. But even at that cost, it would still be worth the many benefits to your pet and pets at large. However, the fact is that there are many low cost programs available and the cost of having your pet spayed/neutered plus the benefits of doing so far outweigh the monetary and humane costs if you don’t. On average you can expect to spend less that $75 to have your average size pet sterilized. Here are some programs….some of these links also have other resources not listed here.

SNAP, Inc. PO Box 686 Chesapeake City, MD 21915 410-885-5783

Animal Rescue, Inc. (on the MD/PA line) PO Box 35 Maryland Line, MD 21105 717-993-3232 Email: AnimalRescue@aol.com

Baltimore Humane Society 1601 Nicodemus Rd. Reisterstown, MD 21136 410-833-4480 or 410-833-8848

Maryland SPCA 3300 Falls Rd. Baltimore, MD 21211 410-235-8826

Myth #7: Spaying/Neutering will change my pet's personality.

True, but for the better. A dog’s basic personality is influenced more by environment and genetics than by sex hormones, so spaying/neutering will not change your dog’s basic personality, make your dog sluggish or affect its natural instincts. It will, however, give you a more well behaved pet because neutered dogs have less desire to roam, mark their territory, exert dominance over the pack, and hump your leg. Sterilized dogs are more affectionate and less likely to bite, run away, act aggressively, or get into fights. Spayed dogs no will longer experience the hormonal changes the occur during heat cycles which make your pet a nervous and cry incessantly in an effort to attract a mate. Spaying a female dog also eliminates the mess associated with going into heat.
The benefits of spaying/neutering

  • The biggest long-term benefit of spaying and neutering is improved health for both cats and dogs.
  • Spaying females prior to their first heat cycle nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer.
  • Neutering males prevents testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate gland, and greatly reduces their risk for perianal tumors.

Benefits of Spaying a Female Pet:

  • If spayed before the first heat cycle, your pet has a less than 1 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
  • If spayed after one heat cycle, your pet has an 8 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
  • If spayed after two heat cycles, the risk increases to over 25%.
  • Pets with diabetes or epilepsy should be spayed to prevent hormonal changes that may interfere with medication.
  • Eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer.
  • Completely eliminates the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy.

Benefits of Neutering a Male Pet:

  • Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, the second most common tumor in male dogs.
  • Greatly reduces the risk of prostate cancer and prostatitis.
  • Reduces the risk of perianal tumors.
  • Eliminates or reduces spraying or marking in males neutered before 6 months of age or before the onset of these behaviors.
  • Eliminates the risk and spread of sexually transmitted diseases (yes, our pets do get these diseases).
  • Eliminates unwanted litters.

As you can see, the benefits of sterilizing your pet are numerous and greatly outweigh not doing it. Pet overpopulation is still a major problem in the U.S., but we are making progress in this area thanks to education and low cost spay/neuter programs. So please be compassionate not only to your pets, but to all the pets out there that are still looking for a loving home, and spay or neuter all your pets. All pets will be grateful.

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