results in increasingly
larger numbers of homeless pets
The animal population is exploding. Each year millions of
unwanted pets are born and most are treated like "living
garbage" and disposed of. The primary causes of pet
euthanasia are the failure by owners to have their pets spayed
or neutered and animals that are abandoned or relinquished
to shelters because of obedience problems. This is tragic
and reprehensible, but also preventable.
The procedure of removing the reproductive organs of either
a male or a female animal is called neutering. Specifically,
the procedure for females is call spaying. The procedure
for males is called castration or altering, but is also loosely
The obvious reason for spaying and neutering is to prevent
unwanted, accidental pregnancies. There are many more benefits,
though, that are good for the pet as well as the owner.
This preventive surgery can be performed as early as 2
to 4 months of age. Recent scientific research shows evidence
that a younger puppy or kitten does better with the anesthesia
and the surgical process. Talk to your veterinarian about
when your particular pet should be spayed. Many veterinarians
still choose to perform this routine procedure at about 5
to 6 months of age.
For their own sakes, all female dogs or cats should be spayed.
It does not matter if she will ever be allowed outdoors unsupervised,
the physical benefits of an early spaying operation are so
great that there is no valid reason not to have it performed.
In addition, behavioral problems that are related to sexual
drive are avoided in a spayed female pet.
At around six or seven months of age, your male will become
sexually mature. The operation is best performed when the
animal is young, although it can be done at any age in a
pet's life. Neutering can be done as early as 2 months old.
As with spaying, this procedure is now considered preventive
Neutering does not change the male's masculine appearance.
He will still acquire his secondary sex characteristics,
regardless of his age when the procedure is done.
Castration doesn't affect hunting ability or watchdog behavior.
He most likely will be less aggressive in some areas, especially
toward other males. As with altered females, male pets will
not get fat if given a good, balanced diet and get enough
of Spaying Female Cats
Physical Benefits of an Early Spay
There simply is no truth to the old belief that a female
pet should be allowed to have one heat or one litter
before she's spayed. There are no benefits to be gained
from waiting and many to be gained by an early spaying
A female pet in heat will bleed. She will consequently spot
the carpet and furniture. Owners who have indoor pets have
to cover the furniture to avoid this spotting. Carpet also
will need to be neutralized to remove the smell and the stain.
Although there are little pads that can be worn with a strap,
most pets find them uncomfortable and try to take them off.
A female pet that is spayed before her first heat has a
greatly reduced risk of developing ovarian, uterine, or breast
cancer, the second most common malignancy in pets. In addition,
she will never develop pyometra (an infection of the uterus).
Pyometra can become seriously life-threatening and require
an emergency spay operation. These infections very commonly
occur in older, unspayed females.
Of course, an early spay operation also prevents an unplanned,
unwanted pregnancy. If your unspayed female puppy does become
accidentally pregnant, it can be potentially damaging to
her health, since she is very young. A six-month-old puppy
is, in no way, suited for motherhood.
As to the argument that spayed female pets always get fat,
this is not necessarily true. It is true that spayed pets
can be more prone to obesity, but that's because as a female
puppy nears physical maturity, she becomes somewhat less
physically active and requires fewer calories for energy.
Physical maturity often follows shortly after a spaying operation.
Therefore, the spaying is often blamed if a puppy begins
to put on weight. If you do not overfeed your pet and give
her plenty of daily exercise, she will not gain weight. Without
an appropriate exercise regimen, she will get fat, regardless
of whether she's been spayed or not.
Behavior Benefits of an Early Spay
During the stage in the heat cycle when a female is receptive
toward males, she may attempt to escape from the house.
She may also indulge in territorial urine marking, especially
if there are other pets (male or female) in the household
or immediate neighborhood.
An unspayed female also may suffer from a disorder known
as "false pregnancy" which mimics all of the physical
and behavioral stages of pregnancy, even though there are
no fertilized eggs. It is quite common in pets that are very
dependent on their owners, and can occur even when no mating
has taken place. Some females go through a false pregnancy
every time they come into heat.
A very troublesome side effect of having an unspayed female
is the necessity of keeping her away from unwelcome unaltered
males and keeping them away from her. Males will appear on
your doorstep, hang around your yard, and fight one another.
In addition to these problems, female cats and even some
dogs may "cry." You think your pet is in pain and
take her to the vet only to find out she is in heat and looking
for a mate.
of Neutering Male Cats
Physical Benefits of an Early Neuter
Unaltered males are subject to a number of hormone-related
medical problems as they age. They may develop prostate,
perianal, and testicular tumors and cancers. Neutering
greatly reduces the risk of these medical problems.
Behavior Benefits of an Early Neuter
Neutering is particularly effective as a preventive measure
against a number of common behavioral problems.
One aspect of male canine behavior is aggression towards
other males. As a male reaches full physical and sexual maturity,
he becomes increasingly more protective of what he considers "his" territory.
His definition of "his" area tends to change, and
the boundaries enlarge, until sometimes an entire square
block or country mile falls within his territory.
Often, owners are not aware of this until a tragedy occurs,
and their male or another male is severely hurt or even killed. "But
he's always so gentle" is a common cry of an upset owner
in these circumstances. And he is nice until another male
invades property that he considers his own. Then his male
territorial instinct overrides any social behavior he may
have learned, and he defends his turf, sometimes to the death.
Along with this instinct comes roaming behavior. A sexually
active male must patrol the boundaries of his property and
constantly widen them. In addition, he's always on the lookout
for receptive females and, if there is a female in heat within
many miles, he'll find her. Along with this comes the potential
to be hit by a car or otherwise injured, or become lost.
Often, a male hangs around the area for days on end, apparently
forgetting that he even has a home. Terrible fights can occur
when several males pursue a female in heat, even if she is
confined indoors, and the resulting veterinarian bills may
be staggering. Research shows us that of all the positive
behavior changes that are a result of neutering, roaming
shows the greatest degree of change.
An unaltered male may indulge in territorial urine marking
and urinating on every upright surface he can find. This
is usually related either to a female coming into heat somewhere
within his range or another male moving into the neighborhood.
You may not be aware of either occurrence, but you soon will
know it when your housetrained pet has suddenly "broken
training" and is marking up your house. In the absence
of other male animals, males may also take out their aggressive
territorial protection on humans. Over-protectiveness of
family members may manifest itself by his growling or nipping
at visitors in your home.
Other sexually related behaviors of male dogs can include
mounting human legs, climbing up on people, and even knocking
children down and climbing on top of them. This is especially
frightening and dangerous if a dog is large.
For male cats, a neutered male is less likely to spray (almost
all unneutered male cats spray). They also yowl as if in
terrible pain. You may think your cat is in pain and take
it to the vet only to find out it is in search of a mate.
All of these behaviors can usually be corrected by a combination
of neutering and training, but it's difficult to break a
habit that has become ingrained.
Neutering makes life more pleasant because it removes some
of the behavioral traits with which people find it difficult
to live and traits that may land the pet in a shelter.
The operation itself is certainly not cruel, but a fairly
simple and routine procedure that actually helps the pet.
When done on a young animal, it entails at most one or two
days of discomfort.
Owners will be given instructions about withholding food
and water to the pet prior to the surgery. Follow these directions
Most veterinarians will give a thorough physical prior to
the anesthesia. It often includes a blood test and urinalysis.
These tests are necessary to make sure there aren't underlying
medical problems such as kidney or liver disease, diabetes
or chronic infection that would put the patient at greater
risk during surgery.
For females, the ovaries and uterus will be removed, thus,
eliminating the production of eggs. For males, the testes
will be removed, thus, eliminating the source of sperm.
After the operation, the animal will continue to be monitored.
Some veterinarians choose to keep the animal overnight for
observation, but most animals that go in the morning for
surgery can go home late in the afternoon to rest and recuperate.
Again, there will be specific instructions given to the
owner about the care of the pet for the next several days.
Follow these directions carefully and your pet will recover
quickly and completely in a short while.
Why Spaying and
Neutering is Good For Everyone
It's good for your pet. It reduces the
risk of certain reproductive cancers and diseases for both
males and females. Spayed or neutered pets also generally
live longer lives. For females, it eliminates the heat cycle
and therefore, the nervousness, blood and unwelcome males.
For males, it stops the mating desire, reduces mounting and
the tendency to roam.
It's good for you. It is usually less expensive
to license; a discount is given if your pet is spayed or
neutered. It reduces the risk of unwanted litters. There
will be no more problems with blood stains, males breaking
into your yard, pets running away in search of a mate, and
the job of taking care of and finding homes for an unwanted
litter. Your pet will be happier, and so will you.
It's good for the community. Homeless pets
often create serious problems. They destroy property, spread
disease and cost a lot of money to control. It's an agonizing
job to euthanize animals because of irresponsible breeding.
People Do Not Spay Or Neuter Their Pet
"It would be too cruel to do that to my pet!"
Your pet does not have the ability to hold a grudge
against you because you made this decision. If your pet could
talk, he/she would thank you for it!
" I'm afraid of putting my pet under anesthesia.
Won't it be painful?"
Although neutering and spaying is a surgical procedure
that does require general anesthesia, the pet feels nothing
during the procedure, and the risks are minimal. Certainly
the benefits far outweigh the risks. There is only a slight
discomfort and the pet will usually be back on their feet
with normal activities within 24 to 72 hours.
" I don't have enough money for this procedure."
You can't afford not to do it. Most communities
have humane shelters and low-cost spay/neuter clinics that
offer affordable services. Contact your veterinarian, your
local shelter. It can be much more costly to you if you have
a pregnant female with pups to take care of, or if you have
to split the veterinarian bills with your neighbor because
your male got their female pregnant.
" I want to breed my pet...he's a purebred."
Purebred breeding is very complicated. There are
some things you should ask yourself before you do this. Do
you have a five-generation pedigree for your pet? Is there
a minimum of 8 titles (AKC/UKC: Champions, Obedience CD,
CDX, etc.) in the last three generations? Does your pet have
a stable temperament? Does your pet fit the breed standard?
Are your pet and prospective mate healthy? Is your pet certified
free of genetic diseases? Do you have the time it takes to
breed? A good breeder will be careful about the animals they
breed, and will offer to take your pet back if it does not
" I can make some extra money selling the puppies/kittens."
Breeding dogs and cats isn't always a money making
experience. There are the veterinary bills, shots, food,
and advertising costs. There is also the time spent caring
for the puppies and kittens and showing them to prospective
owners. Don't forget the temptation to keep "just one" that
often happens with the first litter. What if the pregnancy
puts the mother in medical danger that causes her to suffer
or even die -- can you put a price on the loss of a pet?
Also, for every heat cycle a female goes through, her odds
of having medical problems later multiplies by ten. By the
time the puppies or kittens are sold, has a significant amount
of money really been made?
" My male cat/dog will be kept indoors away
from any females."
Male pets will smell females in heat and many have
been known to escape their homes to reach the female.
" I want my male dog to be a guard dog and I
need to keep him aggressive."
Most pets will be more reliable and responsible
after neutering and are often easier to train because of
stabilized hormones. What makes a dog a good guard dog is
training, not hormones.
" My kids need to learn about the birds and
the bees - I want them to see the birth process."
Children can experience the birthing process in
other ways rather than at the expense of the family pet.